Several years ago, I bought a beautiful notebook from one of those divine little Italian stationery shops in Venice. It was such a lovely little notebook, I didn’t want it being used for a mundane purpose like domestic notes and lists. I decided it was worthy of a higher purpose, and that it would become the place in which I made a note of the books I read each year.
In preparation for this post, I found my little notebook and had a little chuckle to myself. The lists began in 2004 and ended in 2008, shortly after my second child was born. There have been some lean reading years since then. The year I had my third child, all I could manage was The Twilight Series and The Hunger Games and Fifty Shades trilogies. Terrible Muriel!
For me, one of life’s greatest pleasures is reading a great book. A further notch up is reading a great book on holidays (uninterrupted, of course) or receiving a great book as a gift. I am an enthusiastic reader and a devoted member of two book clubs which I have previously written about with great affection here.
With Christmas around the corner and summer holidays almost in sight, I have prepared a list of ten of my favourite fiction books of all time. I hope this list may provide you with some inspiration for gifts for yourself (if you have a say) or others. I hope that sometime this summer, you can curl up somewhere peaceful and warm and escape into a book and away from your shenanigans, whatever form they take.
To help with gift suitability, I have devised a simple code but use your own discretion. You may laugh, but I once gave my lovely, conservative father in law a book for Christmas that I hadn’t read. It was “The Red Tent” which had been highly recommended to me. When I subsequently read it myself, I nearly died. My fears were confirmed a few years later, when they were moving and showed us a box of books they were giving away which included my gift! Of course, I took it and left red faced but with a second copy of my favourite book!
NSFPOPIL – Not suitable for parents or parents in laws (if they are conservative and not up for either lots of colourful language or lots of, ahem, sex/sexual themes);
DA – Discretion Advised (some themes that your folks or some readers might not be so enthusiastic about such as drug use, illegal activities, colourful language or some upsetting scenes or violence).
SFAA – Suitable for Any Adult (from memory, sorry if I missed something).
1. The Red Tent – Anita Diamant (NSFOPIL)
This rates as one of my favourite books of all time. It is a re-creation of some of the stories of the Old Testament beginning with the story of Dinah. It is brutal, riveting and a great read. One of my book clubs is named The Women of The Red Tent in honour of it, as we all loved it. We particularly adored the themes of women living in community and supporting each other.
2. The Bronze Horseman – Paullina Simons (NSFPOPIL)
A friend drove across town to deliver this book to me before I left for a European holiday many years ago. I was surprised about her insistence that I read it but then I simply could NOT PUT IT DOWN. I confess I stayed inside my hotel room in Sorrento, Italy instead of sight seeing, as I could not stop reading it. When I finished it, I went straight back to the beginning. It is an epic love story set in Russia. Did I mention that I absolutely loved this book?
3. Year of Wonders – Geraldine Brooks (SFAA)
Geraldine Brooks is one of my favourite authors and this is probably my favourite book of hers. It centres around the Plague and its impact on a small community. I also loved “People of the Book” and the excellent non fiction “Nine Parts of Desire”.
4. The Help – Kathryn Stockett (SFAA)
I loved this book, it was an easy read. It made me laugh and cry. I haven’t seen the movie yet but have heard it is excellent too.
5. I Know This Much is True – Wally Lamb (DA)
I read this book many years ago. It was heart wrenching but beautiful. It centres around a set of adult male twins, one of whom has schizophrenia. I loved this book but at close to 900 pages, it is an epic.
6. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (SFAA)
I don’t find all of Margaret Atwood’s books easy reading but I really enjoyed The Blind Assassin. It was clever and well written. A more literary read.
7. Burial Rites – Hannah Kent (DA)
I read this book on a holiday recently in 24 hours. Then I was bereft and couldn’t pick up anything else. When I think of the protagonist now, several months later, I still tear up! I absolutely loved this book and highly recommend it.
8. Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult (DA)
This is my favourite Jodi Picoult book. It is a fictional account of a Columbine-like shooting in an American high school. Despite the upsetting events, it was a great read with lots of interesting characters and topical themes.
9. The Street Sweeper – Elliot Pearlman (DA)
I read this epic last summer. It made me sad, angry, enlightened and informed. It begins in New York City but traverses history and continents and covers the American Civil Rights movement and the Holocaust. This is an amazing, complex, beautifully crafted and well researched novel. Note, there are some upsetting scenes which is to be expected given the historical events covered.
10. The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett (DA)
This was a bit of a random read for me, but I saw an Oprah episode where it was featured in her book club. Oprah was raving so I gave it a crack and I loved it. It was an epic (we are talking close to 1000 pages) spanning generations and is set a few hundred years ago. I loaned this book to my parents and they loved it too.
Honourable mentions must go to Tully by Paullina Simons, Love Anthony by Lisa Genova, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova and anything by Geraldine Brooks and Chaim Potok.
I have plenty of favourite books that are also in a series, so I will be covering my favourite fiction series and non fiction/biographies in subsequent posts.
Have you read any of these books? Would you recommend any of them? What are some of your favourite fiction books?
Thank you for your comment! I love to hear what you think.