4 // All the Books

I can't remember the last time I didn't have a book on the go; to put it simply, reading has become an intrinsic part of my being. I've grown up among dust-coated and inked individuals – and the flick of a page has become second nature. And yet, I don't feel as if my humble blog lingers enough on the specific books I've read across the years. And so, in order to share more of the books I've read, I've allocated each of my books a number – and, with each of these posts, I'll ponder and muse over a randomly selected array of my books, noting my thoughts on aspects of them.

“All I did was go to the library to borrow some books.”
THE STRANGE LIBRARY follows a young boy who stops off at the library to discover how taxes were collected in the Ottoman Empire. To his surprise he’s led to a special ‘reading room’ in a maze under the library, where he’s imprisoned by the sinister old librarian. His only companions are a strange sheep man and a girl who can only talk with her hands.

Visually, this book is stunning. The illustrations are nothing less than gorgeous, and hand in hand with the small snippets of text, this book makes for an astoundingly imaginative and creatively told tale. That said, I feel like it's this book's aim to eschew the normal. From the subject matter to the characters to the ending, this tale goes beyond weird. I mean, it's utterly insane. If you're not a fan of the abnormal, and don't enjoy the occasional frisson of excitement, then please don't read this book. Though only a short read, this book is bursting with colour and ideas, and would make the perfect gift for any reader who isn't afraid of surreality. 

“… maybe we read heroines for what we need from them at the time.”
How to Be a Heroine is a non-fiction book by Samantha Ellis. Within the book, Ellis takes a retrospective look at her life through the different literary heroines she'd had along the way. Ultimately this book explores the role heroines play in shaping our lives – as well as touching upon some of Ellis' own experiences, such as growing up in an Iraqi Jewish community.

It's been over a year since I read HOW TO BE A HEROINE, and I still can't articulate the brilliance of this book. As a lifelong reader and lover of heroines, this book just clicked with me. I felt overwhelming nostalgia when I read the passages on Jo March and Anne Shirley, and I just got everything Ellis said about Esther Greenwood and Elizabeth Bennet. Samantha Ellis talks about books and characters in a way that only a true book lover could. If this sounds at all like a book that you'd enjoy, don't hesitate to give it a go.

“He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
Perfume begins in the slums of eighteenth-century France, where Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is born with one sublime gift — an absolute sense of smell. As a boy, he lives to decipher the odors of Paris, and apprentices himself to a prominent perfumer who teaches him the ancient art of mixing precious oils and herbs. Then one day he catches a hint of a scent that will drive him on an ever-more-terrifying quest to create the "ultimate perfume" — the scent of a beautiful young virgin.

Smell is not a sense I've ever fully appreciated, yet Patrick Süskind's lavish (albeit morbid) descriptions of various aromas enlightened me to its beauty. He's just a fantastic writer, and I fell in love with the prose of this novel. PERFUME is a seductive thriller, and one I loved every second of.

“The frost makes a flower, the dew makes a star.”
Ariel was the second book of Sylvia Plath's poetry to be published, and was originally published in 1965, two years after her death by suicide. The poems in Ariel, with their free flowing images and characteristically menacing psychic landscapes, marked a dramatic turn from Plath's earlier poems.

I read ARIEL earlier this year, and Sylvia Plath has since become one of my favourite poets. Though I found it very difficult to read at times (because of its connection to Plath's own fate), I couldn't recommend this collection highly enough. I've never experienced such raw and sincere feelings within such beautiful words, and there were so many times I had to pause in awe of Plath's talent. Each line of every poem is affecting in some way: “I am terrified by this dark thing / That sleeps in me / All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.” 

Have you read any of these? What did you think of them?
See my first of these posts HERE

"I’d Read Anything By Them"

I love the writing of certain authors to such an unmeasurable degree that I'll read anything written by them. To be brief, if the following authors were to publish a new book I'd begin it instantly…

Haruki Murakami:
I fully understand that many of his books are "same-y" – though I honestly couldn't care less. I love Murakami's distinctive style, his trademark motifs and his familiar characters. In fact, there's not a book of his I haven't enjoyed. I recently finished Sputnik Sweetheart, and upon finishing I thought: is there anything by this author I wouldn't read? Right now I can say there really isn't.

Margaret Atwood:
Margaret Atwood is truly one of our greatest living novelists. She just has this wonderful capacity for  crafting interesting and original plots without compromising the complexity of her characters. Every book she has written has left me a really contemplative mood, and I have complete faith that anything else she chooses to write will do just the same.

Neil Gaiman:
What I love about Neil Gaiman's work is that he explores reality through the use of the fantastical. He writes these wildly imaginative and inventive tales, and yet they always have an emotional basis that enables the reader to connect to them. Regardless of the plot, or the characters, or the setting, I always find a way to relate to Gaiman's work – and that's why I'd read anything by him.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie:
I think part of the reason I'd read anything by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is because I really respect and admire her as a person. Her short essay We Should All Be Feminists is just one of those things everybody should read. Her thoughtfulness always translates into her fiction, which is why she could write anything and I'd happily read it.

Kate ATkinson:
The Jackson Brodie Series was one of my favourite series for years; I loved the meticulous plotting and the delicate characterisation. However, it wasn't until the release of Life After Life that I realised what a fantastic storyteller Atkinson really is. She tells her stories in such a fascinating way that I can't help but want to read everything she ever decides to pen.

Michel Faber:
I'm really beginning to believe that Michel Faber is capable of writing absolutely anything. From a Dickensian epic on the life of a prostitute in Victorian London, to a tale of aliens harvesting human meat – he's an insanely versatile author. Though he said that The Book of Strange New Things is his last book, I'll definitely be seeking out anything by him that I've yet to read.

J.K. Rowling:
Like a lot of the 'Harry Potter Generation', I'm blindly loyal towards J.K. Rowling. I will read anything and everything she writes. It's just a simple fact: if it's written by JKR, I'll be reading it.

Are there any authors you love so much that you'd read anything written by them?

The Enveloping Nature of a Good Book

A Tale For the Time Being, Harry Potter, The Crimson Petal and the White
When I think about what makes a good book, I almost always come to the same answer: I love books that truly preoccupy the mind. I love books that – regardless of whether they deal with the grittiest elements of reality, or the furthest corners of the fantastical – swallow the reader up whole.

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, the best book I've read so far this year, did exactly that. The narrator, a literary seducer of sorts, ensnares the reader from the very beginning – "Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them." Needless to say, it’s not long before the reader's completely engulfed in Faber’s Victorian London. This book preoccupied my mind in a way I can’t quite describe; it had a captivating energy about it, the kind that enabled a peculiarly intimate relationship between myself and the characters. Ultimately, this book reminded me of the pure, unadulterated delight that comes hand in hand with escapism.

And, when I think back to many of my other favourite reads, they've all been very similar in that respect; it seems I love nothing more than to be completely enveloped in an author's world. It feels so painfully obvious to talk about Harry Potter, though I will – and for good reason too. HARRY POTTER is a series that just clicks with so many people, myself included. All it takes is for a reader to crack the spine of one the books, and they've apparated into a loveable and familiar world. For me, the series is the very definition of escapism – and I'm sure many will agree with me on that.

So, yes, I love books that are truly engulfing. A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki is another book that completely absorbed every element of my being; I felt involved in the character's lives in an unimaginably genuine sense. It's books like Ozeki's I truly adore; the kind that captivate you so entirely that you're unable to fathom how your reality can be separate from the book's reality.

Any recommendations for books that have truly preoccupied your mind?

A Few of My Recent Reads

I initially sat down to write an entirely different blog post to this one. But then I realised that I didn't feel like writing that blog post. Today, I just want to talk about books, simple as. And so, given the summer holidays have just ended, it feels fitting for me to review a couple of the books I read this summer. I've picked out three very different reads, and so, without further ado, here are my thoughts on them…
 Under the Skin by Michel Faber
| PAGES: 296 | Publisher: Canongate | First Published: 2000 | Sci-fi | Mystery | *FOR MATURE READERS* | 
Under the Skin makes for a completely surreal reading experience; it's wildly original, beautifully written and utterly unforgettable. The character of Isserley is unlike any other, and her tale is unpredictable from start to finish. Admittedly, the first two thirds of the novel are incredibly slow-paced – though it picks up considerably near the end, given there's the 'big reveal'. Essentially, this is a book that will (pardon the pun) really get under your skin; it's deeply affecting, thoroughly exhilarating and the ending will haunt your mind for days afterwards. I don't want to say much else (in fear of spoilers), so I'll just say this: Under the Skin is a thrilling, lyrical, genre-defying read, and I just loved the sheer insanity of the whole thing. ★★★★

| Pages: 181 | Publisher: Vintage | First published: 2007 | Non-Fiction | mEMOIR |
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is not, contrary to what the titles says, a book solely about running. In fact, you don't have to be a runner to enjoy it – just, preferably, a Murakami fan. I've always found him to be an incredibly interesting person, and this memoir, if anything, has further piqued my interest in him. Though only a short read, it offers glimpses of great profundity throughout, and I was surprised by the sheer depth of some passages. Whilst I wasn't hugely invested in the passages on running, I found his discussions about the writing process fascinating, and I was stunned by his thoughtfulness and humility (especially when he admitted he doesn't see himself as a 'natural writer'). This said, the book did feel a bit disjointed – given it was written in chunks over the course of a few years – and this slightly marred the reading process. ★★★½

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
| PAGES: 345 | Publisher: Faber & Faber | First Published: 2015 | Fantasy | Historical Fiction| 
The Buried Giant is a very frustrating read in many ways. Ishiguro is a wonderful writer, there’s no doubt about that. He crafts beautiful and sincere sentences, each of which is full of meaning. In fact, I found so many passages of this book to be so simple and yet so thoughtful (“But then again I wonder if what we feel in our hearts today isn't like these raindrops still falling on us from the soaked leaves above, even though the sky itself long stopped raining. I'm wondering if without our memories, there's nothing for it but for our love to fade and die.” ) However, there was one thing that stopped me from enjoying this book: the characters, or rather my inability to connect to them. A crucial part of the book is the relationship between Beatrice and Axl, an elderly couple. In short: I didn’t find either of the characters particularly engaging, and consequently felt disconnected from both their relationship and their story. Whilst The Buried Giant offered a profound exploration of memory and how we deal with the past, I ultimately had difficulty appreciating this theme when it was conveyed through two characters I fundamentally struggled to connect with. ★★½

Have you read any of these? Have you read anything recently you recommend?
I've just started back at school & I'm working hard to find a way to balance schoolwork & blogging.