A good book is better than a boyfriend. Discuss.

This sounds like a suggestion for an essay. In answer to that statement, I’d say ‘yes’, at times that’s probably true. A good book is always easy to find, whereas finding good boyfriends, is debateable. A moot discussion for me, as I’m happily married, but I’m sure I would have agreed with this as a teenager!

Sunday 9thAugust is Book Lovers Day, a day to celebrate reading, and everything books, so a good time to be focussing on some good books to read.

What are you reading at the moment?

There are between 600,000 and 1,000,000 books published each year. Plenty of books for us to read and would keep us reading way beyond our lifetimes.

I don’t know about you, but I always have a pile of books ready to read, stacked on my bedside table.  At present there is a memoir, (which is the current reading), two novels and a poetry book.

Do you have a genre you prefer to read above all other?

Personally, I like crime, poetry, and novels with some intrigue.  I’m not necessarily a huge fan of historical novels in the traditional sense, and I don’t like horror. Although, I do have a particular yen for vampires.

My favourite books

There are some books that I re-read again, and again. These include:

“A Widow for a Year,” John Irving. I have all of his books, but this is my favourite.

“Small Island,” Andrea Levy

“The House on the Strand,” Daphne du Maurier

“The Secret Garden,” Frances Hodgson Burnett

4 books I’ve read recently and loved

If you are like me, always looking for new books to read, here are some suggestions:                               

“The Invention of Wings” – Sue Monk Kidd

This is one of the best books I’ve read in ages.  I couldn’t put it down, and couldn’t wait to read the next chapter.

It is the story of Handful, and Sarah Grimke. When the book opens, Sarah is the eleven-year-old daughter of a slave owning family, living in Charleston. Handful, is the slave that her parents give to her as an eleventh birthday present.

Sarah doesn’t agree with slavery, and instead of treating Hetty in the manner expected, they begin a relationship that keeps them together throughout their lives.

Sarah and her sister fight for slavery at a time when women do not have a voice.

The historical aspects of life at the time, based on a true story, are recounted with great keenness, and Sue Monk Kidd’s story keeps you intrigued.

You must also read the end of the book, after the last chapter, because that adds to the story.

“Waiting” – Ha Jin

This book has one of the slowest moving stories I think I’ve ever read. There is no exciting event or action in the traditional sense.  However, it is beautifully written, and even though at times I did wonder if I’d finish it, I needed to know what happened to the couple.

For more than seventeen years Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor has been passionately in love with an educated, modern woman, Manna Wu. However, he is married to a humble, loyal wife who is back in his traditional home village. His wife chose her for him many years before. 

Each summer he returns to the village to ask her to divorce him, and every year his wife, after agreeing, backs out at the last minute.  Lin promised Manna that this year, after 18 years, things will be different.

The story is set against living in the crazy bureaucracy of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The insight into Chinese culture, alongside the complexities of their relationship is fascinating.

It has taken me quite a while to finish reading the book – I felt as though I was reading at sloth-rate!  However, it is beautiful, and gentle, and the ending….. you’ll have to wait and see.

“The Seagull” – Ann Cleeves

This is a DI Vera Stanhope case.  

It’s the story of a cold case, re-opened due to information from a former police officer that is now in prison.  Vera finds that the case is a lot closer to home than she would like, and opens up all sorts of memories from her past.

Vera is obviously a woman who is a little eccentric, but her character draws you in, and I found her down to earth and comforting. She isn’t your normal depiction of a heroine, which makes her all the more appealing.

Ann Cleeves keeps you interested and avidly turning the pages, despite there not being a great deal of action throughout the book. Her writing is engaging, and I just couldn’t put it down.

”Listener”- Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay is an amazing wordsmith, and the poetry in this collection is funny, clever, inventive, touching and incredibly enjoyable.  His poetry is accessible and can be read many times over.

I am also reading his memoirs, which relates his story of growing up in foster care, with no idea of who he was and not even keeping his birth name; he was given a new name by his care worker.

Many of the poems in this collection take on extra meaning, having read about his life. You can see how the tragedy of his childhood has impacted on his writing.  Yet, with all of that, he has a wonderful sense of humour and has survived to become a successful and loved poet, despite the way he was treated as a child by the authorities.

 “The House between the Tides” – Sarah Maine

I loved this book!  It is the story of Hetty Deveraux who leaves London to go up to Scotland to visit her ancestral home, now in ruins.  The story turns into a mystery and she has to choose between the local villagers and her London friends. 

The story moves between 2010 and 1910. Both eras hold love stories, and the writing and the story keep you captivated.

The descriptions of the Scottish countryside and seascape are beautiful and an integral part of the story.

For me, this book is reminiscent of Daphne du Maurier’s book, ‘The House on the Strand’, which also moves backwards and forwards in time.

“Mixed Feelings – a true story,” Lis McDermott

A cheeky entry, as it is my own book. I wrote this because of the perceptions people have about us, a mixed racial couple. It is a pertinent time to be thinking about our relationship in a world where some people still can’t cope with others marrying outside of their own culture. (The words below are from a review on Amazon). 

‘This book is a feel good, easy read about two people – from different backgrounds and ages – who fell in love. The context of their love really sets the scene. At a time when there is a lot of disruption and strife in the UK around immigration and a lot of nonsense spoken around it – it’s good to remember that there are always stories like Lis & Conrad. People who fall in love and make it work through mutual respect, support and embracing their differences. This book is a reminder that people and their ordinary lives matter and sharing stories like this enriches all of us.’

If you haven’t read any of these books, and you decide to, I hope you get the enjoyment from them that I found.

I’d love to know what you are reading and if you’d like to share with me, please do so.

“I kept always two books in my pocket, one to read, one to write in.” 

 Robert Louis Stevenson