Readers know I’m a book fanatic – Kindle, paper back, hard back, coffee table – I collect and inhale as many as I can as often as I can.
Books are one of the great pleasures of my life.
So in the spirit of Christmas and wishing you all some lazy days on a hammock here is our ultimate CLICK TO BUY BOOK GUIDE featuring some of my favourites, classics and recommendations from people who know their books. It’s just some of the books you need to add to your bookshelf, beach bag, life.
Happy reading and please let us know what you loved.
Raved About Reads.
Skagboys, by Irvine Welsh.
Skagboys transports us to 1980s Edinburgh, where the Trainspotting crew is just getting started. Darkly humorous, Skagboys gives a gritty and gripping portrait of a time, not unlike ours, when money was scarce, unemployment was high, and drugs seemed the answer.
Train Dreams: A Novella, by Denis Johnson.
Denis Johnson’s Train Dreams is the story of Robert Grainier, a day laborer in the American West at the start of the twentieth century—an ordinary man in extraordinary times. Suffused with the history and landscapes of the American West, this novella captures the disappearance of a distinctly American way of life.
Dear Life: Stories, by Alice Munro.
In story after story, Alice Munro illumines the moment a life is forever altered by a chance encounter or an action not taken, or by a simple twist of fate that turns a person out of his or her accustomed path and into a new way of being or thinking.
Flight Behavior: A Novel, by Barbara Kingsolver.
Flight Behavior transfixes from its opening scene, when a young woman’s narrow experience of life is thrown wide with the force of a raging fire. In the lyrical language of her native Appalachia, Barbara Kingsolver bares the rich, tarnished humanity of her novel’s inhabitants and unearths the modern complexities of rural existence.
I Came To Say Goodbye, By Caroline Overington.
It was four o’clock in the morning. A young woman pushed through the hospital doors to the nursery where a baby girl lay sleeping. The infant didn’t wake when the woman placed her gently in the shopping bag she had brought with her. There is CCTV footage of what happened next, and most Australians would have seen it on the news. The woman walked out to the car park, clipped the infant into the car, got in and drove off. That is where the footage ends. It isn’t where the story ends, however. It’s not even where the story starts.
Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel.
Continuing what began in the award-winning Wolf Hall, we return to the court of Henry VIII, to witness the irresistible rise of Thomas Cromwell as he contrives the destruction of Anne Boleyn.
Swamplandia!, by Karen Russell.
Thirteen-year-old Ava Bigtree has lived her entire life at Swamplandia!, her family’s island home and gator-wrestling theme park in the Florida Everglades. But when illness fells Ava’s mother, the park’s indomitable headliner, the family is plunged into chaos. As Ava sets out on a mission through the magical swamps to save them all, we are drawn into a lush and bravely imagined debut that takes us to the shimmering edge of reality.
The Time Keeper, by Mitch Albom.
In Mitch Albom’s newest work of fiction, the inventor of the world’s first clock is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. He is banished to a cave for centuries and eventually, with his soul nearly broken, Father Time is granted his freedom, along with a magical hourglass and a mission: a chance to redeem himself by teaching two earthly people the true meaning of time.
Agenda 21, by Glenn Beck.
Glenn Beck transports readers into a place that once was called America. Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as “the Republic.” There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom. There are only the Authorities. Like most citizens, eighteen-year-old Emmeline keeps her head down and her eyes closed. Until the day they come for her mother.
Canada, by Richard Ford.
Then fifteen-year-old Dell Parsons’ parents rob a bank, his sense of normal life is forever altered. In an instant, this private cataclysm drives his life into before and after, a threshold that can never be uncrossed.
The Casual Vacancy, by J.K.Rowling.
Blackly comic, thought-provoking and constantly surprising, The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults.
The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace.
The Pale King grapples directly with ultimate questions–questions of life’s meaning and of the value of work and society–through characters imagined with the interior force and generosity that were Wallace’s unique gifts. Along the way it suggests a new idea of heroism and commands infinite respect for one of the most daring writers of our time.
The Round House, by Louise Erdrich.
The Round House is a brilliant and entertaining novel, a masterpiece of literary fiction. Louise Erdrich embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too-human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.
Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.
Louise Brooks: A Biography, by Barry Paris.
Louise Brooks left Wichita, Kansas, for New York City at age fifteen and lived the kind of life of which legends are made. From her beginnings as a dancer to her years in Hollywood, Berlin, and beyond, she was hailed and reviled as a new type of woman: independent, intellectually daring, and sexually free. In this first and only comprehensive biography, Barry Paris traces Brooks’s trajectory from her childhood through her fall into obscurity and subsequent “resurrection” as a brilliant writer and enduring film icon.
Waging Heavy Peace, by Neil Young.
For the first time, legendary singer, songwriter, and guitarist Neil Young offers a kaleidoscopic view of his personal life and musical creativity. Astoundingly candid, witty, and as uncompromising and true as his music, Waging Heavy Peace is Neil Young’s journey as only he can tell it.
Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham.
In this magnificent biography, Meacham brings vividly to life an extraordinary man and his remarkable times. It gives us Jefferson the politician and president, a great and complex human being forever engaged in the wars of his era. Philosophers think; politicians maneuver. Jefferson’s genius was that he was both and could do both, often simultaneously. Such is the art of power.
White Girl Problems, by Babe Walker.
Babe Walker, centre of the universe, is a painstakingly manicured white girl with an expensive smoothie habit, a proclivity for Louboutins, a mysterious mother she’s never met, and approximately 50 bajillion Twitter followers. But her “problems” have landed her in shopping rehab—that’s what happens when you spend $246,893.50 in one afternoon at Barneys. Now she’s decided to write her memoir, revealing the gut-wrenching hurdles she’s had to overcome in order to be perfect in every way, every day.
Mick Jagger, by Phillip Norman.
To celebrate The Rolling Stones’s 50 years in show business, this is a biography of frontman Mick Jagger, which gives fans an insight into a more complex, impressive and often endearing character. Charts his journey through scandal-ridden conspiracy, infamous prison spell, hordes of female admirers and a knighthood while stripping away the fame, wealth and idolatry to reveal a story of talent and promise unfulfilled.
Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, by Jane Ridley.
Edward VII, who gave his name to the Edwardian Age but was always known as Bertie, was fifty-nine when he finally came to power in 1901. He was king for the last nine years of his life. But contrary to popular belief, the playboy prince was also an instinctive diplomat: when he eventually became king he did a good job, especially in foreign policy. This magnificent and exhaustively researched book – which draws on numerous new discoveries and primary sources – gives Bertie due credit while painting a vivid portrait of the age in all its excess and eccentricity.
Vanished Years, by Rupert Everett.
Rupert Everett’s first memoir – Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins – was an international bestseller in 2006. Mischievous, touching and nothing less than brilliant, this new memoir is filled with brand-new stories, from childhood to the present. Vanished Years takes the reader on a wild and wonderful new journey with a charming (and rather disreputable) companion.
Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention, by Manning Marable.
The late Manning Marable’s acclaimed biography of Malcolm X finally does justice to one of the most influential and controversial figures of twentieth-century American history. Filled with startling new information and shocking revelations, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America. Malcolm X is a stunning achievement, the definitive work on one of our greatest advocates for social change.
Thomas Wyatt: The Heart’s Forest, by Susan Brigden.
Thomas Wyatt was the first modern voice in English poetry. Wyatt’s life, lived so restlessly and intensely, provides a way to examine a deep questioning at the beginning of the Renaissance and Reformation in England. Above all, this new biography is attuned to Wyatt’s dissonant voice and broken lyre, the paradox within him of inwardness and the will to ‘make plain’ his heart, all of which make him exceptionally difficult to know – and fascinating to explore.
George F. Kennan: An American Life, by John Lewis Gaddis.
This is the authorised, definitive biography of one of the most fascinating but troubled figures of the twentieth century by the nation’s leading Cold War historian. In the late 1940s, George F. Kennan—then a bright but relatively obscure American diplomat—wrote the “long telegram” and the “X” article. These two documents laid out United States’ strategy for “containing” the Soviet Union—a strategy which Kennan himself questioned in later years. Based on exclusive access to Kennan and his archives, this landmark history illuminates a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.
The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, by William Manchester and Paul Reid.
Spanning the years of 1940-1965, The Last Lion picks up shortly after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister-when his tiny island nation stood alone against the overwhelming might of Nazi Germany.
How Georgia Became O’Keeffe: Lessons on the Art of Living, by Karen Karbo.
A fresh, revealing look at the artist who continues to inspire new generations of women. Most people associate Georgia O’Keeffe with New Mexico, painted cow skulls, and her flower paintings. She was revered for so long–born in 1887, died at age ninety-eight in 1986–that we forget how young, restless, passionate, searching, striking, even fearful she once was–a dazzling, mysterious female.
A Card From Angela Carter, by Susannah Clapp.
Angela Carter was one of the most vivid voices of the twentieth century: much studied, copied and adored. Susannah Clapp and Angela Carter were friends for years. The postcards that Carter sent to her form a paper trail through her life. Through the medium of her postcards Susannah Clapp will evoke Angela Carter’s anarchic intelligence, her fierce politics, the richness of her language, her ribaldry, the great swoops of her imagination; she will also say something about her life.
Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution, by Mary Gabriel.
Brilliantly researched and wonderfully written, Love And Capital is a heartbreaking and dramatic saga of the family side of the man whose works would redefine the world after his death. Drawing upon years of research, acclaimed biographer Mary Gabriel brings to light the story of Karl and Jenny Marx’s marriage.
Beach Bag Reads.
Out of It, by Selma Dabbagh.
Out of It follows the Rashid and his sister Iman as they try to forge places for themselves in the midst of occupation, the growing divide between Palestinian factions, and the rise of fundamentalism. Written with extraordinary humanity and humour, and moving between Gaza, London and the Gulf, this book helps to re-define Palestine and its people.
Notorious Nineteen, by Janet Evanovich.
After a slow summer of chasing low-level skips for her cousin Vinnie’s bail bonds agency, Stephanie Plum finally lands an assignment that could put her checkbook back in the black. Geoffrey Cubbin, facing trial for embezzling millions from Trenton’s premier assisted-living facility, has mysteriously vanished from the hospital after an emergency appendectomy. Now it’s on Stephanie to track down the con man.
May We Be Forgiven, by A.M. Homes.
A darkly comic novel of twenty-first-century domestic life and the possibility of personal transformation. As Harold Silver builds a twenty-first-century family created by choice rather than biology, we become all the more aware of the ways in which our history, both personal and political, can become our destiny and either compel us to repeat our errors or be the catalyst for change.
Mrs Weber’s Omnibus, by Posy Simmonds.
In May 1977 Posy Simmonds, an unknown young illustrator, started drawing a weekly comic strip for the Guardian. It began as a silly parody of girls’ adventure stories, making satirical comments about contemporary life. The strip soon focused on three 1950s school friends in their later middle-class and nearly middle-aged lives. Collected here for the first time are the complete strips.
Hawthorn and Child, by Keith Ridgway.
The two protagonists of the title are mid-ranking policemen operating amongst London’s criminal classes, but each is plagued by dreams of elsewhere. Ridgway has much to say, through showing not telling, about male violence, crowd psychology, the borders between play and abuse, and the motivations of policemen and criminals. But this is no humdrum crime novel. Ridgway is writing about people whose understanding of their own situations is only partial and fuzzy, who are consumed by emotions and motivations and narratives, or the lack thereof, that they cannot master.
Mountains of the Moon, by I.J.Kay.
After ten years in a London prison, Louise Adler (Lulu) is released with only a new alias to rebuild her life. Working a series of dead-end jobs, she carries a past full of secrets. But when she’s awarded an unexpected settlement claim after prison, she travels to the landscape of her childhood imagination, the central African range known as the Mountains of the Moon. There, in the region’s stark beauty, she attempts to piece together the fragments of her battered psyche.
The Fishing Fleet: Husband Hunting in the Raj, by Anne De Courcy.
From the late 19th century, when the Raj was at its height, many of Britain’s best and brightest young men went out to India to work as administrators, soldiers and businessmen. With the advent of steam travel and the opening of the Suez Canal, countless young women, suffering at the lack of eligible men in Britain, followed in their wake. They were known as the Fishing Fleet and this book is their story, hitherto untold.
The Heart Broke In, by James Meek.
From James Meek, the award-winning author of the international bestseller The People’s Act of Love, comes a rich and intricate novel about everything that matters to us now: children, celebrity, secrets and shame, the quest for youth, loyalty and betrayal, falls from grace, acts of terror, and the wonderful, terrible inescapability of family.
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert MacFarlane.
In The Old Ways Robert Macfarlane sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove-roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes criss-crossing the British landscape and its waters, and connecting them to the continents beyond. The result is an immersive, enthralling exploration of the ghosts and voices that haunt old paths, of the stories our tracks keep and tell, of pilgrimage and ritual, and of songlines and their singers.
Opposed Positions, by Gwendoline Riley.
At thirty, Aislinn Kelly is an occasional novelist with a near-morbid attunement to the motives of those around her. Isolated, restless and stuck, she decamps to America – a default recourse – this time to an attic room in Indianapolis, to attempt once again the definitive act of self-salvage. Wry, shocking, perfectly observed and utterly heart-breaking, the novel moves towards its troubling conclusion: a painful appreciation of what it is we’ve come from, and what we might be heading for.
Sutton, by J.R.Moehringer.
Pulitzer Prize-winner J.R. Moehringer brings bank robber Willie Sutton blazing back to life. In Moehringer’s retelling, it was more than need or rage at society that drove Sutton. It was one unforgettable woman. In all Sutton’s crimes and confinements, his first love (and first accomplice) was never far from his thoughts. And when Sutton finally walked free–a surprise pardon on Christmas Eve, 1969–he immediately set out to find her.
NW, by Zadie Smith.
Zadie Smith’s brilliant tragi-comic new novel follows four Londoners – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – as they try to make adult lives outside of Caldwell, the council estate of their childhood. From private houses to public parks, at work and at play, their London is a complicated place, as beautiful as it is brutal, where the thoroughfares hide the back alleys and taking the high road can sometimes lead you to a dead end.
When Swan Lake Comes to Sarajevo, by Ruth Waterman.
International violinist Ruth Waterman first met the musicians of the multi-ethnic ensemble in 2002, and since then has returned regularly to the region, teaching, conducting and performing, and listening to their stories. Interspersed with her diaries and observations are the stories of war and peace by the Bosnians themselves, in their own voices, acts of witness that reveal their courage, despair, resilience and humour.
The Bathing Women, by Tie Ning.
From award-winning and bestselling Chinese writer Tie Ning comes a stunningly original novel that captures the spirit of a new generation of young professionals in contemporary China. The Bathing Women follows the lives of four women from childhood during the Cultural Revolution to adulthood in the new market economy.
Idiomantics: The Weird World of Popular Phrases, by Phillip Gooden and Peter Lewis.
Idiomantics is a unique exploration of the world of idiomatic phrases. The ideal gift for word buffs and in fact, anyone who enjoys a good yarn, this playful book looks at 12 groups of idioms around the world, looking at subjects such as fun and games, gastronomic delights and the daily grind.
Best Self-Help Books.
Entre Nous: A Woman’s Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl, by Debra Ollivier.
Provocative and practical, lively and intelligent, Entre Nous unlocks the mystery of the French girl and the secrets of her self-possession… More than just a book on fashion, Entre Nous is about the essence of French living-its observations about French women and their ways will help you take the best of all pages from the French girl’s book: the page that reveals how to really enjoy life.
This Book Will Change Your Life, by Benrik.
Part instruction manual, part therapy, part religious cult, part sheer anarchy, This Book Will Change Your Life will help you poke a stick in the spokes of your routine. It’s not the soft-hearted kind of book that’s interested in what you have to say; rather it contains 365 daily orders, each one of which could turn your humdrum existence into a daily free-fall.
Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me, by Lucia Van Der Post.
Lucia van der Post has dispensed advice on style and living for more than three decades. Her subtlety, taste, common sense, confidence, and witty, aphoristic style have garnered her legions of fans, a must-read weekly style column in the Times of London, and a longtime perch at the top of UK lifestyle journalism. Things I Wish My Mother Had Told Me is Van der Post’s warm, intimate guide to living stylishly through personal elegance, grace, and glamour.
Enjoy Every Sandwich: Living Each Day as If It Were Your Last, by Lee Lipsenthal.
As medical director of the famed Preventive Medicine Research Institute, Lee Lipsenthal helped thousands of patients struggling with disease to overcome their fears of pain and death and to embrace a more joyful way of living. In his own life, happily married and the proud father of two remarkable children, Lee was similarly committed to living his life fully and gratefully each day. The power of those beliefs was tested in July 2009, when Lee was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.
Bonjour, Happiness!, by Jamie Cat Callan.
French women didn’t invent happiness. But they know a thing or two about joie de vivre–being alive to each delicious moment. As a young girl, Jamie Cat Callan was fascinated by her French grandmother. Though she had little money, Jamie’s grand-mère ate well, dressed well, and took joy in simple, everyday pleasures. Now as an adult, Jamie draws on everything French women have taught her and shows you how to: Buy and consume less–and enjoy more.
How to Walk in High Heels: The Girl’s Guide to Everything, by Camilla Morton.
Can you make yourself up in five minutes flat? Hang a picture without becoming unhinged? Get out of a car — or an unpleasant situation — gracefully in a short skirt? If not, international style and fashion journalist Camilla Morton can help you navigate these and more than two hundred other hazards of modern living with grace and aplomb.
More Money for Shoes, by Melissa Browne.
More Money for Shoes, is a gorgeous, practical, full-coloured, innovative, illustrated business book written for women in business (or women thinking about starting a business). It’s designed to show you that building a successful and profitable business can be just like shaping a fabulous wardrobe.
Stuff Every Woman Should Know, by Alanna Kalb.
This pocket-sized companion features everything a woman should know including: How to Ask for a Raise, Ten Stylish Pieces Every Woman Should Own, How to Throw a Football, Good Responses to Bad Pick-Up Lines. Plus advice on etiquette and social situations, entertaining and cooking tips, do-it-yourself instructions, health information, self-defense techniques, and much, much more!
Very Classy: Even More Exceptional Advice for the Extremely Modern Lady, by Derek Blasberg.
Derek Blasberg is back with more brilliant commentary on what makes a lady truly classy. With all the razor-sharp insights of Classy plus new, never-before-seen pages packed with Derek’s signature wit and timeless tips, VeryClassy is the best – and the only – resource for the up-to-the minute, modern young woman.
How to Be a Hepburn in a Hilton World, by Jordan Christy.
In a society driven by celebutante news and myspace profiles, women of class, style and charm are hard to come by. The Audrey and Katharine’s of the world continue to lose their luster as thongs, rehab and outrageous behavior burn up the daily headlines. So is it possible to maintain old fashioned virtues in a modern world without looking like a starchy Amish grandma? Christy shows women how in this guide to glamorous style, professional success and true love…the classy way.
The French Twist: Twelve Secrets of Decadent Dining and Natural Weight Management, by Carol Cottrill.
Americans diet while the French dine. But is it true that French women don’t get fat? In The French Twist, nutritional consultant Carol Cottrill lets American women in on twelve secrets for organizing their personal rhythms and rituals around this concept, which can have a profound effect on their metabolism and weight.
NOTE: These blurbs are taken from Amazon, not written by me.