I am a massive bibliophile! I love books and reading and have done from a young age.  Saying that, I didn’t get off to the most auspicious of starts as a reader.  I distinctly remember feeling extremely irritated when half way through the year my P1 (reception) teacher told the class that we should be starting to read the words rather than just look at the pictures in our books.  It just seemed like too much effort!

Onwards and Upwards!

After that shaky start however, I very quickly realised that I LOVED reading.  The first book I ever got from book club (remember bookclub?! Oh the excitement!) was about a girl called Ursula and a bear although the book’s title escapes me.  It obviously didn’t make much of an impression!  I still remember the excitement of receiving it though and it was the first of many that I hassled my mum for throughout school.

Throughout my primary school years I continued to read anything and everything.  Roald Dahl was a particular favourite.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read The Twits especially.  George’s Marvellous Medicine and The Witches were two other favourites.  I loved The Babysitters’ Club series and as I got older I moved on to The Sweet Valley High and Point Horror books amongst far too many others to mention!  Nowadays I read a little bit of everything really – fantasy, contemporary fiction, poetry anthologies, modern classics and the odd chick lit fix of course!  So without further ado here is my list of books you really should read.

  1. Game of Thrones – this is actually only the first book in the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin but it goes without saying that I recommend the whole series!  I won’t go into detail regarding the plot as you’d need to have been living under a rock not to have heard of GoT!  Suffice to say it is set in Westeros and follows the lives (and deaths-lots of them!) of the inhabitants as various dynastic families vie for power in the kingdom.  There are currently five books (although confusingly two of them are actually split into two books) with number 6 – The Winds of Winter – hopefully coming this year.  I say hopefully as we’ve been waiting rather a long time already with no release date given yet!
  2. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee – this is the second book by Harper Lee and was only released shortly before her death.  It was a highly anticipated release as prior to this, Lee had only ever written one book – the classic To Kill a Mockingbird (which you really should also read).  It is set 20 years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird (although it was actually written first) and tells of Scout’s gradual realisation that her father is not the saintly figure she has always thought him to be.  There was some controversy about the book as many readers felt that the way Atticus Finch was  portrayed was simply unbelievable in comparison to how he was portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird. I would say that it isn’t nearly as clear cut or simple as that.  Read it for yourself and make your own mind up.
  3. Into the Wild by John Krakauer – this is a true story, although it is so incredible you would think it could only be fiction!  It is the story of Chris McCandless, a talented and intelligent young man who left his family, gave up all his worldly possessions and hiked into the Alaskan wilderness alone to live a life in the wild.  McCandless was clearly an immensely determined and resourceful individual and Krakauer does an excellent job of piecing together his tragic final days.  It is an incredibly moving book and stayed with me long after I had finished reading it.
  4. The Nation’s Favourite Poems – oh I do love a poetry anthology and this is an oldie but a goodie!  It came together as a result of a British national survey to find the 100 most beloved poems and as such contains all the well-known poems you would expect such as If by Rudyard Kipling, Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night by Dylan Thomas and The Daffodils by William Wordsworth.  It’s a perfect book to dip in and out of and will always grace my bookshelf.
  5. Birdsong – this novel by Sebastian Faulks is in turn a love story and a war novel.  It is set in France in the years before and during the First World War and follows the story of Stephen Wraysford, an English man who is living in France.  He embarks on a passionate affair with Isabelle, with whom he is staying, before becoming a soldier in the trenches of Northern France.  The descriptions of his war experiences are the part of the story that really stayed with me and the author has done an incredible (and I believe, accurate) job in bringing the harsh realities of war to life.  This is a truly haunting novel that is impossible to forget and I would urge anyone who hasn’t read it to add it to their must read list!
  6. The Lord of the Rings – what can I say about LOTR that hasn’t already been said?  J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece is as popular as it ever was and the tale of Frodo Baggins’s quest to destroy the One Ring is storytelling at its best!  Yes, the descriptions are at times a little wordy but the wonderful characters and sheer imagination contained in these stories more than make up for it.  Also, buying very pretty cloth-bound special editions like I did means you don’t have to bother buying any ornaments for your sitting-room as they look so darn fabulous!
  7. Finally, Kiss Kiss is a  collection  of short stories by Roald Dahl but perhaps surprisingly is for adults.  I wasn’t even aware that Roald Dahl had ever written for adults until the girl doing one of my tattoos (a fellow bookworm obviously) recommended his short stories.  On my way home, with a rather sore back full of pretty stars, I stopped off at Blackwells bookshop and picked up Kiss Kiss!  I’m very glad I did as its a wonderful collection of rather dark, unsettling stories with a twist.  Being Roald Dahl, what else would you ever expect?

These are just a few of my favourites, I could fill far more than one post with all the books I love!  I would love to hear if you’ve read any and of course what you think of them.

 

Unusually for me, I haven’t read any novels this month.  Usually I’ll read at least one but starting up this blog has taken far more of my time than I expected.  So other than one (fairly short) non-fiction book, I’ve been dipping into and thoroughly enjoying a few magazines, some of which I discovered completely by accident (hurrah for Twitter).  So here are my January reads:

  1.  The Simple Things – I LOVE The Simple Things! I discovered it in the Spring when a very thoughtful friend put a copy in my birthday bag.  Straight away I thought, “This is my kind of magazine.”  It’s about living the good life and has a huge variety of articles on things like rustic food, getting outdoors, interiors, crafty things and travel.  It focuses very much on the more rustic side of life (even for city dwellers) and appreciating the beauty and individuality of each month and season.  The February issue is currently sitting in my magazine basket waiting to be read! *squeals with excitement*
  2. Oh Comely – this is published by the same group as The Simple Things and I came across it through adverts in the aforementioned.  At first I thought it might be a bit too alternative for me, but after sampling a few back issues on Issuu I decided to subscribe to it and I’m so glad I did.  It has a lovely mix of whimsical, arty, eclectic articles – I’m struggling a bit here to even describe it!  But I love the mix of different topics, this issue for example had writing on time travel,  the good old days and going home to name but a few.  Reading Oh Comely actually makes me feel quite peaceful which brings me nicely on to my next read. 
  3. Breathe – Breathe is a magazine all about mindfulness.  It is similar to The Simple Things and Oh Comely in that it advocates taking time to enjoy things, appreciating each season and dabbling in crafts.  It usually gives away a wee notebook for your doodles and musings too!  A gratitude journal came with issue 1 and issue 3 has a listography notebook- love it!  It also has a section devoted to crafts and has a few pages of gorgeous patterned paper every issue which I will be putting in frames for display.
  4. 404 INK – and now for something completely different! 404 Ink is a new alternative literary magazine published in Scotland.  I came across it when author Kevin MacNeil (who hails from my beautiful island!) mentioned it in a tweet as he wrote a short story for it.  I thought I would check it out and I’m glad I did.  It certainly showcases some weird and wonderful ideas but I really enjoyed reading it.  Not every piece was my cup of tea but I love reading new things and different genres – how else do you discover what you like?
  5. National Geographic – 100 Shocking Events – the title says it all really.  I spotted this in the newsagent and just had to buy it.  I love this 100 greatest… or 100 most… kind of reading as you can just dip in and out of it.  It gives a brief overview of a disasters, scandal and misadventures such as Charles Lindbergh’s fall from grace, the wrong turn that in part lead to World War 1 and (ahem) The Jerry Springer Show, amongst many others.  Perfect Sunday reading.

And that’s it, what have you been reading this January?