Thank you for the positive responses to my recent post about my favourite books of all time! I didn’t think it would be so popular, and I’m glad I’ve inspired a few of you to pick up one (or three) of my favourite books.
Seeing as it was such a popular theme, I thought I’d continue with another post about books that I read in 2015 and recommend. I noticed that there wasn’t a lot of variety with my all-time favourite books so I want to recommend some others that might be more up your alley.
I’ve also included books that I want to read this year and are on my Kobo wishlist – it’s my goal to read a lot more in 2016 as I feel I didn’t read as much last year as I usually do. Not all of them are newly released books; a few of them are books that have been around for a long time but have been mentioned lately in news articles or blog posts.
Without further ado, let’s go!
Books I read in 2015 and recommend:
- The 100 Year Old Man who Climbed out of a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
I have been umming and aahing over this book for so many years and I’m so glad I finally read it – what a hoot! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything so ridiculously entertaining yet relevant. Although the storyline is outrageous, I could actually believe that someone could live this life. This book is about an old man who escapes his retirement village and goes on a fantastical adventure which intertwines with flashbacks to his life, starting from childhood. I think this is a movie (can someone confirm or deny this for me?) and a part of me really doesn’t want to see it, because we all know that the movies never measure up (except Harry Potter).
2. The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
Admittedly, I watched the movie first before realising it was a book and I really loved the movie (French Helen Mirren is #girlboss). I didn’t know what to expect from the book because the blurb reads like the plot of the movie. If you haven’t read the book, scroll down to the next section now because I’m about to reveal a spoiler: the book is nothing like the movie. Other than the fact that the main characters share the same name, the book is much richer in context and history, and ends completely differently. I prefer the book over the movie, but that’s not saying I hate the movie. The book is a lot longer than I expected and it does take a while to get through as it drags through the middle, but it’s so rewarding. Definitely read this book if you love food.
3. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Following on from the foodie theme, I was recommended this book by a colleague of mine while we were talking about, suprisingly (not), foodie books. She raved about this book so much and it made me want to read it ASAP. It was actually really hard to find a copy of this book and I finally found it in a small bookstore in Melbourne. I devoured this book! It’s really easy to read and written so cleverly. Each chapter is preceded by a recipe which sets the theme. Narrated by the main character’s grandniece (great-niece?), it’s a classic love story, or rather many love stories, set against the height of the Mexican Revolution, exploring the different themes of love through each character. You’ll cheer and cry throughout the book and remember what it means to love and be loved. The ending is absolutely on point.
4. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
My mother grew up in Singapore, so when I was growing up I was entertained by stories of her life as a Singaporean. I also visited Singapore a lot as a child and teenager, and still do in my adult years, and I consider the country my second home. I like to think I have a pretty good insight into the culture and society of Singaporeans, so when I started reading Crazy Rich Asians, I realised I only knew one part of Singapore life (the normal part, seeing as my family is only one-third of the book title). For anyone who is undecided on whether they should read this, I highly suggest you do. It’s so funny and sarcastic, and not only does it give intelligent commentary on the absurdity of upper-upper-upper-echelons of Singaporean society, it also reinforces the age-old advice of ‘all that glitters is not gold’.
5. Down the Rabbit Hole by Holly Madison
Yes, a strange one to include on the list. I’m not a fan of autobiographies but this one really piqued my interest. I had always found the whole mystique around Playboy bunnies and Hugh Hefner interesting – what made a woman want to shack up with an old man and share him with other women? This book answered my question and more. My friend Jess had just finished reading this before I started and she highly recommended it. This book doesn’t just reveal details about life in the mansion, but, whether intentionally or not, also reveals the desperation behind the motivations of the girls of the mansion and also the disgusting, misogynistic practices that go on behind the scenes. Parts of the book shocked me so much and I had to stop reading sometimes just to absorb some of the information. Though not the most well-written book, it certainly is a study of how Hugh Hefner has kept his kingdom under control and why girls continue to want to be part of the myth.
6. Maus by Art Spiegelman
Technically a graphic novel but I bought it in a bookstore so it counts as a book! I’ve been wanting to read this for so long after I read about it in Frankie magazine. It’s the story of Art Spiegelman’s father, Vladek, and his experiences as a Jew during WW2. What makes this different, and better, is that it doesn’t only just look at Vladek’s experiences, but also the effects afterwards on his relationships with his son and second wife, Mala. This story can be described as ‘cathartic’ in the sense that Art uses this experience to understand his father more and make peace with his unspoken resentment. It’s surprisingly easy to read (not a surprise I guess if you have read comics before) and so addictive, you’ll find it difficult to put down.
Books I want to read in 2016:
1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
This book won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction so is guaranteed to be good. I have a sneaky confession: I’ve already started reading this but am only into the second chapter. Another book set against the backdrop of WW2, it looks at the relationship formed between a blind French girl and a German boy. I can’t wait to get into this book and see what the hype is about.
2. Holding the Man by Timothy Conigrave
This is a book-cum-movie (movie was released in 2015) and when I watched the preview, I knew I had to read the book. Written by an Australian, this is Conigrave’s memoir of growing up as a gay teenager and man in a homophobic society. The movie received rave reviews and the book has received just as much critical acclaim, winning the UN Human Rights Award for non-fiction in 1995. It is also one of Australia’s most successful stage productions, even playing in the West End, London. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to start this once I finish All the Light We Cannot See!
3. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
I can’t remember where I first read about this but when reviewers made comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale and Lord of the Flies – two books I read as a teenager and found intriguing – I knew I had to read this. The book is about two women who wake up, not knowing where they are. They soon discover they are part of a larger group of girls who are imprisoned and made to work like slaves. Tables soon turn and their jailers become the jailed and it becomes each woman for themselves. According to reviews this story is about misogyny and corporate culture, two topics which are so relevant in our society today.
4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I was recommended this by my housemate who has worked in a couple of major international criminal courts so is very well informed about this topic. It’s a non-fiction book by an American lawyer and social justice activist, and examines the arguments behind the death penalty. Considering all the debate about the death penalty in 2015 following the execution of some of the Bali Nine members, I think this will be a fascinating read and will also be quite profound and life-changing.
5. Lost and Found by Brooke Davis
This is another Australian authored book and one that’s been on my ‘to-read’ list for quite a while. Now that I’ve finally bought the book, it’s time that I read it! I love the blurb about the book, that it’s about three completely different people, how their paths eventually cross and together they help themselves find what is lost. I think this is such a quintessentially Australian theme (feel free to disagree with me) and I don’t know why, but I find it really resonates with me. Bonus fun fact: Brooke Davis currently lives in Perth; go WA!
6. Taliban Shuffle: strange days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker
Another book-cum-movie, this is based on the memoirs of American international journalist Kim Barker during her time reporting in Afghanistan and Pakistan. What drew me to this book was two things: a) the movie preview was hilariously good, and with Tina Fey starring and producing the film I predict it’s going to be a 2016 hit; and b) I love stories about war – is that wrong? I don’t know what captivates me about war, but I think I’m so fascinated by the human aspect of it – that people’s lives are turned upside down in the blink of an eye, what people think and feel and how it affects their lives forever. Other ‘war’ books I’ve read are by Asne Seierstad (One Hundred and One Days: A Baghdad Journal and Angel of Grozny: Inside Chechnya) and Anthony Loyd (Another Bloody Love Letter), both who are also international journalists in Norway and England respectively, and they’re so, so good.