I don’t cope well without books.
If I don’t have a book on the go, it makes me nervous. I carry one in my bag every day even if I know I’ll be listening to podcasts on the bus or walking to work. You never know when you might need one, just in case.
At university I basically spent 4 years non-stop reading, but it’s a different experience if you haven’t chosen the book yourself. Occasionally you’ll find a novel you can’t put down, but most of the time you’re just racing through, scribbling in the margins and pulling out quotes and ideas to support an argument in your 1,200 word essay before moving onto the next.
So occasionally, it’s nice to re-read the books I didn’t fully appreciate in school and university. I’m completely hooked on Channel 4’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale at the moment, so the last time I went back to my parents house I dug out my copy of the book.
Re-reading books nearly always reveals something you missed the first time around. With the Handmaid’s Tale, which didn’t really grab me 10 years ago, the thing it lacked then was relevance.
Most of these books have been out for a while now, but I’ve found all of them relevant to life now in some way.
That’s the best thing about books. They never expire.
1. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Because if there’s a TV series giving you nightmares every time you watch it, then what you really need to do is to read the book at the same time just to cement the fear.
2. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla
I learnt so much from this collection of essays about what it’s like to be black, Asian, or minority ethnic in Britain. It’s one of those books I think everyone should read. It’s brilliant.
3. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur
Read these poems and join me in being a bit awestruck at how someone can so accurately sum up feelings of heartbreak, love, and being a woman in just a few lines.
4. The Bricks That Built The Houses by Kate Tempest
This woman is a complete marvel to me. I love everything she does – Hold Your Own made me wake up to poetry. If you like books where London’s pretty much a character, you’ll like this.
5. Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
Last year I visited my mate in Japan, and a few weeks after I got home she sent me this. It’s a really delicately written love story filled with intricacies about Japanese culture.
6. The Nakano Thrift Shop by Hiromi Kawakami
Bought this after reading Strange Weather in Tokyo. Kawakami’s got a really distinctly quirky style of writing, and the little snippets of Japanese life are so brilliant.
7. Quiet by Susan Cain
One of those books you read and realise that the reason you don’t like team games and often feel your stomach drop when plans change and someone you don’t know is invited to the dinner party isn’t because you’re an anti-social weirdo, just an introvert.
8. The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
This one falls into the Life Crisis In Rural Places genre that I’ve been absolutely loving for the last year and a bit. God, I want to go to Orkney. (See also: H is for Hawk and Wolf Border.)
9. Fates and Furies by Lauren Gross
A seemingly perfect relationship seen from two points of view. Whipped through this when I was in South America. It’s great.
10. The Children of Jocasta by Natalie Haynes
My friend Hannah lent me this book, and as much as I never pegged myself as a Greek mythology fan, this re-telling of the Oedipus story from the woman’s point of view was very un-putdownable.
11. Six Stories and An Essay by Andrea Levy
Small Island was one of those books that completely hooked me at university. It opened up a whole world of post-colonial writing. I love the way Andrea Levy writes about her experiences, London, Britain during the Empire, and race. When I saw this little collection of essays and stories in Pages of Hackney, I picked it up and whizzed through it in about a day.