2015 Book List

booksThis year, I only made four resolutions, but I should really add a fifth: read more. While I still prioritize getting lost in a good book, I noticed that over the course of 2014, I didn’t read as much as I’d like for a variety of reasons (coughSherlock, Downton Abbey, Call the Midwifecough). B isn’t much of a reader, so lots of times I’ll choose to watch a movie with him instead and I’m afraid this is becoming a bad habit.

So! Because reading is one of my favorite things and to get me going again, here’s the top (first) novels I want to read this year:

Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson: I first discovered Kate Atkinson in grad school and fell even deeper in love last spring while reading the brilliant Life After Life. Human Croquet is one of her earlier novels and follows the course of siblings Isobel and Charles. I don’t know anymore about the plot than that, but don’t need to. Atkinson’s writing is as evocative, lyrical and sharp as it gets.

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert: This is one of the classics that, for me, has always slipped between the cracks. This is probably the first book I’m going to get my hands on and, while I’m happily married, I already feel like I relate to Emma Bovary. Sometimes life feels so routine; who doesn’t dream about an escape?

The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant: I recently joined a book club and Anita Diamant’s newest novel (an Amazon Best Book of 2014) is this month’s read. B and I were recently in Boston, so I’m looking forward to exploring the city through the eyes of a young immigrant woman at the turn of the century.

Anything by Ian McEwan: Every once in a while you come across a writer who thrills you, so when it comes to Ian McEwan, I can’t choose which of his novels to read first—I want to read them all. I’ll let you know what I end up choosing, but Sweet Tooth (since I didn’t get around to it last year) and Saturday top the list.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: I’ve read nothing but beautiful reviews regarding this New York Times bestseller set in occupied France during the second world war, and have already been waiting weeks to get my hands on it (all copies are checked out at the library). I’ve become fascinated by the countless faucets of WWII, but hardly know a thing about the occupation of France. Trusting in this novel to educate and delight me.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway: Was there ever a more glamorous time in literary history than 1920s Paris? Accepting this might be the closest I ever get to this magical decade, A Moveable Feast is a must.

The Mermaid’s Daughter by Jo Baker: Longbourn was easily among the best books I read in 2014, and Baker’s newest novel, to be released in March, sounds even more strange and wonderful. I rarely read fantasy novels, but trust Baker to create a world in which I don’t want to leave.

A Passage to India by E.M. Forster: Until I have the chance to explore this breathtaking place for myself, I’ve been getting my fix of India through great novels. (I’d highly recommend Behind the Beautiful Forevers and The Space Between Us). I find the intersection of Indian and British culture and identity especially interesting, making Forster’s novel an essential read.

What great books did you read last year? I’d love your recommendations!
P.S.  I finished A Farewell to Arms last night and I’m still making up my mind about it (love the writing, digesting the plot). At times like this I miss being a student for the rich discussion opportunities! And I’m a geek.

P.S. S. There’s still a couple novels from last year’s list I still need to read, but plans got derailed when I decided to finally sink into The Harry Potter series. See! I told you I’m a geek.
Picture courtesy of littlegreennotebook.blogspot.com


Zadie Smith’s Desert Island Discs

zadie smithDid any of you catch Zadie Smith on Desert Island Discs last Sunday morning?  For readers not in the UK, DID is one of the oldest programmes on British Radio; the interviewees pick five of their favourite records that they would take to a desert island and in between plays they tell their life story, every episode from the last fifty years or so is archived so you can always pick your favourite politician, writer, artist etc and hear their interview.

Smith’s appearance was both charming and amusing, her nonchalant attitude to her incomprehensible success only added to her allure.  From her humble beginnings in Willesden, to Cambridge and cut-throat world of literary London, she is truly British enigma.  I’ve read all of her novels bar her latest, it’s on the list, and her modern, independent but classically influenced style is a favourite of mine.  Her attachment to E.M. Forster drew me to her in the first place, any fans of his should read Smith’s On Beauty for a modern take on his novel Howards End.

The highlight of the interview however had to be her comments about the singer Madonna, and how she represented 21st Century feminism:

 “When I was a kid there’d be boys knocking around the playground talking about pop stars or actresses they would ‘Do’,” she said. “I never ever heard that about Madonna. There was never a question that some nine-year-old was going to tell you what he would Do to Madonna if he got his hands on her […] And subconsciously that’s the effect she gave to the generation of girls who came up around her. You were not going to be Done unto. If anyone was going to be doing the Doing it was going to be you.”

A lot to take in for a Wednesday morning, I know.

Girls, read her books, and if you do one thing today listen to the interview.

Ash x