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  • Celia Jenkins

BaBs - Five Books I Recommend

More than halfway through the year, this is usually the point where I look at my reading list and realise I'm way off target (I challenge myself to read at least 24 books a year, emphasis on at least). However, this year has been an excellent year for reading (lots of travel = lots of time to read!) and so I'm only one book away from reaching my minimum target. Hurray! As such, I've decided that for this Bits and Bobs post I would list five of the best books I've read this year (YA and above).

I Was Here

by Gayle Forman

Published in 2015

My rating: 7/10

The topic of teen suicide is delicate to say the least, but unlike a lot of other contemporary books (and films, etc) on the issue, I don't feel that Forman's book glorified the issue at all. The characterisation was spot on – the characters felt like real people and emotional conflict was raw but not overdone. There were a lot of twists in the story and things didn't turn out the way I expected. Easy to read and a quick read too but not inconsequential – I was certainly crying by the end! I hadn't heard of Forman before – Amazon Kindle had a special offer and so I bought this on a whim. So glad I did.

Tuesdays with Morrie

by Mitch Albom

Published in 1997

My rating: 9/10

I have read a few other books by Mitch Albom and this is possibly my favourite one yet. Albom masters life writing in such a masterful way – the story doesn't feel dry, and at the end you have to give yourself a little shake to say wow, that was real. The book has so many little snippets and quotes that I want to copy out and have hanging in a place where I can read them often. A really lovely short biography - thoughtful, eye-opening, compassionate. We need more of this in the world. I certainly recommend picking this up if your soul is in need of some love and nurture.

South of the Border, West of the Sun

by Haruki Murakami

Published in 1992

My rating: 8/10

So I'm quite late to the Murakami game as this is the first book of his I've got around to reading. I found the characters really fascinating if not entirely likeable, and the fact that I still wanted to keep reading is a clean sign of a great author. Some parts were fairly graphic – surprisingly so, they seemed to just jump out of nowhere! – but I don't feel that it was gratuitous. The ending was a little ambiguous and made me doubt the reality of others parts of the book which, up until then, I had taken for fact. Some people like an open ending as opposed to a cut-and-dry happily ever after, but it isn't my favourite way to finish a good story. All the same, a really interesting read.

A Tale for the Time Being

by Ruth Ozeki

Published in 2013

My rating: 10/10

Excellent! I can't recommend this book highly enough. A brutally honest slicing open of modern Japanese culture. All the horrors of this strange society, the social pressure, bullying, seedy underworld... Fantastic, gritty, heart-breaking and beautifully written. I was hoping for a Hollywood happy ending but having a more mysterious, open ending is of course a better way to finish. Throughout this book I as thinking to myself I'm going to recommend this to so-and-so and then later on there would be something graphic, raw and upsetting that would change my mind! But still, amazing book and totally spot on with Japanese culture. I can't wait to read more Ozeki.

To The Lighthouse

by Virginia Woolf

Published in 1927

My rating: 7/10

A wonderful seaside companion – I picked this from my bookshelf as I knew I'd be spending time by the sea. Woolf has such an evocative way of writing, even if her endless, run-on sentences can get a bit tiresome. Though saying that the dreamy, stream of conciousness is quite nice to be carried along on, like a boat drifting out to sea. An underlying sense of quiet, accepted depression, always present in the thoughts of every character, I feel. The mundanity of it all. Not a cheerful book but a wonderful glimpse into the human condition.

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