I have a lot of books. I love the excitement of a fresh new book, just waiting to be read, and the promise of what it might contain – characters as yet unknown to me, stories which have the potential to move me, which I might relate to. Books – stories – characters – words – that I might fall in love with.
I try not to buy too many books, but, inevitably, my collection grows, and I find that I don’t always read my new books straight away. My reading habits vary – sometimes I constantly have a book on the go, others I can go days – weeks – without picking up a book. Not to mention the fact I’m an avid re-reader, so I’m just as likely to reach for an old faithful as I am to try something new. This all means that my bookshelves contain many books which I’ve not yet read – which I’ve been excited for, but not yet got to. This year, I want to make a conscious effort to read some of the books that I already have, rather than buying too many new ones (which will also mean I feel less guilty when I do buy new books – win-win!).
With this in mind, I’ve shopped my shelves and picked out 7 books which are going to the top of my ‘to be read’ pile:
The Tidal Zone, by Sarah Moss
Starting as I mean to go on, I picked up The Tidal Zone at the weekend. I don’t think I’ve ever been so struck by the opening of a book. The writing is beautiful, I’m drawn into the story – I’m loving it.
The book follows stay-at-home dad Adam, whose 15-year-old daughter collapses one day at school. With seemingly no warning, her heart stops. The story follows the repercussions of this event. It’s the type of book which you go into knowing that there will be sadness, that it will cause painful reflections and difficult truths about life, and death. But for me, it’s the kind of sadness I want to lean into sometimes, to acknowledge and face the harsh realities we will all inevitably have to deal with.
This Must be the Place, by Maggie O’Farrell
Since Maggie O’Farrell is one of my favourite authors, I can’t actually believe that I still haven’t read her latest novel – especially since I was so excited for its release in 2016 and bought a copy straight away (how was that almost two years ago?!). I’m going to blame the fact it’s a pretty hefty hardback – so not an easy one to just chuck in my bag for the commute to work. No more excuses though – I know I’m going to enjoy this book and so it’s now top priority on my TBR list.
A reclusive ex-film star living in the wilds of Ireland, Claudette Wells is a woman whose first instinct, when a stranger approaches her home, is to reach for her shotgun. Why is she so fiercely protective of her family, and what made her walk out of her cinematic career when she had the whole world at her feet?
Her husband Daniel, reeling from a discovery about a woman he last saw twenty years ago, is about to make an exit of his own. It is a journey that will send him off-course, far away from the life he and Claudette have made together. Will their love for one another be enough to bring Daniel back home?
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I read my first Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie book last year – Purple Hibiscus – and I’ve been looking forward to Americanah ever since. I’ve realised that I almost always end up reading books from a western perspective, without even thinking about it – but I want to make more conscious choices to broaden the perspectives and experiences I read about.
Ifemelu and Obinze are young and in love when they depart military-ruled Nigeria for the West. Ifemelu heads for America, where, despite her academic success, she is forced to grapple with what it means to be black for the first time. Obinze had hoped to join her, but with post-9/11 America closed to him, he instead plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.
Longbourn, by Jo Baker
I don’t tend to read re-imaginings or continuations of Austen’s novels – they don’t normally interest me all that much, as I’d rather just read the originals. However, Longbourn sounds like a more interesting premise – telling the story of Pride & Prejudice through the eyes of the servants – and so I’m willing to give it a go.
One of my plans for 2018 is to reread all of Austen’s novels in the order they were written (I started with Northanger Abbey in January) and so it seems like an opportune time to give Longbourn a try.
The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
This is a book I’ve been recommended, and I’ve given to others as a gift on this basis – but I’ve yet to read it for myself. It looks like the kind of book which will be completely absorbing – a long read, at over 600 pages, I’m hoping for character, detail, intrigue, and the sort of beautiful writing which keeps you turning the page as you get lost in the story.
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Walters
This is another rather hefty hardback that has been sat on my shelf for a couple of years. I think a recurring theme in this list seems to be that long/hardback books end up languishing on my shelves for far too long. As much as I enjoy long reads, it does feel like a much bigger commitment – when there are so many books I want to read, I end prioritising the ones I can get through quickly, so I can read more. Realising how many longer books I have that I want to read is giving me the motivation I need to re-prioritise, slow down and get stuck in.
It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned, the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa, a large silent house now bereft of brothers, husband and even servants, life is about to be transformed, as impoverished widow Mrs Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
For with the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the ‘clerk class’, the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. And as passions mount and frustration gathers, no one can foresee just how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
The Danish Girl, by David Ebershoff
I love watching film trailers and tend to get super excited about new films – only to never get round to going to the cinema. I was completely intrigued by The Danish Girl and thought it looked like another great performance from Eddie Redmayne – but then I never went to see it. I picked up a copy of the book last year (I think) as part of a 3 for 2 type offer – and then I didn’t get round to reading it either! Now the film is on Netflix, so I want to finally read the book before watching it – I always prefer to experience a book first.
Loosely inspired by a true story, this tender portrait of marriage asks: What do you do when the person you love has to change? The Danish Girl portrays the unique intimacy that defines every marriage and the remarkable story of Lili Elbe, a pioneer in transgender history, and the woman torn between loyalty to her marriage and her own ambitions and desires.
So there we have it! Just a few of the books which have been sitting on my shelves for longer than I’d care to admit, but which I can’t wait to get to this year. What’s on your shelves waiting to be read?