Reading recommendations

Reading recommendations

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We asked our volunteers here at Read Around Bath for their latest book recommendations. And what a wonderful variety of books they came up with!

Christine Curtis

Love of Country by Madeleine Bunting

This novel/travelogue I have given as a gift several times. It allows the reader to go on a journey to the outer reaches of Britain on a pilgrimage to find what represents home for the author and question the very nature of belonging. Beautifully written and touching on politics, culture, religion as well as exploring a personal and emotional dimension, you are properly there in these wild places off the coast of Scotland.

Good Evening Mrs Craven, The wartime stories of Mollie Panter-Downes

I love well-crafted short stories and this collection is one I can reread with maximum enjoyment. Each is a perfect gem.(Mollie P-D has been described as the Jane Austen of the Home Front.) They are funny while also being dark. The domestic side of WW2 is often neglected in fiction, but these highlight the inner states of outwardly calm folk trying to navigate the stresses of the war from the home counties.

Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

This was recommended by Mr Bs and rightly so. A short novel, it certainly packs a punch exposing family secrets around Ireland’s infamous Magdelene laundries. One of those books where less is certainly more.

The House by the Loch by Kirsty Wark

Initially I was sceptical about a Newsnight presenter turning novelist, but I have to admit utter admiration for her compelling narrative. Certainly, a page turner, with a wonderful unforeseen twist at the end. It is atmospheric, haunting and cleverly weaves three generations’ stories together An easy read but very satisfying. A pot of tea in front of the fire sort of book!

Patricia Fosbury

The Magician by Colm Tóibín

This is a fictionalised biography exploring the life and times of Thomas Mann (Buddenbrooks, Death in Venice) which I found a fascinating and very interesting read. Although not the thinnest book, it is so well written that it is not a difficult read.

Manifesto by Bernadine Evaristo

This is the autobiography of the first black woman to win the Booker Prize. I found ‘Girl, Woman, Other’ a difficult read but now I have read this and gained an insight into her life and mind, want to go back to the winning novel.

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Stout

Olive is a retired schoolteacher living in a small coastal town in Maine and through the book one gains a self-portrait as well as how the community sees her. The stories are not always sequential but add up to give us a whole picture of Olive and her life. The sequel ‘Olive, Again’ is also very enjoyable.

Brent King

Vine Street by Dominic Nolan

Not for the faint hearted, this crime thriller is brilliantly written and wonderfully evocative of Soho in the 30’s and into WW2.

The Vanishing Of Esme Lennox by Maggie O Farrell

Actually any O’Farrell book would do for me. But I thought this was a cracker with (as usual) such well-drawn characters. And incredibly sad.

Klara and The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Not everyone’s cup of tea I know but I loved it. As with all his books multi layered and the reader has to work. But worth the big literary prize it won.

The Wyndham and Banerjee books by Abir Mukherjee

This series (read them in order) of books are good old police detective stories but set in the post WW1 Indian Raj. Great atmosphere, two brilliant lead characters. All five are a most enjoyable read.

Karen Baldwin

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

This is my go to present book! I love that it’s essentially about discovering the joy of reading but with the Queen and a mobile library at the centre of the story. Alan Bennett writes in a very human but quirky way, and I like that his writing is essentially kind, though with hint of acid wit! It’s also a very handy fit-in-your-pocket-size of book and there are some very smart-looking editions that make it feel a proper present.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

I insist on buying friends anything by Maggie O’Farrell as I find her writing exquisite. This book was one that made me hold my breath, cry, smile, shiver and sigh. It’s an account of near-death experiences that she has lived through and, while it has some very challenging and raw moments, it is a testament to where different pathways lead and how we cling on with determination if we can. Because the chapters all recount a different event, they move between fast-paced and slow-moving, long narrative and short description, which all make it such a rewarding read. A book that will stay with you and make you think.

Colditz: Prisoners of the Castle by Ben MacKintyre

I do enjoy the story-telling nature of Ben MacKintyre’s wartime histories. The events he describes are stranger than fiction but actually well researched fact and all presented in a page turner of a book. The portrayal of prisoners of all nationalities as well as some of the guards and camp commander zooms from daring escapes to coded messages, incredible inventiveness (including secret suits and radios) to individual portraits of these extraordinary men.

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman

This is a grab a cup of tea (and maybe some fruit cake if there’s any left after Christmas) then allow yourself to wallow! It’s fun, funny and full of formidable folk! Every present list needs something frivolous

June Wagstaff

Books that I would like to read or would recommend to others.

Frederick Backman “A Man Called Ove“

I laughed out loud and cried throughout this touching and very funny book. My daughter gave it to me because she felt that there is an Ove in many of us, especially as we get older. The first chapter made me laugh so much I knew from the start that I would enjoy it.
As you read it evolves with a quiet unveiling.

Anthony Doerr ”All the Light We Cannot See“

It has been recommended to me by friends. I don`t know how I missed reading it previously.

It was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize, a New York Times Book Review Top Ten Book, National Book Award finalist, more than two and a half years on the New York Times bestseller list and is a magnificent, deeply moving novel.

It is the story of a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Ian McEwan “The Children Act” is another book recommended by friends

A fiercely intelligent, well-respected High Court judge in London faces a morally ambiguous case while her own marriage crumbles in a novel that keeps us thoroughly enthralled until the last stunning page.

Elizabeth Strout “My Name Is Lucy Barton”

Another recommendation from friends

The story is in the voice of Lucy : observant, deeply human, and unforgettable. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, an American writer tells how a simple hospital visit exposes the relationship between mother and daughter.

Jenny Crossley

Andy Griffee – Canal Pushers/River Rats/Oxford Blues

This is a murder mystery series set on the canal system in the UK. I discovered the writer when I attended an event at the library in the summer and they are an entertaining variation on the detective/murder mystery genre.

Janice Hadlow – The Other Bennet Sister

I’m having a bit of a Austen fan fiction thing at the moment and reading various re-imaginings of the 6 novels or continuations of the stories for different characters. As you can imagine, some are better than others (some are hilariously, painfully bad). This 1 continues the story for Mary Bennet after the end of the Pride and Prejudice and looks at what happens to her, as well as glimpsing life for the other characters in their new roles several years after the events of P&P. It’s well read and entertaining and I liked it because it allowed an under appreciated character to have a happy ever after.

Marlon James – Black Leopard, Red Wolf

This is part of a fantasy series using the myths and legends of Africa, so puts a different spin on the usual fantasy setting. The plot jumps about a bit and is told from different perspectives so the same events are told twice from opposing views. Written by a black author.