One of my main objectives for starting Bitsy Bookworms was to simply read more. Since having children, I’d not lost my passion for reading completely but it had been subdued somewhat, partly because the little sleep thieves were robbing my time, my energy and my concentration and also because, for some reason I just found it extremely difficult to lose myself in a fictional world. Has anyone else found this after having children? Now my children are well beyond the baby stage, I have been able to indulge in a little bit of reading again and as much as I obviously adore children’s books, it’s been great to read some stuff for me as well!
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
I read another review of this book and it intrigued me. At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Paul wrote this book in the last year of his life and his wife continued it after his death. Is it sad? Of course. But, it is also a book full of positivity and hope. At times, the writing is overly prosaic and poetic, which may not be to everyone’s taste, but I thought it was beautifully written and in this sense it wasn’t what I had expected at all. I sometimes forgot that this was a true story, a story of immortality and living life to the full, a story that I won’t forget.
The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman
Finally, I got round to finishing this book which I got bought for my birthday back in November! I am a huge fan of His Dark Materials Trilogy and was so excited when this book, which is presented as an ‘equel’ not a prequel, was released twenty-two years later (putting that in print makes me feel very old indeed!) Really, this book falls into the Young Adult fiction category but I’ve decided to include it in this round-up. It took me a while to read, not because I didn’t enjoy it, but partly because I wanted to savour it and partly because the plot was a little slow-moving in some places. But when it moved, it really moved and there are enough hair-raising moments to ensure that you are fully immersed into the story. The story centres around Malcom Polestead, whose life in the pub ‘The Trout’ is safe, happy and uneventful, until he finds himself linked to a baby called Lyra. When the forces of science, religion and politics begin to clash, Malcom is forced to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra for ever… As always, I found Philip Pullman’s characterisation impeccable. You will find yourself rooting for Malcom as he overcomes challenge after challenge and the story really gets going once their journey begins. Fans of His Dark Materials will enjoy appearances from younger versions of well-known characters, and for newbies it will make no difference at all, as to whether you have read any of the other books. What I wasn’t prepared for was how dark this book is. This is largely in the form of the villainous Bonneville whose intentions towards the character of young Alice are chilling, making it altogether unsuitable for any younger readers who may be fans of the other books. In summary, a magical and thought provoking read and I wouldn’t have expected anything less!
Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig
A book about depression but it’s not depressing in any way is how I would describe this book. It’s not written as a self-help book but more of a memoir, an honest, raw and at (many) times funny account of living with mental illness. That’s not to say that it demeans mental illness in any way, it is simply one man’s perspective and a very well written one at that. This book has been praised over and over again for it’s honesty and guiding voice. If you know somebody suffering from depression or anxiety buy this book for them but also read it yourself just because… A book for our modern times.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
There is a reason this book has been at the top of all the bestseller lists… A-mazing! Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Her life seems ordinary enough but the first person narrative very quickly draws you into Eleanor’s extrordinary world and you very quickly realise it is anything but simple. After a small act of kindness turns the world of Eleanor Oliphant upside down, layers unravel. Humour and wit cover up some quite dark and serious issues, and at times I wondered if I should be laughing at all, but I am sure this is what the author intended. I found Gail Honeyman’s writing very addictive and for the entire time I was reading this book, I was fully absorbed in the head of Eleanor. So much so that I found myself so desparately willing her towards a happily ever after. Without giving too much away, I wasn’t disappointed by the finale and although I was expecting a twist of some kind, I remained gripped until the final page.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine currently being made into a film and being produced by Reese Witherspoon – I can’t wait!
Have you found the time to read any good books yet this year? I’d love to hear your recommendations.