BOOK REVIEWS/RECOMMENDATIONS (Staff, 7-9, 10-12)
I have read many books in my lifetime and I have often wondered why is it that some books stay with you?
I don’t necessarily mean all of the books that you love. I have read books that I love and would recommend but there are only a few, that for some reason really strike a chord with you and stay on, to live in your heart and mind for many years to come.
Sometimes it can be that particular book at that time of your life. Maybe a book read in your teen years would not have the same impact if read later in life and vice versa.
What is it about a particular book that creates that emotional response?
Often it is not always a reflection on how well the book is written or if it a great work of literature, as this does not seem to matter if a personal connection was made when the book is read. Reading and books is such a personal thing – very much like music! Some books and music just ‘speak to you’. They evoke passionate discussion but why I cannot say.
So here is a list of my books. There are of course, many, many others, I have chosen just a few. I also hope it provides you with some inspiration for reading ideas.
And yes, it does reveal a little about how old I am!
Let us know your list of books whether that is one book or twenty.
Read in my early teens:
The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley: I still remember the opening line “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” A long hot summer, a forbidden love, an innocence lost, and a need to belong, all set in late Victorian society – I was drawn into this world and loved every minute of it and could not wait to find out how it would end.
A patch of blue by Elizabeth Kata: This book was published in the early 60’s and is about how a blind white girl (who has been neglected and abused by her family) meets an African-American man and the story of their brief relationship. Looking back I think my view of this book would be one of those that would be different if I read it now but reading this book when I was very young had quite an impact on me.
Island of the blue dolphins by Scott O’dell: This book belonged to my older sister but I remember reading it and loving it because the setting and characters took you somewhere far away from my own life. It is the story of Karana who is left behind on the remote island that is her home when her tribe leave to resettle on the mainland. It tells how she survives alone for years, including coping with the loneliness. I found her loneliness to be heartbreaking but also Karana’s resourcefulness was fascinating and uplifting.
Mid to Late teens :
To kill a mockingbird by Harper Lee: Probably on most people’s list but how can I not mention it?
Sophie’s choice by William Styron: This is a passionate and heartbreaking story that I adored at the time. I often think I should revisit it and wonder if I would feel the same way as it evokes a range of reviews from terrible to brilliant. Read reviews about it here.
Celebration of the senses by Eric Rolls – This book is literally about the five senses. A powerful and frank exploration of each sense – taste, sight, touch, smell, and hearing, as experienced through the author’s life on his farm in NSW. So much of what he writes about I could relate to and have always had a special place for this book. Probably not to every ones taste!
Bone people by Kerri Hulme – In the late 80’s I worked with someone from New Zealand who raved about this book & told me I must read it which I did, with no regrets. In the author’s own words “who would want to read an odd story about three fraught individuals?” And fraught they are. It is a story filled with violence, fear and love and is told in an unusual way and I encourage you to seek it out.
The Lord of the rings by J.R.R. Tolkien – what can I say? Another one of those books that you either love or hate. On my list, so you know how I feel about it.
Deptford trilogy by Roberston Davies: The trilogy consists of Fifth Business, The Manticore, and World of wonders. The series revolves around a simple act in the first book where a young boy throws a snowball at another but it misses its intended target and the consequences of this act. I loved the narrative and the characters.
The gilded cage by Marshall Browne: The first book in a wonderful historical trilogy set in Melbourne during the 1880’s. Wonderful characters set during one Melbourne’s most exciting historical periods. I loved reading about all of the familiar landmarks and suburbs. Read a speech given by Marshall Browne about his trilogy here.
Stones from the river by Ursula Hegi: The story is set in a small German town, from 1915 until 1951, the story is told by Trudi, a Zwerg – the German word for dwarf woman. It follows her story as she grows up being different and it gives a German perspective on Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. It is a great read and it evokes many emotions towards the characters in the village in how they deal with Trudi’s difference and the war.
The last decade (or 2):
The known world by Edward P. Jones: I loved this book as it introduces the reader to the often neglected chapter of American history, the world of African-Americans who owned black slaves in the antebellum South. Set 20 years prior to the civil war this book is a complex, beautifully written novel with wonderful characters and I urge you all to read it.
The Tin Roof blowdown and all of the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke: This is the 16th book in the Dave Robicheaux’s crime series and is set in New Orleans after Katrina has hit. The first book in this series was published in 1987 and Burke is a wonderful honest writer who takes you on a journey through the American South, in particular New Orleans and his beloved New Iberia. I cannot explain why, all I know is I love his books and how he transports you to this region of the states that he loves – warts and all and somehow transferring that love to the reader. Lee Burke is regarded as one of the best crime writers in the world, read this article from the Sydney Morning Herald to learn more about him and his novels.
Too many men by Lily Brett – What can I say – I love Lily Brett. I have read all of her books but this is one of my favourites. The main character Ruth returns to Poland with her 81-year-old father, Edek. This is Edek’s first trip back to Lodz, where he grew up in a wealthy family before they were forced into a Jewish ghetto and ultimately shipped to the Birkenau concentration camp. This is a story of family, the past the present and untold stories. It is written with humour and love and I really enjoyed how once Ruth is in Poland she begins hearing the voice of Rudolph Hoess who was a commander of Auschwitz. For many pages she and Hoess swap notes on the Holocaust, the Nazi hierarchy and more, and this adds a layer to the book that is quite different to other Holocaust stories.
The slap by Christos Tsiolkas: I know, I know – you will either love it or hate it but that is why you must read it and make up your own mind! I loved it.
The road by Cormac McCarthy: A very powerful heart breaking book. It is beautifully written using sparse prose and is essentially about the love between a father and his son set in a post-apocalyptic world. It is of course much more than this but read it for yourself and take from it what you will.