Burtybookworm’s Top 10 Books

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I am a bookworm. It’s a name I’ve had (amongst many!!) since school as I forever had my nose stuck in a book. I haven’t changed much since then, although I don’t read as much as I used to. I do love the power of words and the escapism that it provides and I’m forever asking people/reading reviews and generally seeking out the next book which will take me away from my little life for five minutes or so. So Its only right that I contribute my thoughts and hope that some of you may agree with my choices or find my choices interesting enough to add to your own book lists to read.
In no particular order :

1.The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood (1985)

The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret AtwoodI have to start with my favourite author of all time, this is a classic that some of you may have read during you English classes at school/college/University. I was introduced to it by my lecturer at University who has written articles and critiques on Atwood’s work and was also a big fan. At the time I was stumped for a dissertation choice and she suggested I read a few Atwood and see if I liked – I loved! This one has to be my favourite.

This is a story of life in America when a group of Religious extremists take over the government. Its narrated by a woman called Offred who, like all the women who are able to still have children, is assigned to one of the powerful couples in the new society whose purpose it is to provide that couple with a child. It’s a chilling story of how Offred and the other women in society cope and its fascinating and extremely enjoyable reading. Atwood writes with such detail in this book, you can read it over and over again and find something interesting or a new hidden meaning that you missed the first time around. At the time of my dissertation I loved all the theories and threads surrounding the story, and I still get just as much enjoyment out of reading it now.

2. Savages – Shirley Conran (1988)

I first read this when I was 17 – I had gone to Crete with my family on holiday and my dad had nicked my book from my sun lounger (Bridget Jones’ Diary, haha!) My parents friends had also joined us, and as I cannot be without a book to read, my mum’s friend gave me this which she had just finished. I was dubious at first – it certainly didn’t look like the type of book I would read.

Savages is about a group of rich women who go on a business trip with their husbands to a tropical island. Things take a sinister turn for the group when, after the women return from a trip, they are just in time to see their husbands shot by terrorists. The women, with the aid of the boat owner, flee into the jungle and have to learn how to survive on their own….

I’ve always remembered the story, and its stuck with me for almost 11 years now – so I searched the internet to find a copy. I re-read it about 3 months ago and it still had me on the edge of my seat – I thoroughly enjoyed it for the second time in a row! It was originally written in 1988, but the story is so good and so current, it could easily have been written today. It’s not just a book that is aimed at women, it’s a great story that can be read by both men and women – I’m pretty sure that you would both enjoy it!

3.The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (2005)

 The Book Thief by Markus ZusakAnother recent-ish read. I read this at the beginning of the year, my dad gave it to me and said he thoroughly enjoyed it. That is high praise indeed coming from my dad, he’s the fussiest man ever! I have to say that I could not agree with him more – it’s an excellent read and so beautifully written. Narrated by death, it tells the story of a young German girl whose family harbours a Jew in the basement during the second world war. Far from depressing, this is just SO beautifully written its untrue.

4.To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee (1960)

Fantastic book and I’m sure there are lots of people who are reading this who have read it and also loved it. For anyone who hasn’t, it’s an account from the perspective of Scout, of her childhood. Sure, it doesn’t sound very interesting, but it’s a totally engaging book about growing up with her father as a single parent who decides that he will defend a black man of raping a white girl. It is quite clear from the beginning that the man in question is not guilty, but we see the prejudices in their society and how Scout and her family cope with it. AN excellent read.

5.We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver (2003)

Kevin is a boy that goes in to school one day and starts shooting his fellow classmates. This book is written in letter form from his mother to his father, and is a chilling account of why she has always believed that he was just born evil. An excellent book with great twists.

6. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Husseini (2007)

Written about two women in Afghanistan, it’s a harrowing story of how their lives become entwined as they both marry a man who brutally beats them, forbids them any kind of freedom and makes them live in fear of their lives. Coupled with the rise of the Taliban, this is a very interesting read indeed, and it will make you feel some strong emotions!

7. Wise Children – Angela Carter (1991)

Very comical (short) book about a elderly twins, Dora & Nora who are former dancers and illegitimate children of a famous British actor. We meet them on their 75th birthday and are told the story of their lives – it’s extremely entertaining and witty, the characters of the twins are colourful to say the least, and its written with very dry humour, so perfect if you like that sort of thing!

8.White Teeth – Zadie Smith (2000)

White Teeth (Paperback) By (author) Zadie SmithI originally read this as part of me English degree, but really loved it and I’ve read it again since. This was Zadie Smiths debut, and one that won her several book awards including Guardian First Book Award and the 2000 Whitbread Book Award. It’s the story of a Bangladeshi man, Samad, and an English man Archie, their lives and families in London. It’s a great story of clashing of religions, family life, immigrants and second generation immigrants, mixes of cultures and community relationships. Its told with great humour that has you laughing out loud and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a great story with a bit of humour. They did a TV make of this, but it was nowhere near as good (obviously!)

9.The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton (1943)

Not counting Roald Dahl’s books, this was by far my favourite book as a child! It just felt so magical, my nan used to read it to me and I loved the characters in it so much! A couple of years ago, my nan gave me a copy for my birthday which I’ve still got. I’ve read a couple of chapters and it still holds its magic for me!
The magic Far away tree is the story of three children who have the most amazing adventures with their friends Moonface, Saucepan Man & Silky. Even saying the names makes me smile! They discover the magic faraway tree and lots of weird and wonderful characters and lands along the way. A classic!

10. The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (2000)

 The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood As Margaret Atwood is my favourite author, she has to feature on here twice! The Blind Assassin won the Booker Prize in 2000 as well as the Orange Prize for Fiction. Its two stories combined in to one – the first being the story of Iris Chase who, as an elderly woman, recalls the events of her sisters suicide just after WWII, and Iris’ life from childhood to unhappy marriage. The other story is in fact an entire novel! Written by Laura and published by her sister Iris after her death. The story goes through the mystery surrounding Laura’s death whilst also interweaving – very cleverly – the novel by Laura herself. Another excellent and intriguing read!

Ones that were close – but no cigar!

What I Loved – Suri Hustvedt (2003)
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2001)
Memoirs of A Geisha – Arthur Golden (1997)

Thanks for reading, I am really interested if anyone else has read any of these and if they agree….awaiting the tide of comments that I’m right/wrong….!!

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