In a time where everyone is looking for escape, there’s a book for every mood.
I rarely re-read a book, but following a period where every book I read was a disappointment, I returned to my all-time favourite, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, a family saga set in the years following independence and Partition in India. Brutal, beautiful, full of Dickensian humour, and with some of the best characterisation I’ve ever read, this book made me want to be a writer. I read it for the first time when I was in my twenties, and it spawned a lifelong obsession with India – I even named my daughter Lata after the main character.
As a writer, I love to read about writers. Sulari Gentill’s Crossing The Lines is a groundbreaking, mind-bending novel about writers’ relationships with their characters. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I would recommend it to any writer who’s ever become just a little obsessed with their characters.
Sometimes a comfort read can be something that makes me uncomfortable. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood is another of my all-time favourites. Brutal, angry, unrelenting and powerful, this book made me feel as if I’d held my breath throughout the whole story. I would literally read Charlotte Wood’s shopping list.
Too Much Lip by Melissa Lucashenko is one of those books that left me feeling like a changed person. A story of trauma, family and above all, connection to Country, it’s sharp and funny, but full of deep grief and rage and hope.
A couple of years ago I had recurrent pneumonia and spent several chunks of time off work recovering. During this time, all I wanted to read was comedic, witty novels starring funny, flawed women. I devoured Our Tiny, Useless Hearts by Toni Jordan on one day, and Those Pleasant Girls by Lia Weston on another.
Maggie’s Going Nowhere by Rose Hartley was another recent (thankfully non-pneumonia-induced) read featuring my favourite kind of witty, vulgar, rollicking, sex positive anti-heroine.
I also love a read that celebrates the beauty of language or articulates a feeling that you never knew you had. The Dutch House by Ann Patchett is one of those books where I could barely tell you what it was about, but I thought about it for weeks after finishing it. Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany was an absolute revelation – full of simple but exquisite prose, it is both devastating and beautiful.