I am really excited to share with you the books I have been reading lately in this update, my second of the 2017 Reading Challenge (if you missed my first update, please check it out here). I know it is still early in the year but I think this update contains some serious contenders for my favourite books of the year list!
Towards the end of last year I was feeling a bit deflated about reading as I went through a period of reading some terribly written books. It was therefore so refreshing to read some beautifully constructed stories and dive back into why I love reading so much.
As always, please leave your suggestions in the comments below, and let me know your thoughts if you have read any of these books yourself!
A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (1988)
This is a book that is on every single must-read-books-about-travel list. It is a book that I long ago put on my to-read list, and every time I needed a new novel to read I for some reason or another I hesitated to actually decide to read it. I am not sure why. I know I wanted to, maybe it was that I felt it was too special, that I needed to be ready to read this story. Whatever the reason I finally read it.
It was an amazingly well written and constructed book that made me appreciate the desire to travel and to explore. I guess that’s why it has sold more than 150 million copies in 70 different languages and is the most translated book by a living author!
This book follows a young shepherd Santiago, who sets out in search of treasure based upon a dream. Every single encounter Santiago has upon his journey carries meaning and influences how he interprets and understands the events that are unfolding in his life. I adore the recurring theme of this book “When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream”.
It felt like a simple book, but one that has multiple levels of understanding. It is one that I no doubt will read again and again.
A book that’s more than 800 pages: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (1989)
I stepped way outside my comfort zone with this book. Picking up a book that was over 1000 pages, set in medieval England, was definitely a gamble as it’s a risk to read such a large book in a genre you do not typically like. But this is what this challenge does best, gets you out of your reading comfort zone and allows you to explore things that you otherwise wouldn’t have.
The reason I did pick it up was that every review I read said the character development was incredible and despite the length of the novel, it never gets boring as there is always action. A strong story line was necessary for a book that would involve me for quote some time, so I decided to give it a try.
There is a lot of violence, sex, murder, rape, war etc in this book and at times I simply found it too much. There is however, as promised, a very in depth at often compelling storyline. For that I was grateful as it kept me moving through the book at times when I couldn’t wait for it to be finished.
On the surface, this is a story about a few key characters and the building of a cathedral. The book spans over quite a long time period so as you can imagine there are quite a few intertwining storylines. The one that I enjoyed the most was that of Prior Phillip, an ambitious monk who struggled throughout the story with his duty to be selfless and a desire to achieve. Everytime he got knocked down he fought his way back, sometimes through impossible situations. Each time the story of Prior Phillip brought me back into the novel and kept me engaged.
A book set in the wilderness: Walking the Nile by Levison Wood (2015)
I have loved reading travel memoirs lately so I was pretty excited to pick this one up. It is a recount of the epic journey that explorer, travel writer and photographer Levison Wood undertook as he attempted to walk the length of the Nile river.
This book is written well and tells a great account of African life as Levison moves through the different countries. He explores the devastating history and tries to understand the relationship with England and asks why. I am actually really glad I read Songs of a War Boy before this as it gave me a deeper understanding of the horrific war-torn history of South Sudan and I could understand the situation that Levison found himself in.
What I felt was lacking in this story was Levison’s own personal connection. I felt he withheld his emotion and connection to the journey and focused more on the individuals he met along the way. I am still not sure if I disliked this about the story as I enjoyed the insight into characters around him. What I think is that I would have connected more with his journey had he shared a little more of himself throughout the pages.
A book set in two different time periods: The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1998)
The first few pages had me hooked on Cunningham’s writing. I wanted more, I didn’t want to stop reading as I tried to absorb it as fast as I could. I loved this book and it was so refreshing to pick up a piece of literature so well written.
With a book that is set in different time periods it can sometimes be hard to follow the flow, however moving through this book was effortless. The book tell the story of one day in the life of three women all who have been impacted by the book Mrs. Dalloway. The first is Virginia Woolf herself as she is writing it, the second is Mrs. Brown who is reading it, and the third is Clarissa who shares the first name of Mrs. Dalloway. This book is heavily influenced by the original story by Woolf. How much I am not sure as I have not read it (but plan to for the category A book that’s been mentioned in another book) however as I understand it is written in a very similar way.
This story seems to encompass so much emotion within its pages and it doesn’t shy away from exploring issues of mental health and the impact this has on relationships. For me, this is one of the best books I have read in a long time and if you love literature and haven’t read this book – do it now.
A book with a cat on the cover: The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (2014)
This is probably one of the strangest categories in this years challenge. I was unsure what I would end up having to read until I read a recommendation from Adventurous Kate. I can always be sure that she will offer a very honest option of a book and when she says a book is good I can trust that it will be.
I was certainly not disappointed by this one. I think Kate summed it up; not a word of this short novel was wasted. It was such a beautiful story that I recommend waiting for a day you will not be interrupted and just lose yourself in the story.
It tells the story of a Japanese couple who work from home and unexpectedly find themselves in the company of a neighbours cat. The cat becomes part of their lives yet it is never theirs. It is such a simple story yet it allows you to share in the emotion of the couple. I am so glad I was able to read such a good book for such a weird category!
A book you loved as a child: Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (1987)
I loved the Hatchet books when I was younger. I read and re-read them several times as I owned the series. That was until I lent them all to someone and never got them back! I wish that I knew who it was that I lent them to but unfortunately I had to come to terms a long time ago that I would never see those books again.
I began searching online and in every used bookstore I came across looking for another copy. Each time I had no luck. That was until I was searching online for books for this challenge and decided this book would be perfect if I could just find a copy! This time when I searched I was successful and found it for sale on Amazon US.
I really enjoyed revisiting this story. When 15 year old Brian is on board a light aircraft over the Canadian Wilderness to visit his father, the pilot unexpectedly suffers a fatal heart attack leaving him to crash land the plane. He then needs to learn how to survive alone in the wild. His situation forces him to think about what is important and forces him to find another part of himself.
What this book gave me when I was younger was a different world where you were responsible for yourself and adventure was possible. It forced you to look at your own life and understand that it is the simple things are the most important.
It was very interesting to read this again as an adult and I found myself struggling with the unique style of writing, however at the same time smiling as I can see how my early writing was very much influenced by this vague, flow of consciousness style.
So what have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these books? What book has been on your to-read list for way too long?