An occasional series featuring Top 10 book recommendations from our librarians. This first list comes from Kat, an Assistant Community Librarian based at Chapeltown, Oakwood and Chapel Allerton Libraries.
Holly Bourne – Am I normal yet?
A story of friendship, feminism and mental health – there was nothing didn’t LOVE about this book. The way Evie’s illness affects her friendships, choices and family was really enlightening – I particularly found the way it does and yet doesn’t inform her relationship with her younger sister. Maybe because eleven years later my lifestyle is still that of a 16 year old girl, but I just felt that this book was describing my life, and I just didn’t want it to end. Also has the most accurate description of a hangover ever! I wish there had been books like this when I was a teenager.
Lena Dunham – Not that kind of girl
I love Lena’s tv show ‘Girls’, but some bits make me feel a little uncomfortable, and that is exactly how I felt about this book. I love the things she writes about, but some of it just made me sad. Not about Lena, but about society.
Emma Healey – Elizabeth is missing
I think I only read this because it was getting a lot of attention and was nominated for the Booker Prize, but I am so glad I did. A woman with Alzheimer’s is trying to find her friend Elizabeth, but keeps losing track of what she is doing and feels like no-one is helping her. She is also reminded about the last time someone went missing, her sister during the war, a how that impacted her life. This was so frustrating at times as everything kept starting over again, but that is because Healey so accurately captures the illlness in her writing.
Marina Keegan – The opposite of loneliness
This is a book of essays and short stories which was compiled by Marina’s family and Yale writing professor; Marina died in a car crash just after graduating. She wrote about college life, family, friends and boys. Her writing is most often described as ‘promising’, and knowing what happened to her and that she won’t be able to continue to grow as a writer (and a person) makes me feel the same way I felt when I read ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank.
Andie Mitchell – It was me all along : a memoir
(I’m starting to see a theme here – the American college experience. Also all female authors – Girl Power!)
This is essentially a story of growing up overweight, being unhappy about it and the vicious cycle of comfort eating. But eventually Andie loses 135lbs (almost 10 stone!) through healthy eating, exercise and changing the way she thinks about food. I found all of this really inspiring (I was trying to do the same thing as I read it) but what stands out to me is the heart-breaking relationship she had with her father, and how she dealt with his death, so very emotional!
Adele Parks – Spare Brides
I see rows of Adele Parks all the time in libraries but never thought I’d be interested; I came across this book whilst putting together a suffragettes display and I was curious. It is Parks’ first historical novel, set in the 1920s, and is about a group of women who grew up expecting life to turn out a certain way and then find themselves a few years and a war later with drastically different lives and options than they ever expected. It was kind of Sex & the City meets Downton Abbey, and of course I loved that.
Rainbow Rowell – Eleanor & Park
This starts off as a teenage love story but as the story develops so do the underlying issues of both Eleanor & Park. I loved the mix tapes they listen to on the school bus, and the books that Eleanor borrows from Park and has to read in secret at home. I just thought that this was a great little love story, but it is sad that a teenage story has to be set in the 1980s to not be dominated by technology and social media. It must be the soundtrack, but it makes me think of 500 Days of Summer. Actually, this book is the teenage version of that film, set in the 1980s.
Jacqueline Wilson – Opal Plumstead
This was actually what inspired me to do the suffragettes display. I love Jacqueline Wilson. She is probably one of the reasons I love reading, and she nearly always writes really strong female characters (both the children and adults). One of my favourite things about working in a library is getting to talk to children who love reading her as much as I did. Of course when I saw she had a book about suffragettes I knew I had to read it, and it didn’t disappoint. The only downside was that Opal works in a sweet factory, and it made me want sweets every time I read it. Or do I just want sweets all the time anyway?
Naomi Woods – Mrs Hemingway
I read this on the train to Paris; it was just the perfect book to take on that trip. The book is in four sections, each from the perspective of a different Mrs Ernest Hemingway toward the end of their marriage. To be reading this and then walk down the same streets, across bridges and into Shakespeare & Co bookshop was just dreamy. Although now I have thought about him from his wives perspectives, I don’t think I can like Mr Hemingway anymore (sorry, dad!), but if you go Paris you should read A Moveable Feast.
Ella Woodward – Deliciously Ella
If you have read this far you have probably worked out that I quite like food. I take out pretty much every recipe book we ever get in, but this has be my favourite of the year (sorry, Nigella – I still love you!). In fact I know it is, because after taking it out of the library I actually bought a copy. It is all about healthy, wholesome food and isn’t drastically different from the other healthy eating books that have appeared lately (there is porridge, granola, hummus, avocado on toast, sprialised vegetables, ridiculously expensive ingredient filled desserts aka all my favourite things) it just happened to be the first one I came across. I have only made a few recipes from the book but they have all worked and all being delicious; Creamy Coconut Porridge, Raw Brownies, Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, and a bonus – Warming Winter Curry from her blog is also delicious and ridiculously easy, and i’ve been eating it all year (but without the beans, I draw the health food line at any bean!).