There are few things that I love more than curling up with a stack of good books and a warm blanket as the seasons change from cool to colder in my New England town. While I’ve recently been dreaming of warmer climates and sunshine, reading has always been the easiest way to transport myself into a new world, even if it’s a short amount of time.
I resort to a few staples in my library to read through the blistery months between autumn and winter, I wanted to share them with my fellow avid readers who may be looking for a few new suggestions to hold them over until spring blooms again.
1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The first selection was, for me, the easiest to make. While I consumed Donna Tartt’s first novel, The Secret History, with handfuls of greedy page turning, The Goldfinch was the first novel I read of Tartt’s and is seemingly less recommended than her other work. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a little heft to their reading – it’s not one of those books you can throw in your purse and read on your train ride home. It’s one of the most captivating stories I have ever delved into.
The Goldfinch is a rapturous tale of loss, love, deceit, trauma, and tragedy. The level of detail in which Tartt describes a painting, an antique chair, the chilled European streets that the main character Theo Decker finds himself walking down, is unparalleled. You become fully involved with the intricacies of the story – the emotions that the characters display, the situations they’re in, and the choices that they make. Each twist and turn laces itself into the story and stays in your brain long after you’ve put the book down. I found myself becoming lost in the pages, feeling as if I was experiencing each new development as a character, and not as someone that was simply reading it.
I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys a truly well-developed story that will change the way you view all other novels. This was by far one of the most rewarding reading experiences that I’ve had to date.
2. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I’d been told by many friends and co-workers to read Rebecca, though I assumed when I heard the title that it was a children’s book akin to Little Women. I was extensively off track, as Rebecca is in fact, one of the first literary thrillers ever produced. Author Daphne du Maurier artfully creates a portrait of the narrator, who remains nameless for the length of the novel, and intertwines her fate with that of the much older, wealthier Mr. Max de Winter.
The narrator becomes haunted by (and in my opinion, slightly obsessed with) Max’s first wife, the titular Rebecca. Stories of Rebecca’s beauty, grace, and strength are dimmed by the tale of her untimely demise at a young age. With each twist and turn of the story, the reader becomes completely engrossed with the love story developing in the present and all the ways in which it’s plagued by the love story that played itself out long before our beloved narrator enters the scene.
I was left with an overwhelming feeling of needing to read the book from the beginning again, as I wanted to see if I could gather new details with my newly acquired insight and information. This book is considered a classic for a reason.
3. Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
My first suggestion for this novel is to read it with several boxes of tissues. When I read Me Before You, I sobbed like a small baby for the last 60 odd pages – completely consumed with a sense of sadness and tenderness that I’d not felt when reading other books.
Author Jojo Moyes writes her characters in such a beautiful, intricate manner that you feel as though these are people that you could become friends with outside of their literary world. Sprinkled with moments of laughter and triumphant exchanges, Me Before You is a true depiction of human nature. Moyes skilfully describes pitfalls that disabled individuals endure on a daily basis, and the message she conveys through her story left me with a perspective that I hadn’t had before. It was an incredibly thought-provoking, inspiring, life-changing novel.
4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
I’ve read Fahrenheit 451 several times because it’s a relatively short novel. I’m not generally a science-fiction reader as I usually prefer to consume my science-fiction in the set of movies, not books. This book, however, doesn’t read as much like science-fiction, and simply feels like an incredibly complex story that happens to take place in the future.
Ray Bradbury writes in such an exquisite fashion. The opening line of the novel “It was a pleasure to burn,” is one of the most well-known opening lines in literary history. An incredibly gripping, exhilarating story of fiction and potential foresight, Fahrenheit 451 can be enjoyed by readers of all genres.
5. A Collection of Poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley
I had spent the majority of my teenage years deeply devoted to other poetry and thus, I never voyaged out into the rest of the romantic world because I felt that my quota had been met. Until one day, I took one of those kitschy online quizzes to see which romantic poet I had been in my previous life and much to my surprise I was told that I was, in fact, Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Often overlooked by his slightly more famous wife, Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, Percy had never come across my radar. I decided to check out a few of his poems and I instantly fell in love with his writing. Percy writes in such a descriptive, poignant fashion it almost makes me want to pack up my worldly belongings and my fantastic boyfriend and head to the shores of England, so I can live among the places he described.
6. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
This past year had served as a voyage into unknown genres of writing for me, as I typically stuck to fiction novels primarily. I began to realise that reading true accounts of real people could be just as engaging as reading fictional stories could be.
When I read this novel, it happened to be one of those experiences where you read the exact right book at the exact right time. Her brutally honest depiction of losing her mother and the spiral she dove into in the wake of her loss left me wanting to hug my own mum a little bit tighter. The adventure that Strayed embarks upon is full of laughter, life-lessons, struggle, anguish, and redemption. It tells one hell of a tale of one of the most badass women of our generation. I loved every moment of this book and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story of victory, self-reflection, and strength.
7. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Rounding out my list is a novel that I loved deeply, as thrillers are my go-to genre. The Cuckoo’s Calling is the first novel produced by Robert Galbraith, the pseudonym chosen by author J.K. Rowling when she wanted to write novels that would not be shrouded by her previous success with her Harry Potter series. While the cat was let out of the bag, I still think that this novel in particular is a fantastic reflection of the type of work that she is capable of creating.
The Cuckoo’s Calling had me on the edge of my seat! I try to challenge myself to see if I can solve the mystery ahead of the characters and I must admit, I did not see the reveal coming until I was almost on top of it. Galbraith/Rowling created an intricate world of lies, deceit, and intrigue. Galbraith/Rowling easily mastered the allure that so many other writers fail to capture when crafting a mystery tale, and for that she should be heartily commended.