10 Books to Add to Your Reading List

Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

I am a Kindle lover. There, I said it.

I feel like there’s this great divide between people who love a Kindle and others who firmly hold their trusty paper books, swearing they’ll never give them up for the e-reader. I still love ‘real’ books, and there’s something very magical about walking into a library or a bookshop. But receiving a Kindle as a gift has revolutionised my reading life.

I have always loved to read. I was that kid whose Mum would check on me, hours after putting me to bed, to realise I was STILL awake, reading under the covers. But, as an adult, having babies kind of kyboshed my ability to devour books. After having Sam, I was invited into a Book Club and we aimed to read one book a month, which definitely helped keep me going but it was a struggle to maintain that pace. With three children under four years old, sleep was a luxury and, if I had the choice, sleep always won out over other pastimes. (On a side note, we still catch up regularly for Wine Book Club, 10 years later…even if we don’t always talk about books these days).

Up until a few years ago, my husband Ben wasn’t much of a reader. He had a books piled precariously on his beside table but he didn’t actually read any of them, and I didn’t like to have the bedroom light on at night and keep him awake (see above: luxurious sleep). But at some stage, Ben bought himself a Kindle and everything changed. Suddenly my non-reading husband was reading one book a week, on average. With his encouragement, I put the Kindle app on our iPad and suddenly I too had the power to still read at night whilst keeping the house dark and small people asleep. Hooray.

For the following Christmas, Ben gave me a Kindle Paperwhite. I must admit, I was initially a bit skeptical. I already had an iPad with the Kindle app on it, what did I need with an actual Kindle?? (sorry babe). But I gave it a go, and have never looked back. To me, there are three main benefits to using the Kindle over an iPad.

  • While it’s backlit, the quality of the ‘screen’ means that the Kindle Paperwhite is much more gentle on eyes than an iPad screen.
  • When using the iPad, it was far too easy to just do a little look at Facebook, email, etc. before opening the Kindle app. To me, reading is about disconnecting and winding down, so it felt counterintuitive.
  • The battery life of the Kindle is amazing and I only have to charge it every couple of months.

Anyway, this wasn’t meant to be an advertisement for a Kindle – more to explain that, thanks to my Kindle, I read a fair bit these days.

The main downside to the Kindle is that I can’t share hard copies of books I love anymore! I did enjoy passing on a good book after I’d read it, but instead now I just have to tell people about them. I’m always on the look out for a good book to devour, so thought in light of it being Book Week season at school, I’d share with you what I’ve been loving lately, just in case you love a recommendation to add to your reading list too.

The Mummalove Reading List

‘Boy Swallows Universe’, by Trent Dalton

“Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crim for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already. He’s just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way – not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer. But Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum. A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships.”

I have to say, this has been my favourite book so far this year. Whilst set in my home town of Brisbane, it’s not exactly the vision of Brisbane I grew up with – convicted criminals, drug dealers, jail breaks, and the like. But Trent Dalton manages to deal with some heavier topics without getting too heavy, and takes us along for the ride on Eli’s intrepid journey, filled with twists and turns and interesting characters. Unusual and quirky in all the best ways, I’m not sure I’ve read anything quite like it.

Eggshell Skull’, by Bri Lee

“This is the story of Bri’s journey through the Australian legal system; first as the daughter of a policeman, then as a law student, and finally as a judge’s associate in both metropolitan and regional Queensland–where justice can look very different, especially for women. The injustice Bri witnessed, mourned and raged over every day finally forced her to confront her own personal history, one she’d vowed never to tell. And this is how, after years of struggle, she found herself on the other side of the courtroom, telling her story.”

I was a little hesitant to read Eggshell Skull and delve into the confronting topic of sexual abuse, but it was an honest and compelling read and I was glad I did. It was heartbreaking at times, but well written by Bri Lee and definitely opened my eyes on the incredible bravery of those who choose to confront their abusers in the legal system. Like Boy Swallows Universe, Eggshell Skull is set in Brisbane, so I enjoyed the references to familiar spots around our city and state.

 

‘It’s Not Me It’s You’, by Mhairi McFarlane

“Delia Moss isn’t quite sure where she went wrong. When she proposed and discovered her boyfriend was sleeping with someone else – she thought it was her fault. When she realised life would never be the same again – she thought it was her fault. And when he wanted her back like nothing had changed – Delia started to wonder if perhaps she was not to blame… From Newcastle to London and back again, with dodgy jobs, eccentric bosses and annoyingly handsome journalists thrown in, Delia must find out where her old self went – and if she can ever get her back.”

Oh Delia, I can so relate to feeling like everything’s my fault 😉 It was hard not to fall in love with Delia in this story as she navigated the perils of love and relationships, new careers and a dodgy Australian boss. While it was easy, enjoyable and often humorous read, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’ didn’t feel like your average, overdone chick-lit novel. I enjoyed going on Delia’s unpredictable adventure and witnessing her evolution.

‘Little Fires Everywhere’, by Celeste Ng

“In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.”

I really had no idea what to expect when I embarked on this book, but thoroughly enjoyed the carefully crafted characters and watching the way their lives intersected and unravelled as the story progressed. It was clever and often surprising. and it was hard to put down once I got started.

The Alice Network’, by Kate Quinn

“In an enthralling new historical novel from national bestselling author Kate Quinn, two women – a female spy recruited to the real-life Alice Network in France during World War I and an unconventional American socialite searching for her cousin in 1947 – are brought together in a mesmerizing story of courage and redemption.”/

This historical story of girlpower, based on a real life network of female spies during World War I, totally drew me in. Set across two different time frames, we hear of Eve’s exploits as a stuttering, unlikely spy in 1915, and being drawn into a mission to find the truth in 1947, after the second world war, with unmarried and pregnant maths whiz, Charlie St Clair. There was adventure, tragedy, bravery, a bit of romance, and it had me on the edge of my seat at times. Many of the events in the story are based on historical events, which made the book even more enjoyable.

‘The Woman In the Window’, by AJ Finn 

“It’s been ten long months since Anna Fox last left her home. Ten months during which she has haunted the rooms of her old New York house like a ghost, lost in her memories, too terrified to step outside. Anna’s lifeline to the real world is her window, where she sits day after day, watching her neighbours. When the Russells move in, Anna is instantly drawn to them. A picture-perfect family of three, they are an echo of the life that was once hers. But one evening, a frenzied scream rips across the silence, and Anna witnesses something no one was supposed to see. Now she must do everything she can to uncover the truth about what really happened. But even if she does, will anyone believe her? And can she even trust herself?”

A psychological thriller based in the ‘burbs, this debut novel by AJ Finn (who, incidentally, will be appearing at this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival in September) is definitely a page turner. For film buffs, there are lots of references to classic cinema as agoraphobic Anna spends her days watching old movies, (as well as spying on the neighbours), whilst drinking a little too much wine. It’s not a style of book I often read, but I enjoyed the intriguing storyline and characters.

‘The Light We Lost’, by Jill Santopolo

“Every love story has a beginning… Lucy and Gabe meet in New York on a day that will change their lives and the world forever. As the city burns behind them, they kiss for the very first time. Over the next thirteen years they are torn apart, then brought back together, time and time again. It’s a journey of dreams, of desires, of jealousy, of forgiveness and above all, love. And as Lucy is faced with a devastating choice, she wonders whether their love is a matter of destiny or chance. What if this is how their story ends?”

I’m really not sure what I loved most about this book, but it has stayed with me long after reading. Perhaps it’s just the simplicity of these two lives unfolding and the things that draw us together or keep us apart from those we fall in love with. I’m not really into cheesy love stories, but ‘The Light We Lost’ felt so real and authentic, and reminded me in some ways of my own 20s and 30s, the intensity of finding your first love, and wondering whether life is about destiny or the choices we make.

‘I’m Just Happy to Be Here’ by Janette Hanchett

“At 21, Janelle Hanchett embraced motherhood with the reckless self-confidence of those who have no idea what they’re getting into. Having known her child’s father for only three months, she found herself rather suddenly getting to know a newborn, husband, and wholly transformed identity. Over time, as she searched for home in suburbia and settled life, a precarious drinking habit turned into treacherous dependence, until life became car seats and splitting hangovers, cubicles and multi-day drug binges–and finally, an inconceivable separation from her children. For ten years, Hanchett grappled with the relentless progression of addiction, bouncing from rehabs to therapists to the occasional hippie cleansing ritual on her quest for sobriety, before finding it in a way she never expected.”

I came across this ‘memoir of renegade mothering’ through an interview with the author on Tiffany Han’s podcast, ‘Raise Your Hand Say Yes’. During the podcast discussions about Janelle’s writing process and ‘putting her faith in truth’, I was intrigued and went in search of her memoir. It is a raw and heartwrenching account of motherhood and marriage whilst in the depths of addiction and, while Janelle has thankfully now managed to be ‘clean’ for a decade, it’s definitely not a self-righteous tale of overcoming adversity. I admired Janelle’s courage to share her harrowing story so openly and honestly.

‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’, by Gail Honeyman 

“Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend. Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything. One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life. Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?”

It took me a little while to get into Eleanor Oliphant, but when I fell in love, I fell hard. She is a quirky character indeed, and I had a few giggles as she navigated life in her expanding world. Eleanor has a few secrets, but when she manages to start facing them, she allows a whole host of new experiences and new people into her life. It’s a funny, moving and very enjoyable read, and Eleanor’s ‘voice’ is one of a kind.

‘Tin Man’, by Sarah Winman

“It begins with a painting won in a raffle: fifteen sunflowers, hung on the wall by a woman who believes that men and boys are capable of beautiful things. And then there are two boys, Ellis and Michael, who are inseparable. And the boys become men, and then Annie walks into their lives, and it changes nothing and everything.”

Oh, so many feels in this beautifully written book by Sarah Winman, as she explores the delicate relationships between Ellis, Michael and Annie. Sad, joyful, poignant, intricate. I love the way Sarah crafts her words so they feel more like poetry than a novel. Tinman is definitely in my list of all time favourite books.

Are you a Kindle lover too, or do you prefer to read the tried-and-true paper version? What have you been reading lately? I’d love you to leave a comment below telling me what books you’re loving, or let me know over on the Mummalove FB page.

* The links to the books mentioned in this blog post are available on the Booktopia online bookstore. If you make a purchase via these Booktopia affiliate links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale. Use the code SPRING before 10 September to receive free shipping on your order.