On my bookshelf: New favourites

Three things have happened since I left university.

First, I’ve rediscovered my love of literature. Thriller, chick-lit, literary fiction… I don’t care what genre it is; if it’s good, I’ll devour it. There’s no lecturer looking over my shoulder in disdain at what tome is open on my lap. It’s utter book freedom, and it’s great.

Second, I actually have the time to read. Now I’m working 9 to 5 — instead of the student all-nighters in the library — I can jam an hour of reading in before bed. No more essays until lights out.

Third, I can spend my free weekends languishing in the slow atmosphere of bookshops. A few Sundays ago, I wandered for a while in Waterstones, spent some of my book vouchers and left with a heavier bag but lighter heart. Two of the books I bought I’ll share with you today.

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The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell

I have read this splendid book twice now and — I can tell you honestly — I don’t do that often! Wanting an Edinburgh-based novel to compliment my move to the city, I reopened the cover. The Vanishing Act reveals the hidden story of Esme, a seventy-something woman who has spent almost all of her life locked up in an institution. Why? This is what the reader — and Esme’s last surviving relative, Iris — must discover. O’Farrell’s prose is poetic but not overly floral, and because it’s an easy read you become totally immersed in finding out the characters’ fate. Be prepared to devour this in less than a day.

The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

Marina’s posthumous collection of stories and essays spins off her viral Yale essay, ‘The Opposite of Loneliness’. Speaking about being young, future hopes, peer pressure and disappointments, Marina’s writing takes me back to adolescence — in a good way. Plus, after reading just a few pages, it reminds me that I’m still young. I shouldn’t say I can’t, I should follow my heart, I should take that leap of faith… Because you never know when it may all end.

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The Walker’s Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs by Tristan Gooley

Although I sometimes dip into non-fiction — Cheryl Strayed’s Wild has to be up there with my favourites — I don’t usually find informative books that gripping. But Tristan Gooley’s The Walker’s Guide is satisfying all my outdoor cravings! When I’m stuck inside on weekday nights, I dive into this book and imagine myself on the hills. From tracking tips, stargazing, navigation aids and weather predictions, this book is a nature lover’s bible!

What’s on your bookshelf this season?

6 thoughts on “On my bookshelf: New favourites

  1. I absolutely endorse what you said about Esme Lennox. Wonderful, moving book. It might be fiction, but it refelcts the reality that “inconvenient” women could be locked up for years very easily in what I consider to be disgracefully recent times. Around the time I read this, I also saw a film on a similar theme with Peggy Ashcroft and Geraldine James (can’t remember the title, sorry). The Magadalene Sisters also comes to mind – we had a Magadalene Institiute in Glasgow that only closed in 1958! That’s in my lifetime (just). Rage!

    1. Thank you for the comment Anabel! I definitely think Esme Lennox is the best of Maggie O’Farrell’s novels, it’s just perfectly written. It is absolutely horrendous how this ‘crazy woman’ narrative has just seeped through the centuries… And the last Magdalene asylum closed in Belfast in 1996! I totally agree with you, it makes me so angry that something as inhuman as this could continue for so long!

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