I read a lot. Always have. I was the typical nerdy kid with a nose always stuck in a book. My Amazon wishlist is as long as my travel wishlist. If not longer. Our spare room is currently home to crates full of books until we can buy some shelves or bookcases. And lockdown has meant plenty of spare time for reading. So here’s a little delve into what’s been in my lockdown library.
The Break by Marian Keyes. I haven’t yet met a Marian Keyes novel that I haven’t loved. And as always, it’s the family surrounding the main protagonist Amy that provides the true flavour. It’s laugh out loud funny, heartbreaking and candid, all at the same time.
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. If you consider purchasing just one book from this list, let it be this one. It’s the story of 8 year old Luca and his mother Lydia, forced to flee their comfortable life in Acapulco and cross the dangerous borders from Mexico into the United States. It’s sobering, gripping and completely unforgettable.
The Outside Boy by Jeanine Cummins. Yes, I loved American Dirt so much that I went on to read The Outside Boy almost immediately afterwards. It tells the tale of a young boy, Christy, and his traveller family in rural 50’s Ireland, as he tries to unravel the truth about his deceased mother. Once again, it’s beautifully written and Cummins has quickly become a firm favourite on my bookshelf.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I remember seeing this on a fellow blogger’s Instagram feed, and was immediately drawn to it. I love historical fiction from WW2, and particularly the different angles of storytelling. The Nightingale tells of two sisters, doing their part to help others in war-torn France in very different ways. There’s love, there’s grief, there’s sacrifice, and it wrings every last drop of exhausting emotion out of you.
The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. I hadn’t read a Lisa Jewell in years despite reading all of her earlier novels. But her writing has matured from the earlier “chick-lit” I remember. Family secrets are at the crux of this tale, as a fractured family are forced together by tragedy. I was absorbed in the Bird family, and the vivid but complex character of Lorrie will stay with me for a long time.
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Adichie explores inequality, oppression and identity in this tale of a relationship that truly spans continents and cultures. The narrative seamlessly weaves between Ifemelu’s and Obinze’s stories, and between past and present. And it paints a beautiful picture of life in Nigeria against a backdrop of corruption and political unrest.
The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen: Augusta Hope is noticeably different from her family, even her twin sister Julia. This novel explores her differences, her eccentricities, her love of words, from childhood to adulthood, through tragic circumstances. And her story in interweaved with that of Parfait, an illegal immigrant, who has similarly endured tragedy and loss. It’s a poignant tale about finding where you truly belong.
Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce. This psychological thriller was wildly predictable, and had more than a shade of Apple Tree Yard about it. The male characters are somewhat stereotypical: the gaslighting husband, the philandering lover. But on the whole it was compelling enough to keep me reading to the end.
The Fire Child by S.K Tremayne: I picked this one out as I’d previously read The Ice Twins by the same author. It’s a traditional spooky story, where things go bump in the night in an isolated mansion on the wild Cornish coast. The story hinges on its ambiguity, with the narrative told by an increasingly unreliable narrator. I stuck with the book to the end, but found it hard going at times. The Ice Twins was a much better book.
Defending Jacob by William Landay: It was only as I started this 2013 novel that I realised that it has recently been made into a TV series for Apple TV. Which I don’t have. The title of the book is something of a giveaway to the plot. A schoolboy is murdered. 14-year old Jacob Barber is charged. The story unfolds based on a retrospective statement given by his father, Assistant District Attorney Andy Barber. Its a pretty run-of-the-mill crime drama, but it does have a decent twist at the end.
The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. A good read but golly, you don’t half have to concentrate. It’s a time-travelling, body-swapping, whodunnit. One of those books that you could do with plotting out the characters on a flipchart as you go to keep track of the various relationships and movements of the key players.
Normal People by Sally Rooney: Unpopular opinion alert: I read this last year and was extremely disappointed. Firstly by the lack of action, and secondly, by the lack of speech marks. I thought I’d give it another go after watching the recent BBC adaptation, and whilst I still didn’t love it, I found that I understood the nuances of the character development a lot more. For those interested, there is a host of reading out there regarding Connell Waldron’s chain, which gets a much bigger role in the tv show than in the book. It even has its own Instagram page. Not as though I went searching for it or anything.
Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J K Rowling: I read the series when each book came out and I’ve enjoyed a slow re-read over the past 18 months. In fact, this was one of the only book series that made it to the JQ with us and wasn’t crated up in Ma and Pa Lee’s spare bedroom. I forgot how hefty this one is though!
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: You can’t open an Instagram story or a book-lovers blog post without seeing someone raving about this book. And with good reason. It’s beautifully written and transports you to the marshlands of North Carolina, into the world of the mysterious and isolated Kya. She opens up her heart to just two men. But when one is found dead, suspected murdered, Kya finds herself in the spotlight of the courtroom. It’s a novel of sheer escapism, with beautiful, evocative descriptions, and a heroine that you can really care about. I’m savouring the last few chapters as it’s a book that I don’t want to end.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid: To read this is like reading an indepth interview in Rolling Stone. Or the transcript of a Netflix documentary. But Daisy Jones, and indeed The Six, are entirely fictional. There’s sex and drugs and rock n roll. It’s hedonistic and authentic and easy to lose yourself in 70s Los Angeles. I’m currently just a quarter of the way through, and I can’t wait to see how Daisy’s determination to remain true to herself under mounting pressure from record studios and managers turns out.
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This is another re-read to accompany the release of the tv series starring Reece Witherspoon and Kerry Washington showing on Amazon Prime. Unlike Normal People I loved this book on first read so I’m looking forward to seeing how characters like Izzie, Moody and Pearl are portrayed onscreen.
Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
Q by Christina Dalcher
What books have been in your lockdown library? Have you read any of the above? What books do you recommend to add to my ever-growing wishlist? Let me know in the comments or over on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter!