Five books that made me happy this year
A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A Spool of Blue Thread very well might be Anne Tyler’s last book, which made reading it a somewhat bittersweet experience. Tyler’s books are sad, warm, funny and always incredibly insightful about human nature. Slipping into Tyler’s prose is like snuggling under a warm blanket on a rainy night. I know what I’m going to get with an Anne Tyler novel – a character-driven literary story about a complicated family – and yet each one is surprising in its own way. If you’re a Tyler fan (or want to be) A Spool of Blue Thread should not be missed.
Pair it with… My very favourite Tyler novel, The Amateur Marriage.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
In all honesty, very few writers make me as happy as Rainbow Rowell. She does the whole teenager-falling-in-love thing better than anyone else, and her humour usually falls right in line with mine. This YA novel might be a bit of a hard sell to a Rowell newcomer (and, in fact, you should probably at least read Eleanor and Park or Fangirl first) but on the other hand… this book is the most joyful of any of Rowell’s books, and it’s so much fun to read. It’s set in a Harry Potter-esque universe, and follows the burgeoning romance between Simon (teenage wizard) and Baz (teenage vampire-wizard) who are roommates and also enemies and also maybe falling in love. The beginning is a little slow, but things pick right up when Baz makes his first appearance, and from then on it’s all kidnapping, kissing and secret plans.
Pair it with… Your annual re-read of the Harry Potter series, of course.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert has been writing for most of her life. She published three literary works before she broke into the big time with her much loved and loathed memoir Eat, Pray, Love, and she has published two other well-received books since then. Gilbert studied the craft of writing, she paid her dues, she found enormous success and consequently she has a lot of interesting things to say about writing, creativity, achievement and failure. This is the kind of book that will pick you up out of your funk, inspire you to push through writers block, and remind you of why you pursue creative projects in the first place. It’s cheerful, and often funny and self-depreciating, striking the right balance between touchy-feely support and harsh words of truth.
Pair it with… The lovely Pilot Diary For Writers 2016.
Single, Carefree, Mellow by Katherine Heiny
I loved, loved, loved this book. Heiny writes like a dream. It’s a collection of short stories about women in relationships – mostly about women who are being unfaithful in their relationships (so if you are in any way sensitive to infidelity, this book may not be for you.) Single, Carefree, Mellow is deadpan funny and charming throughout, and I found every story an enjoyable delight – even the one story that made me cry. What made me particularly happy about reading this collection was the feeling that Heiny’s writing style was made just for me (a feeling I think many people might have upon reading it).
Life Moves Pretty Fast by Hadley Freedman
My two all-time favourite movies, Aliens and When Harry Met Sally…, were made in the eighties. My favourite action hero – Indiana Jones – hails from that time period, Dirty Dancing is my number one dance movie (sorry, Center Stage, you’re a distant second), I try to watch Die Hard every year before Christmas and I’m a solid John Hughes fan (Pretty in Pink for the win). Obviously, a book about eighties movies was going to make me happy, and this is an especially good book about eighties movies, with insightful essays on everything from gender to race to delicious behind-the-scenes gossip.
Pair it with… A bowl of popcorn and an eighties movie marathon.
Nina Kenwood is the marketing manager for Readings.