Right, well I'm in a list making mood and since I have previously compiled my top 10 albums (although they have changed) I shall now do my top ten books. This time they are in no particular order, just ten books which I have read and enjoyed, and am now recommending to you if you have not read them. I shall begin.
1. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
Well a book list wouldn't be a book list without this title in it would it? This is Plath's only novel and was originally published in 1963 under a pseudonym. It's just as bitter and remorseless as her last poems, only it's longer and I think it's an excellent prose - not many writers can keep a hold of their style when making a transition between poetry and prose. I must say though, if you read it you may well understand why her death followed shortly after she completed the book - some writers say not to write about what you know but I've never stuck to that and neither did Sylvia Plath. I shall say it frankly, her life was dark and her writing is dark.
2. Knife Edge - Malorie Blackman
This is supposed to be the sequel to 'Noughts and Crosses', a book which I have not read and I have to say that did not put me at a disadvantage when reading this book. Again a stirring read, one that might even make you cry in places - but also frustrating as the novel ends with unanswered questions, questions left to answer in the next book 'Checkmate'. It's about racism really and the struggle to break the barrier between different ethnicities, it's powerful despite being recommended for 14 year olds +.
3. The Best Awful - Carrie Fisher
I bought this on a spur of the moment at Portsmouth ferry terminal and expected it to be trash - most of those books you grab on the way to catch a connection are - but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It actually attempted to tackle real human emotions and disorders, without being too jokey towards them. Despite this it is set in Hollywood and it does centre around a famous single mother trying to bring up her young daughter whilst coping with Manic Depression, so this brings it down a little bit - but still worth a read if you're bored I'd say.
4. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
I've not yet seen the film so I can't compare it to the novel but I can say that I really, really enjoyed it - even more so on the second read when I grasped it better than the first time. It's a tough one to explain and I expect most of you have read it or seen the film so I'll just put it on here because I loved it so much. Oh and if you ever get the chance, it's good in Spanish too...
5. Long Way Round - Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman
When I saw Ewan McGregor's name and face on the cover of this book I cynically judged it as a publicity stunt, I expected it to be full of actor-talk and mindless conversation between the two friends. I was wrong. The book takes you through every step of the journey made on the BMW Adventurer motorbikes (I can't remember which series) and every problem and honest feeling encountered, obviously written about at the time by both men. Maybe I sound silly but it was like reading the story of two people discovering themselves.
6. Girl, Interrupted - Susanna Kaysen
Basically I read it the first time when I was having a pretty bad time and I identified with it, some of the characters in it - the feelings in it. It's the story of 18 year old Susanna Kaysen who had a session with a psychiatrist she didn't know after a suicide attempt, and taken to McLean hospital to be treated for depression, from there on it's a true record of life inside a mental hospital. It's funny and it's sad, it's frank and it's full of questionable - is she really crazy or just interrupted? As Susanna says; "Sometimes the only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy."
7. Enduring Love - Ian McEwan
Anyone who did English Literature for A Level last year or the year before or whatever will be quite familiar with this book, it's not on my syllabus - I merely read it because I wanted to and because I watched the film when ever so slightly tipsy and it sobered me up so quick I wanted to read the real story. I really loved it, I loved the style and I loved the story. It's about two men brought together as observers of a tragedy and one of the men's obsessive and possessive personality towards the other. Slightly disturbing, but genius.
8. Prozac Nation - Elizabeth Wurtzel
It's the opinion of many that this book is only one to read if you are, or have been depressed at some point - not necessarily diagnosed - but in a dark place for more than a few days. I do not subscribe to this view. I see this book for what I believe it was intended, as an honest portrayal of our culture today and, particularly America's, reliance on therapists and 'happy pills' to get us through a tough day. It brings back the truth of people who may actually need help and how SSRI medication has become just like being subscribed antibiotics for a chest infection. Interesting.
9. Escape - June Oldham
Ok so it's a teenage book, but it's quite a difficult one to grasp. It's marketed for girls as the main character is a female, but I think guys could read it too - maybe not, but hey. It's about a girl in the last year of her A Levels trying to escape from her father, whom she lives with and is abused by. It's about being incapable of opening up to someone who loves her, it's about her running away, it's about her trying to be independent, it's about facing her truth. I guess it's about escape.
10. Taking On The World - Dame Ellen MacArthur
I just admire Dame Ellen, so this first book written about the first years of her life and of her sailing career is an inspiration to me. It's written totally by herself, without the aid of a writer and it's starkly upfront about all the problems attatched to sailing solo around the world, and anywhere in fact. It's not a novel I know, but I do love it.
So get reading...