So, my Nine Months of reading just women is coming to a close and I’m on what I know will be my last book (it’s long, and with Christmas and New Year I have no time to read at all.) Here’s my top 5… I hope you’ve all read at least one.
5. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Number 5 on my list may well be the most widely known. The Hunger Games has taken off this year, moving into the world of Hollywood the massively popular teen series has made its way onto the bestsellers of 2012. Katniss, a brave and sharp 17 year old lives in a dystopian world in which all 12-18 year olds are subject to The Hunger Games where 24 boys and girls are thrown into a Battle Royale style reality TV show; the object: to be the last teen standing. Katniss nominates herself to take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games and along with Peta (the male from her district) she enters the arena. There are many reasons why I so greatly enjoyed The Hunger Games. Firstly, dystopian is my favourite genre. Secondly, Katniss is a total kick ass female. And lastly, it reignited the teen genre back into something that isn’t vampires. Hurrah!
4. The Uninvited – Liz Jenson
From (probably) the most known, to the least. Jenson’s part dystopian, part sci-fi, part modern realistic novel is a really great read. The protagonist, Hesketh, brings us narrative from the perspective of someone with autism. It’s not over done, in fact it’s barely mentioned. Hesketh’s relationship with his (sort of) step-son is realistic and slightly terrifying. When a strange plague hits that affects only children Hesketh gets caught up in both researching the phenomenon and protecting Freddy from the authorities. A Social comment? Perhaps. Psycho thriller? Partly. Fast paced, filled with science and religious references? Oh yes.
3. Monkeys with Typewriters – Scarlett Thomas
As the only non-fiction title on this list, it must be something pretty special to make it on. And it really is. Scarlett Thomas is one of my favourite authors. Her three most famous novels (PopCo, The End of Mr Y and Our Tragic Universe) made me feel that I too could write one day, and that’s something that I only feel with authors that I really connect to. Monkeys with Typewriters is sort of a selection of essays or lectures by Thomas about writing theory and writing in practice. The first part, Theory, uses examples from Toy Story and Supernanny to Odepius and Hamlet to outline basic plots, the history of The Story and theories behind plots from some of the greatest theorists on the subject. The second part is dedicated to actually writing a story, plotting, characters etc and I really wish this book had come out sooner, because now my own writing is coming together. Some writers don’t need matrixes or tables and charts to write, but I do, I need the structure. Watch this space for my first novel.
2. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
I feel like I’m cheating slightly putting this on my list, partly because it’s already my favourite book, but mainly because I read it at a really low point, where I truly felt like I might give up. I read this book when I’m depressed or heartbroken, I read it when I can’t read anything else and all I want is Hampton and Richard. Richard is a student at the snowy college of Hampton in Vermont. He studies Ancient Greek along with a small group. When one of the group is murdered by the others Richard finds himself (and the others) in a downward spiral into madness, depression, alcoholism, betrayal, sex and lies. Full of classical references and philosophical theories its a masterpiece of a coming of age tale.
1. All Men Are Mortal – Simone de Beauvoir
I’ve read a lot of books in my time. A ton. A fuck ton. Nothing, not one book (yet) has come close to making me feel the things I feel when I even think about this book. Forsca, an Italian man, is telling Regina, a French woman, about his life so far. It has been a long life, after all, Forsca is immortal. Centuries before the 1940s Paris that Forsca is now living in he drank a potion. A potion that made him live longer and further than his friends, relatives and everyone else around him. He sees wives die. He watches his children die. Forsca sees war and famine, death and life, different cultures and many epic journeys. De Beauvoir manages to portray immortality in a way that makes you glad that one day, you’ll die.
The worst thing that Forsca ever did was give the immortality potion to a mouse, because that mouse will never die, and one day it will just be Forsca and the mouse on an empty, burned out earth, forever.
Other notables: Are You My Mother? – Alison Bechdel, Regeneration – Pat Barker, Pride & Prejudice – Jane Austen, Flowers in the Attic – Virginia Andrews