In a world where children are reading less than ever before and screens allow us to stay always-on, let’s not forget it’s World Book Day. And the FHA Book Club has been eagerly combing through a series of page-turners, which have been reviewed for your reading pleasure
Last weekend, if you tried really hard, you might have found one of the two news stories that weren’t virus-related. It was the news that Callum Manning, a 13-year-old from South Shields, found himself on the wrong side of comments about being a ‘sad weirdo’.
Can’t believe how awful kids are. My little brothers made an Instagram reviewing and talking about books and kids in his new school have seen it and have created a group chat calling him a creep slagging him off about it and added him to it so he could see ? pic.twitter.com/wuuj2XlO34
— Ellis (@EllisLandreth1) February 29, 2020
“I don’t tend to cry that often but I think that was the first time in a while I’ve actually cried,” Callum told PA Media.
His crime? Starting an Instagram account where he reviews books. Many which, quite frankly, are impressive reads for someone of his age.
Thankfully, the internet swooped in like Aladdin on a magic carpet of supportive social media accounts, and his Instagram followers rocketed (to 358,000 at the time of writing), resulting in his becoming a viral sensation.
But the reality is, as much as it sends a communal shudder through an office brimming with English grads, that children are reading less than ever before.
At FieldHouse, there is a growing contingent who take part in our Book Club which, admittedly, is less a club and more a fluid recommendations resource and ongoing book swap facility. But that’s not as catchy.
We decided that to mark World Book Day today, we would share some of the books we’ve been reading recently that have made us stop, think and furiously type up recommendations on our Slack channel.
It’s very rare that I reread a book – this is only the second time in my adult life – but The Shadow of the Wind is so twisty-turny (technical term) and fantastic that it deserves to be read more than once. When a young boy discovers a novel entitled The Shadow of the Wind in Barcelona’s mythical Cemetery of Lost Books, he becomes ensnared in the mystery of its tragic author. This is a brilliant choice to pick up on World Book Day because, behind the entertaining thriller plot on the surface, it’s all about the power of literature and the joy of reading.
I can’t believe I haven’t discovered these books earlier – Sally is such an incredible author that puts her finger on all the right things. She describes the characters in her book in a vulnerable way, making you feel like you’re part of the story.
I most recently finished Conversations with Friends. It’s about two college students and their unexpected connection with a married couple taking place in Dublin. I am very weak at the knees for love stories, and this book is about complicated friendship and love where the characters can’t be with or without each other. It’s also about self-doubt, how people have power over each other and about finding your own way. I highly recommend this book if you want a throwback to your own youth.
At the moment I am about halfway through reading, but loving, ‘The Improbability of Love’ by Hannah Rotschild. As a broad summary, the book is about the dark, glamourous and worrying truths of the art world. How a piece of art means so much more than the price tag, it means power and status – something that a long lost painting can buy.
I ordered this book after hearing about the unfortunate passing of Caroline Flack. After an independent bookseller in Hastings was flooded with offers to send copies of the book to anyone who might need one, and as someone who has dealt with mental health challenges in the past, I knew I needed to check it out.
Matt Haig deals with a deep and difficult subject matter with equal-parts charm and delicacy. It’s a powerful marriage of both a memoir and a self-help book wrapped into one. It details his experience with depression and anxiety when he was 24 in the year 1999, and how he overcame the challenges of being mentally ill during a time when it wasn’t understood (or empathised with) as much as it is today.
Even if you’re someone who hasn’t directly had to deal with mental illness before, this book is as much an exercise in speaking directly to those who might need some reassurance during a difficult time, as well as a demonstration of how much the discourse around the subject has changed since Matt was dealing with depression over two decades ago. I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is either going through a difficult time, or wants to understand mental illness more. ‘Reasons To Stay Alive’ proves that, even when things may seem a little dark, you should never lose hope.
I am midway through this novel set in London during the late 1700s. I’m not usually the sort of person who goes for historical novels, but the atmospheric way in which the author – newcomer Laura Shepherd-Robinson – manages to conjure images of a dark, foggy and bloody London drew me into it. Within the narrow streets of the capital, an abolitionist war hero is tasked with tracking down his missing friend. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’m not sure everything is what it seems…
I have also just finished reading Airhead by Emily Maitliss. As somebody that works closely with the media, it’s fascinating to read about what goes on behind the scenes of BBC’s flagship news programme, and get an insight into some of her biggest interviews. If you’re in any way interested in how broadcast news is put together, this is for you!
If you’re into non-fiction or you are a human, this book is essential reading. It takes the reader on a fascinating journey from the earliest known humans to now, stopping off to examine the rise of religion, the roots of facism and the constructs of money and power. It’s full of facts that will blow your mind and make you look clever at dinner parties.
I have recently finished this book and since then have been recommending it to pretty much anyone I speak to. The Choice is an extraordinarily powerful book, at once an autobiography of survival, a historical testament and a universal guide to the power of mental freedom and resilience. It tells Dr Edith’s story from her earliest days as a young ballet dancer in Hungary, being sent with her family to Auschwitz, her experience of the Holocaust and her journey to forgiveness in the decades after liberation as she build her career in America and became a mother, grandmother and great grandmother. It is a book of raw honesty about what it means to be human, when you have experienced humanity at its worst. Dr Edith is now 91, part of a generation with whom we are losing first person voices, and through this book her story delivers a profound message for generations to come.