05
Dec

Some books I read, loved and can recommend.

Every now and then I take a photo of a book, or even a stack of books, with nice lighting and cute composition, with the intention of placing said photo on the Instagram, enthusiastically endorsing them so that everyone else can experience the same thrill and feverish page turning mania I did.

Then I forget to post it, start a new book, and promptly forget all about previous book, especially when someone says, ‘Read any good books lately?’.

So here’s a list of (some of the) Books I’ve Loved* this year.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only books I read, nor that they were necessarily released this year, by the way, just that I read them this year. So don’t get all fidgety if you see Are you there God, it’s me Margaret on the list. A good book is a good book! They don’t expire! Good on them!

Of course, it goes without saying (but not, apparently, without writing) that a book is a tremendous Chrimmus gift, especially since many people, like myself, get crippled with indecision at the book shop.

Another great gift is a homemade cream and sponge cake, in case anyone I know is reading this.

TODAY WILL BE DIFFERENT, Maria Semple

If you are yet to read Maria’s brilliant Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, for the love of lice, do. It is a triumph in funny, clever, manic story telling. This is equally wonderful, her female protagonist again dancing dangerously between feisty, glamorous wife, mother and woman, and complete nervous breakdown. Semple is a former writer for SNL, Mad About You and Arrested Development. So, yknow, chops. She’s sharp as lemon and funny as hell.

Good for: Lovers of wit, sassy dames, and just all women with pulses, really.

semple_todaywillbedifferent_revisemjp_1

THE DRY, Jane Harper

Utterly harrowing and at times difficult to read (as a mother – those who’ve read it know what I mean) this Aussie outback murder-mystery-thriller is a cracking yarn, which is not a sentence I thought I would ever write, but there you go.

Good for: People into crime stuff.

9781743548059

ELEANOR AND PARK, Rainbow Rowell

Not only does Rainbow win at names, but her tale about two misfit teens falling in love (in the EIGHTIES NO LESS!!!) is a masterpiece of deep feels and wonderful detail. I loved this book so much. Make me a mixtape already.

Good for: Romantics and nostalgics and ’80s kids.

eleanorandpark

THE GAP OF TIME, Jeanette Winterson.

A sexy, elegant, (get ready for it…) unputdownable modern retelling of Billy Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. (Also: Jeanette Winterson! She of Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit!) Fun fact: The Gap of Time was the first in a series of modern Shakespearian re-tellings. Since then Anne Tyler has published Vinegar Girl (casually hanging out in the stack next to my bed) which is based on The Taming of The Shrew, and the inimitable Margaret Atwood has just released Hag-Seed, a retelling of The Tempest. Woo!

Good for: Shakespeare fans. And also non-Shakespeare fans.

gap-of-time-xlarge

BURIAL RITES, Hannah Kent

I finally read this (2013) smash as a catch up before reading Kent’s new book, The Good People, which I have not got around to reading but it’s coming on holidays with me because what could be better than some dark and miserable Scandi Noir over summer. Like billions of others, Burial Rites grabbed be my the goolies and did not let go. And that’s saying something cos a tale set in rural Iceland in the 1800s about a woman condemned to death for the murder of her employer is not generally my jam. Kent is a phenomenal writer, and this is an exceptional book.

Good for: People who can read.

burial-rites

BEAUTIFUL RUINS, Jess Walter

I read this in 2015 and again this year because I’m lazy, sure, but also cos it’s great. It’s wonderful and often feels as though you are watching a film. There’s romance! Glamour! Mystery! Love! Italy! Movie stars! Death! Oh, what a ride! Jess Walter is constantly referred to as a ridiculously talented writer, but this book is rubbish. No, wait. This book proves it! This book proves it.

Good for: Romantics and film-lovers and fans of a good bloody story.

beautiful-ruins

LETTERS OF NOTE, Compiled by Shaun Usher

I gift this book constantly. (Also it’s follow up, More Letters of Note.) It is a magnificent, very special collection of rare, romantic, historical, heartbreaking, harrowing, hilarious, breathtaking and bombastic letters from presidents, poets, painters and paupers, featuring job applications, suicide notes, letters from fans and the first recorded use of OMG. This is a brilliant, gutting, gorgeous book, full of gems, and OH, how I love it.

Good for: ANYONE. No, wait. EVERYONE.

letters

WHAT I’VE LEARNED, (US) Esquire

My favourite page from my favourite magazine (note that it’s US Esquire, not that stinkin’ UK edition), where, thanks to the exceptional interviewing skills of (usually) Cal Fussman, you get access to the most crystallised, potent little mind diamonds from successful, fascinating and brilliant people. Often funny, always interesting, and with more wisdom than, I don’t know, something really wise like an owl maybe, there are a few editions, but the older ones can be tricky to get your mitts on. The most recent edition (featuring Ted Danson, Robert DeNiro, Aaron Sorkin, Lionel Richie, Sigourney Weaver, Amy Schumer etc etc) isn’t though.

Good for: Everyone but tis an especially terrific gift for any male human you’re struggling to buy for.

esquire-what-i-ve-learned

WE FOUND A HAT, Jon Klassen

The newest and maybe my favourite from the king of very silly and very perfect picture books. If you haven’t already bough his other hat-based tales, This Is Not My Hat, and I Want My Hat Back, then you’re a sweet fool.

Good for: Toddlers and – gasp! – their parents.

hat

 

Also I hear that beauty book Amazinger Face is good, and that book that they made a telly show made out of, The Wrong Girl is great, and The Younger Man and Playing The Field and Textbook Romance and Air Kisses are really awesome and worth a read too, but I can’t remember who wrote them except I think her name had something to do with a beer and she has frizzy hair.

 

*I also read lots of (often dull) non-fiction (Unfinished Business, What To Do When It’s Your Turn, Big Magic, The Importance of Being Little, The Whole-Brain Child) and am totally up to date with Sweet Valley High, but they’re not books I loved with a big pink loveheart.

Responses to this drivel: 29 Comments
Responses to this drivel ( 29 )
  • Evie

    Zoe! Any book recommendations for a particularly rough break up?

    • zoe foster blake

      Sorry to be gross but… maybe Textbook Romance?

      • Evie

        Not gross! I’ve thrashed Textbook Romance over the last few years… Think it might be a bit soon for getting-back-in-the-game type wisdom at this point though!

    • Alana

      In all seriousness, I loved “Its called a breakup because it’s broken” and so did several girlfriends

    • Kelsey

      I would definitely recommend ‘It’s Called a Breakup because it’s Broken’ (by Greg Behrendt – and He’s Just Not That Into you – even if you’ve seen the movie because that’s no help at all)
      Thinkin of you babe – hope your okay
      (and yes also Textbook Romance)x

    • Nadia

      Essays in love by Alain De Botton or The road less travelled. 

    • Michelle

      Late response but ‘It’s called a breakup because it’s broken’ is AMAZING and a gift it to all my post break up friends unashamedly.

  • Jess

    I’m taking it as sign that I should read Beautiful Ruins as the author is a combo of my name (Jess) & my partner’s name (Walter).
    Thanks for the recommendations Ms F.B! 

  • Jus

    Holy heck Letters of Note sounds amazing! I must find this book! Also I already feel like crying over it. Thank you Zoe! 

  • Kat

    Yay, book recs!! Please, please do more of these. Or just recs in general. In total agreement about Eleanor & Park, it was so, so good. And all of Jon Klassen’s books are fantastic for kids. Looking forward to trying Today will be different.

  • Trishy

    Zo you are a genius and a superstar! Thank you for helping me with my Christmas shopping with this marvelous list! MWAH! xxx

  • Kelsey

    Zoe did you listen to both of Tim Ferriss Podcasts with Cal Fussman? Possibly the best 5 hours of my year.. serious though.

  • kelsey

    Side Note: I printed out this whole thing at work… decent use of work resources I’d say.

  • Steph

    Oh Zoe, I’m so glad to hear a woman who has a memory like mine. A book enthusiast who is forever reading and forever forgetting what I’ve read, here are a few of my faves this year:

    Me before you – Jojo Moyes
    Fool me once – Harlan Coben (oh, the twists)
    Attachments – Rainbow Rowell
    Big little lies – Liane Moriarty 
    What I know for sure – Oprah Winfrey
    The light between oceans – M. L. Stedman 

  • Nadia

    Jeanette Wintersons, all time favourite! Thanks for these. 

  • Kerrie

    Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil – life in Georgia
    City of Falling Angels – life in Venice 
    Hound of the Baskervilles – Sherlock Holmes at his very best
    Monster of Florence – true story about a serial killer in Florence 

  • Cathy

    Yay! I love a list of book recommendations! I read every single day and yet am afflicted by the same goldfish/brain issues! Thanks Zoe…..looking forward to making my way through these!
    My recommendation for this year…. all 12 of the Poldark books by Winston Graham! 

  • Cassie

    If you have not read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, then you really must. I fell in love with Jude and Willem and my heart broke for them. It was so worth it though. 

  • Bronnie

    Omg Zoe I am so excited for all of these!! I fell in love with Bernadette, so have had Semple’s next book on my list awhile.

    I’m absolutely intrigued by the Hat series and Letters of Note.

    If you’re looking for a new book I can thoroughly recommend Lily and the Octopus. Quirky and touching, for anyone who’s ever had a pet.

  • Linda.quatermass

    Everyone brave is forgiven by Chris cleave 
    Not as Ab Fab as the other hand but still a good read. Great characterisation

    Salt creek by Lucy treloar
    I love reading stories about Australia. This is historical fiction so perhaps one for gran or your mum

    The last painting of Sara de vos 
    My best read of 2016. History. Intrigue elegance 

    The natural way of things by charlotte wood. If you haven’t read this yet stop  now. And do so. Or stop calling yourself a feminist. 

  • Libbie

    My work colleague just broke up with her bookclub because she just wasn’t that in to them, or the books. I think I found what she’s been looking for… great list!

  • Cait

    I highly recommend The Secret Keeper by Australian author Kate Morton. This story is so elegantly written, and I loved the plot twists and surprises. I got absorbed into this story so quickly and was constantly thinking about what happened days after I finished the book! This read was very left-field for me as I usually read sci-fi/fantasy. 

    On the sci-fi note, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy is a brilliantly conceived world. It’s got everything including wit). Get on it. 

  • Brooke

    Hi Zoe, I just wanted to say thanks for getting me onto Sali Hughes and her books, Pretty Honest is amazing, so helpful and straight-talky. Would you have any other non-fiction type recs (bit of a non-fiction nerd myself)? Also, I find so many of your recommendations helpful, so thanks!!
    P.S. You should write a self-help book about how to win at life. (I know TR is self-helpy, I read it after B-UP and it was wonderful- main take-away love yourself before you love another-great advice!)

  • Kirra

    Love the recommendations! Can I ask how you cultivated such a beautiful collection of books? Did you consider colour when buying them? Are they all books you’ve read and liked? 
    Thanks lady! 

  • Nicola

    Literally just finished Eleanor & Park on your recommendation Zoe. Loved every page! I wish I’d have read this when I was a teenager, so much so I’m keeping it for my daughter.

  • Madelaine

    Hi Zoe,
     3 days ago I purchased your book ‘playing the field’. I haven’t been able to put it down and I am coming to the end of the book but to my surprise page 277 is missing!! As you know this is such a crucial part in the story and I’m dying to know how the story will read on but I can’t make sense of it with the missing page!! 

  • Emily

    How GOOD is Big Magic!?! That is if you are referring to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. Yours sincerely, Always Reads the Fine Print :)

  • Kate

    I’ve printed out this list as well as the comments… so much wisdom here!

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