It’s a fact that reading improves mental health, self-esteem, empathy, concentration and much more, with research showing that those who read for 30 minutes each week are more content than those who do not. The theme of this year’s World Book Night is “Books to Make You Smile”. We can think of no better way to spend an evening than in the company of our favourite authors. Below, Books Editor Orna Mulcahy and THE GLOSS team share what they’re reading now …
Orna Mulcahy, Books Editor
For World Book Night 2021 who wouldn’t like to be in a late-opening book shop, wandering from pile to pile, picking up spanking new books with shiny covers and inhaling the smell of fresh paper … mmm. Hopefully we’ll be there soon but, for now, settling in for the night with a book in hand, will have to do.
What to read? I’m plunging into Geiger by Gustav Skordeman, (Zafre, €14.95) a new Swedish thriller with one of the best opening chapters I’ve read in years. A respectable grandmother answers her phone to hear a one-word code that reactivates a 50 year old mission she must now complete. First step: kill her husband. The bodies pile up in this fascinating reminder of Cold War betrayals.
Praised by Colm Tóibín and Hilary Mantel, Catherine Menon’s debut novel Fragile Monsters (Viking, €17.25) is set in the steamy Malaysian countryside where Durga, visits her grandmother, Mary, in the hope of finding out more about her own mother. As the mercury rises and floods cut off their village, Mary slowly reveals decades of family secrets.
Edmund de Waal follows his best-selling The Hare With The Amber Eyes with Letters to Comondo (Chatto & Windus, €17.25), a stunning book based on the contents of a small museum in Paris dedicated to the Camondo family, who, like de Waal’s forebears, the Ephrussi, were prominent Jewish financiers. Told in letters and photographs, de Waal traces the history of the house and its contents, the connections between the two families and the tragic end of the Camondo dynasty. An absolute jewel of a book.
Sarah Halliwell, Beauty Editor
Books have been uplifting throughout the past year – but not just in the pleasure of reading. It has become part of caring for each other: throughout the year, I’ve been sending and receiving favourite and treasured books (via local bookshops both here – Louisa from Raven Books has been personally delivering books by bicycle – and in the UK, including lovely Topping & Co books in Bath, who specialise in signed first editions, and Daunt Books). Because there are few things nicer than opening up a surprise delivery of a book from a friend – it tells you something about them, shows they’re thinking of you, and lasts far longer than flowers. Jemma sent me Alexandra Shulman’s book about clothes; Zee sent me David Sedaris to make me laugh; Chris sent me a pile of favourites for my birthday, including Where the Crawdads Sing (I must be the last person in Ireland to read this); Clare sent me Ann Patchett’s The Dutch House and chocolate. I send books to friends and family when they sound down or I am just missing them – it’s a way of making a vital connection when it’s not possible to hug or have coffee together.
Síomha Connolly, Digital Editor
I haven’t been so totally moved by a book in a long time, but from the moment I opened Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel, Klara and the Sun, I knew it was a special book. You fall in love instantly with Klara, the main protagonist and an AF (Artificial Friend). Her innocence, emotional intelligence and purity is so moving. In keeping with Ishiguro’s usual themes, the novel explores issues of artificial intelligence, advances in modern science and robotics, and other issues like class and race, love and loyalty. It’s hard to say too much without giving away the storyline, but I promise that this is a book that will stay with you long after you read it, just as Never Let Me Go did all those years ago. So much so that I’ve found it difficult to get into another novel since finishing it a couple of weeks ago. Instead, I’ve been dipping in and out of Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem – essays about Southern California in the ‘60s – as an escape from current times. Next, I’m going to read Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia, a debut novel by a young Cuban author about a Cuban immigrant living in Miami.
Penny McCormick, Deputy Editor
With book shops closed, I’ve been relying on Book Depository to send supplies as well as surprise parcels and recommendations from friends. I’ve just finished Trent Dalton’s Boy Swallows Universe – sent to me by my friend Julia who lives in Brisbane as does Dalton. His book has won every major award there is in Australia and is based on Dalton’s childhood experiences growing up in suburban Brisbane. I found it difficult to define Boy as it straddles so many genres – love, crime, magic, coming of age – think Trainspotting meets James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces.
Less intense is The Last Resort, a collection of ten interlinked short stories I’ve been dipping in and out of by Northern Irish writer Jan Carson Commissioned by Radio 4 and set in a caravan park on the north Antrim coast, the stories take me back to summer holidays on Portstewart Strand, when a Morelli’s icecream was the taste of summer.
I was lucky to receive an advance copy of An Extra Pair of Hands: A story of caring, ageing and everyday acts of love by Kate Mosse. It’s her personal story of helping her mother look after her father through Parkinson’s disease. Honest, moving and (too) near the knuckle this can be read in one sitting (I recommend a box of tissues close to hand). By the way, Kate Mosse will be in conversation with Kazuo Ishiguro this evening from 6pm – 7pm as part of the online programme for World Book Night, for further information on how to join in visit www.worldbooknight.org.
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