While I know it seems that I’m always out and about, I actually enjoy “quiet time” just as much. I never used to be this way. About 5 years ago, I constantly needed to be surrounded by people. I actually got anxious when I didn’t have plans, or had to be home alone. To solve this, I went through a 12 week process called The Artist’s Way- it’s a book (check it out here), that guides you through uncovering your creative self. You have to go on a date with yourself each week and write in a journal every morning for half an hour. It REALLY helped me become more in touch with myself.
But this is off topic. My point is that I now love alone time, and one of my favourite things to do during this time is read. Reading can transport you into another world, fictional or not, from the comfort of your couch. It broadens your mind, improves your vocabulary and grammar and is one of the most affordable hobbies ever- hours and hours of entertainment for around R200. I love getting book recommendations from others, so I thought I would share my favourite books of all time with you, and I’ve also included links to purchase the most affordable version of the e-book or actual book from Kalahari , who are usually cheapest with books. If you are keen on the e-book then check Amazon too, because they are sometimes cheaper. This selection should give you a fairly good idea of my taste (I read non fiction occasionally but I really am a novel kind of of girl), so if you have suggestions in line with this, then please have a look at book number 10- the Reader’s Choice 🙂
1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
An ethereal novel about magic, love and a mystical circus that is only open from sunrise and sunset. The circus is made up of fantasy elements, like a blooming garden made of ice and a vertical cloud maze where patrons who get lost simply step off and float gently to the floor. I’m not a fan of fantasy usually, but the circus is described so intricately that I completely bought into it.
In addition to the circus, there is a parallel plot- two young magicians are bred to compete with each other from a very young age, and they don’t know about this. Naturally, they fall in love- and the consequences kept me riveted from start to finish.
2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Most of the books on this list are based on happenings during a historic time. Gone Girl is one of the few “modern” novels that I loved. I know most of you would have read it by now, but if you haven’t, you need to! A thriller in the true sense of the word- the story revolves around an unhappy married couple. The wife stages her own murder in her kitchen, and then goes on the run, leaving the husband looking like the culprit- this is her intention and she stages it as such, going as far as to write an entire fictional diary. The book is written in the first person, taking the reader face to face with the characters, and it’s absolutely gripping from start to finish. It also uncovers a few domestic issues that most of us can relate to, and shows how easily a marriage can go off track if you aren’t careful.
3. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A heartbreaking novel, written by the same author who wrote the Kite Runner (another beautiful book), this story infiltrates your heart and throws you into the middle of the characters’ lives. It’s set in Kabul during the time the Taliban took over, and starts with the story of a girl who was forced into marriage at the age of 15. It’s seldom you’ll find a book that makes you feel real emotions, long after you’ve finished it- this book does exactly that.
4. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
Never did I think I’d become so enthralled in the life and ways of a geisha, so much so that I went out and hired the movie straight after completing the book (nowhere near as good.) This fascinating era is described in utmost detail, down to the geisha’s face powder and hair wax. In addition to providing a painstakingly accurate overview of the geisha’s life, the book also hones into one particular geisha, and tells of her story, from birth to retirement. It evokes a completely foreign culture and period of time, and is absolutely fascinating.
5. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts
Ok so this isn’t actually a novel (it’s an autobiography), but the story is so way out that it really could be. It tells the story of an Australian heroin addict who is arrested and given a 19 year sentence. He then escapes from prison and spends 10 years as Australia’s most wanted man. He travels to Mumbai (then called Bombay) and hides out there, and the bulk of the story paints a picture of his life in Mumbai after he joins the mafia and lives in the slums. Having been there twice, you won’t find a more accurate depiction of this crazy, enigmatic, throbbing city. You’ll understand how it is charming and gritty at once, and if you already want to go to India and haven’t yet been, this book will be the push you need to book your flight. Disclaimer: this book is LONG and will take you a while to read.
6. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
This book is probably the most well written one on the list. The author’s use of language is just beautiful. I love reading books that create vivid imagery in my mind, and here, I found myself reading through the similes and metaphors repeatedly, in awe of the author’s talent. Example: rain is described as “slanting silver ropes” that “slammed into loose earth, plowing it up like gunfire.” Newsweek described the book as “a banquet for all the senses”, which I think is pretty spot on. One day, I hope to branch out of food and travel writing and learn to write even a tiny bit like that.
As for the story, it is set in South India in 1969, and tells the story of a troubled family who is not well off, and the challenges and heartbreak they face.
7. White Oleander by Janet Fitch
Why are the best books always about troubled families and hardship? As I write, I’m noticing a trend 🙂 White Oleander tells the story of Ingrid, a brilliant poet who is also a bit psycho, and her daughter, Astrid, who has to deal with the implications of her mother’s misdemeanors, which eventually result in her murdering her love and being imprisoned. Astrid goes from one foster home to the next, each vastly different, but also shockingly realistic. The story lures you in while your heart hopes that Astrid will end up okay. It shows the effects that a troubled childhood can have on a child, and how this carries through into adulthood.
8. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
This is a tale of luck. Narrated by the main character, who is as murderer and a blood stained entrepreneur, the story tells of how he came to be a success in life, by hook or by crook, starting out with nothing. Like Shantaram, you are given a penetrating look into India- the real India. Despite the character being somewhat morally corrupt, I still took to him and found him endearing- I guess honesty and a “realness” does that. I connect with real people (the biggest treat for me is to meet someone who is unapologetically themselves, and reveals that early on), and similarly I connect with real characters in books.
9. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This is another one of those classics that you absolutely have to read. I’ve read a few of Paulo Coelho’s other books but none spoke to me quite like this one. I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but basically it shows you that while you may be searching for a certain something in your life, and go to great lengths to find it, what you’re looking for could have been right in front of you all along. It’s not a long read and it is really inspiring.
Buy the actual book here. I couldn’t find an E-book- boo.
10. Reader’s Choice!
So I really wanted to make this a top ten list, but I couldn’t for the life of me think of a 10th book worthy enough to include. Now that you know what my taste is like, I’m leaving it up to you to recommend a 10th book. Tell me the title and author in the comments below, and I promise to pick one and read it, and replace this paragraph with that book- with a credit to you for suggesting it.
I love how books can connect people. Sometimes you think you have nothing in common with someone, but if you love the same book or the same music it immediately starts things off on a good note. Also, maybe by reading the comments you’ll also get some new ideas of books to read, so PLEASE comment away and share the book love.
I hope you enjoyed this post.