I feel like over the Christmas break, I really got back into the swing of reading. I know that's a long time ago now, but I read three books in about as many days. It was glorious. I am a fast reader, but I think the immediacy of the Internet and the laziness of TV shows have made me into an impatient reader. However fast I am reading, I want to get to the end more quickly. Maybe that's also a mark of how good the books I read over the holidays were. I found a new favourite and re-discovered an old one, which I am currently reading on the bus to work. Reading on the bus is a weird experience; I get so caught up in the world of the book that when I have to close it and go to work I feel an odd sense of loss. I'm looking forward to having a day off so I can really get stuck in! What are you reading at the moment?
Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life, Nina Stibbe
I was given this book for Christmas and before New Year it was cemented as a firm favourite in my collection. I've been raving about it ever since. It's not ground-breaking, in plot or in style, but it is one of the loveliest books I have ever read. It made my heart sing with joy. It was warm, witty and wise; I turned the last page with a heavy heart that I could no longer be a part of the characters' lives.
I say characters, but these are real people. Love, Nina is a collection of letters sent by Nina Stibbe, a nanny working in London, to her sister. The cast of characters includes her boss, the deputy editor of the London Review of Books, and her two children, witty beyond their years from a life surrounded by poets, playwrights and intellectuals. Oh, and Alan Bennett. Their everyday lives are perfectly observed by Nina and we are afforded a cosy and affectionate look into the London literary scene of the 1980s. I was in love with them all by the end. A definite must-read for country getaways and days spent under blankets with a cat purring next to you. It just invokes that sort of spirit.
The Help, Kathryn Stockett
This was one of the books I received from Rosie's Blogger Book-Swap from Lizzie. She honestly couldn't have picked better books for me - it's like she'd taken a peek at my bookshelves ahead of time. If you haven't read or seen The Help, it tells the story of Skeeter, an aspiring writer during the US civil rights movement of the 1960s who decides to write a book detailing the African-American maids' point of view on the white families for which they work and the reality of their situation. It's safe to say that it reduced me to tears at more than one point - both in moments of sadness and anger but also in uplifting moments. I enjoyed that the book is grittier than the film, the ending a little less Hollywood-contrived (although the film is very good, and Emma Stone is a dream as always) and I felt more keenly the risk that the women are taking in telling their stories. It's sensitive, touching and at times, heart-wrenching. Definitely one to pick up if it's raining outside and you want to lose yourself for hours on end.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
The second book sent to me by Lizzie, inspired by my love of 'dark' books. I do love dark literature, which is odd because I hate dark films and TV shows. I'm not sure whether it's because darkness in literature feels less contrived than happiness, which always seems a little too good to be true. Gone Girl is the book that everyone's been talking about, and it's easy to see why. It's a thriller, a mystery with a shocking twist just over halfway that keeps the story fresh and turns the usual girl-missing story on its head. I was reading it on the bus, and having to put it down when I reached my destination was torture. It's slow-going at first but it will grip you. Although the characters weren't likeable, as such, they did draw you in and I found myself wanting a happy ending even though it felt like one was impossible. One to read under the covers at night and put down just as the sun comes up.
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?: And Other Concerns, Mindy Kaling
I've only been dipping in and out of 'The Mindy Project' but having read Mindy Kaling's book I am definitely going to go back and watch it from the beginning. I'm a sucker for a good lady comedian (see also: Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Lena Dunham for starters) and this book is both laugh-out-loud funny and heart-warmingly fuzzy. I wanted to be her BFF and drink wine on the sofa with her after reading this book - Mindy Kaling is my kind of woman. In a series of mini-essays, she talks eloquently about life, love, feminism, comedy, career and family - all with affection and serious smarts. I love that Mindy goes out of her way to be nice, that she thinks that you don't have to be mean to be funny. Can I just say 'hell yes'? My favourite part of the book is a little anecdote about Amy Poehler that will give you faith in humanity. Read this, and then lend it to your best friend.