I am absolutely certain that I would not be the avid reader I am today if it was not for my dad. My dad read every day of his life. He read to learn. He read to relax. But he also read to hide from the world. I bought him books for Christmases, birthdays, and father’s days. If there was a wall in our house that you could stand a bookcase against then up one went. He visited the library at least once a week. We had to hunt down English language books on our holidays abroad when he inevitably read everything he had packed. If I needed a recommendation growing up, he could hand me something in an instant. And he was still reading huge tomes on that cruelly final day before the cancer took him two years ago, aged fifty-nine. Still when I picture my dad, he has a book in his hand. Everything about my dad’s relationship with books has affected my relationship with books. At this point it is impossible for me to disentangle one from the other.
But just as he was, in a way, always present when I was reading before he passed away, he remains present now, just in a different and often more difficult way. Every time I see a new release in a bookshop or press release that I know he would have loved I feel a pang of remorse that I cannot buy a copy, parcel it up, and post it up north to him in Scotland anymore. When I consider picking up the last few books by Terry Pratchett, ironically published after his own death, I feel frustrated that I get to read them, and my dad does not. And that is not to mention the stack of books that he bought before passing away, which are now sitting on his ‘to be read’ shelf with no hope of ever sharing with him what they have inside. Whenever I do read a book that he loved or recommended to me when he was alive, I am overwhelmed by grief remembering that I cannot talk to him about it or hear him explain why he chose it. When I pop into a bookshop, I wish he could be there. When I visit the library, I remember him taking me there. When I dog ear a page, I hear him telling me to put a bookmark there. And when I pick up a book, he is, in a sense, always there.
But reading is my greatest love. Just as my dad found solace in those tightly bound pages, I turn to books for comfort and relief. If you asked me where I would like to go at any given moment, I would be halfway to the bookshop already. And not a day goes by that I do not read a little bit of something. The library was my favourite place to visit as a child and really, I am still that same little girl two decades on. I am still my father’s daughter. And I do not want to be anything else.
So, I am learning. I am learning take comfort in the books he loved even when he cannot tell me why. I want to be able to pick up Émile Zola and remember that it was my dad who recommended I read him in the first place. I want to be able to engross myself in the kind of prose my dad always cherished and experience them for myself. I do not want to push the memory of my dad to the side and clamber to find my complete independence as a reader. I still want to share everything about this beautiful and enlightening pastime with him, even if he cannot be here himself. I want to embrace all of these emotions, this sadness and love, and find joy in the fact that reading was a gift my dad gave me and that one of the best parts of me was a part of him as well.
I recently joined Scribd – an app that allows you to listen to unlimited audiobooks and read unlimited ebooks for a set monthly price. Like with anything else my instant instinct since signing up has been to troll their catalogues for books that spark my interest, in particular audiobooks because it’s a massive saving listening this way. As an avid audiobook listener, however, where was I to start – their selection seems endless. So apart from searching the app I’ve been asking on Twitter for recommendations, and using google to look for other Scribd users favourite audiobooks. During this proccess it occured to me that if you are looking for something, chances are, someone else is too. And since I’m asking for your help I thought perhaps I could also lend a hand of my own. Which brings us to this blog post where I’m going to share my selection of the best audiobooks currently available on Scribd (this may vary depending on the country you’re listening in). Most of these I have already listened to either prior to downloading Scribd or since I installed the app but a few are books I’m incredibly excited to listen to myself in the coming weeks and months. I hope you find some recommendations from this list and do let me know what audiobooks on Scribd you would recommend.
I knew finally signing up to my local library in London would be a good thing! Binti has been on my radar for a few years; it consistently pops up on sci-fi readers’ channels on BookTube and in particular Elizabeth from BooksandPieces sells this story with infectious passion. Now I’m no hard-core science fiction reader. I enjoy John Wyndham and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy plus I’ll devour any dystopian novel you hand me. Aside from Douglas Adams, my experience with stories sent in space itself, however, extends as far as Dr. Who, Star Trek: Next Generation and Firefly. It’s not something I’ve actually read a terrible amount of. But if anything could convince me to do so it is Binti.
This book blew me away with the emotional impact it was able to have in less than one hundred pages. A novella as opposed to a full-length novel this book is the first in a series, of which two more are already available (and I’m half way through number two). It follows our protagonist Binti, a member of the Himba people who are one of multiple cultures that live on Earth. The Himba tend to remain in their own community and never do they leave Earth. Binti, however, is the first of her people to have been offered a place at Oomza University, situated on a planet other than her own, and she is not about to turn it down.
This is the first book I have read by Libba Bray who is, in fact, quite the prolific author and incredibly popular amongst fans of Young Adult literature. My interest was peaked in Bray’s writing after reading an article she had written here for EW that Monica from SheMightBeMonica shared online. Upon reading Bray’s article I immediately ordered both A Great and Terrible Beauty and Beauty Queens by the author. Seeing her discuss the influences and objectives of her young adult work made me see them in a much more complex light than perhaps the blurbs alone would have. Not only did my first foray into her work not disappoint, it far exceeded all of my expectations. A Great and Terrible Beauty is the first in her Gemma Doyle series and what a beginning it is.
The year is 1895 and our story follows Gemma Doyle, a young woman from a wealthy English family who has spent her entire life thus far growing up in India. After tragedy strikes, however, her life is uprooted and she is sent to board at a girls’ finishing school in England. Her life in England is far more than elocution lessons and keeping up with this season’s latest fashions; Miss Doyle is haunted by visions of another world, one both terrifying and beautiful.
This book melds together 19th century Britain, female friendships, sexual awakenings and magic. The story and characters are engaging and mysterious with so much more bubbling under the surface. There is so much I enjoyed about this first book in the series that it is difficult to condense my feelings for you in one blog post, but here I go.
Rarely does an author’s debut novel accomplish everything it sets out to do. Hollow Pike sets up a premise, introduces us to its characters and takes us on a journey that ticks every box the reader is looking for it to fulfill. The novel itself first came out in 2012 and is not my first foray into Juno Dawsons’s writing. I had previously read Say Her Name when it was released in 2014, a novel which also falls into the Young Adult Thriller/Horror genre, and shortly before picking up Hollow Pike I had finished listening to the audiobook of Dawson’s first adult nonfiction work The Gender Games. In fact, it was listening to The Gender Games that had me itching to finally pick Hollow Pike up from my shelf having acquired it shortly after finishing Say Her Name. This is not a review of The Gender Games but I think it is safe to say that the book had to be pretty good to have me jumping straight into another work by that same author.
Hollow Pike, as I have mentioned, is a Young Adult book that could be described as a thriller or even horror novel. Due perhaps to the flexibility of Young Adult writing, where Dawson herself feels authors are freed from the confines of a single genre, Hollow Pike offers a little more than goosebumps. The book follows Lis who has recently moved from her high school in Wales to one in Hollow Pike, Yorkshire, after a bad bought of bullying at her last school. Bullying, moving, new environments, making friends and first romances are all prevalent themes throughout the novel; all accompanied by a good, creepy mystery.
This book was first put on my radar when it was longlisted for The Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction this year (2017). And let me tell you, I will be forever grateful it did. For me, the experience of reading this book demonstrates what is so magical about the Women’s Prize for Fiction, as without it I may never have picked Stay With Me up. Which would, I assure you, have been a great loss for me.
The book itself takes place in 1980s Nigeria and predominantly follows Yejidi, whose husband Akin, in the very first few pages of the book, takes a second wife without informing Yejidi that he is about to do so. Although he is not alone in their circle of family and friends to marry multiple women he did so against the express wishes of his first wife. The reason that Yejidi’s life is suddenly turned upside down is due to her inability thus far in their marriage to conceive a child and the pressure that has incurred from Akin’s family to find a wife who can. From that point on nothing unfolds as you might predict.
That’s right everyone, I have met my Goodreads reading goal for 2017! We are two months into the year and I’ve already hit that coveted goal, so why bother reading any more for the next ten months? Bring on the TV binge watching.
I know that last year when I changed my Goodreads reading goal to 10 books I had a few questions about why I’d set my challenge to such a ‘low’ target. Since this is a number I have decided to stick with I thought I might address the issue of ‘why’ in a wee blog post.