Book recs? I got you.
If you’d asked me as a kid, I probably would have told you I preferred reading books to hanging out with most people.
My parents always had to remind me to stop reading at the dinner table, and my favourite thing to do on weekends was go to the library and take home a big stack of new books to last me through the week (nerd alert).
Honestly, there’s something special about the escapism of reading, and the power of a good book to imprint itself on your brain for weeks, months and years afterwards.
I appreciate every book I read on some level (with a few exceptions), but the best is when you discover a real gem – the ones that stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page. These are the handful that left a lasting impression on me:
His Dark Materials trilogy, Philip Pullman
If you’re into fantasy (and if you’re not … look at your life, look at your choices) this is the one. I’m cheating here and counting all three of the books in one go, but they’re so good it would be a shame to stop after just Northern Lights. These books are so layered, so intricate and so detailed in the world they build that it grabs you right from the start and makes re-reading a hugely rewarding experience, too.
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott
It’s probably telling that on first read, my favourite character out of the March girls was boring, dependable Meg (clearly Jo is the best and most interesting character) but that’s part of the beauty of Little Women. Even as an Asian girl growing up in New Zealand in the early 2000s, I could still find someone I related to in it. The book, with its intimate lens into the lives of four sisters navigating love, family and what it means to be a woman in 1860s New England, still resonates in so many ways – and it goes without saying I’m wildly excited for the Greta Gerwig film coming out soon, too.
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
There’s no easy way to describe this book, except to say that reading it tore a little piece of my heart out in a way no other book has ever done. It’s not the kind of thing you pick up as a beach read on holiday, but I promise you will feel so much richer for adding this to your collection. This is one of the most impactful and rewarding books I’ve ever read – deeply upsetting at times, but worth the journey.
Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel
In all honesty, it’s been many years since I first read this book, but it’s so beautifully written that it’s stayed with me all this time. Emily’s prose is poetic and profoundly elegant, and the story is unlike anything else I’ve read. It takes place after most of the world has been wiped out from an influenza pandemic and follows a group of actors, who are travelling around trying to keep some semblance of art and storytelling alive in a post-apocalyptic society. If it sounds weird, it kind of is, but all I can tell you is it’s definitely worth reading.
Educated, Tara Westover
Part of what I love about reading is that it gives you an insight into lives that are completely different from your own, and this is one of the best examples of that. Educated is a memoir detailing how the author grew up largely without any formal education whatsoever, as part of a devoutly Mormon family living in a remote area of the US. It’s a story about the powerful and often painful struggle of finding your own identity. I didn’t read this one, I devoured it – it’s that good. If you’re looking for a non-fiction pick, I would highly recommend it.