03/04/13 - A Plethora of Book Recommendations

For a while now, I've been compiling a list of books in my head on which I intended to write reviews.  But the longer and longer that I left it, the less motivation I had to review books which I hadn't read too recently.  And eventually, this idea sprung to mind: why not just make one big post about all of these books?  So that's what I'm doing.

Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
Personally, I am a sucker for any book about food or Paris, so this one was a miraculous find.  It tells the true story of author Elizabeth Bard's experience of falling in love with a Frenchman and moving to Paris, interspersed with recipes which she has picked up along the way.  Witty, heart-warming and intelligently observational, it doesn't romanticise the struggles of Bard uprooting from her life in New York to relocate.  However, the book shows that even in the face of vast cultural differences, food is able to bring people together.  The recipes are eloquently described, so even the most novice of chefs shouldn't find them too hard to contend with.  Although this is primarily a novel, it has become a book which lives in my kitchen, complete with Post-it notes sticking out from my favourite recipes or the ones that I've been meaning to try and notes in all the margins.  And I feel that that is how Elizabeth would have wanted it.  I very strongly recommend to any Francophiles or foodies out there.

The Collector by John Fowles
This is a book I actually read for uni and as it was published in the early 1960s, it's the oldest book on this list.  The plot revolves around a man who kidnaps a female art student and keeps her in a basement - not exactly a fun, light-hearted read.   It's also quite a problematic book in the same way that Nabokov's Lolita is - incidently, another book I would recommend; as a reader, your sympathies are conflicted and it brings into questions a lot of your beliefs about humanity.  I could get into a long spiel about existentialism, but I won't as I can't really pretend to understand it that well myself.  If you're after something a bit challenging, I'd definitely recommend this.  It's creepy and a bit disturbing, but really interesting and well written.

Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy
I intended to write an entire post on this, but when I attempted to, it turned into an incoherent rant about my views on feminism and the way society deals with women.  There were too many conflicting ideas in my head for that ramble to be read by anyone other than myself, so instead I will simply recommend this book.  It is an exploration of how ideas that have previously been considered offensive to feminists (Playboy, the porn industry, etc.; here combined under the title of 'raunch culture') are now being embraced as symbols of feminist sexual liberation, and whether this indicates any progress or just shows how much further society still has to go.  Now, that makes it sound a little heavy-going but the writing style is witty and conversational, making it an informative and enjoyable easy read while analysing the way, particularly American, society reacts to different branches of feminism. 

Grow Up by Ben Brooks
I originally bought this book for my little brother for his sixteenth birthday.  As a boy who used to read quite a lot as a child, when he hit puberty he found that he had other priorities.  For this reason, I make a point of buying him books so that when he feels the urge to read, there is always something there for him to pick up.  I can't remember where I heard about this, but it struck me as just the kind of thing which would get a teenage boy back into reading.  A coming-of-age novel for what has become deemed 'the Facebook generation', with vivid descriptions of frequent drug use and sexual encounters, it is somewhat reminiscent of Channel 4's Skins (not that bastardised American version).  However, I found Brooks' use of language to be beautiful even when describing the most unsavoury of things and although it won't be to everyone's tastes, the novel is hilarious and an absolute joy to read.   I will definitely be seeking out his other novels off the back of reading this.  And Ben Brooks is the same age as me, which makes me a little bit insanely jealous.

Anything by John Green

John Green is definitely one of my favourite authors.  Each of his novels has a very different feel to it, but always his great wit and sparkling way with words.  His protagonists are multi-dimensional, sympathetic and, some might say the most important of all, realistic.  While his language is occasionally more the way I wished more people spoke than the way they actually do, I have never not loved a John Green book.  Looking for Alaska is one of my favourite books of all time and The Fault in Our Stars is probably the most moving and thought-provoking book I've read in the past few years.  A while ago, you couldn't get a John Green novel in a UK bookshop for love nor money, so I am so happy when I go into Waterstone's or wherever now and see plenty of them.  More young people should be reading his books.

Have you read anything that really stuck with you recently?  Pop it in the comments, I'm always looking for more recommendations!