When I was a little girl I used to voraciously devour books as fast as I could, losing myself in their fantasy worlds to escape the seeming mundanity of my own. I couldn’t wait to become a grown-up so I could read all the books in the world. Over the years my reading changed from fantastical to educational and I rarely let myself loose myself in the inspired world of an imaginary land. And then 2020 happened, the country I lived in went into lockdown for 3 months, and I suddenly had long stretches of time to immerse myself in any genre of reading that warmed my heart. These are the 9 books that allowed me to traverse universes and inquiry beyond the 4 walls of my little seaside flat.
Normal People has been lavished with praise from critics, longlisted for the Man Booker prize and turned into a television series that I inhaled weeks after reading the book. Sally Rooney writes with such precision that leaves you feeling raw, touched, vulnerable, seen and slightly uncomfortable all at the same time. A tale of a modern-day romance with all the awkwardness and confusion and sensitivity of two people willing to share their hearts with one another. I love the way that the entire novel runs in a fluid way with no quotation marks when characters speak so you have to use your own judgement between their thoughts and the words that are spoken out loud. I personally loved and could fully relate.
THE MOON SISTER
There’s this dreamy, ethereal quality to The Moon Sister that completely captivated me. In some ways, I felt like Lucinda Riley was writing my own story and history. Adopted by one man – Pa Salt – and raised together as sisters, each book focuses on one of the girls as they discover their ancestry and what part of the world they came from. The Moon Sister is Tiggy’s story. You’ll go from Geneva to Scotland to Spain with Tiggy as she discovers her heritage. It’s a very light and playful read that offers true escapism.
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING
I think this is the best fiction book I’ve picked up due to raving recommendations and read in years, so much so I sent a copy of it to my best friend who doesn’t read much but devoured Where The Crawdads Sing. It was the first few pages, where my heart falls in love with that little 4-year-old, abandoned by her mother as she walks down that dusty road, that captured me. I had to know what happens to that little girl. She of course turns into a beautiful woman, entirely led by and in tune with the natural world around her, astounding in her astuteness who falls in love with the boy who taught her to read. And then… unexpectedly ends up on trial for murder. I wish I could unread it and read it again. It’s that good.
MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING
I had been meaning to read Man’s Search For Meaning to learn and understand trauma and how we navigate severe trials in life from a psychological perspective for a while and then decided it was the perfect audiobook to accompany me on my lengthy pandemic-inspired walks during the lockdown. It was better than I expected. The personal story of Victor Frankl is completely captivating as is the observational and almost detached perspective he tells it from narrating descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and giving lessons for spiritual survival. It turns out that the desire we all have to give things meaning is precisely what allows us to survive and even thrive our way out of tragic experiences. If you enjoy really good storytelling, combined with psychology, spirituality and human behaviour it’s such a valuable insight into actively choosing your own perspective and meaning in life.
THE MAGDALENE MANUSCRIPT
I’ve mentioned The Magdalene Manuscript previously in this voice note I recorded on sacred sex etc… and with all this extra time on my hands decided to revisit it. Reading the story of Magdalene from the perspective of her being a high priestess who offered men an opportunity to activate and connect with their own spiritual depth through sexual intimacy while I myself was exploring those aspects of myself felt profound. It’s one of those books that must call to you and draw you in but if you feel it’s for you, it has treasures, wisdom and insights beyond any I’ve found in more conventional books on sex, intimacy and the spiritual depths we can reach in union with another.
THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE
I love The Body Keeps The Score because it affirms so many of my own experiences, observations with clients and hunches yet I’ve never completed reading it so I started again this year. I must confess, I still haven’t finished it (still) but some books, like this one, you are meant to taste, savour and integrate slowly. The subject of embodied trauma and how we can heal it carries tremendous amounts of depth and can be triggering for all of us, so it takes time to move through the molasses of emotions and responses to rise up in response to this smart, inclusive and well-researched body of work.
THE POWER OF NOW
I first picked up this book when I was 24, over 10 years ago, when I was going through an inner transformation and awakening that I thought no one could understand. Until I read The Power Of Now and everything finally made sense. Reading it again during lockdown felt like slipping into a warm, comfortable bath and offered me a contrasting insight into the woman I was when I first read the book and how I have grown and gained self-confidence in my inner wisdom since. A practical handbook to living a spiritual life deeply seated in the present moment, with truly simple guidelines I think this should be required reading for anyone wanting to access and anchor themselves in the now.
CITY OF GIRLS
Another audiobook designated for long walks along the sea or up into the hills of Brighton’s hinterland I literally couldn’t get enough. “Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.” City Of Girls is told via 95-year-old Vivian’s life story. She says she is good at two things in life and that’s sex and sewing. The rest is a colourful life in New York filled with all the adventures a young woman can muster amid showgirls and theatre personalities. The audiobook narrator Blair Brown is incredible in her ability to do all the voices and personalities. I would listen to it again on a long road trip as it is light enough to leave you feeling carefree with enough detail to captivate.
While I have never been a fan of Jessica Simpson I was certainly curious what she could possibly write about her life in a way that would have my good friend and incredible journalist Rosie, recommend it to me. Open Book turns out to be an endearingly vulnerable memoir about the challenges of life, family, fame, beauty and body image, and everything else you can imagine a woman in her position experiencing. I expected to endure it but actually loved it and laughed out loud many times as I listened to her narrate her story on Audible.
Plus 3 books I read or tried to read but couldn’t: Dune which is coming out as a film (thank the gods) later this year because even though I love science fiction, this was really, really hard to get through even the first 100 pages so I gave up, The Signature Of All Things that I feel like should have been good because Elizabeth Gilbert is a genius but was painful and I just couldn’t relate to an old, ugly virgin and Untamed that I bought upon a recommendation from a friend but feel repelled by every time I pick it up so haven’t even read the first page of it.
Photo: Nadia Meli
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