Finding beautiful books to give as presents used to be tricky. Not any longer. The arrival of e-books seemed to have propelled publishers into spending more thought and money on striking book covers. So walking into a well-stocked bookstore these days is no longer only a treat for your mind but a feast for your eyes as well. The bookshops are brimming with temptations: colourful, intelligent, artistic even tactile book covers. Combine that with some clever content and you’re in gift heaven. If there ever was a place you could kill off that Christmas shopping list with one stab, it’s in a bookshop.
I have to confess. Shakespeare scares the hell out of me. Plain and simple. I sit through Shakespeare plays with my British-educated friends watching them nod and smile, while I struggle to understand even half of what’s being said. But hasn’t she studied English Literature, you might be thinking? Indeed, I have, but only in my later degrees at which point I could choose other kinds of courses. Which I happily did. The only piece of Shakespeare I’ve ever read (parts of) was King Lear as an undergraduate student in America.
Time to fix that.
Israeli author David Grossman and his translator Jessica Cohen has won this year’s Man Booker International Prize for his intriguingly named book A Horse Walks Into a Bar. It’s the story of a stand-up comedian and his on-stage break-down, but is, according to reviews, ‘neither remotely funny nor an easy read’. Rather it’s a parable for dysfunctional people and societies. Not sure if it goes into the beach read category, but I will buy it for my holiday anyway.
Now here’s an author we think you should know about. English/Canadian David Szalay’s name keeps coming up these days, and for good reasons. Forty-two year old Szalay has four novels to his name, the last of which, All That Man Is, won him a place on this year’s Man Booker Prize short-list. He won the Betty Trask Award in 2008 for his curiously named novel London and the South-East and in 2013 he made it onto Granta magazine’s list of Best of Young British novelists. But most importantly, Szalay writes really, really well.
Sixty-six detective novels and over 2 billion copies sold, Agatha Christie’s success as an author is beaten only by Shakespeare and the Bible. If you haven’t already read them, where should you start? To help you, we’ve chosen our 10 favourites. And don’t forget that these books are great for children aged 11 and older too (very little graphic violence, although they do have sometimes have a spooky atmosphere.)
I have great faith in translated international book prizes, only the best make into the English language market and choosing the very best of those is inevitable going to result in a list of excellent books. I’m thrilled to see Mend the Living and A Whole Life on the list as they are both amongst my absolute favourite recent reads. I’ve also just finished the wonderfully quirky The Vegetarian, unlike anything I’ve read before. And then there is Elena Ferrante’s books, three of which I’ve reviewed on this blog (My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name and Days of Abandonment.) If the quality of those I’ve read is anything to go by, all of these should be amazing reads.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for the summer holidays to begin. They’re just around the corner, so perhaps it’s time to start thinking about which books to read? We have loads of ideas on Bookstoker from light beach reads about Russian oligarchs to non-fiction books about death and poo (!). The blue links are to Bookstoker’s full reviews or snap judgements while the green links are to outside reviews.