If you’ve followed me on Instagram for a while, you’ll know I’m a self-confessed bookworm. I love reading books, buying books, and talking about books. Reading is a huge part of my life and there’s nothing I love more than enjoying other people’s recommendations. Most of the books I read are titles suggested by friends, ones I’ve seen reviewed online or in magazines, or (increasingly these days) recommendations from The High Low podcast.*
*If you don’t already listen to the High Low, it’s a pop culture and current affairs podcast hosted by journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes. And it’s totally and utterly brilliant. There reading recommendations especially are spot-on. Literally everyone I’ve recommended it to loves the podcast, so give it a try if you’re looking for something new to listen to!
Anyway, I digress. I wanted to dedicate a new section of my blog to reading and book recommendations. I’ll try and update it monthly (or at least seasonally) as a way of sharing books I’ve absolutely loved. If that sounds like your sort of thing, please do read on!
The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden
The Winter of the Witch was without doubt one of my most-anticipated reads of 2019. It’s the conclusion to a three-part series known as the Winternight trilogy by Katherine Arden. If you haven’t read the first two books – The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower – then definitely start there. You’ve got a treat ahead.
I remember asking for reading recommendations on Instagram back in February 2017 and so many people told me I had to read The Bear and the Nightingale. I am so, so glad I listened.
The series follows the life of a young girl, Vasya, as she grows up in medieval Russia. It’s the most compelling blend of historical fiction, fantasy, folklore and magic and Vasya will forever be one of my favourite heroines.
I’m always a little trepidatious when it comes to the final book in a series. Will it be a satisfying ending? Will all my burning questions be answered? I needn’t have worried with The Winter of the Witch. I was spellbound from the first page.
Recommended if: you love historical fantasy or are looking for a cosy, enchanting winter read.
Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield
When I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the campaign championing the release of Once Upon a River, I really didn’t think twice. I hadn’t read Diane Setterfield’s first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, but I’d heard enough people raving about it to know I was win safe hands with Once Upon a River.
The story opens on a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames, the regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open and in steps an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a child.
Hours later, the dead girl stirs, takes and breath and returns to life.
Is it a miracle?
Is it magic?
And who does the little girl belong to?
Hooked? I know I was. This story is absolutely compelling. It’s a little bit haunting, I’d say, but completely beguiling right from the off. The atmosphere is so rich and you can just feel yourself slipping into the story.
Recommend if: you’re looking for a rich, suspenseful mystery with a hint of folklore and magic.
Normal People by Sally Rooney
It’s almost impossible to avoid Sally Rooney’s Normal People at the moment. It’s a huge success – a Sunday Times bestseller and long listed for the Man Booker Prize, to name a few of its accolades. I first heard about it on the High Low and though it’s out of my usual genre comfort zone (as you can tell from the first two titles, I read a lot of fantasy!) I immediately knew I wanted to read it.
Normal People is the story of Connell and Marianne who both grow up in the same rural town in Ireland. It’s a love story and an examination into how one person can impact the life of another.
It’s not an easy read, certainly; it’s discomforting and a little menacing at times. I didn’t particularly warm to the characters but oh my gosh is this book compelling. Love it or hate it, I guarantee you won’t be able to put it down. There’s something so evocative about Rooney’s prose and dialogue – I just couldn’t look away from. Give it a try, I’d love to know what you make of it!
Recommend if: you’re looking for a contemporary novel about love and life.