After a short hiatus last month, this month (and year!) my Reading List is back in full force and I can’t wait to read and discuss some brilliant books with you all.
I, for one, spent my Christmas break whizzing through my December books and planning my January reads with military precision. But before we get into the titles I’ve selected for the month, let’s recap December with some mini book reviews…
To Die For: Is Fashion Outwearing The World? by Lucy Siegle
2018 was arguably the year of woke-ness. And it was pretty empowering to see people doing ‘good’ everywhere.
As somebody that works in the fashion industry, I already had a grasp of the incredibly damaging effects of fast fashion and I even included a chapter on it in my dissertation six years ago that was, oddly enough, a look into blogging and the changing fashion landscape.
Even so, I found it illuminating to reread Lucy Siegle’s explorative non-fiction that explores every aspect of the fast fashion world from material selection, production to marketing.
It’s pretty damming to discover that even though Siegle published this in 2011, much of the outcome hasn’t changed. Stacey Dooley’s recent documentary hammered that home to us all. Although lengthy for the average clothing consumer, this book will very much be your wake-up call and gateway to sustainable shopping and living.
The Book of Lost & Found by Lucy Foley
I discovered this title on a whim at the library back in November and loaned it as soon as I caught glimpse of it, because the hardback edition is just beautiful. Plus, the novel is set in three places: Hertfordshire (where I was born and bred), London and Paris, so I just had to delve in.
Kate Darling is grieving the loss of her mother, an esteemed, once-famous ballerina. And at the same time, her grandmother has fallen ill, bequeathing her with a portrait that bears striking resemblance to her mother.
Told in an alternating timeline between the ’80s (Kate’s time) and the ’30s (the portrait artist’s), Foley uncovers a stunning love story that is indulgent, romantic, laced with glamour and longing, and one that totally captivated me. It isn’t by any means predictable and there is just enough character development to truly explore each character well.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
This was my top pick for November, chosen to poignantly coincide with Remembrance Day. I’d been warned before that it was an emotional one, but I found I didn’t cry, I was just overcome with emotion, grief and shock (once again) that the Holocaust actually happened.
The true story tells of Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew who is taken to one of the many concentration camps at Auschwitz.
‘Lucky’ enough to know multiple languages, he is quickly moved to the position of Tätowierer, where he must permanently mark and scar his fellow prisoners with a unique identity number. In this position, he marks the arm of a woman named Gita, and from that encounter alone, decides he will survive the horrors of the camp and marry her.
I loved this book. I think it’s so important to educate ourselves of the horrors of the Second World War and Holocaust from many angles, because we can always learn from what is already done. As a child, I adored reading Anne Frank’s Diary but it is devastating to learn more from stories like these and realise the tip of the iceberg of what happened.
Lale and Gita’s story is breathtakingly bittersweet and the anecdotes throughout contribute to understanding how even in the most brutal situations, hope, love and tiny moments of goodness continue to blossom. An absolute must-read.
The Christmas Secret by Karen Swan
For some bizarre reason, Mum picked this up for me as a Christmas gift back in 2017.
I don’t tend to gravitate towards these cheesy novels, so it ended up shelved and I didn’t take a second glance at it until I needed something to read right before, well, Christmas. And it is just as cheesy as the title and cover dictates!
Extravagantly long at 400+ pages, The Christmas Secret revolves around Alex Hyde, powerful business coach and lover of expensive power-dressing clothing, and Lochlan Farquhar, the seemingly reckless CEO of Kentallen Distilleries. Alex has been tasked with getting the wild CEO back into shape before he wrecks his career any further, but as you can imagine, it is much more complicated than that.
I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is I disliked about this book, but it could be down to the incredibly long, descriptive pages (yes, pages) of business talk and whisky distillery process descriptions. The romances felt forced and sprung out of nowhere, and character development was minimal to none. In fact, an entire storyline erupts from nowhere in the last quarter of the story! What I did enjoy was the history of Islay and the flashbacks to 1918.
This Side of Paradise by F.Scott Fitzgerald
“This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s romantic and witty first novel, was written when the author was only twenty-three years old.
This semi-autobiographical story of the handsome, indulged, and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame. Now, readers can enjoy the newly edited, authorized version of this early classic of the Jazz Age, based on Fitzgerald’s original manuscript.
In this definitive text, This Side of Paradise captures the rhythms and romance of Fitzgerald’s youth and offers a poignant portrait of the ‘Lost Generation.’”
The Memory Shop by Ella Griffin
“Nora is fleeing London for her childhood home in Dublin after her heart is suddenly torn apart. Back home, she learns she has inherited all of her grandmother’s worldly belongings – a feather shrug, a Tiffany mirror, a gold locket, and many more precious things besides.
With no means of keeping them, and not able to bear auctioning everything off, Nora decides to open The Memory Shop so each object is matched to a perfect new owner.
Soon Nora begins transforming the lives of those around her through the items she pairs them with, helping them find new happiness in unexpected ways. Now if she can only let go of her own past, she might just surprise herself…
An uplifting novel set in a charming Irish community, about love, family and finding your way.”
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
“In Killing Commendatore, a thirty-something portrait painter in Tokyo is abandoned by his wife and finds himself holed up in the mountain home of a famous artist, Tomohiko Amada. When he discovers a previously unseen painting in the attic, he unintentionally opens a circle of mysterious circumstances.
To close it, he must complete a journey that involves a mysterious ringing bell, a two-foot-high physical manifestation of an Idea, a dapper businessman who lives across the valley, a precocious thirteen-year-old girl, a Nazi assassination attempt during World War II in Vienna, a pit in the woods behind the artist’s home, and an underworld haunted by Double Metaphors.
A tour de force of love and loneliness, war and art—as well as a loving homage to The Great Gatsby—Killing Commendatore is a stunning work of imagination from one of our greatest writers.”
You’ll find the downloadable list below, or on my Instagram Stories to screenshot and save for easy reference. Which will you be reading along with me?