My favourite childhood book - that isn’t Harry Potter, obvs - is Lola Rose by Jacqueline Wilson.
After winning £10,000 on a scratchcard, Nikki, her daughter Jayni and son Kenny escape from her abusive partner and move to London. But we all know you can’t run from your problems forever…
I was nine years old and had read every novel that Jacqueline had written (I was a die hard fan). When I was given Lola Rose I read it in an afternoon, and immediately turned to the first page to start it again.
After whizzing through Lizzie Zipmouth, Glubbslyme and Sleepovers I was conscious that this novel was different. Looking back I realised this was probably the first Young Adult book I’d ever read, and I loved it.
Jacqueline is especially good at handling tough subjects like domestic violence and cancer in a way that’s easy for young readers to comprehend and empathise.
I love the Tesseract by famed author and director, Alex Garland.
Following on from The Beach, Alex Garland's second novel, follows three seemingly disparate stories that converge just this side of possible. Opening pages are reminiscent of a Raymond Chandler detective story: the dirty hotel room that "didn't know it was a hotel, or had forgotten"; the flinty, deep thinking protagonist; a meeting with rough-cut thugs.
I read it when I was in my late teens having been a big fan of Alex’s earlier book, The Beach. It was an addictive page turner and rare for me, one of the few books I’d carve out time to commit to. There’s nothing like living vicariously through others, and the exotic setting of Manila really tapped into my wanderlust for exploring the unknown. It’s edgy, mysterious and ultimately an addictive story where you slowly piece together what’s going on.
My favourite book of all time is A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.
A Visit From The Goon Squad captured me from the first line.
Egan has this magic ability to seamlessly weave together the lives of so many different people – to show the impact an action can have on another life. The real beauty though is that each individual’s story is tantalisingly short. You find yourself so connected to each character and left wanting more as we only get a small glimpse of them in context.
It really is a stunning book, that takes you through all the unexpected twists that life has to offer in 288 pages.
I’m obsessed with Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind.
Hidden in the heart of Barcelona is the 'cemetery of lost books', a labyrinthine library of obscure and forgotten titles. To this library, a man brings his 10-year-old son Daniel. Daniel is allowed to choose one book from the shelves and pulls out 'La Sombra del Viento' by Julian Carax.
As he grows up, several people seem inordinately interested in his find. One night as he is wandering the streets, Daniel is approached by a figure. This man is tracking down every last copy of Carax's work in order to burn them.
What begins as a case of literary curiosity turns into a race to find out the truth behind the life and death of Julian Carax and to save those he left behind.
What is essentially a book about a book is so much more than that. It’s both a witty coming of age tale and an exploration of the dangerous places obsession can lead us.
This is the first translated book that I ever read (Spanish to English), every sentence is beautifully crafted and each character found their way into my heart.
It also made me want to visit Barcelona immediately.
My favourite book is an odd one: The Art of War by Sun Tzu.
It was originally written in the 5th century BC and translated into English in 1905. It teaches you how to succeed in military combat, however it’s taught me much more than that. It’s helped me improve in many aspects of my life, especially in the parts that require lots of self control like competitive gaming.
If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
It also really hammers home the fact that war or violence is a last resort, even back in those times.
The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
I love T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Written for his godchildren and friends in the 1930s, his observations of cats are as true now as they ever were.
Packed full of poems about the curious nature of cats, you’ll find Mr. Mistoffelees in there, he’s the original conjuring cat. There’s Macavity the mystery cat, and even Gus the theatre cat. My sisters and I used to giggle as we recognised the characteristics of all the kitties we knew.
From the Old Gumbie Cat:
But when the day’s hustle and bustle is done,
Then the Gumbie Cat’s work is but hardly begun.
And when all the family’s in bed and asleep,
She tucks up her skirts to the basement to creep.
She is deeply concerned with the ways of the mice-
Their behaviour’s not good and their manners not nice;
So when she has got them lined up on the matting,
She teaches them music, crocheting and tatting.
(The book was adapted by Andrew Lloyd Webber to form the basis of Cats, but I haven’t seen it because musicals make me cringe.)
Why not pick up a copy if you’re owned by a cat and learn a little something about your master?