Is there anything more divine than losing yourself between the pages of a book? For a few brief chapters, the piles of clean washing disappear and the dirty dishes vanish. Suddenly it’s just you, your imagination and a world of new friends waiting to (hopefully) change your life forever.
Each month we’ll choose a selection of books we think you should add to the pile on your bedside table. Feel free to leave a suggestion for next month in the comments!
For a laugh
Where’d You Go Bernadette, Maria Semple
Maria Semple was a writer on shows like Mad About You and Beverly Hills 90210, and a producer on Arrested Development. She brings a lot of this offbeat humour to Bernadette, fleshing out her story in the form of emails, letters, official documents, psychiatrist’s notes and the occasional emergency room bill. Once you get the picture that this book is like nothing you’ve ever read before, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Bernadette Fox lives in Seattle, but she’d rather be anywhere else. The only thing holding her back? A rising case of agoraphobia. This is bought to the surface when her bright and brainy 15-year old daughter Bee brings home a successful report card and stakes her claim for the promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica.
Instead of sticking around to face her fears, Bernadette does a runner. Now it’s up to Bee to track her down, and ultimately, discover what makes her intriguing, mysterious, fascinating mother tick.
There’s a movie in the works, and Cate Blanchett is rumoured to be up for the role of Bernadette. So get your fix before the secret is out and all those pesky non-book lovers get the chance to fall in love with the Fox family.
For a cry
One Day, David Nicholls
I read this book four years ago and every now and then I still walk past my bookcase and pick it up, just to feel the weight of it in my hands. It’s one of those books that stays with you forever.
Dex and Emma are flawed, funny and fiercely loyal to one another (even when they’re not). The book traces their friendship over the course of 20 years, with each chapter focusing on one day: July 15.
They meet in 1988 after graduating college in Edinburgh. We get to follow them through ups and downs, love and loss, silly mistakes, brilliant careers, awkward experiences, plenty of laughs and a bucket load of tears (theirs and mine!).
It gets pretty heavy, but hang in there because Dex and Emma are like everybody and nobody you’ve ever met before. You’ll see yourself in one or both of them, and you’ll also recognise your friends, lovers and colleagues in different characters throughout the book.
The Neapolitan Novels, Elena Ferrante
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about female friendship, it’s that it cannot be defined. Very rarely is it all sunshine and roses. True friends are the ones who can hold a mirror up to your face, even when the reflection isn’t gonna be pretty. If this sounds familiar, then you need the Neapolitan Novels in your life.
The four-part series was originally published in Italian and has been beautifully translated into English. It follows the lives of two girls who grow up in a small, poor neighbourhood of Naples in the ’50s. Lila and Elena are brought together because neither one of them fits in; both girls are incredibly smart and insanely competitive.
The first book, My Brilliant Friend, opens with 66-year old Elena learning that her friend Lila has disappeared without a trace. Elena is the only person not surprised at this turn of events, and instead of joining the search she sits down to write the story of their lives instead.
Over six decades the girls are driven apart and come back together more times than you can count. Love, marriage and motherhood all feature heavily. But the story is about so much more than that. The words leap off the page and almost cast a spell on the reader. You can almost hear, taste and smell the houses and streets of their tiny village. It’s impossible not to become caught up in their world. The girls aren’t always likable, but that’s what makes them so relatable.
If you’re just beginning the novels now, consider yourself lucky. Those of us jumped on board the first novel back in 2011 had to wait a whole year between installments!
Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
Don’t let the words “time travel” put you off. This isn’t some boring sci-fi novel (sorry sci-fi lovers!) that’s hard to follow and makes you feel like a dumb-dumb if you can’t keep up. It’s fresh, exciting, beautifully told and will have you holding your breath during the climax (it involves Hitler, so you know it’s going to be big).
It’s a tricky one to describe, so stay with me! The heroine of our story, Ursula Todd, is born on a snowy night in 1910. However, she dies before she can take her first breath. Then, the book begins again and Ursula is born on that same snowy night, but this time she draws a lungful of cold air and lets out a great big wail. Life after life begins.
The book covers a lot of history, including two world wars. We follow the fates of Ursula’s family, including her caustic mother Sylvie, her free-spirited Aunt Izzie, her favourite brother Teddy and her doting father Hugh.
Throughout the novel Ursula dies repeatedly, but is always reborn. It might sound like Groundhog Day (without that wet blanket Andie MacDowell) but this book is anything but repetitive. Progress is made, mistakes are corrected, lives are changed, lessons are learned and Ursula soon realises that the fate of civilisation lays squarely in her hands.
One Handed Cooks, Allie Gaunt, Jessica Beaton and Sarah Buckle
I stumbled upon the One Handed Cooks website when my baby first started solids, and it honestly changed my life. That might sound drastic, but I was a first-time mum who wanted to commit to preparing home-cooked meals but wasn’t sure how to actually go about it. The beautiful photos, fresh ingredients and simple instructions did wonders for me and my bub.
When the cookbook was released a few months ago, I was quick to snap it up. There’s something lovely about using a cookbook as opposed to reading a recipe from an iPad or squinting at an iPhone. The pages are already covered in bits of food, and my favourite recipes are becoming dog-eared. That’s when you know you’ve found your food bible.
It’s aimed at babies who are just starting solids, and takes you right through to the school years. The recipes can be adapted to suit the whole family, with suggestions on how to puree meals for young eaters and make a few additions and omissions for everyone else.
It’s healthy without being preachy, and most of the ingredients are things you’ll already have in the cupboard. If you’ve ever tried to make a meal with a baby balanced on your hip, this is the cookbook for you!
Feature image: Garance Dore