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Three dystopias I read and loved in 2015: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, The Road by Cormac McCarthy and Pure by Julianna Baggott – each one unique but all of them shocking, thrilling, heartbreaking and soul-searching. And all highly recommended.

 

 

I love this talk by Ann Morgan on her year reading her way around the world. Ann noticed that her bookshelf was dominated by American and English titles and set herself a challenge to read a book from every country in the world – and so she did. It made me think about my own reading goals for next year – although at the moment my reading pile is dominated by research books! If you’re inspired by her talk too, here’s Ann’s written guide to reading the world.

 

Of the little worlds that come out of the silence, like prayers, prayed back to the one who prays, make a poem that does not disturb the silence fromThere’s nothing more exciting for a reader than discovering a writer whose words are your soulfood.  In 2015 I had the joy of discovering Wendell Berry’s poem ‘The Peace of Wild Things’, and on doing some research I discovered more and more gems, such as this one. Visit Wendell’s website at http://www.wendellberrybooks.com and discover him for yourself.

 

01-big-magic-book-reviewHere’s another great read of 2015. Elizabeth Gilbert’s latest release had a pretty big bandwagon before it was even published, and I’m very happy to join it. This book is full of down-to-earth advice and insight for creative types. If you want to release your inner artist in 2016, I highly recommend reading Big Magic (if you haven’t already!) and keeping it by your desk for those moments you need a pep talk. I’ll be doing the same.

18169279One of the joys of my studies this year has been coming across so many brilliant books that might otherwise be out of my usual reading range. Australian author Claire Zorn’s YA book The Sky So Heavy is one of these. Fin is just a regular kid at school, getting by in class and trying to suss out how to get the hottest girl in school to notice him. Then missiles are detonated thousands of miles away, and a nuclear winter descends on Australia. Fin’s father and stepmother go out and never come back, leaving Fin and his brother to try to cope as their world slowly disintegrates around them. Never mind the teenagers, I loved it! If you’re still looking for Christmas gifts for the younger generation, Claire also has a new book, The Protected.

IDShot_540x540My favourite book character of 2015 comes from Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. Maud might be losing her mind, but she is sure that her friend is missing, and she’s determined to find out what has happened to her. This is such a bittersweet, intimate portrayal of dementia, and Maud and her tins of peach slices will stay with me for a long time.

I read a short story in 2015 that left me staring at the wall in dumbfounded awe while I tried to absorb it. The story is ‘The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas’ by Ursula Le Guin, written in 1973. I’m not even going to try to sum it up, I’m just going to urge you all to read it, because within its many treasures is a profound and timeless question about every one of us.

Later on in the year I watched Ursula’s acceptance speech at the National Book Awards, and it confirmed that this year I have found someone very special to look up to as I take on new writing challenges in the coming year.

41cMqQTZ7qL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_A few months ago I listened to Carl Honore discuss ‘the slow movement’. He is a great speaker – and as with all those wise motivational people around us, he wasn’t so much telling us things we didn’t know but reminding us to take time to listen to our inner voice and reflect on our approach to modern life. I am always amazed by how my productivity and contentment increases when I slow down – although this year slowness has been a real challenge at times. I am looking forward to reading his books, and introducing more slow strategies into my life!

all-the-light-we-cannot-see-9781476746586_hrMy Book of the Year: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

‘The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children, says the voice. It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with colour and movement. So how does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world of light?’

Marie Laure is blind and has fled with her father from Paris to Saint Malo during the German occupation of World War 2. Werner is a young German radio technician caught in the heart of Hitler’s war. Their lives couldn’t be more distinct, and yet their fate is interwoven. Everything about this book, from its poetic prose to its exquisite attention to detail, is a masterpiece of writing, and it’s my favourite read of 2015.