In honour of World Book Day, several of our authors have shared two of their favourite books and the reasons why these volumes are so special to them.
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1. Gormenghast, by Mervyn Peake (April 1999)
At school, while many of my friends were losing themselves in Lord of the Rings, I preferred the much darker gothic world of Gormenghast. The second book in Mervyn Peake’s series, it reads perfectly well as a stand-alone. It’s populated by wonderful characters who bear names like Swelter, the hugely obese chef, and Flay, a beanpole of a man whose knees sound like snapping twigs when he walks. And then there’s Dr. Prunesquallor, whose limpid eyes appear to swim behind his spectacles. The Penguin edition I have contains Peake’s own illustrations and is one of my all-time favourites.
2. Augustus Carp Esq., by Himself, by Sir Henry Howarth Bashford (March 2017)
This short, comic, novel was published anonymously but later discovered to be the work of Queen Victoria’s physician, Henry Howarth Bashford. Somewhat P. G. Wodehouse in style, it’s the faux autobiography of Augustus Carp, a stuffy, pious, self-aggrandising little man. And, as a member of the Anti-Dramatic and Saltatory Union, and the Society for the Prevention of Strong Drink, never fails to trip himself up by his own pomposity. This hilarious book is a little-known gem.
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1. I Know You Did It by Sue Wallman (May 2021)
There's a killer at Ruby's new school. It's Ruby. This intriguing blurb drew me in immediately, and I wasn’t disappointed. On her first day at a new school, Ruby finds a note on her locker saying “I know you did it”, and she’s terrified someone has found out about the terrible secret which has haunted her for years. This book is a riveting read with many elements I love: suspense, friendships, huge problems to overcome, a sweet romance, intelligent writing, all combined in the perfect teen murder mystery.
2. More Than This by Patrick Ness (September 2013)
Without giving too much away, this unusual story has a shocking beginning, with teenager Seth losing his life as the sea claims him – but then he wakes up! Described as post-apocalyptic, it’s a compelling, imaginative adventure in the life – or perhaps afterlife – of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world. Although it sounds bleak, there is in fact lots of humour and hope, plus mind-blowing twists, which make for a fascinating read.
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I try to read a book a week but recently there have been two I didn’t want to finish! Not
easy reads, neither of them, rather they tackle difficult subjects but in a way that is neither
gratuitous or embellished – it’s the simple truth that is told, and all the more horrific for it.
1. This Fearful Thing by L. M. West (May 2021)
The first of these books is This Fearful Thing by L M West, which follows the historical
figure of Ann Carnell of Southwold, Suffolk, who was accused of being a witch not once
but three times. Told from Ann’s point of view, we are taken into her mind, to the sheer
disbelief she feels when first the accusations are made and then the horror. I would say
this book is calmly told, wherein lies its strength. Having finished it, I got in touch with the
author and was pleased to hear she is penning more books on the witch trials, which I’ll be
the first in line to buy. If you read one book on the persecution of witches, read this, it
opens your eyes to what ordinary people can suffer at the hands of injustice.
2. The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker (May 2021)
The second book I would highly recommend is The First Day of Spring by Nancy
Tucker. Based on the story of serial child killer Mary Bell, again it is not an easy read but
it is a haunting one. Told in the first person from eight-year-old Chrissie and twenty-
five-year-old Julie (her pseudonym as an adult) we learn about extraordinary neglect and
lack of love in a child’s life and what it can lead to. Although it was at Chrissie’s hand that
two children died, we realise that, ultimately, it is the hands of many that murdered them.
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This book was excellent in every respect and has certainly secured its place on my top five novels list. Set across two starkly different centuries - the 7th century B.C. and modern times - it follows the stories of two female characters and their connection to a rare stone carving. Past and present intertwine, weaving together to highlight the enduring, though sometimes threatening, power of art. Cooper’s writing is vivid and his use of imagery exceptional, allowing the reader to become fully immersed in the story.
2. The Pianist of Yarmouk by Aeham Ahmad (March 2019)
When war broke out in Syria, Aeham Ahmad wheeled his piano out onto the streets of Yarmouk and began to play. He played for freedom – to fight against the loneliness brought by conflict.
When I first read Aeham Ahmad’s book, I was struck by the raw honesty of his story. The novel relays the author’s memories of growing up in Yarmouk, near the Syrian capital of Damascus, and the horrors brought by the war. Amidst the gathering piles of rubble, Aeham’s music brought hope to those enduring unimaginable hardships. Most novels convey an overarching message, whether intentionally incorporated or not. The message of Aehem's story is about understanding and accepting, rather than passing judgment.