Here at GNHQ, we love to swap book suggestions with each other and this month we are sharing everything from short stories to historical fiction. Below is our list of recommended reads from our team covering everything from short stories to historical fiction. Have a browse and find your new favourite page-turner!
Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton
The wildly funny, occasionally heartbreaking and internationally bestselling memoir about growing up, growing older, and learning to navigate friendships, jobs, loss, and love. When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming an adult, journalist and former Sunday Times columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, finding a job, getting drunk, getting dumped, realising that Ivan from the corner shop might just be the only reliable man in her life, and that absolutely no one can ever compare to her best girlfriends. Everything I Know About Love is about bad dates, good friends and—above all else— realising that you are enough.
Why I liked it –
I was recommended this book by so many people as a must read for your 20’s, and when I finished it I could see why. I loved this book because I found the writer, Dolly, and her experiences extremely relatable. At times I almost felt like the book was written about me or any of my friends, as we all experience similar events, milestones and thoughts in our 20’s. This book opened my eyes about love, friendships and life experiences. Dolly places a summary every few chapters of what she knows about love at different stages of her life and seeing these develop from her early teen years to her 30’s is not only heartwarming but also a good lesson. The life advice I received from this book will stay with me forever as I navigate my 20’s. For anyone feeling a bit lost at the prospect of navigating adulthood or even wanting to reminisce on those years that you’re past, this book is amazingly witty as well as extremely inspiring.
Emma by Jane Austen
Emma Woodhouse is a twenty year old woman living in the village Highbury. She is convinced that she will never marry but likes to think that she is naturally gifted when it comes to matchmaking. After successfully carrying out a matchmaking between her governess and Mr. Weston, a village widower, Emma decides that she should find her new friend, Harriet Smith, a match.
Why I liked it –
I had never read a book by Jane Austen but decided to give this a go as the iconic film Clueless is one of my favourites, and I recently learned that it is based on this book. If you’ve already binged all of Bridgerton season 2, Emma is another enjoyable story filled with drama set in the early 19th century. Back when this book was released, Jane Austen teased readers with the idea of a ‘heroine whom no one but myself will much like.’ Certainly, you would think the main character would be hard to like, she is spoiled, intrusive and self-deluded and yet, that’s what I liked about the book. Emma is motivated, witty with a sharp tongue, and throughout the book she is so determined to go against the 19th century belief that one should stay within the class that they are born into. It’s always refreshing and enjoyable to read about a female character with real depth. And as a plus, the cover looks really pretty on my bookshelf.
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achilles, “the best of all the Greeks,” son of the cruel sea goddess Thetis and the legendary king Peleus, is strong, swift, and beautiful, irresistible to all who meet him. Patroclus is an awkward young prince, exiled from his homeland after an act of shocking violence. Brought together by chance, they forge an inseparable bond, despite risking the gods’ wrath. They are trained by the centaur Chiron in the arts of war and medicine, but when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, all the heroes of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the cruel Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.
Why I liked it –
The Song of Achilles has been recommended by everyone I know that has read it, I kept seeing it advertised and in the end I gave in and got it myself. I enjoyed it a lot, it is not a slow read, and it is beautifully written, and very descriptive. What I like the most about the book is how from the start you know it will break your heart, and the characters know it too; but there is still this slight hope that everything will work out. The emotions are pure and raw, a true Greek tragedy filled with love, pride and uncertainty.
All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A beautiful, stunningly ambitious novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II. For Marie-Laure, blind since the age of six, the world is full of mazes. The miniature of a Paris neighbourhood, made by her father to teach her the way home. The microscopic layers within the invaluable diamond that her father guards in the Museum of Natural History. The walled city by the sea, where father and daughter take refuge when the Nazis invade Paris. And a future which draws her ever closer to Werner, a German orphan, destined to labour in the mines until a broken radio fills his life with possibility and brings him to the notice of the Hitler Youth. In this magnificent, deeply moving novel, the stories of Marie-Laure and Werner illuminate the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.
Why I Liked It –
In the interests of transparency, I didn’t immediately love this book. I initially bought it a couple of years ago to read on holidays but put it aside in favour of something lighter and easier to read. Fast forward a couple of years and I recently rediscovered this gem of a novel sitting unread on my bookshelf. I am so glad I gave it a second chance! It is one of the best historical fiction novels I’ve read and even though it is set during WW2, you don’t need to have a particular interest in the war to enjoy the book, its characters and the era they live in. It’s a beautifully descriptive, page turner that is not always an easy read. It tugs at the heart strings and there’s outcomes that you don’t always want but know are inevitable. Unexpectedly, I even felt empathy for the most unlikely characters at times because of how the author presented them as human with their own thoughts and dilemmas on the war. It’s a moving story of love, bravery, hope and above all, the cruelty of war. Particularly apt for the world we live in right now.
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
Fragile Things is a beautiful book of short stories ranging from creative retellings, poetry, spin-offs and science fiction fantasies imagined by the author Neil Gaiman. Fragile Things won the 2007 Locus Award for Best Collection, and “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” won for Best Short Story and was nominated for a Hugo Award. This collection of stories covers romance, vulnerability, other worldly happenings, alien invasions and heartbreak through the lens of science fiction.
Why I liked it –
Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors, he has a charming, daring and enigmatic way with words and these short stories are the perfect introduction to his style. I love this collection because it covers a wide range of human experiences, and presents them in fun, colourful, unnerving, moving and delicate ways. I also love short story collections in general, because they are a lovely way to dip in and out of reading if you have a busy schedule. It was a thrill to read, and the stories have stuck with me long after I first encountered them.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo By Christy Lefteri
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a beautiful and tragic story of the plight of refugee Nuri and his wife, Afra, as they flee from Aleppo in Syria to Europe during the Syrian Civil War. While a work of fiction, it is based on the author’s experience over two summers volunteering in Athens at a refugee centre. The unforgettable love story of a mother blinded by loss and her husband who insists on their survival as they undertake the Syrian refugee trail to Europe.
Why I liked it –
This novel opened my world to not only the terrible plight that refugees endure but it also reminded me that life for any of us can change in an instant. I particularly loved being transported back to life in beautiful pre-war Syria with its rich history and beautiful architecture.
Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a rich and happy life with their son in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo. Then the unimaginable happens. Their son is killed and all their worldly possessions are destroyed by war and they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. Moving, powerful, compassionate, and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a testament to the triumph of the human spirit.
Maeve in America by Maeve Higgins
Fifteen funny and perceptive essays about one woman’s messy path to finding her footing in another country by Irish comedian, author, actor and podcaster Maeve Higgins. Self-aware and full of her signature banter, Maeve in America is also a fearless exploration of some of today’s most urgent concerns: identity, migration, politics and activism.
Why I liked it –
I picked up this book recently from Charlie Byrnes for my daughter Maeve, who is studying in America. It’s a good few years old but It’s filled with funny anecdotes of her different culture shock experiences after moving to New York. I especially laughed out loud reading the chapter on her name Maeve, and another one about her being invited to her first Irish-American gala event and her experience with renting a dress in Manhattan. It’s lighthearted and touching. I am a fan of her banter and her take on living in America. Perfect for a weekend read.