Books You Need In Your Life, April-June 2019

pile of books with spines visible, placed on white table with decorative flower in the background

Another quarter brings another reading wrap-up. And since this one is one of my favourite bookish posts I’ve written in a long time, thanks to some truly brilliant reads, let’s jump right into it…

Links marked with * are affiliate links: I earn a small commission from any purchase made by following these links, at no extra cost to you.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – Wordsworth Collector’s Edition*

“Have we really only another mile to go before we get home? I’m glad and I’m sorry. I’m sorry because this drive has been so pleasant and I’m always sorry when pleasant things end. Something still pleasanter may come after, but you can never be sure. And it’s so often the case that it isn’t pleasanter. That has been my experience anyhow. But I’m glad to think of getting home. You see, I’ve never had a real home since I can remember.”

Set in Canada in the late 19th Century, you’d be forgiven for questioning just how much universal appeal Anne of Green Gables holds for readers today. And as somebody possibly as far removed from Anne’s own circumstances and way of life myself, I can tell you: a HECK of a lot. I challenge you to read this book and disagree.

hand holding beige illustrated Anne Of Green Gables cover up in front of rainbow bookshelves

It’s just such an enchanting read, featuring a dynamic protagonist with a presence like no other. I absolutely loved the subtle complexities of Anne’s character: the feistiness and instinct for adventure, and the ‘scope for imagination’ that constantly lands her in hot water, yet the innate desire to try and be good and obedient, and a credit to those who raised her.

Whilst parts of the novel are utterly charming and more traditionalist, I was surprised at how progressive the book was in terms of feminism too. Even in a typically patriarchal setting, it was amazing to see several strong female characters, doing things in their own way and neatly sidestepping obstacles that were bound to hold them back. As much as I detest the word, I actually found it quite inspiring how so many of the characters were so refreshingly innocent, yet unwaveringly standing on their own two feet when they needed to.

I don’t know, this book gave me *all the feels*. I just think there’s something so universally relatable about the theme of going through life and stumbling across unexpected forks in the road that necessitate re-establishing your goals and dreams. There was one paragraph at the end that really got me, which, without spoiling the story, portrayed Anne taking stock of her new situation and acknowledging that yes, her world had become smaller and yes, she would have to adjust her goals and expectations accordingly, but that she would do her best to prosper and achieve within those new walls regardless. And without getting too sentimental, if I can look back at this time of my life and be able to say I did the same thing, it’s something I’ll be really proud of one day.

Milkman by Anna Burns – Faber & Faber*

“So shiny was bad, and ‘too sad’ was bad, and ‘too joyous’ was bad, which meant you had to go around not being anything; also not thinking, least not at top level, which was why everybody kept their private thoughts safe and sound in those recesses underneath.”

milkman book with red-orange hued cover, placed on pale pink blanket backgroundWhat initially drew me to Milkman, besides the Man Booker Prize win, was the concept of the characters having no identifiable names: each is assigned a characteristic label, such as our protagonist Middle Child, and I commenced reading expecting identity to be one of the more central themes of the book.

I’ll admit to being disappointed in that respect: besides from the stating of facts about names, very little of the narrative seemed to be explicitly related to identity and the collective anonymity of the town the story is set in. Instead, Milkman accentuates the cultural and political turbulence of Northern Ireland during The Troubles, and quite frankly, in doing so often becomes quite an uncomfortable and harrowing read. The author certainly doesn’t shy away from articulating the violence of the environment, or indeed the violence Middle Child was devastatingly experiencing in her personal life, whilst none of those around her took stock of her cries for help.

The heavy subject matter combined with the unique narrative voice of Middle Child, quite literally following her trains of thought away from the here and now, means that the book is quite a challenging read: for me, it took quite a lot of focus and brain power to not let my own thoughts drift away whilst reading the lengthy sentences and deviations, something that doesn’t happen to me very often at all.  I was conflicted on whether or not to include this book as a favourite, however due to the light it sheds on the subject matter that many of us are privileged enough never to have even the slightest clue into, I’d still advise at least giving this read a go. I’d be really interested to hear from anyone else who’s read Milkman: what did you think?

Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne – Ishi Press (Original)*

“‘And if anyone knows anything about anything,’ said Bear to himself, “it’s Owl who knows something about something,’ he said, ‘or my name’s not Winnie-the-Pooh,’ he said. ‘Which it is,’ he added. ‘So there you are.'”

Instagram Story screenshot of hand holding beige Winnie The Pooh book with train seat visible in background

Oh guys. It had been a long time since I last read Winnie-the-Pooh, but I’ll never leave it so long again. There’s something so comforting about reading a book that feels so familiar and yet you can’t remember the exact details of the narrative: it made me absolutely devour the short, individual stories that make up this book, and I felt a genuine pang of sadness as I turned the final page.

I think the thing that appeals the most about Winnie-the-Pooh is the magical, charming sense of naivety in the stories and characters, combined with the somewhat concealed morals and meanings that go much deeper. You can interpret the stories in one way on the surface, and in a completely different way beneath it.

The result of that is a book that you enjoy when you’re little for the enchanting characters and the stories, the perfect bedtime read, but also one you appreciate all the more as an adult for the profound but subtle literary creativity. Even simple elements, like that unique capitalisation of words and phrases, mark the book as one of a kind, even more so now as it’s undoubtedly stood the test of time. In my opinion, nothing has come close to mirroring the originality of A. A. Milne’s work since, and I doubt it ever will. It’s safe to say this one is never leaving my bookshelf again.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary* – Quercus

“‘Twilight?’ Leon blinks at me, putting the book down in his lap. ‘You went from unconscious to judgemental very quickly there.’ ‘I did think it was a weird dream for a second,’ I say. ‘But my dream version of you would have much better book taste.'”

Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare has to be one of the greatest releases of 2019. Uplifting and humorous, yet pretty incomparable to any other books in the same genre, it’s an ideal summer read for bookish folk and casual readers alike. Tiffy and Leon, young adults and perfect strangers, establishing career paths in London with limited financial resources, find themselves in a somewhat unconventional agreement. They share a flat, and a bed, much to the astonishment of those around them, but with Tiffy working 9am-5pm and Leon only on night-shifts, they never meet face to face. Instead, they communicate only through post-it notes, and eventually texts, for months on end, both of them unintentionally learning more about the other.

It’s been a while since I shipped two fictional characters as much as I did these two: I’m not typically a huge fan of gushy, Tumblr romances in novels, and I’ll be honest and say the plot of book was predictable pretty much from the beginning, but personally it didn’t take any of the enjoyment out of the reading process for me. These two characters were endearing and yet full of faults (the kind that made you want to grab them by their fictional shoulders and give them a good talking to about their life decisions), and they had my heart from the very beginning. In fact, I was rooting for them so hard that the following happened…

Despite such a unique subject matter, there were still many elements of the characters and the situation that many young people will likely find themselves relating to. The Flatshare solidified my suspicion that urban London living isn’t for everybody, but any read that genuinely makes you want to uproot your life and share a bed with a complete stranger after reading it, has to be pretty blummin’ impactful…


That’s it for now, but don’t forget, you can find all of the books mentioned here on my Amazon Storefront* with Amazon Influencers, along with all my other favourites from this year. Do let me know if you decide to give any of them a go and how you find them, as I’m always up for a bookish chat.

As always, recommendations of your own are very gratefully received: if there’s a read that you think should be in my next Books You Need In Your Life series, I’d love to hear about it. In the meantime, do browse through my other bookish postscheck out my own charity book ‘Dear Chronic Illness’, and keep up with all my current reads (including the books I’m considerably less enthusiastic about…) over on Goodreads. Happy reading!

Links marked with * are affiliate links: I earn a small commission from any purchase made by following these links, at no extra cost to you.

I’m also very grateful to receive books from various publishers and authors, some of which are included in my posts. Others are re-reads of old favourites, and most are purchased of my own accord. I’d like to make clear that (unless otherwise disclosed), I’m under no obligation to review any of the complimentary books I receive, so do be assured that all of the reads included in this post are genuine favourites of mine that I hope you’ll enjoy too!

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