At On The Record, many of us enjoy having our nose in a book and today we’re letting you join in on the not-so-exclusive book club to find out what we’ve been enjoying. (Image source: Lisa Larson-Walker)
By Chelsea Shepherd | @Chelsea15183902
For many, reading is seen as an escape from real life; turning the pages and transporting our minds to a different place.
Reading is a great way to develop and train the mind.
Since spending copious amounts of time at home since being stood down from my part-time job as a barista, I took to reading as a way to pass the time.
Reading is a vital part of university, but often we are too busy reading textbooks or proofreading our own essays instead of the books we want to read.
I asked members of On the Record to share their favourite book at the moment and why they’d recommend it in the aim of inspiring our readers to take some time and read something a little more enjoyable than textbooks and uni work.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Genre – dystopian fiction
Just before we went into isolation, I set myself the challenge of reading a difficult book. Normally I am a romantic novel tragic but I wanted to broaden my horizons.
With that in mind, I chose The handmaid’s tale by Margaret Atwood. It was very ambitious of me and part of me instantly regretted the decision. With uni just having gone back for the year, all of my focus was on staying on track with my work. It wasn’t until isolation started that I had even opened the first page.
I am not going to lie, at first I really didn’t like the book. It was a challenging read and touched on topics that are very dark and hard to comprehend happening in non-fiction life. Nevertheless, I persevered and it became a really insightful and interesting book to read.
For those who are unaware, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in a theocratic society that has replaced the USA. Handmaids are used to carry children for the wealthy and superior families who are infertile. The story follows June “Offred” Osborne, a handmaid for the Commander and his wife, Serena.
The story is told from her point of view and explores her challenging life as a handmaid as well as flashbacks from her previous life. It tackles very sensitive topics so I warn you for that, however it is a very powerful book. I recommend the novel because it will be a challenge for many in the way that it is written. There is mystery and suspense that will keep you hooked until the last second.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Genre – fantasy
This book follows the quest of Sophie Hatter, a young girl looking to break a curse cast upon her by an evil witch. Along her journey, she must team up with the infamously evil Wizard Howl, his apprentice, a fire demon, a dog and a scarecrow.
My introduction to Howl’s Moving Castle was, like many people, through the popular Studio Ghibli movie adaptation of the same name. Now, if you’re a fan of the movie, you should know that the book contains many differences, mainly in storylines and characters that have been cut from the movie, as so often happens with book-to-movie adaptations. The style is also very different; the movie is a classic Ghibli, with an overarching message of the harm and futility of war, which is not present in the novel at all. However, Jones’ writing style is unique and keeps your attention; the story and dialogue is written like a fairy-tale, but manages to avoid being juvenile, and is overwhelmingly witty. One scene involving an enchanted set of robes and a disgruntled wizard walking down the stairs had me literally laughing out loud. The action is fast-paced, the storyline is quirky, and the writing style is engaging. Highly recommended!
Becoming – a memoir by Michelle Obama
Genre – biography
One of the books I have found myself reading during isolation is Becoming – a memoir written by former first lady Michelle Obama. This book is wonderfully written, and for those put off by politics: Michelle self describes herself as ‘not a politician”. Instead, her book reflects Michelle’s life before, during and after being the first lady of America. Michelle writes so candidly about her experience as a black mother, wife, lawyer and woman navigating the typically white landscape of American politics. I loved every second of this book and absolutely sped through it. It is a reminder that while we are currently facing an uncertain and disturbing global climate, there are still good people in positions of power making important influential decisions.
The Hate Race – a memoir by Maxine Beneba Clarke
Genre – biography
In her memoir about growing up in suburban postcolonial Australia as a black female, Maxine Beneba Clarke portrays the challenging racial truths she experienced throughout her childhood.
This book is, quite frankly, amazing. A truly eye-opening and often sad recount of what it is like to be a person of colour living in Australia. Everyone should read this book as you can learn from it. Clarke perfectly demonstrates just how detrimental discrimination, prejudice and causal racism can be for children, adolescents and adults. Particularly with our world’s current climate, it is important to be aware of the impact that racism has on an individual’s health and well-being.
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima (translated by John Nathan)
Genre – philosophical fiction
Over the course of isolation, I have been reading a Japanese text called The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima and translated by John Nathan. The novel was the first text for a book club I had created during quarantine and it has been one of the most fulfilling reads I have ever had.
The story follows a group of thirteen-year-old boys who grow disillusioned with adulthood only to have their path crossed by a sailor who teaches them alternative paths of manhood. The story is set in Yokohama, Japan, following the Second World War and capitalises on themes of glory, honour, alienation and gender roles.
The book is heavily poetic in its wording and never leaves its reader completely lost in translation. The way the novel explores its narrative and themes through delicate and deep oceanic imagery creates a compelling array of literary allusions, enabling the reader to feel engaged and bound to the story. Truly a unique novel experience.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Genre – historical fiction/romance
The Nightingale is a historical fiction/romance novel set during World War II. When I first started reading it, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but once I got into it, I didn’t want to put it down. And I can now say that it is definitely in my top ten favourite novels.
The story follows two sisters and their experience in France during World War II. With one sister living in Paris, and the other in the country-side, you, as the reader, follow two different, yet similar stories of love and tragedy. This book will have you crying with happiness, sadness and anger as Kristin Hannah has written in a way that delves the reader into the lives and stories of the sisters.
If you love reading about World War II, and you adore love stories, then this is a must-read. I can guarantee that when the story ends, you’ll be craving more.
If you are finding the motivation to occupy your mind with something other than the usual netflix binge, try picking up that book you’ve been meaning to read, or maybe we’ve inspired you to try one of our recommendations.