Top Ten Tuesday: Forgotten Favourites

This week’s TTT, hosted as always by The Broke and The Bookish, is about throwbacks; I’m listing some preblogging favourites which I know I loved when I read them but, annoyingly, can’t remember much about now.

The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Obviously I am obsessed with everything Atwood writes; this mythology-inspired novel is beautiful and I optimistically bought a copy last year, planning to reread it. This hasn’t happened yet.

The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe
I can’t really remember anything about this book, which is very annoying as I do know I liked it a lot.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
A massive book which I would probably be put off reading now, due to its potential for preventing me from reading a book a day.

Goodbye Johnny Thunders by Tania Kindersley
I was OBSESSED with this book circa 2006. It is very emo and angsty and features a woman moping around over an unreliable musician boyfriend, which is the kind of life I aspired to when I was 23.

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married by Marian Keyes
I still remember a worrying amount about this book. My mum got me into reading Marian Keyes as a teenager when I’d read everything in the library and it was cheaper to get me to read her books than letting me buy my own. I loved this book and identified very strongly with Lucy.

The Ground Beneath Her Feet by Salman Rushdie
I still sometimes claim this is my favourite book despite not having read it for at least 8 years. I have strong intentions to rectify this in the next few months.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Another frequently claimed favourite, I read this at university which was a depressingly long time ago.

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
I adored this book. I’m quite partial to anything about twins and I loved how creepy and weird this was. Obviously Time Traveler’s Wife is great but I do prefer a book that doesn’t make me nearly drown myself in tears.

How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper
On the subject of drowning in tears, this book upset me so much I can’t believe I’m even talking about it. I have a very strong belief that it needs to be a film with Chris Evans as the lead.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski
I recommend this book all the time despite not having read it since about 2010 and having forgotten all the details except for the fact that its based on Hamlet.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Books That Taunt Me From the Shelves

This week’s TTT, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is about the books we struggled with. In my epic mission to read every book ever written, I come across a few which I cannot bear to read. It makes me feel like a failure.

Ulysses by James Joyce
This is the ultimate one; I was meant to read this at uni and it was SO BLOODY BORING that I read the first chapter, the seventh chapter and the last chapter and then hid the book under my bed.

The Country of Ice Cream Star by Sandra Newman
I had very good intentions of reading this, but, as I recall, the style was really hard to get into, so I gave up. Because I am a terrible quitter.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
I bought this a couple of months ago, fascinated by its premise of a demagogue lunatic winning the US presidential election, but it was dull and, in light of the real life demagogue lunatic, life just seems too short.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
I can’t actually remember why I gave this one up. I think that after about 250 pages it suddenly shifted to a completely different character and I couldn’t be bothered to get involved. I do intend to come back to this one.

Barkskins by Annie Proulx
I am definitely going to go back to this one (in fact, I hope I will have done this by the time this post is up). I did enjoy the first 100 pages and I love Proulx; it’s just really long and hard to hold up because it weighs about a million tonnes.

Back to the Future of Socialism by Peter Hain
I was all inspired by Jeremy Corbyn, which is why I bought this, and I do intend to finish it, but it’s ever so slightly dull, so it continues to sit and glare at me from my bedside table.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Now, I was actually enjoying this a lot, but at one point I had to put it down five years ago to go and vomit (pregnancy is a delight) and now the thought of going back to it makes me ill.

The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King
Last October I decided to read some King to get in the Halloween spirit and everything, but this collection of stories was just pretty boring and blokey.

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
Something else I had strong intentions to read, but the opening chapter was such a struggle that I just decided not to, because I am a grown-up and can do that.

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
I love some of Rushdie’s books (The Ground Beneath Her Feet and Midnight’s Children) so I thought I should read this, but basically just no. Also I took it on holiday to read on the plane and the first thing that happens is a plane crash so, again, no.

Top Ten Tuesday: Is ‘Dysfunctional Family Fiction’ A Genre? It is Now.

This week’sTTT, hosted by The Broke and The Bookish, is all about the hidden gems of a particular genre. For some reason, I have found this topic really difficult, mainly because I don’t particularly read genres. Or do I? I don’t even know. Anyway, I’ve invented one; it’s called Dysfunctional Families and it should definitely have its own section in Waterstones.

The Seed Collectors by Scarlett Thomas
A classic trope of this genre I have just invented is the dead relative/bizarre will, which is what happens here when all of a great aunt’s heirs are left a seed pod. They’re all pretty awful (the heirs, not the seeds) and my mum disliked this book because they all swore too much.

The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson
I really liked this book and its crazy family, with parents to whom everything is a performance and their grown-up children who would really prefer it wasn’t.

A Semi Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
This new YA novel features a family torn to pieces by a curse and a selection of crippling phobias. Esther always dresses in costume. Her brother is so scared of the dark that he tapes over light switches to stop anyone turning them off. Oh, and the grandad is sort-of mates with the Grim Reaper. Standard.

The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver
I can’t think of any of Shriver’s books that feature a properly functioning family unit, but this is a particularly fine example of a group of relations who should just cut their losses and leave each other alone. Living through the complete financial collapse of the USA doesn’t really help.

Beloved by Toni Morrison
I finally read this a few weeks ago and, like all Morrison’s novels, it features a family with some serious issues. Sethe had four children, but two left home and another remains only as a ghost: the eponymous Beloved. This book is super creepy.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
Generations of a Jewish family find their relationships challenged by their own bad behaviour and a global crisis. I loved this book.

Watch Your Mouth by Daniel Handler
Not so much dysfunctional as completely wrong and illegal. Like, they family are all sleeping together. Yeah, it’s not nice.

If You Look For Me, I Am Not There by Sarayu Srivatsa
A mother loses her daughter, whose twin ends up pretending to be his sister. It’s confusing.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Adichie’s books all feature dysfunctional characters, and this one shows the effects of a religious fanatic father on his children.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Obviously this would be a family-in-crisis kind of book, taking its inspiration from Cain and Abel. Also it features one of my favourite messed-up characters of all time in Cathy Ames.

I love a fictional dysfunctional family, so if you have any more novels from this genre I’ve invented to recommend, go right ahead.

Top Ten Tuesday: The Books I Was Forced to Read

Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the Broke and Bookish, is back after its hiatus. I mean, technically it was back last week, but since my brain apparently associates opening my laptop to blog with school, it has been an epic struggle to type anything for 6 weeks. Today’s topic is a back to school freebie, and I’m going to take this opportunity to look back on some of the books I was forced to read during my time at school and university.


Moby Dick by Herman Melville
I bloody hated this book, which I was forced to read as part of my degree. One of my colleagues is obsessed with it and reads it every year, which makes me like him less.

Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
I despised this book when I read it as part of my Victorians module at university and even fell asleep in my seminar on it. I reread it two years ago, however, and loved it, so maybe it’s an age thing.

Quicksand and Passing by Nella Larsen
These books (I had to read an edition that included both of them) really opened my eyes to a whole world of ideas I’d never been exposed to before. It’s another thing I feel like I need to reread.

The Norton Anthology of Poetry
When I received my first reading list before going to university, I was outraged at the cost of this book, but it’s become one of the best purchases of my life; I still keep it on my desk at school and refer to it at least once a week. My original post-its and notes still adorn it and, when I am very famous and someone builds a museum to celebrate me, it will be a crucial artefact.

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Preparing me for a lifetime of reading and being traumatised by Toni Morrison’s books, I read this during my degree (and, I think, Paradise during my MA). It is brilliant, if really disturbing. Like all Morrison’s novels then.

Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey
During my MA, I got really into Westerns while taking some pretentious course called ‘Cinematic Landscapes’ or something. I think I read this book around that time and I have good memories of it.

Libra by Don Delillo
I adored this book about the assassination of JFK and it’s a book I’ve managed to bully several other people into reading. One of the best things I was ever forced to read.

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
I don’t remember much about this one but I do recall really enjoying it, so it’s another that probably needs a reread.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I wrote my best ever undergraduate essay on this book and have plans to reread it soon. It’s a really powerful representation of race and even more relevant now than it was when I first read it.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
I was forced to read this when I was about 13 at school and I remember it was being on e of the silliest and most boring books I’ve ever read. Also why is the dude’s first name the same as his surname? I do wonder whether I missed something with this book, however, as I know it is a favourite of someone whose opinion I really respect.

These days, I delight in my role of forcing my students to read what I want (within reason. The GCSE syllabus, weirdly, does not include that book I just read about the Strokes or my beloved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). What have you been forced to read by cruel educators? Did you love or loathe it?