The thing about reading is that it takes you to another place, another time, another life. Once you get into those pages you can be transported away from real life, and all the stress, anxiety and pain that real life can bring with it.
During my breast cancer treatment there were times when I had so much whizzing around my head that I found it difficult to concentrate on a book; re-reading paragraph after paragraph. But, finding the right book, well that was like finding treasure. I could get lost among the pages and momentarily put breast cancer to the back of my mind. I often asked friends and family for book recommendations, rather than just picking one of the bookstore shelf. And whilst books are a personal choice, here is a list of some jolly good reads that you may like (some of which I read during treatment and others are just long term favourites):
A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini. “Mariam is only fifteen when she is sent to Kabul to marry Rasheed. Nearly two decades later, a friendship grows between Mariam and a local teenager, Laila, as strong as the ties between mother and daughter. When the Taliban take over, life becomes a desperate struggle against starvation, brutality and fear. Yet love can move a person to act in unexpected ways, and lead them to overcome the most daunting obstacles with a startling heroism.” One of my favourite books EVER. Love, love, love this book. And actually all Khaled Hosseini’s books are wonderful, try also: The Kite Runner and When the Mountains Echoed.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Yes, a classic. But oh what a wonderful classic. One of my all time favourites. “‘Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.” The sequel to this, Go Set a Watchman (which was published over 50 years after Mockingbird), is also good but I prefer Mockingbird.
Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn. If you haven’t read this then you are in the minority. A definite page turner and it should pique your interest and provide a distraction from the world of breast cancer during your rough days. “Who are you? What have we done to each other? These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy’s friends reveal that she was afraid of him, that she kept secrets from him. He swears it isn’t true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren’t made by him. And then there are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what really did happen to Nick’s beautiful wife?”
The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window and Disappeared, Jonas Jonasson. A lovely, feel good book that I couldn’t put down from the first page. “Sitting quietly in his room in an old people’s home, Allan Karlsson is waiting for a party he doesn’t want to begin. His one-hundredth birthday party to be precise. The Mayor will be there. The press will be there. But, as it turns out, Allan will not . . .Escap”ing (in his slippers) through his bedroom window, into the flowerbed, Allan makes his getaway. And so begins his picaresque and unlikely journey involving criminals, several murders, a suitcase full of cash, and incompetent police. As his escapades unfold, Allan’s earlier life is revealed. A life in which – remarkably – he played a key role behind the scenes in some of the momentous events of the twentieth century.”
The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. This is a pretty long read, but that is a good thing because it is one of those stories that you want to keep going and going. Fab book, loved it. “Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart. Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld. As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.” I also really enjoyed The Secret History which I read a long time ago.
The 19th Wife, David Ebershoff. This is one of the books that I ready during treatment and I can safely say that it was fantastic and it honestly helped the time pass quickly whilst I was engrossed in its pages. Really interesting and I kept checking the facts on google because the whole storyline was so fascinating. Loved it. “Jordan returns from California to Utah to visit his mother in jail. As a teenager he was expelled from his family and religious community, a secretive Mormon offshoot sect. Now his father has been found shot dead in front of his computer, and one of his many wives – Jordan’s mother – is accused of the crime. Over a century earlier, Ann Eliza Young, the nineteenth wife of Brigham Young, Prophet and Leader of the Mormon Church, tells the sensational story of how her own parents were drawn into plural marriage, and how she herself battled for her freedom and escaped her powerful husband, to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States.”
Attonement, Ian McEwan. Oh my, what a book! Emotional, goosebumps and tears. Wonderful. I also read this one during treatment and I could not put it down. “On the hottest day of the summer of 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis sees her sister Cecilia strip off her clothes and plunge into the fountain in the garden of their country house. Watching her too is Robbie Turner who, like Cecilia, has recently come down from Cambridge. By the end of that day, the lives of all three will have been changed for ever, as Briony commits a crime for which she will spend the rest of her life trying to atone.”
A trilogy: Wool, Dust and Shift, Hugh Howey. A bit sci-fi ish, a bit distopian, it will take you away from real life for quite a while because it is set over three books. Such a good trilogy and so captivating. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.”In a ruined and hostile landscape, in a future few have been unlucky enough to survive, a community exists in a giant underground silo. Inside, men and women live an enclosed life full of rules and regulations, of secrets and lies. To live, you must follow the rules. But some don’t. These are the dangerous ones; these are the people who dare to hope and dream, and who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple and deadly. They are allowed outside. Jules is one of these people. She may well be the last.”
The Railway Man, Eric Lomax. Now this book is slightly harrowing and you may want to make sure you are in a good place for reading this. I found it particularly emotional because my Grandfather was in Burma during the war so it was a little bit close to home. However, it really is an excellent read. “During the Second World War Eric Lomax was forced to work on the notorious Burma-Siam Railway and was tortured by the Japanese for making a crude radio. Left emotionally scarred and unable to form normal relationships, Lomax suffered for years until, with the help of his wife, Patti Lomax, and of the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, he came terms with what happened. Fifty years after the terrible events, he was able to meet one of his tormentors.”
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce. Oh what a lovely book. Please please please read this. “When Harold Fry nips out one morning to post a letter, leaving his wife hoovering upstairs, he has no idea that he is about to walk from one end of the country to the other. He has no hiking boots or map, let alone a compass, waterproof or mobile phone. All he knows is that he must keep walking. To save someone else’s life.”
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain. Based on real life events, this is a fascinating book. Very enjoyable. “Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a shy 28-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness when she meets Ernest Hemingway and is captivated by his energy, intensity and burning ambition to write. After a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for France. But glamorous Jazz Age Paris, full of artists and writers, fuelled by alcohol and gossip, is no place for family life and fidelity. Ernest and Hadley’s marriage begins to founder, and the birth of a beloved son serves only to drive them further apart. Then, at last, Ernest’s ferocious literary endeavours begin to bring him recognition – not least from a woman intent on making him her own.”
And here are some familiar books that I dare say you will have heard of. If you haven’t read them then now is the time. All are captivating and can’t-put-down books which will help distract you from all the breast cancer crap going on:
The Hunger Games Trilogy, Suzanne Collins
The Twilight Series, Stephenie Meyer (yes seriously read these, they are not just for teenagers – so enjoyable)
Lord Of the Rings, J R R Tolkien
Harry Potter, J K Rowling. If you have been on another planet for the past twenty odd years and not read these books then now is the time to read them. And no, they are not just for kids! They are FANTASTIC.
Anything by Margaret Atwood including: The Blind Assassin, The Handmaid’s Tale, Oyrx and Crake and Alias Grace. She is an amazing story teller and writer. Her books will really take you away from reality and help provide a super distraction for you. LOVE all her books.
Synopses are thanks to Amazon.