There is no companion like a particularly brilliant book.
Years ago, I read Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, and found it spoke to me in a way perhaps no other book has. I still think about passages from it, or the experiences of the novel’s protagonist, Esther Greenwood, who is crippled by a deep depression.
Her description of what we can retrospectively term a mental illness, reveals a truth that for the average person, is simply impossible to articulate.
“Wherever I sat,” Plath writes, “on the deck of a ship or at a street cafe in Paris or Bangkok – I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.”
LISTEN: Here’s another brilliant read… Post continues below.
Anyone who has ever been struck by mental illness, will know the feeling of being trapped, unable to escape your own mind.
I spoke to a number of women about the best book they’ve ever read, and why they would so strongly recommend it.
Polly: Mine is The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons because it made me feel THINGS when I read it. I’ve bought it for so many of my friends as a gift and it always then becomes their favourite book.
Andi: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris is my favourite. It’s full of short stories that you can easily pick up, they are funny (like belly laugh funny) and deep all at the same time and let you know that everyone has a crazy family – it’s not just you. I go back to this book so often, especially if I want something to read at the beach, or on the plane or if I can’t commit. Also pretty sure it comes in audio book, and the way he reads it is too good.
Demeter: One Day by David Nicholls. Really well written and a lot of it really resonated. Also, a lot of it is set in Europe, and I was travelling through Europe when I read it, so it felt like I was right there with the characters. Nicholls writes flawed, human characters really well and makes then likeable, and it was different to anything else I’d read. Then they ruined it with that Anne Hathaway movie…
Nama: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling is the best book I’ve ever read. The structure and narrative is incredible. It blew me away, and the plot changed my life because it made me a much more empathetic person.
Jess: The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose. It might sound a bit bizarre at first – it’s about a guy that goes and watches the performance artist Marina Abramovic stare at people, but if you want a book about art, passion, creativity, New York, loneliness and love in all forms, this book has it all. There’s multiple stories going on about multiple very different people, but it’s woven together flawlessly, and it works.
What’s your favourite book of all time?