Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” E.B. White (1899-1985)
On the 24th edition of World Book Day, April 23, 2019, I choose to write about a favourite pastime: reading. Although I don’t remember my first book, I do recall the joy of reading on my own at a young age. A bookmobile serviced our neighbourhood in Edmonton; once a week we’d head to its nearest stop to refresh our supply of reading material. Books featuring Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, The Bobbsey Twins and, later on, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple by Agatha Christie captivated me. Then I took a hiatus from mysteries, turning instead to popular fiction and the classics.
For over 20 years I belonged to The Book Club in Lennoxville. Up to eight women met ten times a year to engage in lively literary — and social — discussions. Agreeing on our book list proved challenging, and time-consuming, but we covered a wide variety of authors and often exchanged opposing opinions of their works. Books we analyzed remain in my memory longer than those I read alone.
As a member of a club, I dutifully finished every book, even when I wasn’t going to rate it highly. These days starting a book no longer means I will reach its end. If it fails to capture me 50 pages in, I set it aside, with a slight apology to the author. Time now seems precious, scarce, and I try to fill my reading time with good books only.
Reading in general enriches our lives as we become acquainted with people from the past and present, journey to different countries and cultures, encounter new experiences and perspectives. Having come full circle, I also once again enjoy delving into the puzzles of the whodunit.
In this post I cast my mind back to some favourite books by genre. Next year I will simply identify my preferred reading of 2019.
- Middlemarch (1871) by George Eliot
- Anna Karenina (1878) by Leo Tolstoy (Tolstoy’s opening sentence — “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” — gave rise to the Anna Karenina Principle.)
- An American Tragedy (1925) by Theodore Dreiser
Fiction (21st century publications only as a way to reduce the choice by many hundreds)
- The Way the Crow Flies (2003) by Ann-Marie MacDonald
- The Book of Negroes (2007) by Lawrence Hill (Hill’s book was published in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand as Someone Knows My Name. Click here for his observations on the change of title.)
- Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (2017) by Gail Honeyman
- Are You Somebody? (1996) by Nuala O’Faolain
- Swing Low (2000) by Miriam Toews
- Educated (2018) by Tara Westover
- Gone Girl (2012) by Gillian Flynn
- The Promise Falls Trilogy (2015-16) by Linwood Barclay
- The Trespasser (2016) by Tana French
- The Devil in the White City (2003) by Erik Larson
- Citizens of London (2010) by Lynne Olson
- One Summer America, 1927 (2013) by Bill Bryson
As many of us base our reading on suggestions from friends, critics, book lists and festivals, plus Oprah’s Book Club, please add your recommended titles in the comments below. ♥
P.S. Interesting fact: the UK and Ireland celebrate World Book Day on the first Thursday in March.