Fran Lebowitz once said a book is not supposed to be a mirror, but a door. For many of us, this last year may have been punctuated by a series of doors closing. For those of you feeling like inspiration is a stretch too far in these stagnant days, immersing yourself in someone else's narrative is the greatest of escapes. A reminder of the best yet to come. The kind of losing yourself – in new perspectives, new ideas – that's freeing, rather than soul-crushing. Looking for a new library addition, but need a little direction? We’ve curated some delectable reads as recommended to us by our contributors. From biting essays and anti-romance to comforting coming-of-age tales, there’s something in this list to tempt all literary tastes.
As recommended by Pandora Sykes, podcaster and author of How Do We Know We’re Doing It Right?
She says: “I was late to meet Samantha Irby. I say meet, but as the title of her 2017 essay collection suggests, we are destined never to meet in real life, and I write that even as someone who has interviewed Irby, for the podcast series that I co-host. What I really mean, is that I can’t quite believe that it took until this year, for me to discover her filthy, whip-smart writing, courtesy of her third essay collection, Wow, No Thank You.” You can read Pandora's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Raven Smith, columnist and author of Trivial Pursuits
He says: “The book opens with Gill in an un-chummy dormitory in a rehab centre. There’s little to envy. But we travel back in time as he pumps his own stomach, recovering stories from the nest of recovery. We hear of his crippling dyslexia, his love of art without any discernible skills for it, the first rush of love, the marriages that lose their footing like the man himself.” You can read Raven's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Abi Dare, author of The Girl with the Louding Voice
She says: “I must have been about 15 when I spotted The Godfather on my mother’s bookshelf in our Lagos home. I grabbed it, wrapped the back with newspaper to hide the title (because I was forbidden from reading my mother’s novels) and found myself drawn into the world Mario Puzo had expertly created.” You can read Abi's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Harriet Walker, author of The New Girl
She says: “As a book, S&S tends to live in the shadow of Pride & Prejudice; it's more overtly political and, I think, rather more substantial in its emotional wallop for that. At its heart is the issue of income at a time when women of a certain class had neither schooling nor the opportunity to work, were reliant on either father or husband for money, and had to choose between love or stability in marriage.” You can read Harriet's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Emma Firth, BURO.'s Associate Editor
She says: “Though it’s a deeply personal tale, it’s one that invites the reader to question their own model of romanticism. What choices have been made when gripped by a suffocating fear of being abandoned? How much of our perception of who we are is bound by the lens of lovers? It’s something that hits a nerve, for many of us. Often, we don’t want to believe it possible: that we role play(ed), that we adjust(ed) to appear more. Or less. It’s a pathologically accommodating exercise, surely? Auditioning for the role of you, rather than the alternative. Simply existing.” You can read Emma's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Yomi Adegoke, journalist and co-author of Slay In Your Lane
She says: “The deftness, humour and nuance with which Reid comments on issues that are usually the subject of much heavier reads, speaks directly to her skill. Throughout lockdown, I’ve been repeatedly rereading Such a Fun age in the hopes it will make me a better writer. It's everything a fiction debut should be - effortlessly smart, beautifully written and with a hell of a lotl to say. Such a fun read.” You can read Yomi's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommend by Phoebe McDowell, BURO.'s Associate Editor
She says: “If I’d have read The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing aged 15, I’d have said it shaped me. But, I didn’t. I read it aged 28, so instead, it prodded at, and stirred me. Released in 1999, the praise then – and now if you talk to the right people – is deafening. I’ve heard at least three writers say it's the book they wish they’d written, and that they’ve spent time trying to emulate Melissa Bank’s deceptively simple prose. Alas, it’s a near impossible nut to crack. It took the author herself 12 years to finish this series of seven short, interlinking stories that are so perfectly crafted, you can’t help but want to be the protagonist, Jane Rosenal’s best friend.” You can read Phoebe's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Ani Katz, author of A Good Man
She says: “The one novel I’ve read this year that I simply can’t get out of my head. On its face, it is the story of a platonic obsession between two girls at a boarding school in the Alps; more than that, it is a meditation on depression, nihilism, and terminally-stunted lives.” You can read Ani's piece on the rise of discomfort literature here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Frankie McCoy, BURO. contributor
She says: “Doshi draws our relationships, both with the truth and with other people, with words that glitter sharp as shards of broken mirror. As symbolic too, with a lyrical style that occasionally dips into flowery verbiage. Burnt Sugar is a blazing debut, one that sticks in the mind, yes, rather like caramel blackened bitterly to the bottom of a pan. To twist Larkin’s old adage: sure, our mothers might fuck us up. But then maybe we fuck them up too.” You can read Frankie's full review here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Raven Leilani, author of Luster
“When I was writing Luster I really loved reading Audre Lorde’s essays. I love her essays on the erotic in Sister Outsider. It’s so good.” You can read our exclusive interview with Raven here and buy the book here.
As recommended by Clara Strunck, BURO. Contributor
She says: “If you liked Everything I Know About Love, there is much of the same pithily funny, excruciatingly truthful examination here of modern life: Weddings, hen parties and bad dates are all covered with cringingly brilliant accuracy. Alderton’s writing, so lyrical it’s almost poetic, transforms the mundane realities of everyday life into something familiar, yet wonderfully special.” You can read Clara's full review here and buy the book here.
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