Don’t you hate it when everyone’s reading the same book as you? I like feeling that I’m escaping to a place that’s just mine in my few snatched minutes of reading – on the train, in my lunch hour, just before drifting off to sleep. It really ruins it for me to look up on the tube and see three people equally immersed in my story, usually while sitting under a hefty ad for it. It’s hard to fully enjoy the magic of a perfectly constructed sentence, or an unexpectedly beautiful end to a chapter, or a character that leaps off the page and talks to you in a voice so strong it’s virtually audible, when the mouth-breather beside you at the bus stop is also on page 146. It’s like I stop investing in it if I remember it’s mass produced.
It sounds like a weird kind of snobbery, but I have always liked ‘discovering’ books on my own, stumbling across them, being drawn in by a swirl of cover art or a font or an intriguing blurb in a bookshop groaning with possible treasures. I suppose it’s what I’ve always said I hated about hipsters and music – the minute their hidden gem goes mainstream, they can’t stand them. I’m similarly selfish with my reading. I’m the world’s worst book club candidate.
But the marketing bods will get you in the end, and here I am absolutely glued to The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which seems to be taking up roughly a third of London’s ad space right now. According to my Kindle app I’m 22% of the way through, but I still have no idea where it’s going – only that I really, really want to know. The characters are vivid, there’s a mystery that hasn’t quite reared its head yet and lots of art and history references that are making me want to go and google some wider reading. Basically, the perfect novel.
I’m busy. I need addictive. And now I’ve told you and eight more copies will crop up on my commute, but I don’t even care because I’m about to head back to New York and the fictional teen I’m really rooting for.
Top three places I find book recommendations:
1. My family, aka the world’s most competitive/motivational book club. I tend to read them 1-3 years after everyone else.
2. Vanity Fair. Always something intriguing on their ‘hot type’ page.
3. The Kindle store. Seems to have a decent ‘you might like’ algorithm, I’ve had some spot on recommendations from past purchases.
Get your fix: three addictive reads:
1. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
Yep, we all saw this black and neon cover – followed by many rip offs – on holiday or public transport last year, but there’s a reason. Brilliantly dark, twisted and unputdownable.
2. The Book Thief, Markus Zusak
So unlike anything else and so fairy tale beautiful yet real-world gritty, romantics like me will be obsessed from page one.
3. Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
I love Atkinson’s way with words, and this time-jumping, parallel-reality exploring story had me hooked for weeks. Not a short read but a great one.