This week's theme is books dealing with tough subjects.
I have a fairly stressful day job, so for me reading is about pleasure and escapism, so I tend to avoid the books you might describe as 'tough'. At least that's what I thought until I started to compile the list. Then I had to re-organise my thoughts as I just kept thinking of multiple books covering the same topics and couldn't figure out which to not include. So here's my top 9 tough topics and my favourite books in each.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom - This is the true story of Mitch and his relationship with an old college professor who is dying of ALS, a terrible disease that destroys the body slowly while leaving the mind intact. I think it was well written if I remember rightly. Heart wrenching and emotionally draining at times, but ultimately uplifting and life affirming.
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult - Her books have a little bit of the 'Dilemma of the week' about them. I think Picoult's an engaging writer, but after a while a little predictable. Though with this particular book there was a final twist at the end that I never saw coming That twist turned a good book into a great book. If you've watched the film but not read the book - the book has a much bigger emotional impact than the film, not to mention that the film completely ignores the twist I'm referring to, so go read it. Now.
Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of books about murders. But this one has never been far from my thoughts since reading it in 2007... The Lovely Bones by Alice Seebold - It deals with the murder of an 11 year old girl and the aftermath of her death as she watches from the heavens.
A child called It by Dave Pelzer - My sister and my cousin love these true stories of traumatic childhoods, especially where the child concerned has emerged from their ordeal triumphant and well balanced. I read the first in the trilogy, and I think I cried the whole time. I read the two sequels though the first is the best in my opinion.
A huge category here, and some fabulous books...
Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington - A friend sent me a copy of this when I was living in Australia. A short but powerful true story about the terrible treatment experienced by three Aboriginal girls at the hands of a white regime.
A Time To Kill by John Grisham - This is a story of racism and discrimination in the American justice system, which will leave you thinking about what you would do in the same situation.
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee which tackles the same topic in a different way.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - A brilliant book about black maids and their white bosses in the 1960's.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank (aka The Diary of a Young Girl) - I read this in school in the late 80's, there are other books that deal with the topic, but this is the one I remember.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak - A fantastic story about what it was like to be an ordinary German citizen during the second world war (some events in the book were based on the experiences of the authors grandmother). Narrated by Death himself there are some very poignant passages, and the books manages to be heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. this is one of my favourite books of all time.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon - While not necessarily about a tough issue in plot terms, the narrator's mental health condition is the primary focus, and it serves wonderfully well to illustrate what it's like to live with autism.
The Howling Miller by Aarto Paasilinna - This is a Finnish fable about a man who behaves rather oddly, though not harmfully. He imitates animals, and howls at night. This annoys his neighbours and they turn on him. It's a wonderful story about persecution, mental illness, love and friendship.
Room by Emma Donoghue - Written from the perspective of a five year old child kept captive in a single room with his mother, his innocence is in perfect juxtaposition with the situation he doesn't even realise he's in. Quite a fitting book to include given the events in Cleveland over the last week or so.
The Collector by John Fowles - Frederick Clegg has been watching Miranda Grey for a while, but has a total lack of social skills and can't talk to her. When a windfall makes purchasing an isolated house in the country possible the Collector abducts Miranda and imprisons her in the basement. Written from both perspectives this is a fantastic abduction story.
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay. This is also a story of racism, but I already have a few in that category so I chose identity for this one. It's a huge book, but I read it so quickly, I just couldn't put it down. In terms of identity this is a story about Peekay who through a long series of events pursues his dream of becoming a champion boxer and Oxford University student.