For the second time in less than a week, I’m responding to a post by Keri at Midlands Musings. What can I say, the girl inspires me.
And this time it was a specific request. Keri has tagged myself and a bunch of other cool people with blogs (here) and asked us to list our favourite books. A list of fantastic reads for her to add to her already impressive bookshelf and possibly take on honeymoon with her.
Keri, we are kindred spirits. When I was a kid I used to read late into the night using the light that came under the crack of my door. When I had friends over I’d hide in the loo with my book. Working in the bookstore many years later, I used to hide in the children’s section under the pretense of tidying and read a book in short bursts.
The first ‘big’ book I ever finished entirely by myself was Matilda by Roald Dahl and I was in grade 2, seven years old. It’s still one of my favourite books. When I was in grade 3 we used to have reading hour at school. I finished the little beginner books within ten minutes and would then present myself at my teacher’s desk. She ended up calling my mother to tell her I was naughty and not working and my mother had to bring her a stack of my library books (Sweet Valley, The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, Mallory Towers) to prove my reading skills.
You could only take out four books at a time on a children’s library card so my dad had to take me back every evening.
I devoured books.
These days, I have less time but there is always a book next to my bed. I have too many favourites and far too many to recommend, so I’m doing this in batches. The following are non-fiction AMAZING:
The Glass Castle (Jeanette Walls)
One of the most fantastic reads, an absolute must. This is the true story of Jeanette Walls’ life. She is a novelist by profession so this autobiography flows like a story. I often find autobiographies have a jerky feeling to them, the authors stunted by a lack of talent or the facts of the story. This is not the case. Jeanette lived a life too crazy for fiction. The book opens on a scene in New York. She is an established author already and sitting in a cab. She looks out the window and spots her mother, who is homeless and digging through a dumpster. She doesn’t stop the cab. Jeanette’s parents were drifters who never stayed in the same town for long and didn’t believe in authority or structure, not even health care. Ms Walls writes about her childhood from her childhood perspective. She isn’t a victim, she doesn’t speak about abuse or neglect. She writes as she experienced her childhood, which was the norm to her. There’s no bitterness and no anger. It’s the most fantastic read.
The Elephant Whisperer (Lawrence Anthony)
Another true story. This is the tale of how a South African man started a game farm in Natal. One day, not long after he bought the farm, he recieved a call. A herd of elephants on a nearby commercial farm were causing chaos and if they weren’t rehomed in 24 hours, the entire herd would be culled. CHALLENGE ACCEPTED. This is just an amazing book about the bond between an animal and a human, it’s is heartwarming and incredible. It is not a fluffy animal story, it’s a story about real drama and emotion and real life lessons. Mr Anthony wrote another two books, Babylon’s Ark and The Last Rhinos. Both are worth a read. They both saw Lawrence walk into highly volatile war zones to help the animals he knew had no one else. This man was my hero, one of the bravest and most selfless men I have ever read about. And a little tidbit, he died last year (shortly before the release of this third book). His elephants, the herd you will read about in The Elephant Whisperer, had not been seen near his home in eighteen months. On the day he died, hundreds of kilometres away in Johannesburg, they arrived at his bush home (having walked for 12 hours to get there) and didn’t leave for another two days.
Byleveld (Hanlie Retief and Piet Byleveld)
I do love the crime and detective genre, whether it’s a book or a TV series and I am utterly fascinated by serial killers. So this book is right up my alley. It’s local, it’s all true and it’s intense as all hell. It’s the dossier of celebrated detective Piet Byleveld, who is not only widely recognized as South Africa’s top detective but is also celebrated overseas as one of the top detectives in the world. The great thing about the layout of this book is that it tells each case in it’s own chapter, it’s own little story. So you can read it in batches and not get lost. This guy is a genius and, frankly, a bit scary. He worked on some of the most famous serial killer and violent crimes cases in the country, you will definitely recognize them from the news. The best of all the local true-crime books.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Fiction!