Roll up! Roll up! Read all about it! 

Written by Chloe Hayler

Calling all my fellow book lovers, I have some suggestions for your next greatest read! I am constantly on the hunt for anything that will fuel my literary passions. But recently I have been disappointed to find the same common titles being recycled, like your classic Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, or 1984. It’s not that these aren’t incredible texts; in fact, I think everyone should tick them off at some point. It is about time we praise the ones gathering dust on the shelves. 

First up is my go-to book recommendation that my friends are sick to death of me raving about.

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

The title perfectly surmises how I feel about the writer and the book. The novel follows the life of the titular character, Queenie, detailing her tumultuous relationships, as she navigates the world as a 25-year-old writer in South London. It is a clever exploration of racism, trauma, sexual violence, the complexities of dating, mental health, and childhood. Carty-Williams often adopts a comedic tone as she creates several eye-opening scenarios for Queenie that highlight her struggles with neatly identifying with her Jamaican or British culture. It is bold, politically charged, honest and exceptionally well-written. The novel made Carty-Williams the first Black writer to win Book of the Year at the British Book Awards. However, I think the publication of Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl Woman Other two months after Queenie meant its claim to fame was stunted.

Next up I have a couple of underrated titles from big authors you’ve probably heard of because of that one book which made them ultra popular. 

Persuasion by Jane Austen

From the age of 12, I have been Austen’s self-proclaimed biggest fangirl. I am aware that Pride and Prejudice has become Austen’s most-known text. But, after devouring many of her works multiple times over, I can tell you that there is more to Austen than Mr Darcy. My absolute favourite, Persuasion, is Austen’s examination of the pursuit of happiness as she tells the story of a second chance at love between Anne Elliot and Captain Frederick Wentworth. It is Austen’s last novel, and certainly her most mature in its representation of societal pressures, human nature, the inclination to persuade, as well as time and growth. The writing is pure genius. 

Jazz by Toni Morrison

Morrison’s work is the hardest to rank because they are all so different and wonderfully hard-hitting. Yet they share something so unexplainably Morrison-esque about them that leaves me curling the pages with excitement (I’m sure you’ll relate to this if you’ve ever read a Morrison masterpiece). Jazz has long rolled off my tongue as my top Morrison suggestion, which often comes as a surprise because I suppose the expectation is Beloved will be everyone’s favourite. Jazz, the second instalment of the Beloved trilogy, is dark with a focus on love, violence and desire as it tells the story of Joe and Violet Trace. If you are a fan of literature set in the 1920s or American fiction more generally, then Jazz is a must-read.

Then, the most special part about reading is when I take a chance at a book and I end up completely fixated. 

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is one of those books I am surprised I love.

After a meteor shower blinds most of the population, the few who are sighted become targets and mob violence ensues. Meanwhile, triffid plants with deadly stings and the ability to walk pose a dangerous threat to humankind, which Bill and Josella work to eliminate. This dystopian sci-fi is a frightening but phenomenal read.

Now, I have a marmite relationship with non-fiction texts. I remember the first time I picked up A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich. It was anything but little and I attribute that painful reading experience to when I began loving fiction and pushed aside attempting to understand the construction of Egyptian pyramids. But I do have a non-fiction recommendation up my sleeve.

The Prison Doctor by Dr Amanda Brown is a collection of memoirs from the author who went from working as a GP in a small practice to devoting herself to treating prison inmates. She recounts her experiences and her patients’ stories making it a poignant and eye-opening read. It’ll likely leave you outraged. 

Finally, there is no better book than the perfect bedside table read. They are the ones you can dip in and out of. And they are always in arms reach so you can shove a book in your bag ready for when you’re stuck in those all too familiar train delays.                                     

Here are my top picks for your bedside stack:

Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (and other lies) and It’s Not Ok to Feel Blue (and other lies) by Scarlett Curtis

The former is a collection of pieces from 52 women on what feminism means to them and the latter is filled with over 60 stories on mental health. They are both incredibly inspiring and powerful. The covers are also perfect for decoration.

London Stories Everyman’s Library Pocket Classics 

This is an anthology of short stories from known and unknown writers giving their insights into London. This book is part of an Everyman series, and the London set is just the most nostalgic for me. 

A Happy Poem to End Every Day by Jane McMorland Hunter

Who doesn’t want to end their day positively? With features from William Wordsworth, Emily Brontë and Simon Armitage, these poems also make a great gift. 

I hope my suggestions have given you the burning desire to get reading. And maybe one day I will have my very own book club and we can all sit with a cup of tea and talk about one of the books above. A girl can dream. 

Written by Chloe Hayler, Edited by Paige Tamasi, Photography by Paige TamasiPublished by Paige Tamasi.