I’d like to say I’m a prolific reader, but sadly in between juggling a full-time job and squeezing writing into my spare time, my ability to devour a book or two a week has gone out the window.
However, I still manage to get through a couple of books a month, and sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the thriller genre and read something different. For me, it helps clean my palette, if you like, and gives me a different angle to view storytelling from.
I thought I’d share some of the different books and genres I’ve enjoyed over the past few years. Feel free to add any recommendations of your own in the comments section at the end, as I’m always open to suggestions
I’m using a broad brush stroke with this heading, as there are so many good books spanning hundreds of years of history that sit on my bookshelves.
The Shardlake series by C J Sansom is one of those series where I eagerly await the next book as soon as I’ve finished the current one. Matthew Shardlake is a lawyer during the reign of Henry VIII, and the books centre around the corruption and fear that pervade the monarch’s rule. One false move or misplaced word is liable to put Shardlake in serious jeopardy while he attempts to solve crimes and take a stance for justice. The books are a compelling read as they follow the years of the Tudor monarch’s rule and his ailing health. I always buy the paperbacks of these because the cover artwork is so beautiful.
Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth is an obvious choice to include here, but I actually preferred the sequel, World Without End. Almost at once, I was drawn into that period of time – the images Follett evokes with his writing is magical; from the building of a stone bridge, through to a market trader struggling to join the guild – each character’s struggle is drawn in vivid detail, with a clever plot line that weaves them all together.
I’ve put these two together, and I know I might annoy purists by doing that, but I’m still learning all the sub-genres of sci-fi, so bear with me!
I was never a fan of sci-fi books (although I’ve loved a lot of sci-fi films), until I read Amanda Bridgeman’s Aurora: Darwin and I realised how similar space opera is to thrillers. This book, the first in the Aurora series, is fast-paced, has superb characters, and the same adrenalin-infused action that I’d have expected from any thriller. You can read my review of both Aurora: Darwin and the second in the series, Aurora: Pegasus on Goodreads.
I’ve just finished reading Andy Weir’s The Martian and I know I’ll probably be berated for putting it under the sci-fi heading, as the story offers so much more – it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year, mostly because of the way in which the main character, Mark Watney, is so utterly bewildered and frustrated by his predicament. The story is, for the most part, told from the point of view of Watney’s daily log, but it’s the self-depreciating comments and the ways complex science is explained that made it so appealing to me. You can read my review on Goodreads here if you want to find out more
I hadn’t considered reading anything in the fantasy genre, until a good friend suggested I take a look at the Harry Dresden series by Jim Butcher.
Never one to turn down a good book recommendation, I bought Storm Front for my Kindle, devoured it over one weekend, then ordered the paperback format along with all the others in the series – I was hooked!
If you’re not aware of the series, essentially it’s about a Chicago private detective who also happens to be a wizard. The prose is snappy, the action scenes are beautifully described, and a great sense of humour is peppered throughout, without being too flippant. If you’ve never read fantasy before, I’d recommend starting with this series.
I haven’t really explored the genre further (unless you count Harry Potter, and I still love those books), so if anyone’s got any reading suggestions based on my love of the Harry Dresden series, do feel free to let me have the details either in the comments section below, or via my contact form
Australian Rural Romance
There are some truly wonderful storytellers in Australia, and these books have had me blubbing over their pages, as well as giving an insight into what it’s like living in other parts of this vast country.
Rachael Johns is an award-winning romance author from WA whose books Jilted and Outback Dreams I’ve very much enjoyed. Focussing on relationships in small townships and communities, Rachael has a knack for noticing the small things, and her skills lie in truly bringing her characters to life. Highly recommended.
Other authors in this genre include Fiona Palmer, Jenn J McLeod, and Charlotte Nash - all well worth a read.
I have a few of these on my shelf, and they’re the ones that I read every couple of years, as I simply love the stories.
Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities are my favourite Charles Dickens’ books. With Great Expectations, it’s because of that scene on the marshes with the prison hulks appearing through the mist – it’s so evocative and eerie. I love A Tale of Two Cities simply for the great descriptions of London at that time, and the wonderful way in which every character is detailed in such a way that they really come to life in your imagination.
I first read Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn as a teenager and I still enjoy the tale of smugglers on the Cornish coastline. The atmospherics are second to none in this novel, and again, it’s the author’s knack of making you feel like you’re actually there is why I’ll go back and read this time and time again.
I read a lot of non-fiction books for research purposes, but there are many I’ve picked up to read for the love of learning, too.
One of the stand-out books of the past few years for me has been The World Without Us by Andy Weisman. Taking a look at different man-made infrastructure projects, from cities to nuclear power facilities and homes, Weisman posits a world where humans suddenly disappear from the face of the planet and asks – how long would the planet take to erase our existence? It’s a startling account based on current scientific fact – not only do you learn about how those structures are built in the first place, you also find out what happens if they were simply neglected and nature was left to run its course. It’s a truly fascinating read.
I’m currently dipping into The Disaster Diaries: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse by Sam Sheridan. I’m fascinated by the whole ‘prepper’ movement, and this new father’s account of how his perspective on the world changed as soon as his son was born is an often funny, very heart-felt account of how hopeless most of us would be if we had to survive a catastrophic event. It’s quite an eye-opener to read and digest how many basic skills we’ve lost over time.
There you have it; I hope you’ve enjoyed delving into my bookshelves with me – I’m always happy to receive recommendations, as I’ve found that often I’ll discover books I’d have never thought to add to my ‘To Be Read’ pile if it hadn’t been for someone else’s enthusiasm for a book!
© Rachel Amphlett 2015
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