March 1st is World Book Day, so we asked some of the SNP's most avid readers to give us their must read books for 2018. Happy World Book Day - get reading!
And why not tell us on social media what your favourite and must read books of 2018 are too?
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is a big, sweeping novel. We visit Cyril Avery at seven-year intervals, following his life’s journey from birth to an unwed Irish mother and adoption by an odd Dublin couple (“You’re not a real Avery,” they frequently remind him) to his struggles to come to terms with his homosexuality and find a sense of belonging.
It is as much the story of modern Ireland as the story of one man. The novel begins in 1945 with Avery’s mother cast out of her community and ends just as Ireland votes to legalise gay marriage – a country making peace with its past and finally allowing Avery to feel at home. It is a beautifully written epic and will make you laugh and cry in equal measure.
The Blackhouse by Peter May
This is the perfect book to immerse oneself in on a Saturday night spent at home. The first part of the fantastic Lewis Trilogy, The Blackhouse is a thriller that cannot be easily put down. Set on the Isle of Lewis, a rugged and dramatic landscape which only adds to the riveting storyline, the powerful narrative is not only one that takes you on a journey to uncover the mysteries surrounding a murder but also touches upon other themes such as the choices for islanders as they grow from children to adults. It is also a particular favourite of mine because of my ancestral ties to the Isle of Lewis. I would recommend it, and the whole series, to all.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
One of my favourite series of all time is Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery, and my favourite book is Rilla of Ingleside. I could re-read the series every year, if I had the time. Anne is a stubbornly honest, single-minded girl who fights for what she believes in and I suppose that I have always seen something of myself in her. I used to love reading the story of her arrival in Avonlea and the ups and downs as she grows up. Rilla of Ingleside is about one of Anne’s daughters, who is also fiercely independent but full of love and compassion. It is set against the backdrop of world war one and is perhaps the saddest book of the series as political leaders across the world sent men to fight and die. I love the strong women in these books who sacrificed a lot, but never their principles of integrity, faith and compassion.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
All across the world we are seeing a groundswell of people refusing to obey the status quo and powerful. Like the independence campaigners in Catalonia, people are refusing to conform to what their society demands of them. Conformity can be a hard thing to break, which is why I recommend “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”. This novel helped inspire me in the past to reach for higher and really live life to the fullest, and for that I believe it’s a must-read.
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
It’s a difficult ask to choose just one book but I’ll plump for The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood as it one of the few books I’ve read more than once. In fact I might even read it again with the lens of what is happening in 2018. Because it is that sort of book- it’s relevant. Chillingly so in recent times. When I first read it the vision of a dystopian American society where sections of society were diminished, demonised and the rights of women were taken away was entertaining for its sheer outlandish concepts that something like that could ever happen. But in watching the recent TV adaptation in the first year of all the Trump Executive Orders which circumvented democratic processes to push through right wing visions I was struck by how important a warning Margaret Atwood provides us about the value and fragility of free will and free speech. Everyone should read it. At least once.
Wool by Hugh Howey
I just couldn’t put this book down. Normally I read fantasy novels, while this is more dystopian sci-fi. It’s unusual to find such strong female leads who are believable. This book manages to have two - Mayor Jahns and Juliette. As I turned the pages I held my breath, hoping each character would make it to the end of the book. This book is a must read if you’d like to escape reality for a wee while.
Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
I have so many favourite books it’s hard to choose one but my most recent favourite is Behind the Scenes at the Museum, it is the first novel from Kate Atkinson. The book covers the experiences of Ruby Lennox, a girl from a middle-class English family living in York. The story spans a century, two world wars, the changes in society along the way. But also looks deeply into families, their structures, their secrets, their love. It’s an incredibly moving book showing all the triumphs and frailties of the human condition. It’s life affirming.
Although I have to say, my go to books will always be Treasure Island and Kidnapped.
Winter by Ali Smith
What a book. The text echoes winter; sparse, the leaves having fallen, the opening lines list and identify what is dead - God, romance, chivalry, poetry, art - and yet it is not hopeless, it is winter. From there builds a glorious work of art (or Art) an examination of how we anthropomorphise the seasons and how family members interact. As is usual with Smith, a family not at ease with itself but created dysfunctional to illustrate and illuminate. She reaches back into mythology and historical writers - ole Shakespeare gets an outing - while she examines modern politics and she gives Barbara Hepworth a shaking-down and a brushing-up and leaves us still wondering.
There is no Hollywood ending but there is a little hope. Above all there's the crispness of winter and the clarity that brings - this isn't about the season, it's about what the season is. Read this book; it's beautiful, it's elegant and it's breathtaking - just like winter.
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
One of my favourites is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. It’s set in Germany in the second world war and narrated by death. At the outset you know that not everyone will survive, but then, despite yourself, you fall in love with the characters and the story still takes you by surprise. I loved looking at a very familiar episode in history from unusual angles. The writing is beautiful and like all great stories it transports you to a very different place. And the heroine is a book lover – in the midst of desperate times and hunger – she is stealing books!
Nobody Told Me by Hollie McNish
Hollie’s poetry has gone far and wide due to the popularity of the poem Embarrassed, which challenges perceptions of breastfeeding in public and the way women’s bodies are portrayed in the media. There are many thought provoking poems in this autobiographical book that tells the story of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood, which challenge perceptions and on occasion moved me to tears. There is a real telling of women’s experience and lives, and the impact of gender stereotypes. I return to Nobody Told Me regularly: it is a joy.