27th November 2017
2017’s Most Popular Books at the Recreational Library
Catching up on your recreational reading? Don’t miss these popular reads of 2017 – top 3 most loaned books from various genres. (Or if you’ve read all these and are looking for something new, keep an eye on our new items page for live updates.
Emma – Jane Austen
“I always deserve the best treatment because I never put up with any other.”
Even if you’ve not read Emma, you’ve likely seen Clueless, Aisha, Emma Approved, or one of the other film/TV adaptations. This is one of the easiest Austen reads, combining relatable characters and believable romance with Austen’s signature biting social commentary – and a dash of situation comedy. Some readers love Emma for her vivacity and intelligence; others hate her for her naiveté and pride; but there’s no doubting this is an incisive character exposition and timeless story.
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
“We’re all bitches in the end, aren’t we, Nick? Dumb bitch, psycho bitch. I’m the bitch you makes you better, Nick. I’m the bitch who makes you a man.”
Sensing a pattern here? GG is the phenomenally successful book that kicked off the recent trend for domestic thrillers, and gave millions of readers a taste for psychological plot twists, intriguing characters and clever narratives – and a fascination with gender roles and unhealthy relationships.
Girl Before – J.P. Delaney
“Sociopaths are attracted to the vulnerable.”
In need of a fresh start, Jane moves in with an enigmatic, aloof architect, but soon learns about the suspicious death of the previous tenant – a young woman of similar age and appearance as herself. In an attempt to untangle this mystery, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, meets the same people, and makes the same choices, as the ‘girl before’. A tight, twisty thriller.
Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End – Atul Gawande
“Our most cruel failure in how we treat the sick and the aged is the failure to recognize that they have priorities beyond merely being safe and living longer… the chance to shape one’s story is essential to sustaining meaning in life.”
This book considers our understanding of a ‘good’ life, and how and why we use medicine to extend our lives. He proposes that there are better ways of dealing with death, by recognising the inherent limitations of biology, and instead promoting agency and well-being.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking – Susan Cain
“The secret to life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some, it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk. Use your natural powers — of persistence, concentration, and insight — to do work you love and work that matters.”
This sensitive, well-researched book has contributed hugely to popular understanding of psychology and personality, and had a formidable impact on many individuals, relationships, and business practices. It is both informative and inspiring – well worth a read.
Global Inequality – Branko Milanovic
“In 1820 only 20 percent of global inequality was due to difference among countries. Most of global inequality (80 percent) resulted from differences within countries; it was class that mattered…. By the mid-twentieth century, 80 percent of global inequality depended on where one was born, and only 20 percent on one’s social class.”
Written by a leading economist and drawing on hundreds of years’ of statistical data, this important book outlines the forces that drive cycles of inequality. Milanovic analyses globalisation, war, international development, politics, migration policies, industry, technology and more in an accessible, engaging discussion.
A Long Way Home – Saroo Brierley
“Not having enough to eat paralyzes you and keeps you living hour by hour instead of thinking about what you would like to accomplish in a day, week, month, or year. Hunger and poverty steal your childhood and take away your innocence and sense of security. But I was one of the lucky ones because I not only survived but learned to thrive.”
The book behind the hit film Lion – Saroo Brierley recounts his unbelievable journey to find his long-lost biological family via satellite images on google earth. This is a truly magical, life-affirming story written with honesty, humility, and wisdom.
Diary of Frida Kahlo
“You too know that all my eyes see, all I touch with myself, from any distance, is Diego. The caress of fabrics, the color of colors, the wires, the nerves, the pencils, the leaves, the dust, the cells, the war and the sun, everything experienced in the minutes of the non-clocks and the non-calendars and the empty non-glances, is him.”
This illustrated journal from the iconic artist documents the last ten years of her life through poems, thoughts, jokes, sketches, dreams, and watercolour paintings. It is a rich, emotional insight into the inner life and thought processes of this passionate, creative woman, and her turbulent relationship with husband Diego Rivera.
Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher
“I’m a hick,” I recall saying to him. “No,” Harrison answered. “You think you’re less than you are. You’re a smart hick.” And then, “You have the eyes of a doe and the balls of a samurai.”
This is the last published memoir from the beloved Carrie Fisher, based on long-forgotten journal entries from her teen years. The book provides behind-the-scenes insight and stories from the set of the first Star Wars movie, plus an honest perception of fame and celebrity from Carrie as a young woman just entering Hollywood. Full of humour and life, just as you’d expect!
Milk and Honey – Rupi Kaur
“you tell me to quiet down cause
my opinions make me less beautiful
but i was not made with a fire in my belly
so i could be put out”
An iconic work of modern poetry, this collection has gained cult following around the world for its bittersweet depiction of love, heartache, femininity, and survival. The writing is sensitive, passionate, and brave, capturing immense feelings in short, simple lines.
Universe of Us – Lang Leav
“I believe we think more deeply about the universe when we’re falling in love. I think the mysterious pull that draws you to another person is identical to the one that moves our eyes upward to the stars.
Lang Leav’s books are always heavily requested at the library! Her latest collection takes inspiration and metaphor from skies, stars, planets, and celestial beings. Leav is known for writing love poems that are lyrical without becoming sappy – they are gentle, stirring, often sad, but always hopeful.
Ariel – Sylvia Plath
“I am terrified by this dark thing
That sleeps in me;
All day I feel its soft, feathery turnings, its malignity.”
Ariel was the second book of Plath’s poetry to be published, two years after her tragic death. Starkly different from her earlier works, these poems illustrate a journey into dark, menacing emotional landscapes, exploring deeply personal subject matter. Ariel truly demonstrates the depths of Plath’s pain, as well as the best of her craft: intense, raw, and rich with metaphor.
Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson
“Our belief is often strongest when it should be weakest. That is the nature of hope.”
Sanderson is a fantastic world-builder, and Mistborn is true high fantasy – dark omens, mysterious lords, shadowy magic, corrupt nobility, honourable ruffians, powerful priesthoods, & etc. This isn’t at the expense of story though – his plots and characters are well-developed, intriguing and enjoyable. Sanderson’s books are always hugely popular; this series revolves around Allomancy, magic of metals.
Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss
“You have to be a bit of a liar to tell a story the right way.”
This novel is at once a high-action epic and an intimate bildungsroman. Kvothe is a magically-gifted young man who becomes a world-renowned figure of mystery, and this trilogy outlines his life story as he tells it to a chronicler. The magical system (‘sympathy’) is very well thought-out, and the characters complex and compelling.
The Way of Shadows – Brent Weeks
“Do you know what punishments I’ve endured for my crimes, my sins? None. I am proof of the absurdity of men’s most treasured abstractions. A just universe wouldn’t tolerate my existence”
From another huge name in fantasy fiction comes the Night Angel series, following guild rat Azoth as he abandons his old life and takes on a new identity to train as an assassin. Weeks is a great story teller with vivid prose, a strong balance of action and emotion, a steadily-moving plot, and a blend of familiar and surprising magic elements.
Young-adult Sci-Fi more your style? Check out the article here for more recommendations.
I quit sugar: your complete 8-week detox program and cookbook – Sarah Wilson
“Our modern food system is set up around sugar, and seductively so.”
This is the landmark book outlining Wilson’s reasons for quitting sugar, and launching the IQS empire. The book contains research, personal stories, recipes, tips & techniques as she outlines her own health journey, exposes our societal over-reliance on sugar, and discusses alternate food choices. Eye-opening and encouraging.
Oh She Glows Cookbook: Over 100 Vegan Recipes to Glow from the Inside out – Angela Liddon
“One of my main goals when creating this cookbook: Create recipes that please meat eaters and vegans alike (fyi: most of my recipe testers were not vegan/vegetarian!)”
This is one of the earlier and most popular blog-based healthy-eating cookbooks (it’s definitely its own genre if you know your cookbook trends). These certainly aren’t skimpish ‘diet’ recipes though – they’re hearty, wholefood-based, protein-rich meals, snacks and desserts. Perfect for vegetarians who need to satisfy omnivores.
Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, Tempura and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond – Tadashi Ono
“Loud slurping is important.”
This book combines vibrant location photography, intriguing snippets of cultural food history, and a series of easy-to-follow recipes – simple, homestyle recipes, no from-scratch bone broth necessary – to bring classic & yoshuko dishes into your kitchen. The food really speaks for itself: think ramen, soba, udon, tempura, gyoza, mabo dofu, wafu pasta, tenshin donburi, okonomiyaki, tatsuta-age, omelets, chahan fried rice, mentaiko spaghetti, panko-fried prawns, saikoro steak, & more.
Watchmen – Alan Moore
“The streets are extended gutters and the gutters are full of blood and when the drains finally scab over, all the vermin will drown. The accumulated filth of all their sex and murder will foam up about their waists and all the whores and politicians will look up and shout “Save us!”… and I’ll look down and whisper “No.”
You’re unlikely to find a list of popular graphic novels that doesn’t feature Watchmen: it’s a perennial bestseller, a Hugo award winner, and a classic of the genre. The book is rich in symbolism, and hugely influential for its boundary-pushing exploration of the superhero genre – indeed, of the very concept of a ‘hero’. (Pretty different to the movie so even if you’ve seen that, it’s worth a read.)
Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
“I wanted to be justice, love and the wrath of God all in one.”
This is a powerful memoir in black-and-white graphic novel format. Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran: growing from a child into a teenager, witnessing the Islamic Revolution, and experiencing the devastating effects of war between Iran and Iraq. Persepolis is funny, intelligent, profound, political, personal, and really really worth your time.
Scott Pilgrim & the Infinite Sadness – Bryan Lee O’Malley
“I’ll love you forever. And I have dipping sauce for you! I’ll be your dipping sauce bitch!”
Any of the six Scott Pilgrim books could be on this list – Scott Pilgrim is a fun, bizarre, clever series. If you liked the quirky energy of the SP movie, definitely check these out.
Interested in more graphic novel recommendations from the library? Check out the article here.
Me before you – Jojo Moyes
“All I can say is that you make me… you make me into someone I couldn’t even imagine. You make me happy, even when you’re awful. I would rather be with you – even the you that you seem to think is diminished – than with anyone else in the world.”
No surprise to see this book here given the huge success of the movies. Me Before You is a beautiful story about the relationship between Will – recently wheelchair-bound following a spinal injury and nowhere near adjusted to life without travel, sports & big business – and Louise – a young woman hired to look after him, but who refuses to give in to his moodiness. The novel has won over romantics and non-romantics alike.
Hidden Star – Nora Roberts
“There was a moment, one blinding moment, when he couldn’t seem to speak. He knew he was staring at her, couldn’t help himself. His heart simply stood still. His knees went weak. And the only thought that came to his mind was – There you are, finally. What the hell took you so long?”
Roberts is an extremely well-established author, so she knows how to fit into the romance genre without falling into tropes. Cade is a private detective; Bailey is sweet, beautiful, & in need of his help as she’s lost, with zero memories of who she is. She does, however, have a huge satchel of cash, diamonds, and a gun. Can he keep his head clear enough to solve this mystery? Part-suspense, part-romance.
Sun is Also a Star – Nicola Yoon
“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”
This book is about love at first sight. It is romantic not just in narrative content, but in tone – optimistic, uplifting, full of heart – and in intention – the story upholds a firm belief in the magic of love, and romances the reader into believing, too.
了不起的盖茨比 / liǎo bu qǐ de gài cí bǐ / The Great Gatsby – Scott Fitzgerald
Translation of the classic 1925 novel featuring Jay Gatsby and his famously extravagant parties. The novel draws an incredibly rich, captivating illustration of
American society – probably the most influential literary depiction of the 1920s Jazz Age.
平凡的世界/ píng fán de shì jiè / Ordinary World – Lu Yao
This epic novel in three parts spans stories from 1975-1985 throughout mainland China, exploring the huge political and socioeconomic changes taking place after the end of the Cultural Revolution. This insightful and evocative work was awarded the Mao Dun Literature prize in 1991.
活着 / huó zhe / To Live – Yu Hua
This heart-wrenching saga is also structured around social change and the Cultural Revolution, encompassing both grand historical change and intimate personal stories. The narrative follows Xu Fugui and his descent from wealthy exploitative landowner to kind, honest peasant – a fable-like story full of warmth, emotion, and tragedy.
Interested in more Chinese Book recommendations from the library? Check out the article here