Just over a week ago was my 17th birthday, and the only thing on my wishlist (other than money towards replacing my chromebook which I accidentally murdered) was books. So, here’s a look at the books I was gifted and the ones I picked up for myself recently.
First up were 3 classics that I’d never read before, all from the “Alma Classics” set. I’ve bought some from this range before and I absolutely love all of them, the cover art by Nathan Burton is so vibrant that you can’t help wanting to show them off on your shelves. This time around I picked up The Double by Fyodor Dostoevsky as well as both The War Of The Worlds and The Invisible Man by H.G Wells.
I’m just over halfway through The Invisible Man and so far I’ve been really drawn in by it. As the title suggests, the plot centers around a mysterious invisible man, who chooses to use his hidden identity to cause havoc and chaos. It can be a little bit wordy in places (a risk you take when reading something from pre-1900) but the plot is simple and well-executed, leaving you wanting to unravel all the mysteries surrounding this invisible gentleman. Wells’ slightly sarcastic tone also makes this book a great read for me, adding in a bit of humour amongst the mystery and science.
Also by H.G Wells, I choose to buy a copy of The War Of The Worlds after my English Literature teacher recommended it in a lesson. I’ve watched the 2005 Spielberg film (starring Tom Cruise, my most bizarre childhood crush) on TV once or twice and as I consider myself a sci-fi fan, I figured I had to give the book a read. I’ve not started it yet but after reading some of The Invisible Man I have high hopes.
I’ll confess that I’d never heard the name Fyodor Dostoevsky despite knowing of his very famous novel Crime and Punishment. The blurb is what made me pick this up rather than any of his other works, there’s something interesting about the idea of meeting a doppelganger who is your opposite in every imaginable way. The book focuses on a young man named Yakov, who declines into madness after being faced with a double who is far more popular and successful than himself. I’m excited to start reading this and am keeping my fingers crossed that there won’t be too much of a vocabulary barrier considering it was first published in 1846.
Inkeeping with my usual book purchasing habits, I also picked up a few more sci-fi/dystopia novels. It would probably be a good idea for be to broaden my reading horizons a little bit rather than making a beeline for the “Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror” corner every time I go into Waterstones, but I just can’t help but feel bored to death by the prospect of ‘realism novels’. Why just read novels about ordinary men living ordinary lives when I could be enjoying stories about strange undiscovered worlds or apocalyptic futures?
I’ve bought something a little bit different in The Reader On The 6.27, a novel about a man who works in a book pulping factory and saves pages to read aloud on the train. One day he finds the tragic diary of a woman and begins to fall in love with her based upon only her words. There’s no aliens, no decimated landscapes, and no murderous totalitarian government so it’s not a book choice I’d usually make but its very well reviewed and I’m willing to give it a go (just this once). The other books I picked up – Solaris, Station 11, Annihilation and The Power – are far more within my usual science fiction reading.
I’ve already finished reading Solaris and I’m having pretty mixed thoughts on it. It’s one of those novels that has an exceptional premise but an ending that just leaves you thinking “Is that it?”. It tells the story of a Psychologist – Dr Kelvin – who is sent to the planet Solaris to decide whether research there should be terminated. Upon arrival he finds that the researches are bordering upon insanity after being ‘visited’ by people they used to know. Kelvin is himself visited by an creature imitating of his dead wife, and the story takes on a dark edge as he begins getting attached, despite the fact the creature will destroy everything in its path if Kelvin tries to walk away or leave it alone. It poses the question of whether it is a curse or a blessing to be faced with an imitation of someone, to have a second chance at a relationship. I enjoyed this book whilst I was reading it but it got to the ending and there was no real sense of closure, a particular bug bear of mine. On top of that, there were sections that read more like a textbook than a novel, so I had to do a little bit of page flicking to avoid the dull science bits.
The Power has received amazing reviews, recently winning the Bailey’s women’s fiction prize. Again, this was recommended by an English teacher and after the release of the paperback edition I had to add it to my birthday wishlist. My lovely brother bought it for me as well as Annihilation, which I know very little about but was sold on by the bright cover and intriguing blurb. Similarly, I’d not heard anything about Station Eleven but after a quick google it seemed to be well-liked and appealed to me so I thought it was worth a shot.
I’ll probably write up my thoughts on the books I haven’t read yet at a later date, although my teachers are keeping me busy at the minute with personal statements, university applications and mountains of work (a relaxing end to the school year!). If you’re also a book fan, let me know your thoughts on any of these that you’ve read (or want to read sometime soon) as well as any other recommendations you have. Eat your veggies, change your sheets and treat yourself to a good book. Take care of yourself x