Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell

10 favourite books

It’s funny. Despite my thick glasses and BA in English Lit, I’m not much of a reader these days. All the same, I can’t seem to convince people that I’d rather listen to a podcast or watch a good TV show, so it was inevitable that I would get tagged in a Facebook challenge to post the covers of 10 books I like. But unlike the challenge, which stipulated ‘No explanations, no criticism, just covers’, I just had to write a little blurb about why I love each one.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Moon Tiger - Penelope Lively
Oh Claudia. I wish I could be you. I want your flat, I want your career. You can keep your brother though. I first read this novel for an otherwise boring Aging in Literature class that I took only because it fit my 3rd year schedule at Uni, and well, this book has made it through every single move. Rarely have I read such beautiful prose.


Wrestling with Moses - Anthony Flint
Even though I have memories of chillin’ in Washington Square Park in the West Village, and therefore know how this non-fiction account turns out, I was still gripped by Flint’s long-form journalism telling of this David and Goliath story. Robert Moses wanted to raze neighborhoods in favour of massive motorways, including one through Greenwich Village. You’ll never look at the abrupt end of Allen Road in Toronto the same way again either:

Put simply, Jane Jacobs rules.


My Life in France - Julia Child
My favourite late bloomer. The film, Julie & Julia, is partly based on her autobiography but gets one huge detail wrong. Julia Child and her husband NEVER wanted children. Learning to cook and writing about cooking was not something she did to fill the bleak, gaping void of childlessness. She did those things because she felt like doing them. #feminism


Appetite - Nigel Slater
Read a cookbook? Yes. The recipes are almost beside the point. Nigel Slater is probably 50% of why I wanted to move to England (and why I like cooking). I always feel a sense of kinship when I see it on a friend’s cookbook shelf.


Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell
If you need to get some bad, hackneyed writing out of your head, pick up some George Orwell. If you need to learn how to ‘show, don’t tell’, pick up some George Orwell. This novel is incandescent. A master.


Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
My favourite Yorkshire lass. It’s why I take you to Haworth when you visit, so that you can also have that frisson of seeing the very room, the very table, where she wrote this masterpiece in secret, all while her troubled brother must have made day-to-day life very difficult for her and her sisters. I’m sensing a theme of being fathoms deep in love with strong, principled female protagonists. #feminism


Jitterbug Perfume - Tom Robbins
I may have read this one too many times, but I’m thinking about buying yet another copy. Stay for the beautiful writing and epic story, avert your eyes from the sometimes creepy sex scenes. Written by a man in the 1980s. #nuffsaid


The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron
While I have never followed her suggestions to the letter, I still think about this book at least once a week. If you’re feeling stuck creatively, or you’re bored and running out of things to do, check it out. Whistle past the ‘woo’ stuff if that’s not your thang.


images bc
The most ‘adult’ of LM Montgomery’s oeuvre. And it’s a standalone book, not a series. But I will bore anyone to death at a party (oh god, remember parties?) with my conviction that the only reason LM Montgomery’s various book series are in the children’s or young adult section is because most of the protagonist’s stories start when they are young girls. And because she was a minister’s wife and her books are set in Victorian/Edwardian periods, none of the adults are cursing or having their sex lives depicted – that’s not the same as being a book for children. LM Montgomery GETS the human condition. Simple as.


I Never Knew There Was a Word For It - Adam Jacot de Boinod
OK, admit it. These days, your attention span makes hamsters seem focused. If reading a book by turning consecutive pages seems out of the question, this is a great book to dip in and out of. Read it if you like rolling words around your mind like delicious morsels. Also makes an excellent doorstop.