If you are anything like us (and we like to think you are!) then few things are more enjoyable than grilling interesting women on their favourite books. Personal recommendations are the source of so many great discoveries when it comes to literature, and when we come across a voracious reader we immediately make note of their ultimate reading list.
Which is why we are starting a new series on Stylist.co.uk, where we ask curious, book-loving women for the books that they wouldn't be without; their desert island reads. We hope you will stumble across a new discovery, fall backin love with an old favourite and ultimately we want this to be a go-to list for those on the hunt for a new read.
Up first? Jamie Klingler. The wonderful publishing manager here at Stylist, Jamie is also co-founder of the hugely popular London Book Club. She is one of the most voracious readers we know and, as expected, her list is a brilliant combination of contemporary and classics. We've already ordered two new books as a result and think you may do too. Take a look at Jamie's selections and let us know what you think of Jamie's choices in the comments below.
An introduction by Jamie Klingler
When preparing for a long flight or a lazy Christmas break including lots of lounging by the fire, I like to arrange a pile of books that take from a number of genres.
In this winter hibernation list, I’ve included some of my all-time favourites, a number of recent reads and some non-fiction that changed the way I read and write.
This is a particularly personal list of books I’ve loved and shared and some that I’ve revisited over the years. After writing them up, I realise that a number of the selections can be attributed to my love of my dog, Italy and food… and that says quite a lot about me!
Do let me know your thoughts in the comments below. . .
Fiction: The Interestings - Meg Wolitzer
This brilliant book was our London Book Club selection in September. It follows the lives, ambitions and careers of 6 children who meet at a sleep away camp while Nixon is the US president. Wolitzer explores the definition of talent and how it can impact the lives of young friends who deemed themselves ‘the interestings.’
The signature of all things - elizabeth gilbert
Alma Whittaker is born in 1800 in Philadelphia (the city where I was born 178 years later) into high society (I was not). But as the only child of Henry Whittaker—she inherits his mind and his money and becomes an accomplished botanist. This book spans her lifetime and the planet and is a wonderful telling of the science, her loves and the historical period of Philadelphia. It is a far cry from Eat, Pray, Love and one that I’m glad I invested in.
the pursuit of love - nancy mitford
This was my introduction to the world of the Mitford sisters. It is a glorious, witty and acerbic take on their family and world. After reading this I then delved in to Love in a Cold Climate and Hons and Rebels. Am currently 200 pages in to the complete works of Nancy and highly recommend the journey.
their eyes were watching god - zora neale hurston
Janie. Janie-- the embodiment of the female form. The dialect, the power of the writing. It is just phenomenal. I read it senior year in high school and have never forgotten it. It took me a few days to understand the dialect and twenty years to begin to understand the sexuality. Hurston’s audacity to print and publish such an earth shattering book has always stayed with me.
umbertina - helen banolini
This book was battered and on my mom's bookshelf for years (first published in 1979), it is the story of four generations of an Italian American women. The first narrator is Umbertina who makes the journey from Calabria to the US who then hands off the baton to her granddaughter Marguerite who is unhappy with her American upbringing and wants to return to Italy which then leads to Tina who is the woman in caught in the generation in between. I loved the pacing and the voices of each generation and how they related to one another and their pasts.
the cross and arrow - albert maltz
Another of my mom's bookshelf specials. This book is about German resistance during World War II. I wouldn’t want to give much of the plot away but it takes place in a German tank factory and goes a long way to explain the experience that many normal Germans would have had during the war. As an aside, Maltz was one of the men that was blacklisted in Hollywood and reported to the Un-American Committee of Congress as one of the Hollywood Ten for refusing to name or out friends as communists.
the pillars of the earth - ken follett
This is the first in the series of three epic novels--- I’ve read all of them, but none has gripped me quite so much as Pillars. It is the story of the 12th century England building of a gothic cathedral. It paints the stories of every person in the town, the famine, the war, the betrayals. This is a book to get snowed in with and use the character charts to work out who everyone is.
i know this much is true - wally lamb
A story of twins, one of whom is schizophrenic and the responsibility the one sibling feels for the other. Got locked on my roof in NYC in 1999 and read it in one sitting--- about a 7 hour sitting. It covers all of the complications and responsibility one feels for family and the ties that bind us together or cause nasty family fights and wounds. How much can someone ever be responsible for another person? Is this responsibility increased if you have shared DNA or even more so if you shared a womb?
everything is illuminated - jonathan safran foer
This is the funny, endearing, wonderfully crafted story of a man (named after the author) that arrives in the Ukraine with only a picture of a woman who is said to have saved his family from the Nazis. The language in this book brings you in to this world where nothing and everything starts to make sense.
the art of racing in the rain - gareth stein
Do not read this book on a flight when you haven’t seen your dog in two weeks--- please heed my warning and don’t do it—the man that sat next to me on the flight where I did is still traumatised. I cried through this entire beautiful story told from the point of view of Enzo, the dog. Enzo is the glue of a family and is the guardian to help a man and his daughter through tragedy and come out on the other side.
marriage material - sathnam sanghera
Full disclosure, I know Sathnam and my dog, McNulty, has a cameo role in this book, which I didn’t know when I started reading it. But after the first twenty pages, I forgot I knew him and was enthralled in this story of a South Asian Wolverhampton family trying to run a corner shop and repair a family at the same time. The novel spans over 50 years and paints an interesting portrait of race and class relations over that time period and what it says about Britian as a whole.
beautiful ruins - jess walter
This beautiful short book about an aging actress who is recovering from an illness in Cinque Terra. Based on bad directions she ends up in a tiny town which isn’t part of the tourist heavy Cinque Terra and what her arrival means to the fisherman and the wannabe hotelier in the sixth of the five beach towns. We visited Cinque Terra a few months ago and imagined where this fictional town would be and saw just how inaccessible it would have been.
eleanor & park - rainbow rowell
This is young adult fiction and a short but wonderful read. It’s the Freaks and Geeks of teenage literature or specifically the Freak and Geek love story. It is set over the course of one school year and is a beautiful portrayal of first love and the lengths you’ll go to to communicate it to that person.
non-fiction : the opposite of loneliness: essays and stories - marina keegan
This book has to have the most devastating prologue I’ve ever read. Marina had just graduated from Yale and had a play about to be produced, she had the holy grail of jobs waiting for her, a job at the New Yorker--- a paid one at that. Tragically she was killed in a car accident just five days after graduation. Posthumously, her parents and teachers have joined together to create a collection of her work. The promise it shows is just heart-breaking.Buy here.
orange is the new black - piper kerman
Came across this after binge watching the first series and although it is the inspiration for the series, it is by no means a scene by scene guide. Being a upper middle class blonde finding herself in a federal corrections institute was always bound to be shocking, but Kerman’s skill is evident in her ability to paint characters and learn about the varied worlds of her fellow inmates. Definitely worth a read if you enjoyed the series.
personal history katharine graham
This is the “Lean In” story from the 1960s of American Newspaper publishing. After her husband’s suicide Graham found herself in charge of the Washington Post. She was the first female Fortune 500 CEO in 1972. The book is also gives fascinating insight into Watergate and the decision and role she played in it. This book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of journalism.
shantaram - gregory david roberts
The perfect book to give to anyone planning on a big round the world trip or a trip to India. It’s about 800 pages, but is the gripping ‘true’ story of a man that escapes an Australian prison and ends up in the underbelly of Bombay. Prabaker, the best friend, is one of the most loving characters I’ve ever encountered. It is gripping and intriguing and just brilliant. It reads much more like fiction and the author has said it is an account or a telling rather than a scene for scene autobiography.
The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family - Laura Schenone
This was a gift from my mother who went to the reading and returned with a signed copy. A 30ish woman returns to Genoa to retrace her grandmother’s steps and reconnect the recipe that her Italian-American family has been using to the original that her Nonna would have used in Liguria. Fascinating account of how recipes shift and change and how they influence our lives. I’ve now been to Recco and had ravioli where her Nonna would have lived.
This is the story of a happy marriage—Ann Patchett
If you’ve read and loved Bel Canto, you will have encountered Ann’s work. This is a collection of her many years of writing nonfiction pieces for various magazines and journals—which is only nominally about a happy marriage--- more about a happy and well lived life. She’s a bookstore owner (one of my ideal professions) and the mother of Rose, her very loved dog. I cried while reading it and read chapters out loud to friends while absorbed in this book. When I finished, I not only bought 13 hardbacks as Christmas presents, I also emailed Ann to tell her how much I loved it. Much to my surprise, she responded that weekend with a photo of her new pup—I treasure that email and this collection.
Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table - ruth reichl
Ruth was the NY Times Food Critic and editor in chief of the now shuttered Gourmet magazine. This is her memoir about growing up with and around food. Recipes are littered throughout the book and she crafts a beautiful tale about a life lived with food. She welcomes you to her table and feeds you while she stirs whatever delicious creation is simmering on the stove.