If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to read more, as well as open your mind, this list is for you. Here are our top ten books to help you think about yourself, your creativity, and the world, from a slightly altered view point. The best fiction and non-fiction to blow your mind and leave you thinking about them for a long time after you’ve read the final page.
The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes), Alain-Fournier – If you’re a writer, imagine you write a story with very few developed characters, no obvious style or even structure. Your narrator is only a half-formed person, and your main character’s endeavours are largely irrational and never properly justified. It should be a dull and barely readable affair, but The Lost Estate doesn’t just turn the concept of a ‘good story’ on its head, the foreword (Robin Buss), also explores the ever-complex problems of translating a written style that is in every sense French, into English.
Read to convince you that ‘good storytelling’ is subjective and you can write however you please.
The Better Angels of Our Nature, Steven Pinker – What if we told you things were getting better? That for every piece of bad news things were, year upon year, century upon century, getting less violent and less dangerous. Better Angels picks apart this phenomenon, as human kind gets less violent and everyone gets safer. The first chapter starts by picking apart genocide rates in the Old Testament. Witty, entertaining but ultimately informative.
Read if you need something to balance out the doom and gloom machine that is the news media.
Unflattening, Nick Sousanis – Let Sousanis blow your mind about the way we think about…well, thinking. Not only beautifully drawn and engrossing in its style, Unflattening challenges everything we’ve come to accept about our lives, ideas and perspectives on the world.
Read it to open bits of your brain you didn’t know you had, and to leave you thinking about it for a very long time afterwards.
The Opposite of Loneliness, Marina Keegan – A posthumous collection of her works and essays, Keegan will break your heart over and over again when she talks about the hope and unease of her generation. Impossible to read without considering the writer as a life cut far too short, and this makes her words all the more potent.
Read if you feel like you have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going, you’ll feel much better.
Footnotes in Gaza, Joe Sacco – Footnotes takes Sacco to the Gaza Strip, moving between a bloody incident during the Suez Crisis and the present day conflict. Too often details of conflicts elsewhere are skated over, even in academic study and consistently in popular history. Sacco reminds us of the very real and daily human cost of such conflicts, whilst simultaneously teaching us the difficulty of using personal memory to record history. The diverging accounts represented in Footnotes also serve however, to demonstrate that the emotional memory of an event has a much greater impact on the present than actual circumstances ever could (see also: Palestine).
Read to broaden your horizons and read the voices of people not often heard.
Bad Feminist: Essays, Roxane Gay – Essential reading, let Bad Feminist challenge the feminist you thought you were. With essays on rape culture to Django Unchained, Gay will make you question the world around you and its relationship with race and gender with newly opened eyes.
Read if you want to be pushed out of your comfort zone, but ultimately, proud to be part of a movement that generates and supports such thought-provoking and important debate.
Bad Pharma/Bad Science, Ben Goldacre – Never trust anything you hear about medical science again. In all seriousness Bad Pharma author will take everything you thought you could be sure of about science and medicine and turn it on its head. Reinforcing the importance of continued research and transparency within the pharmaceuticals industry, as well as not believing everything you read about ‘superfoods’ and ‘pills to solve social problems’.
Read to feel infinitely smarter when you’re done and bring it up at every social event for months to come.
The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – You’ve probably seen the quotes from this one all over social media for a while. Still worth a read though, the concept of finding your own ‘personal legend’ should resonate with anyone who finds themselves getting bogged down in the small stuff on the regular. You will feel at peace and ready to go out and take control of your life.
Read if you want to feel like that, or you’re looking for a quick, but emotional, read.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain – Introvert or not, this book will remind you of the power of silences in your creative process, the importance of being an introvert some of the time, even if only temporarily. As a society we misunderstand and appreciate the importance of ‘quiet’, though it is only from stepping away from the noise we create our best work.
Read to change the way you work.
The Stranger, Albert Camus – On the face of it, a perfectly fine novel about a man. Underneath all this, a discussion of existentialism and the absurd.
Read if you’re a writer, looking for a new angle, and read more than once.
We really hope that these books inspire you — do you have any to recommend us?
Article by Claire Gillespie
Featured Image: Luca Meneghel