I'm a writer. It's scary to say that because there are so many amazing writers in blog-land; frustrated writer/bloggers are almost their own cliche, now aren't they? Like the waitress declaring she's an actress. But it's true. Although marketing is my day job now, my degree is in Professional Writing, it was my first job, my precocious hobby and lifelong obsession.
But it wasn't my first love. That was reading.
Curling up with a good book was, and is, my favourite thing in the entire world to do. Having Little Red has sort of slowed me down a bit (I can no longer spend entire days in bed reading) but I can still manage to chew through a small novel in a week, a fat one in a month. I don't purport to have highbrow tastes but I am a voracious book-reading machine.
So without further ado I thought I'd share with you my Top 10 Books of All Time... just in time for some summer reading perhaps? I realise you all won't necessarily have the same tastes as me, but in my opinion these are all top-notch reads; maybe something will spark your interest.
1. The Bride Stripped Bare - Nikki Gemmel
You know how sometimes it's not just the novel but the very context in which it is read that evokes such fond memories? This book unfolded for me on a ski lodge holiday, and I'll forever remember the sheer delight of insatiably licking each word from its smutty pages, with a glass of red in hand, as a crackling fire in the background. At least I could blame the fire for my red cheeks.
This novel is hard to describe. It's shocking - almost pornographic in parts - and has an ending that will literally make your jaw drop. But it's also a tender parable about motherhood, about the search for meaning within oneself, as a woman, as a wife, as a sexual being. It has echoes of Nancy Friday and Lady Chatterley's Lover but is totally unique for all that.
It rocked my world. (I will never lend my copy of this book out, it's that good.)
2. Tully - Paullina Simons
It was really hard for me to pick a favourite Paullina Simons book. I call her the thinking woman's Jodi Picoult... she has all that juicy characterisation which keeps you on the edge of your seat, but with far more depth to her characters and less tendency to wrap things up in a cheesy American ending. Tully is one of those beautifully flawed heroines you want to punch and protect in equal measures; and you'll be spellbound by her story.
I also adored Simons' more popular, uber-romantic Bronze Horseman trilogy.
3. We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
This book won the Orange Prize for literature so I like to think of it as a scholarly addition to my 'list'. Ahem. In reality, it's anything but dry - a story about a serial-killing teen, a high school shooter, written from his mum's perspective.
Shriver takes this horrific scenario to an altogether different place than you'd expect - largely due to her writing but also her incredibly astute psychological observations. Brilliant. Just brilliant.
This is being made into a movie soon. I'll be waiting outside the cinemas.
4. Wideacre - Philippa Gregory
Another prolific writer from whose catalogue I find it hard to choose. Most of you will know Philippa Gregory as the author of "The Other Boyleyn Girl", which was made into a movie recently with Scarlett Johannsen. Gregory is undoubtedly the doyenne of historical bodice-rippers and her heroines have amazingly large balls for their time. But in my opinion her Tudor novels weren't her best. This series, set in early colonial America, has a heroine even fiestier than Anne Boyleyn... and in several parts even made this open-minded chick draw a sharp breath.
I don't know what it is, but I do have a soft-spot for the villianous heroine, the one who will do, fight and fuck anything to get her way.
And do it on a horse in a corset too; well, take that modern feminism!
5. The Book Thief - Marcus Zusak
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. If you want a story to melt your heart, try this. Book lovers will identify with the protagonist, a little girl called Liesel whose only solace during the horrific Nazi times she grows up in is her precious books. Each one comes to her in a very special way, and has its own story. This is about 'the power of words to create worlds' says the blurb, which is apt. Grab a tissue box.
6. The Time Traveller's Wife