Best of: books for ages 18+ #1: ‘1984’ by George Orwell
It’s everywhere throughout pop culture. Room 101, Big Brother, Newspeak – the concepts Orwell created have a life far beyond the pages of this short novel. Even the term Orwellian is in frequent use, meaning a state of constant surveillance.
Published in 1949, Orwell’s dystopia tells the story of Winston Smith, who works for The Ministry of Truth, a governmental department. Through his eyes, we see a world different to our own in many ways, but with a number of scary similarities. Written at the time of the Cold War, it isn’t difficult to see unpleasant parallels with real-life political and social situations.
Recognised from its publication as one of the greatest pieces of literary fiction of all time, this book must be on everyone’s ‘to read’ list, if only to make a whole plethora of pop-culture references suddenly become clear. It’s scary, depressing, futuristic and political, which make it not ideal for dipping in and out of, or light reading, but if you can stomach it, you won’t regret picking it up.
By the same author: A range of essays and political writing, and other works of fiction, including the very famous (and brilliant!) ‘Animal Farm’ and ‘Keep the Aspidistra Flying’.
Winner of multiple awards including the 1999 ‘Newbery Medal’, ‘Holes’ tells the story of an overweight teenage boy named Stanley Yelnats, who always finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Convicted of a crime he did not commit, Stanley finds himself sent to the foreboding Camp Green Lake, where he has to keep his head down and make friends in order to survive.
Flitting between the modern day and the 1880s, the story offers a lot of perspectives. Gritty yet hilarious, silly yet deep, ‘Holes’ offers something for everyone of every age. A staple of the modern-day classroom, ‘Holes’ is a great read for an ambitious 8-year-old or a reluctant adult and everyone inbetween.
Adapted into a critically acclaimed film in 2001, ‘Holes’ also has two sequels which continue the mystery and adventure of the original. A story which throws into question the notion of justice and the reliability of the adults in the novel, ‘Holes’ is a haunting tale of friendship and what is right. It will stay with you.
By the same author: ‘Small Steps’, ‘There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom’ and more.
Best of: books for ages 18+ #2: ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak
Published only ten years ago, this book has received numerous awards and remained on the New York Times Bestseller List for over 230 weeks.
Set in Germany during World War Two, the story follows Liesel, a little girl being looked after by a foster family following the death of her brother.
‘The Book Thief’ is narrated by Death. The choice to do this was contested by some critics, but leads to a powerful exploration of what stories can mean to people in desperate times. It’s experimental, it’s long, and at times it is dark, but deeply satisfying, particularly if you don’t mind difficult subject matters. The writing style is at times distracting, but never frustrating, as it is so fundamental to everything that makes this novel so great.
Many people avoid books that make them cry, but this one is so guaranteed to provoke a tear that you’d choose it particularly for that reason. Sob your heart out and enjoy.
By the same author: Another high-quality novel called ‘The Messenger’ and a series of books, which starts with ‘The Underdog’.