23 books our readers recommend for World Book Day 2018
PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 February 2018 | UPDATED: 19:06 23 February 2018
World Book Day is a time to celebrate stories, authors and illustrators and the occasion is marked around the globe in more than 100 countries.
Children will be dressing up as their favourite characters and collecting book tokens, but they’re not the only ones who can get involved in the fun.
To mark the occasion Courtney Pochin asked our readers to tell us a bit about the books they love and what it is that makes them so great.
From these suggestions we’ve compiled a reading list of more than 20 stories which you can work your way through.
Here’s a look at some of East Anglia’s favourite books...
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
My two favourite novels both have a Norfolk connection. The first, perhaps naturally for a military historian, is Jack Higgins’ bestseller The Eagle Has Landed. I was immediately drawn to the unique and plausible idea of a team of crack German paratroopers landing in North Norfolk in 1943 to kidnap Winston Churchill from an isolated coastal retreat. Higgins’ style and narrative pacing has influenced my own, non-fiction, Second World War II.
The second novel, or novella in this case, is The Woman in Black by former Norwich resident Susan Hill. Set on an isolated stretch of North Norfolk coast in the 1920s, it is in my opinion the finest example of the ‘haunted house’ ghost story of the modern era. Beautiful and chilling in equal measure, none of the film versions have done it justice. Its a book that I keep coming back to over the years, and just as unsettling with each re-reading.
Dr Mark Felton, author of over 20 non-fiction books including, Zero Night and Castle of the Eagles, Norwich
1984 by George Orwell
Written just after the Second World War, 1984 is set in a dystopian future where people are under close surveillance from the State, where there is a perpetual war and where a cult of the personality exists for the leader, known as Big Brother.
Even relationships are controlled, which is bad news for the protagonist Winston Smith, who gets close to Julia – his doomed soul mate. Smith works at the Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites history but, secretly, he hates the State.
His disobedience is discovered and Smith is captured and tortured, and eventually taken to Room 101 where his worst fear awaits…..
1984 was apparently written as an allegory of the post-war Russian Communist system but many of its themes are still relevant in 21st-century Britain.
Many of the terms first found in this book have made it into everyday expression, such as ‘thoughtcrime’ and ‘newspeak’.
It’s an absolute classic and a book that will haunt you and keep you thinking for years after you have finished it.
Ross Bentley, Ipswich
Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh
‘I love World Book Day. It’s a chance to celebrate books and really put stories in the spotlight. It’s lovely for adults and children to get a chance to have a whole day being involved with books too. I’ll be doing a school visit on WBD and absolutely can’t wait!
Children’s book-wise, I’m looking forward to Max The Detective Cat and The Disappearing Diva by Sarah Todd Taylor, about a pampered cat that lives in a theatre who suddenly has to become a detective after he notices things going strangely... it’s out March 1, and is the first in a series and such a compelling idea for children (and grown-ups!). I’ve just settled down to read The Sky Chasers by Emma Carroll - I’ve loved all her books so far, and read them with my daughter. We both really enjoyed Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson - an inspiring book that every child, and adult, should read.
Adult-wise, I’ve just read and absolutely loved are Eat Up! by Ruby Tandoh, which is a sensory and empowering look at eating/memory and learning to love yourself and how you think and talk about food, and Tinder Box by Megan Dunn, a witty, sharp and stylishly-told story of one woman’s obsession with the book Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and her unsuccessful efforts to write a novel inspired by it. I read a lot of fiction, but I do love non-fiction and memoir, and both these books are original and really brilliantly written.
I know a lot of writers feel like every day is World Book Day, but it’s so important to remember not everybody has access to stories in the same way, and for us all to think what we can do to make sure everybody gets a chance to see people like themselves in the books they read. World Book Day is a celebration AND a challenge to those of us who love, read and write books, to find ways to spread that love further.’
Hayley Webster, author of Meet The Twitches, Norfolk
To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
My only regret about reading this book is leaving it so late – I didn’t pick it up until my 30th birthday! The power struggles within this novel are so powerful; they will stay with me for the rest of my life. And the young narrator, Scout, has such a distinctive voice that she is able to bring the community, as well as this snapshot of her childhood, alive.
Donna-Louise Bishop, Dereham
The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler
It is the story of Michael and Pauline who meet during the war and get married and have children, because that was what people did, even though they hardly knew each other. Michael spends most of the marriage regretting his decision while Pauline sails on, blithely oblivious to the fact that she drives her husband completely mad. It’s a really simple story of two ordinary, every day people, and yet it still resonates with me, even 14 years after I read it. Anne Tyler’s writing is so subtle, so perfect, that the characters stay with you for a lifetime.
“It wasn’t what you said,” he told her, ‘”It was how I felt when you said it.”
A finer description of the undercurrents within marriage will never be found.
Liz Nice, Bury St Edmunds
The Circle by Dave Eggers
I read this about a year ago as part of a course list and it focuses on many of my own anxieties about using technology as a means to create a connect-and-share world that is impossible to opt out of. I also like how the story ends with the institution getting their way instead of the individual (as is often the way), but the main character thinks she is in control.
Matthew Walsh, Norwich
How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
This book said everything to me that I ever believed about feminism which I’d never been able to put into words myself. There are very few things that leave you feeling profoundly different the way this book did for me, and years after reading it I still ask myself when worrying about something “are men worrying about this?” – often the answer is no, so I shouldn’t be either.
Geraldine Scott, Norwich
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Asking me to pick a favourite book is like asking a parent to pick a favourite child, however as a former English student, it’s a question I’m often faced with. I think for me, there are several books which particularly stand out. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is at the top of the list. It was the first classic novel I read outside of school for my own enjoyment and I’ve been a big fan of Austen’s work ever since. I also remember being hooked while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. It’s a coming-of-age novel, written in the form of letters from an introverted teen protagonist to an unknown recipient. At the time, I hadn’t read anything like it before, so that struck a chord. I also loved the various pop culture and 90s references in the book and was impressed by the way it dealt with more serious topics, such as sexuality, mental health, drugs and suicide, despite being aimed at a rather young audience.
Courtney Pochin, Diss
Stray by A.N. Wilson
You’re meant to pick one of the Russian classics, or a perspective-changing read when you were a teenager, right? But that would be a lie. Stray follows the life of a cat called Pufftail from the moment of his birth through to the birth of his grandchildren. It’s a lovely, if depressing in sections, exploration of what it means to be alive. It’s also about a cat, who doesn’t love cats!?
Conor Matchett, Lowestoft
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
As a teenager I was bewitched by the love story between Jane and the brooding, troubled Rochester. The whole story was tomb-dark lit only by the flickering flames of the fire that engulfed them and all that passion glowing in the embers!
Liz Coates, Great Yarmouth
Notes From A Small Island by Bill Bryson
Bryson captures with endless curiosity and microscopic perceptiveness the idiosyncrasies of British life. Pub debates on how best to drive somewhere and our perverse addictions to queuing up neatly and accordingly were ahead of his time – and remain, perhaps sadly, incredibly accurate.
Matt Stott, Ipswich
The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve read lots of his stories and loved them all, but this was my first and remains my favourite.
The sentences and metaphors he crafts are nothing short of beautiful, and his character development is fantastic.
Bethany Whymark, Norwich
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
This is one of the most important books I have ever read in my life. Not only is the story at turns full of joy and heartbreak, but it brings to vivid colour the sights, sounds and smells of Afghanistan. It truly made me appreciate the horrors of the war over there and what so many people fought for and lost. This is one of the only novels I’ve read that’s made me openly weep. It is an absolute must - even more so I think than The Kite Runner.
Charlotte Smith-Jarvis, Ipswich
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
It’s all about the triumph of the imagination over the temporal and material world, and written as it was under a communist regime that engaged in censorship of all kinds of freedom. It encourages readers to raise questions regarding one’s own freedom, their role/ destination and is a call to find your own true calling and fulfil the destiny you choose for yourself. Bulgakov’s heroes are the authors of their own life, they construct their own identities instead of having them dictated by any kind of authority. At the same time they face the hindrances of a hypocritical society and a corrupted system. It is relevant today more than ever before as our world becomes increasingly dystopian. It is as timeless as the Greek moto in the temple of Apollo in Delphi ‘know thyself’ as it is mainly about how one must face oneself in the mirror with courage and responsibility as cowardice is the root of all evil.
Lena Korkovelou, Norfolk
Mine is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
It is beautifully written, it’s poetic and Roy describes the most minute of sentiments in the most perfect way that you’ll never be able to express the same differently. My favourite Man Booker since Salman Rushdie.
Taz Ali, King’s Lynn
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
It’s not an easy read - it is encyclopaedic in length with a font size usually reserved for the bottom line of an eye test and it has, even smaller, footnotes that run longer than many books on their own – but once you get into it, it is life-changing.
Wallace’s intelligence, humour, sadness and fear come through amid all the absurdity of the many plot strands which take place in a future world in which the years are sponsored by businesses. Most of the events take place in the Year of the Depend Adult Undergarment.
Wallace loads the book’s hyper-detailed narratives with film script dialogue, lists, stream-of-consciousness, archived correspondence, and large portions that read like product manuals and data reports, but the characters and events contained within possess you, haunting your days and dreams.
Along the way you’ll learn about the strangest, most complex school playground game ever, a film so entertaining it is deadly and being sought by terrorist groups to use as a weapon, addiction, family pressures and tennis…a lot of tennis. When I finished Infinite Jest, I was expecting to feel a real sense of achievement, but I just felt wrenched from a fascinating world that had made me think deeper than I ever had before. Reading this book is worth so much more than the effort it takes.
Mark Edwards, Ipswich
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
While it goes down as a sci-fi/dystopian fiction novel, the book is really a story of relationships set against a disturbing backdrop. The setting outlines the novel but does not dominate it with the friendships of the main characters and their coming of age the where the real intricacy is found. It’s also a clue that Ishiguro studied at UEA because the book features Cromer prominently.
Doug Faulkner, Norwich
The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
The author has created rich, vibrant characters that will remain with you long after you finish reading. Set in the 50s, on the cusp of a cultural revolution, you can feel the shift between generations as new music, fashion and technology arrives in London.
The novel centres on Penelope and her chance meeting with free-spirit Charlotte.
Charlotte invites Penelope into her world and we are shown the vast difference between life in the capital with Charlotte and Penelope’s home life on her family’s crumbling estate in the country.
I keep hoping this post-war tale will be brought to the screen, I could see it as the BBC’s next drama series.
Georgia Watson, Ipswich
Goodnight, Beautiful by Dorothy Koomson
Told from the point of view of two women whose lives are linked through a surrogate child in a coma and their love for one man. It is beautifully written as it seemlessly flicks between the past and present day. With relatable characters and the ability to be funny and heartbreaking - it’s everything a good book should be.
Sarah Ravencroft, Norwich
Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
These books were always my favourites and I’ve read them over and over again many times as they moved my imagination so well, after all who doesn’t love an adventure?
Lukasz Banka, Norwich
The Far Away Tree by Enid Blyton
I used to absolutely love reading this to escape from the world in times of difficulty as a child.
Diane Cutting, Norfolk
The Jolly Postman by Allan Ahlberg
When I was in first school, I used to always grab The Jolly Pocket Postman. Just loved the book and the little letters you could read the postman was delivering.
Caroline Waller, Norfolk
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Her characters are always flawed, sad and often from the most harrowing of backgrounds and that is true here, too, but this time Proulx adds a sense of hope. She herself said she wanted to explore the idea of a ‘happy ending’ being the ‘absence of pain’.
We follow her ugly and trod- upon hero, Quoyle, as he embarks on a move into the wilderness following the death of his harridan wife. We travel with him as slowly, the pain of his life is eased and a new beginning seems possible.
It is set in a perfectly-described Newfoundland and, to read it is to be there, to feel the ocean spray and to smell the brine.
The waves seem to crash from the page. A remarkable work that will stay with me always.
Katie Mercer, Ipswich