Beautiful You by Chuck Palahniuk
Recommendation from Princx
Chuck, whose previous works include Fight Club and Invisible Monsters, is definitely one of my all time favourite authors purely because he transgresses societal norms and expectations and writes some truly original pieces, his previous work Haunted is the most debauch pieces I’ve ever read, but as I did not read it in 2017, it is well beyond the scope of this piece.
To turn to Beautiful You, after that tangent of Palahniuk loving conjecture, which has everything a gal like me could possibly need: a junior lawyer at the edge of her tether, an evil scheme to dominate the world, murder, sex toys and a reclusive old woman who lives in a cave teaching the sexual secrets of the world.
The book is truly satirical, taking misogyny, fame, fashion, self-help, science, sex, capitalism and erotica all in its stride. This is definitely not a book á la 50 Shades of Grey with an aim to get your rocks off; it is very much a dark satire of the very best kind.
Penny, our ingénue turned femme fatale, has a truly encapsulating trajectory in the book. She emerges from her unfulfilled work in a law firm into a world of fame, fashion and sex after meeting C. Linus Maxwell (nickname Climax-Well) a billionaire tech magnate and her new lover. Things take a dark turn, and I won’t ruin all the fun, when Maxwell’s sex-toy business begins to boom, leading to all women on earth becoming enslaved to their own personal pleasure, much to the detriment of earth’s male occupants. Questions begin to arise as to whether there may be an ulterior motive behind Maxwell’s business. Will Penny discover the truth? Will she emancipate women kind from sexual ensnarement? Or will she too become a victim of Maxwell’s evil plan? I’ll leave that for you to discover.
Palahniuk’s work is not for the faint hearted. Those who like transgression, dark satire and have no limits – get a glass of wine and prepare to have fun.
Inferno by Dante
Recommendation from Journalist, Paige
It’s iconic for a literary work to survive 700 years and still maintain its mesmerising capacity to capture a person’s attention, and Dante Alighieri has reached that status. Most people at least know of Inferno, a long poem whose narrative describes what amounts to the poet’s tour of the afterlife, even if they haven’t read it.
"Through me you go to the grief-racked city. Through me to everlasting pain you go..."
Guided by the poet Virgil, Dante plunges to the very depths of Hell and embarks on his arduous journey towards God. Together they descend through the twenty-four circles of the underworld and encounter the tormented souls of the damned - from heretics and pagans to gluttons, criminals and seducers - who tell of their sad fates and predict events still to come in Dante's life.
Inferno, the first part of Dante's The Divine Comedy, is a soaring epic that continues to echo through the centuries with its moving portrayal of human sin and the tragedy of those condemned to eternal damnation.
What Dante managed to do was fuse satire and humour with intellect and soaring passion to create an immortal Christian allegory of mankind's search for self-knowledge and spiritual enlightenment.
At first, Inferno seems like a horror story, but actually the complete opposite. Dante’s real-life love for Beatrice Portinari is the main theme throughout Inferno and the Divine Comedy, where she is cast as none other than the saviour who guides him through paradise.
The thing I love most about this work of literacy, however, was its message. Inferno was not so much about the misery of hell as it was about the power of the human spirit to endure any challenge, no matter how daunting.
Having finally read this masterpiece last July, it was definitely my favourite book of 2017.
The Emotionally Absent Mother by Jasmin Lee Cori
Recommendation from Purdey-jane
This book has a beautiful tone and the relaxed style of writing has provided me with comfort and guidance in my own life. Cori’s wonderful style has given me a deep insight to myself, my own mother and motherhood in general. After reading I became self aware in a way I wasn’t before and it reminded me just how important a role kindness and compassion plays in all our relationships, none more so than with our children.
Although the title ‘The Emotionally Absent Mother’ suggests the prominence of the female in the maternal role, Cori does speak of the father having the same influence on a child, indeed the role of the mother can fall upon the brother, sister, gran or uncle; everyone has different circumstances. I believe the role simply applies to any individual that played a prominent part in your upbringing. A self-help book to be recommended to anyone that may feel lost in themselves or have the desire to understand others.
The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
Recommendation from Natalie
My favourite book of 2017 was The Outrun. I’ve always shunned non-fiction titles, favouring the escapism of fiction, but Amy Liptrot’s memoirs had me captivated. Her story explores her alcohol addiction and recovery by questioning her relationship with her surroundings. The narrative jumps from London back to an Orkney that is dear yet uncomfortable to the writer. Liptrot’s move to London marked a descent into hedonism, while on the road to sobriety she finds herself seeking smaller and smaller islands, first a return to Orkney and then even farther removed. I particularly loved this book for the descriptions of the Scottish islands and their wild beauty, contrasting with a grim reality of a stifling London that feels almost too familiar. I wanted to read this all over again almost before I was finished. A great start if you aren't prone to reading non-fiction.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
Recommendation from Gillian
I am a fan of Jodi Picoult in general, and therefore it was no great surprise that I chose to read the book. In fact so much so that I picked it up and began reading it without even looking at the blurb.
But it is not that it is by Jodi Picoult that made it my favourite choice from 2017. It is because the storyline was so engaging, and the characters so real that I was dragged in from the start.
Without giving too much away, the book which follows a court case from the very incident taking place through to the final decision (I am a sucker for a good crime plot) meant that I was rooting for the main character throughout, understanding her heartache and sharing her frustrations - but equally Jodi Picoult let the reader understand the opposing side and feel their pain too.
The court case was particularly sad, realistic and something that could happen to anyone so I just constantly wanted to know what was going to happen next – nothing was a giveaway so the ending was always going to be a surprise.
However, more importantly, the story tackled the issue of racism – from both sides – and not only was I hooked on the story of the court case but the underlying messaging made me think about humanity, question our thoughts and beliefs and really come away from the book thinking about how I might judge people without even realising it.
My opinion – you can’t beat a book that you are still talking and thinking about days after putting it down!
Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton
Recommendation from Beatrice
I’d have to say my favorite book from last year was Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton biography. It took me most of 2017 read simply because it’s massive but it’s fascinating from cover to cover! I started it because of my obsession with the musical but ended up loving it because of how interesting it made my first venture into non-fiction.