The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Many of us were forced to read (or pretend to read) Of Mice and Men at school and so I’m sure many will already have an opinion about John Steinbeck. All I can say is that I’m a massive fan of his work and that The Grapes of Wrath is my favourite of his novels. Don’t read this if you want a feel-good story. But, if you want to be changed by a story about being human, finding home in the midst of hurt, then this is the book for you. The characters are unforgettable, the plot compelling and the atmospheric description of place unrivalled. I couldn’t recommend this highly enough!
Recommended by Tim H
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I must admit that I have watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy numerous times but have only managed to read all three books the whole way through once. But that doesn’t stop them from being entirely excellent, inspirational and beautiful (frankly I’m sad it took me so long to hop on the LOTR book bandwagon). The books touch on so many themes; good vs. evil, power, justice, altruism, courage, friendship and lots more! I love the journey we go on with the characters, from the humdrum of normal Hobbiton life all the way to Mount Doom (with many tales, characters, songs, poems and bits in between). Get involved in the LOTR hype – you won’t be disappointed!
Recommended by Fi
Noughts + Crosses by Malorie Blackman
Noughts and Crosses is a compelling novel about love and friendship in the midst of racial tensions. Malorie Blackman reverses racial stereotypes and paints the white (nought) population as the oppressed race, while the black (cross) population are perceived as the superior, ruling class. The story revolves around a cross girl, Sephy, who falls in love with a nought boy, Callum, and the challenges they face. I would 10/10 recommend, it is an amazing commentary on racial prejudice from a different perspective! The BBC have also just released a new series based on this book which you should check out!
Recommended by Tee
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Most of my friends read this for GCSE, alas, we read a short story anthology. I picked up To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time in November, holding it with an almost reverence after being told repeatedly of its excellence. If you haven’t read it, please do. If you were forced to read it when you were 16, try reading it again for fun. It is a deeply poignant story of racial injustice wrapped up in the sweetness and innocence of a child’s perspective. There are layers and layers of plot and meaning to get lost in and uncover. I now fully intend to call my firstborn Atticus.
Recommended by Anna
The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden by Jonas Jonasson
I don’t often read fiction, but I always enjoy this Swedish authors quite eccentric novels and the extremely long titles he gives them. You might know his more popular and even longer titled book, The Hundred Year Old Man Who Jumped Out the Window and Disappeared. The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden follows the trials and adventures of an intelligent young woman from South Africa who gets caught up in a wide array of odd situations with odd people. I remember genuinely laughing out loud while reading this book and I very much hope you find the same. This is a very fun book that also manages to deal with deep themes around race in South Africa, nuclear weapons, the Israeli intelligence service, and anti-monarchical revolt.
Recommended by Curtis