It’s World Book Day today! World Book Day is now in its 24th year, and while it was invented to encourage children to read, its core message: “that reading is fun, relevant, accessible, exciting, and has the power to transform lives” has meaning for all ages.
On this day last year, we still had little idea about the impact the pandemic would wreak on our lives. Ongoing lockdowns have transformed society and kept us in our homes. Unable to mix socially, many of us have found escape in the world of books. As Jeanette Winterson said: “Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world”.
London Vision’s resident bookworm Cathy Low has put together a list of her top reads from the past year, and contributor Sarah Matthews (who used to work in publishing) has kindly also put together a list – including some key titles available in braille.
These are books that have inspired, educated, and helped Cathy and Sarah explore the world and experience new things, all from the comfort of their sofas. In the spirit of new lockdown laws and restrictions, the John Waters quote: “You have to remember that it is impossible to commit a crime while reading a book”, feels quite apt. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading over the past year, and have felt able to broaden your reduced horizons through brilliant literature.
Daphne du Maurier, 1949 (available in braille and audio)
By the author of Rebecca and The Birds, this novel is about a theatrical family and is set in Paris and London.
Girl, Woman, Other
Bernadine Evaristo, 2019 (available in braille and audio)
This book won The Booker Prize in 2019 and is the thought-provoking story of 12 interconnected women.
Sally Rooney, 2018 (available on audio)
This book has recently been adapted for TV and her first novel, Conversations with Friends, is also great and in production at the moment. Normal People is a coming-of-age story about Marianne and Connell set in Ireland.
Maggie O’Farrell, 2020 (available on audio, braille to follow soon)
Winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize. This novel imagines the life of Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes, and the tragic death of their young son. I enjoyed it on audio and am waiting for the braille edition to become available as I want to read it again, all of Maggie’s novels are brilliant.
Death of a Ghost
Marjorie Allingham, 1934 (available on audio)
Golden age crime fiction set in the art world. She was Agatha Christie’s favourite novelist and there are a number of her books in the RNIB audiobook library.
Candice Carty-Williams, 2019 (available on audio)
Winner of the 2020 British Book Best Novel Award. Queenie works for a newspaper and is struggling to get her voice heard. This is the story of her break up with her boyfriend, the realities of life as a Black British woman in today’s society and the importance of friendship.
Ali Smith, 2016 (available in braille and audio)
The first in Ali Smith’s Seasonal Quartet this book is a contemporary novel which is set around a central friendship and the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Smith also weaves in the story of Pauline Boty, a forgotten pop artist from the 1960s. She also writes beautifully about nature. I have read Autumn, Winter and Spring and am waiting for Summer to come out in braille.
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Muriel Spark, 1961 (available in braille and audio)
A novella set in a girl’s school in Edinburgh, just before World War II.
Evelyn Waugh, 1930 (available in braille and audio)
A brilliant satire of the 1920s Jazz Age.
Douglas Stuart, 2020 (available through RNIB bookshare and on audio)
This won the Booker prize in 2020. Absolutely fantastic despite the challenging subject matter.
Black and British: a forgotten history / Natives
Black and British by David Olusoga, 2016, and Natives by Akala, 2018 (both available through RNIB bookshare and on audio)
I read these over the summer lockdown and both completely opened my eyes to hitherto unknown parts of British history and culture.
Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, 2018 (available on audio)
All about Truman Capote and the circle of society women he cultivated relationships with and eventually betrayed. Brilliant storytelling, and all of the characters are very well drawn.
A gentleman in Moscow
Amor Towles, 2017 (available through RNIB bookshare and on audio)
Admittedly a bit slow at the start but a great story and characters who really stay with you.
All the light we cannot see
Anthony Doerr, 2014 (available through RNIB bookshare and on audio)
Set in Belgium during WW2. The central character is a young blind woman.
I could go on!