So many books. So little time. When your bedside table is groaning under the weight of your next-reads, it’s time to do a serious book edit.
Thankfully we managed to sneak a chat with exciting new novelist Laura Powell, who’s put together a must-read list for thoroughly modern women. Because there are books – and then there are books…
1. On Death Row, by Mike James
As a girl growing up in South Wales, I read anything I could get my hands on in my local library - and went through several book phases. There was the cosy Irish literature phase (Maeve Binchy mainly); the Cultural Revolution phase (I was obsessed with Chairman Mao); and finally the death row phase where I lapped up anything I could about the backstories of real-life men on death row in the US. In particular, Mike James’s true-crime series captivated me. Their crimes sickened me but I also questioned why a judge or government felt they had the power to take someone else’s life. Plus I was fascinated to read about the grim side of life that I was thankfully sheltered from.
2. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
This is the book I wish I’d written. It’s sinister and delicate, with complex characters, a chilling plot and a cracking ending. It is also set in Cornwall, one of my favourite parts of the world and the place that my own novel, The Unforgotten, is set. I love the landscapes of Cornwall; they lend themselves to well to eerie plots, yet they are so awe-inspiring. Daphne du Maurier herself is inspiring too - whenever I get stuck when I’m writing I listen to her Desert Island Discs episode on the BBC Radio Four archives.
3. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
I hate book clubs because I hate being told what to read, then being forced to read it to the end, especially when I have hundreds of other books I’m dying to read. But Donna Tartt’s The Secret History changed this. I was dreading reading it. The cover was daunting and black. And the words “classics” and “academia” in the blurb were instant turn-offs. Then I began and was gripped. It’s a tremendous read; layered with clever psychology, complex relationships and exquisite writing. Plus it single-handedly changed my view of book clubs.
4. Quiet, by Susan Cain
Susan Cain’s popular TEDTalk and book about the power of introverts touched a nerve. She spelled out the fact that the western workplaces are catered to extroverts, not introverts. And she helped me realise I’m not the only person who feels exposed sitting in big open plan offices, and uncomfortable at the verbal nature of meetings. I read it two years ago and no longer feel guilty or weak about the fact that I find socialising exhausting, or that I draw my energy from alone time and solace. Cain taught me that’s fine. I just need to find a way to make that work.
5. The Hand that First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell
Maggie O'Farrell is one of a handful of modern female writers who sit somewhere between literary fiction and popular fiction - and combine the best parts of both. Sarah Waters and Kate Morton, two of my other favourite novelists, fit into this school too. They write books that are beautifully written with complex characters, attention to language and thought provoking topics, like you’d find in classic ‘literary fiction’. But there is also a layered plot and pace more typically found in mass market fiction. Their ability to balance both is so clever and, as a writer, something I aspire to achieve too.
Laura Powell is a Commissioning Editor at the Daily Telegraph. Her debut novel, The Unforgotten, is out this month (published by Freight Books, £8.99)
What books are on your must-read list? Let us know @YahooStyleUK