So I thought I’d do a sort of bookshelf tour, having recently got my bookshelves something close to sorted for the first time in a couple of years. It’s worth noting that my books are organised according to my own internal logic, which I’m not convinced will make sense to anyone else. I group them into loose categories, and then fit them onto the shelves based on how tall the shelf is.
That said, this first shelf is pretty logical. It’s my easy reads shelf, so it contains YA and romcoms (not that all of them are particularly easy but they fit into the loose category). My Austens are also here, but to be entirely honest they’re filling out a space which will be filled by more YA and romcoms as I get through my TBR, at which point Jane will have to find a new home. This is a little bit of a theme through my shelves: I am very willing to break from my organisational system in order to make it look tidy.
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
It doesn’t make an enormous amount of sense to talk about this before I talk about Fangirl, but such is the order of the shelf (the order is mostly dictated by putting books which are the same height together, so that I can pile more things on top of them). This is a kind of spin off from Fangirl, about gay teenage wizards fighting an evil warlock and discovering their sexuality. It sounds Potter-esque, and it kind of is, but I absolutely fell in love with the characters.
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
I bloody love this book, this is YA at its best. I’ve read all of Rainbow Rowell’s books, and these two are the best. This is about a girl going to college along with her identical twin, and learning to be independent and come out of her shell. I particularly love the roommate character, who is gobby and outspoken and brilliant.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
A surprisingly uplifting novel which takes place on the psych ward of a New York hospital, following a suicide attempt by the teenage protagonist. It was made into a film a few years ago, which is also great, I’d recommend both.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
This is the illustrated edition, with illustrations from Jim Kay (who also does the illustrated Harry Potters). It’s about grief and loss and family, with an element of fantasy, or I guess you could call it magical realism. To be honest I’ve found it fairly forgettable, but I love the illustrations.
Looking for Alaska by John Green
I’m not necessarily the biggest John Green fan, but I have read all of his books. I do like the representation of teenage friendship in this, even though I’m not mad on the love story side.
Paper Towns by John Green
This is, in my opinion, John Green’s strongest novel. It’s deconstructs the idea of a manic pixie dream girl, and it’s funny and affectionate and considerably more uplifting than anything else he’s written.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I don’t want to admit to how compelling I find this book. I know it’s cheesy and overwrought and just generally a bit much, but I absolutely race through it, and I cry every single time.
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
I totally, unashamedly love this book, and the film which is based on it. It’s about two teenagers who meet and spend a mad night together in New York City, and it made me love music again after I went through a weird phase of not really liking music when I was a teenager.
Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Honestly I don’t think anything they’ve written together matches up to Nick and Norah, but this is good fun. It’s about a pair of teenagers, a gay boy and a straight girl, whose friendship is maybe not as strong as they thought it was. There’s a film of this too which is kind of fun, if cheesy. Honestly when I read this I thought it was their weakest, but I kind of want to go back to it.
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This is about yet another pair of teenagers, this time ones who meet by passing a notebook with messages back and forth between them. It’s cute and fun and festive. There’s also a follow up, which is called The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, but I’ve lent it to a friend and I doubt I’ll ever get it back.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan
I find David Levithan kind of inconsistent (I fucking hated Every Day), but this is a sweet little LGBT love story. I have Two Boys Kissing waiting to be read, and it looks to be similarly cute. I would also highly recommend The Lover’s Dictionary.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
This is the story of a wealthy family who spend their summers on a private island, and all the difficulties which are going on under the surface. There’s a HUGE twist, so I’d quite like to reread it knowing what happens, to see how that’s set up in the rest of the novel.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman
Daniel Handler is better known as Lemony Snicket, and this is a YA novel looking at a relationship after it has ended, through the various gifts he gave her while they were together. Each chapter starts with a beautiful illustration of the object, and it’s worth reading just for those. It’s also a non-linear narrative, which is one of the things that is guaranteed to make me interested in a book.
How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
This was marketed as adult fiction when it came out, but I’m inclined to categorise it as YA. It’s a look at class and sex and coming of age, and it’s very, very funny. I love it.
Nina Is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi
This is distinctly not a light read, but I think it’s kind of comparable to How to Build a Girl, so it makes sense to me to put them together. This is a book about a teenage alcoholic and rape. It’s very good, but it’s tough going and I’d definitely consider whether the content is going to be triggering to you before you pick it up.
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I’m sure everyone knows what this is about: the love lives of the Dashwood sisters, who have been cut off by their half brother following the death of their father. Highly recommend both the TV adaptation and the film, but I wouldn’t start here if you’re not already an Austen fan.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
This remains one of my favourite books of all time, I reread it frequently. I would also really recommend the audiobook as performed by Rosamund Pike, who does a wonderful job.
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
You can tell in this photo that this is the least worn of my Austens, because, to be frank, it’s my least favourite. It’s the story of Fanny Price, ward of her wealthy aunt and uncle, and hopelessly in love with her cousin Edmund. Fanny is pretty bland, and I find that the characters you’re supposed to dislike actually seem way more fun than her.
Emma by Jane Austen
I love this story about a young, wealthy woman who cannot stop meddling. Emma is pretty annoying, but she’s also a lot of fun.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This is supposedly the worst Austen, but I think it’s wonderfully snarky. It’s about an incredibly gullible girl called Catherine Morland, who goes to Bath and falls for a young man who invites her to stay at his family home. Catherine constantly thinks something sinister is going on, but (spoiler) it literally never is.
Persuasion by Jane Austen
This is the Austen I’d recommend to people who don’t like Austen. It’s more mature and more cynical than the others, and is about the ways love can go wrong.
You Had Me At Hello by Mhairi McFarlane
This is about a woman who reconnects with an old university friend who she had secretly been in love with. The two stories of them at uni and in the present day run parallel, and it’s about two people whose lives have gotten away from them. I love Mhairi McFarlane, and I totally recommend all her books.
Here’s Looking At You by Mhairi McFarlane
A woman in her thirties on a string of terrible dates is a bit of a trope, but Mhairi McFarlane is talented enough that this is funny and compelling and fresh. Anna is a successful academic, who is forced to work with her former bully. Suddenly, her old insecurities are back and she’s filled with doubt. Honestly, just summarising it is making me want to read it again.
It’s Not Me It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane
This is about Delia, who’s just found out her partner has cheated on her, so turns her life upside down to move to London and work for a slightly dodgy PR agency. This was the first of her books I read and, given I read the rest of her books within six months, you can probably guess that I loved it.
Who’s That Girl? by Mhairi McFarlane
Edie’s just been caught kissing the groom at a colleague’s wedding, so she’s gone home to Nottingham to hide out/ghostwrite a celebrity autobiography. This is my favourite of her books so far, not least because it’s set in one of my favourite cities. It packs an emotional punch in a way that none of her previous three did for me.
So, there we have my “light reads” shelf, the one I turn to when I need a bit of a jump start with my reading. Any recommendations on how I can fill the romcom shaped hole until Mhairi McFarlane writes another book would be very welcome!