“The characters felt like old friends.” Seasalt’s Brand & Marketing Director shares the novels and book series that she didn’t want to end.
My parents instilled a love of reading, giving us a house full of books and a torch under the bed covers. My first pocket money was spent on a copy of Annie. Growing up in rural Ireland, access to books was not always easy, just a small local library in a portacabin and the nearest bookshop almost twenty miles away. I can map out my life in words, with a book linked to all of the milestones.
I’ve fallen in love with the classics over the years, from CS Lewis to Tolkien, Wuthering Heights to The Grapes of Wrath, although I’ve read more than my fair share of blockbusters too, often judging a book by its cover. Prequels, sequels and series – I’ve been absorbed in them all. Taking Journalism at university opened up a world of poets, essayists and commentators that would not have been my usual go-to reading material. Years spent commuting in and out of London on trains meant many books consumed, even when children made reading at home more of a challenge! One of the things I most miss in lockdown is visits to our lovely local library in Truro and the independent bookshops we’re so lucky to have here in Cornwall.
I don’t have a favourite genre but I seem to naturally gravitate towards writers from the East Coast of the United States, particularly New England, maybe because of similarities to this part of the world. I am a big fan of the work of Philip Roth, John Irving, Dennis Lehane and Anita Shreve. Although I have lots of books on my kindle and I’m an audible subscriber, nothing beats a beautiful hardback book for me, it doesn’t have to be new, in fact, many of my most treasured finds have been secondhand. I hope that my children will find the same joy in reading, it will be the best gift I can give them in life.
1. Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin
My favourite book or books of all time is the Tales of the City series by Armistead Maupin. The collection was recommended to me by a work colleague and I’ve waited eagerly for every new novel by Maupin since.
I was lucky enough to go to an ‘Evening with’ book reading at the Barbican a couple of years ago when he talked about his latest work, accompanied by his favourite pieces of music, performed live by the BBC Symphony Orchestra.
Tales of the City is set in San Francisco in the 1970s, through a time of incredible social change, and is packed full of the larger than life characters of 28 Barbary Lane. The stories first appeared as instalments in the San Francisco Chronicle, before the series of nine books was published. They’ve got comedy and tragedy in equal measure and I was hooked from the first chapter. Maupin paints a picture of a time and city that pulls the reader in, tackling all sorts of issues effortlessly in his own unique style.
By book nine, The Days of Anna Madrigal, the characters felt like old friends and I never wanted to reach the end. Luckily, he has also written some other standalone novels that took the edge off my disappointment when Tales of the City finished.
My other favourites:
2. Rough Music, Patrick Gale
3. I Know this Much is True, Wally Lamb
4. American Pastoral, Philip Roth
5. A Widow for One Year, John Irving
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