The Girls by Emma Cline
Have you ever read something and been utterly mesmerised by how flawlessly the author managed to crawl inside your head? My copy of The Girls is filled with wild scrawling notes; “This is so tragically familiar,” I’ve written. “oh, how the lives of 14-year-old girls revolve around the approval of others.”
Set in the summer of 1969, the book follows Evie Boyd, a desperate and lonely teenager who joins a Manson-family-esque cult. This book is captivating. Cline toys with this wonderful idea of something simultaneously grotesque and beautiful. A moving representation of the young female psyche navigating insecurities, rebellion, and curiosities through adolescence.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
The Color Purple made me rethink my stance on God. Always an atheist, it wasn’t until I read this book that I realised my aversion wasn’t to God or spirituality, but to organised religion. This book talks about God as an it, as everything – including yourself. This book made me realise you don’t have to worship God by sitting in a pew and singing hymns. We worship by Living. By running barefoot through long grass, swimming naked in the sea. Dancing to your favourite song or climbing a tree.
A fair warning – this book is not light and fluffy.The story focuses on the life of African-American women in the southern United States in the 1930s. The first page depicts a rape scene and the second illustrates the death of the protagonists’ mother. But it is beautiful, thought-provoking, life-changing. I would recommend it to anyone.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
This book is my Favourite Book Ever. Every person I’ve ever forced into reading it has also decided it is their Favourite Book Ever. It will change your life. I read this book in 2 days. All 200,000-something words of it. All 600-something pages of it. Reading this book is like drinking a really great scotch: you keep drinking, having no idea how drunk your getting. Then you try to stand up and the world falls out from under your feet. It enthrals you so, so completely.
I adore the hint of the supernatural. I adore the slow, building tension. I adore Richard and Henry and Bunny and I’m not even going to tell you what the book is about because it is so inexplicable and brilliant and I could never do it justice. Go and buy this book. Immediately.
Monkey Grip by Helen Garner
Monkey Grip follows the story of Javo and Nora. Javo is addicted to hard drugs and Nora is addicted to Javo. Garner’s writing is a rich, lyrical prose that runs off the tongue like honey. It’s poetic and layered and I read this book again as soon as I finished it, just so I could experience it all over again. She has the ability to capture the mood without using over-indulgent language. I’d just moved to Melbourne the first time I read this book and my timing was perfect – I would walk through the streets, nose in book, and realise I was on the same street Nora lived on, or that the place I’d met a friend for coffee the day before was the same place the Javo and Nora went to meet. There is a wonderful sense of familiarity that washes over me when she refers to specific places.
Self Help by Lorrie Moore
This book contains a collection of short stories by Lorrie Moore, including my favourite short story of all time: How To Be An Other Woman, an incredibly moving piece about, well, how to be a mistress. Moore has a thing for opera singers and women who work in retail, women with cheating men and weird mums. She creates lyrical masterpieces of interconnecting words, meanings, and emotions; stories that are packed tightly with wit and sentiment and tenderness and tragedy and pathos and just about everything that I love in literature. Moore imparts something upon the reader – some deeper wisdom, some change in perspective. I cannot do justice to the amazing, heartbreaking soulfulness that is this book.