Best Autobiography Books

Sometimes the best stories are those that are real. People’s memoirs provide an amazing insight into actual events and social history. From war to being a midwife in the 1950’s, autobiographies are enlightening, enriching and entertaining books made all the more incredible by the fact that they are true accounts. So if you feel like reading an autobiography here is a list of the best autobiography books to give you a rough idea of what is out there.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”My Booky Wook” authorname=”Russell Brand” publisher=”It Books” pages=”368″ amazonusa=”0061857807″ amazonuk=”0340936177″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

My Booky Wook is the eccentric, intriguing and downright ballsy autobiography of stand-up comedian Russell Brand. His story is electric. Brand holds nothing back, as he reveals in a blunt honesty how he had bulimia at the tender age of 12 and started drugs at just 16. He then reveals in an eloquent style how he became addicted to drugs, alcohol and sex and only turned to rehab after being told he would either die, go to prison or end up in a psychiatric hospital. The revelations about his drug addiction are touched with a twist of humour as he talks about his ethics during that time, “Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.” True to his stand-up, the jokes are fresh and stylish as Brand writes in a highly-sophisticated English. His story is touching, gritty and very real, making Brand more human and likeable. He doesn’t try to make excuses for his decisions or the life he has lived and offers comic but very honest insights into social problems such as racism: “All penguins are the same below the surface, which I think is as perfect an analogy as we’re likely to get for the futility of racism.” Sometimes celebrity autobiographies can be absolute drivel, usually a cleaver ploy to promote a tour, show or film. However, Brand really does bring something different. He lays bare his life and asks you not to judge him, and with such a frankness it would be hard to criticise him. An elicit and tantalising read! 

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”The Story of My Life” authorname=”Hellen Keller” publisher=”Dover Publications” pages=”80″ amazonusa=”0486292495″ amazonuk=”0486292495″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

In this emotional and heart-warming book Hellen Keller describes her life as a deaf and blind woman. The Story of My Life is a beautifully written memoir that appears fresh to a modern audience. Keller is a vibrant young girl who appears trapped in a body that is discordant with her wild nature and frustrates and angers the author. Her world is truly moving as she describes the dedication of one teacher, Anne Sullivan, who managed to work with the young Keller to break down the difficulties posed by her disabilities. Sullivan taught Keller how to spell words out on the palm of her hand, until she had a wonderful grasp of language. This is clear in the beautiful, sensory imagery that Keller conjures in her text. Smell and touch seem to jump from the page, as she describes her home and the surrounding garden, as you follow this young girl’s journey through adversity. One of the truly most inspirational stories you could ever read and a must in any best autobiography books list!

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Call The Midwife” authorname=”Jennifer Worth” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”352″ amazonusa=”0143123254″ amazonuk=”0753827875″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Jenny Lee (now Jennifer Worth) is a midwife in 1950’s East London. She works at Nonnatus House, the actually named Sisters of St John the Divine, and throughout her story depicts the trauma involved in midwifery. Written in an incredibly accesible style, Call The Midwife is a brilliant book that reveals the social history of 1950’s London, and particularly  a woman’s role during this epoque. Worth’s story is touching and compelling, as she reveals the squalor and poverty of East London post WWII and the agonising process women go through with childbirth. The very graphic depictions of labour are not for those with weak stomachs, but are incredibly emotional and educational as Worth does not shy away from the blood and the mucus. Admittedly women will probably take more away from this book but is nevertheless one I would urge everyone to read. A true story about what it is to be human.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Goodbye To All That” authorname=”Robert Graves” publisher=”Anchor” pages=”347″ amazonusa=”0385093306″ amazonuk=”0141184590″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

World War One had a huge impact on many peoples lives and in Goodbye To All That Robert Graves gives us his account. In a very detached and almost comical way, Graves depicts the true horrors that faced the soldiers on a daily basis. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Welch Fusiliers and fought alongside another famous war writer Siegfried Sassoon. This book is raw and incredibly emotional, as Graves describes bombardment and warfare. His fear comes across acutely, as he describes one incident in France where he sweated through the night at the sound of the artillery. Graves also tackles death with a bluntness that drives home the futility of war. In one incident he describes how “comrades joke as they push it [a corpse] out of the way”. Grave’s style makes WWI feel more than just a topic you cover in school, his memoir manages to conjure it before your very eyes. The vivid descriptions further highlight how fragile all of the soldiers were when up against rifles and bombs, and his bitterness forms like bile in your own mouth. An incredible account of what hundreds of men went through in 1914.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”A Journey” authorname=”Tony Blair” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”784″ amazonusa=”0307390632″ amazonuk=”009192555X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

England 1997, New Labour rose to power and had a new poster boy, enter Tony Blair. A Journey is Blair’s riveting account of his time as Labour leader and is a fascinating read. Written in an unconventional style, Blair starts by his own admission as “tackling sone of the hardest [chapters] first, and the easiest last”. There are entire chapters dedicated to Princess Diana and the 9/11 crisis, which offer startling new insights into Blair’s thoughts and feelings during these difficult periods of his leadership. Blair carefully documents the thought processes that led to him forming “New Labour” with great depth and lays out his political ideology in a way that communicates his ideas easily. This makes the book easy reading, even if you don’t have a huge in depth political knowledge. He offers very truthful opinions on Gordon Brown and George Bush, showing a different side to the Blair that was created by the media. Written in a down to earth style and lacking in air and graces that would complicate his ideas, Blair manages to very simply describe the journey that led him to becoming one of the most famous Prime Ministers of Great Britain and his role in great historical moments of the 21st century. A truly fantastic and engaging read. A must read book for everyone!

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” authorname=”Nelson Mandela” publisher=”Holt, Rinehart and Winston” pages=”507″ amazonusa=”0030565812″ amazonuk=”034911630X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Half way through this best autobiography books list is a truly inspirational book written by one of the greatest political leaders in the world: Nelson Mandela. During his youth Mandela fought for the end of apartheid in a struggle that led to his imprisonment in 1962. After 27 years in prison, Mandela was released and went on to become President of South Africa, turning the country into a democracy. Long Walk to Freedom is clear and concise, begininning with Mandela’s younger life as a student and progressing to describe his role in the Afrikaner National Party. The earlier stages of his life are evocative and the insight he allows into the Thembu tribe is incredibly interesting and offers a unique standpoint of tribal culture. The next most compelling sections of this book focus upon Mandela imprisonment. Through these sections you really get a feel for how Mandela developed politically and as a human, to become one of the greatest political minds in the world. This book is not a fast read containing over 700 pages, however it is a worthwhile and enriching read which really conveys the restrictions Mandela faced living in South Africa. Through his tale he argues his points of view without melodrama. A truly inspirational book.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”A Child Called It” authorname=”David Pelzer” publisher=”HCI” pages=”184″ amazonusa=”1558743669″ amazonuk=”0752837508″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

At number four in this list of the best autobiography books comes A Child Called ‘It’, a brutally honest tale by David Pelzer who grew up in a violent and abusive domestic sphere. There are not many books I find difficult to read, however Pelzer’s story really did push me to the edge of my comfort level. Starting with a beating on page one, the emphatic “SMACK” Pelzer receives from his mother, not only stings him but also you as the reader. The book starts in the present tense with an account of the day the police visited Pelzer’s school and the true nature of his and his Mother’s relationship was revealed. This adds even more emphasis to the events of Pelzer’s life as they appear to unfold in the present time of reading, transposing his helplessness onto you. The rest of this extraordinary autobiography is narrated in the past, as Pelzer bares the whole of his story bare and describes in graphic detail how his alcoholic mother starved him, beat him and forced chemicals down his throat. A Child Called ‘It’ is very difficult to read in places, but shows the incredible strength David Pelzer possess at being able to retell his inspirational story. Pelzer does not revel as a victim and instead shows his sheer tenacity to survive his horrific ordeal. This autobiography should be read by everyone, and is a truly fascinating and emotional read.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Mein Kampf” authorname=”Adolf Hitler” publisher=”Houghton Mifflin Company” pages=”694″ amazonusa=”0395925037″ amazonuk=”0984536132″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Perhaps the most controversial entry to this best autobiography books list is Adolf Hitler’s account of his life and political ideology, Mein Kampf. At times it almost borders on propaganda for the Nazi Party, but nevertheless remains a compelling and fascinating read. This book is difficult to read but for entirely different reasons to Pelzer’s A Child Called ‘It’, as it concerns perhaps the most infamous political leader of the 20th century. Hitler writes in a convoluted style, as he fills Mein Kampf with his political ideas and his anti-semitism.    Due to its loaded political content, Mein Kampf becomes increasingly more difficult to judge as a text on its own due to prior knowledge about the atrocities the Nazi’s committed during the Holocaust. In the beginning chapters, Hitler’s hatred for social degradation comes through as he recounts his time in Vienna, and attacks institutions such as cinemas and “obscene books” for “spreading poison among the people”.  This hatred comes into its own as he lays down his opinions concerning the Jewish community, and the insults permeate throughout the entire of his book. It is of course impossible to agree with Hitler’s radical ideas at any level, but I urge to read this book as it reveals Hitler’s confused thought processes and offers a fascinating insight into the most notorious mind of W.W.II.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Gypsy Boy” authorname=”Mikey Walsh” publisher=”St. Martin’s Griffin” pages=”288″ amazonusa=”1250022029″ amazonuk=”0340977981″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Gypsy Boy is the moving memoir of Mikey Walsh, a Romany Gypsy who grew up in England during the 80’s. In his autobiography, Mikey offers a vibrant insight into the closed Gypsy community and reveals a lot about his painful upbringing. Being born into a family of fighters, Mikey’s dad forces his son to compete in brutal battles for honour, and Mikey’s suffering only continues when he is sexually abused by his Uncle. These segements of the book are incredibly difficult to read but also make Gypsy Boy impossible to put down, as you begin to admire Mikey’s courage and loyalty towards his Gypsy heritage. Walsh writes in a brutally honest, funny and un-melodramatic way and it is wonderful to read the development of this young man. This is a book that will make you laugh, cry and gasp in horror, as you follow Mikey’s haunting tale to escape such a cruel environment. One of the most moving and inspirational stories to make this best autobiography books list.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Diary of A Young Girl” authorname=”Anne Frank” publisher=”Everyman’s Library” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”0307594009″ amazonuk=”0141315180″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

It is not many times in life that you read a book that remains with you long after you have closed that final page, but The Diary of A Young Girl is most certainly one of them. Anne Frank is a bright, observant and vibrant girl who receives a dairy for her 13th birthday. From this day on she documents her life as a Jewish girl growing up in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, and reveals her family life in a secret annexe. Frank is just like every other young girl and documents in startling honesty her difficult relationship with her mother, the bodily changes her body goes through during puberty and the stress of hiding in the annexe. Her voice is fresh and wonderfully innocent, making it incredibly difficult not to fall in love with this skilled and funny writer. The most difficult moments of this book come when Anne expresses her wishes of wanting to be a writer when she grows up and the uncertain future, made all the more heart breaking as you, the reader, probably know of her fate. Even I must admit it is incredibly difficult not to cry when the diary reaches its abrupt ending, as the Frank family are captured and placed in concentration camps. An incredible tale of a young girl’s unwavering determination and strength during such a difficult and unimaginable time in history. Truly moving and truly brilliant. 

 

The range of memoirs out there is vast and there is no way a top ten could encapsulate all of the best autobiography books. Other fantastic reads include Peter Mandelson’s fascinating memoir The Third Man: Life at the Heart of New Labour. This text offers an incredible insight into the tense relationship between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, as well as a fresh look at the modern politics behind New Labour. Another brilliant read is Mikey Walsh’s sequel to his amazing debut book Gypsy Boy: Gyspy Boy On The Run. In this sequel, Walsh documents the difficulty he faces in the outside world, as he is now a wanted man by his Gypsy community. This text equally matches its predecessor as a masterpiece and Walsh develops as a writer to tell this moving part of his story. Finally, another must read is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. This book documents the tale of McCourt who grows up in a poverty stricken family, in Brooklyn. His family are Irish immigrants who struggle due to a lack of money and his father’s drink problem. Angela’s Ashes is a remarkable tale and incredibly moving, as it does what any autobiography sets out to do and tells the story of a unique individual with verve and sophistication.

Best Zombie Books

With the supernatural saturating popular culture, vampires have been stealing the limelight from zombies; let’s be fair, how can they compete with the handsome Robert Pattinson when they look like me first thing in the morning? Don’t feel too sorry for them though, if  the following books are anything to go by their time will come…

Here is a top ten list of the best zombie books that will have you panic-buying for your zombie-apocalypse survival kit.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”Frankenstein” authorname=”Mary Shelley” publisher=”Collector’s Library” pages=”380″ amazonusa=”1904633420″ amazonuk=”0192789872″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘]

Kicking off this top ten of the best zombie books is one of the earliest examples of  zombie literature and bringing life to the dead.

“I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe. If I cannot satisfy the one, I will indulge the other.”

Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a student consumed by his desire to unearth the secret to life. Told through an arctic explorer’s letters sent back to his sister after a chance meeting with Frankenstein, the book details how Frankenstein was able to give life to a creature assembled from stitched together body-parts of the dead with disastrous consequences. The journey of loss and isolation taken by both Frankenstein, and his monstrous creation, although different to modern-day zombie literature, inspired future generations to delve into the concept of resurrecting the dead and zombies, becoming a classic along the way.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”Magic Island” authorname=”W. B. Seabrook” publisher=”Kessinger Publishing” pages=”404″ amazonusa=”0766159086″ amazonuk=”0766159086″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Although not strictly a ‘Zombie’ book, The Magic Island is Seabrook’s eyewitness account of black magic and voodoo practices taking place in Haiti in the 1920’s. The book documents the journalist’s journey through ‘The Magic Island’ hunting down voodoo tribes and cults practicing black magic accompanied by black and white photographs from the trip. Published in 1929, Seabrook gave the western world its first glimpse into this strange, unknown world of supernatural cults, with Time Magazine even claiming the book: “Introduced ‘Zombi’ into U.S. speech.” A worthy read for any zombie fan or black magic aficionado interested in the beginnings of the zombie genre.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” authorname=”Seth Grahame-Smith” publisher=”Quirk Books” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”1594743347″ amazonuk=”1594743347″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is possibly the strangest, yet most laughably innovative book to feature on this best zombie books list. Seth Grahame-Smith has, somehow expertly, managed to infiltrate Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice with his own tale of the living dead, roaming around the British countryside. The book stumbles upon a classic formula by actually using a classic as the basis of the novel, and although I’m sure fans of Jane Austin’s classic may be outraged at the newly added gore, it has already become a hit with zombie fans selling over 700,000 copies. Jane Austin may be spinning in her grave at the defamation of her masterpiece; I like to think she is too busy laughing at the new title.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Monster Island” authorname=”David Wellington” publisher=”Thunder’s Mouth Press” pages=”288″ amazonusa=”1560258500″ amazonuk=”1905005474″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I will not negotiate with the undead!”

Monster Island comes in at number seven in this best zombie books list and is the first part of David Wellington’s zombie trilogy; It began life online before being published in print  2006. Set in a Manhattan overrun by zombies, the book follows a former UN weapons inspector named Dekalb whose daughter has been kidnapped by a Somalian war lord. In exchange for the safe return of his daughter, Dekalb is forced to guide a group of  Somalian child-soldiers into the heart of zombie infested Manhattan to retrieve AIDS medication. However, the twist comes when we discover one of the infected hoard is different: unable to prevent his infection, Gary Fleck devised a way to keep oxygen flowing to his brain between his death and reanimation allowing him to retain his thoughts and speech as a zombie. Gary soon realises he is able to manipulate the rest of the living dead, causing a gore-fest as the two stories collide. Although the premise of the novel is at times questionable, Monster Island contains enough violence and gore to be enjoyed by zombie fans and a story with enough substance lingering unanswered questions to leave the reader dying for the next part of the trilogy.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead” authorname=”Jonathan Maberry” publisher=”Citadel Press” pages=”404″ amazonusa=”080652877X” amazonuk=”080652877X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Zombie CSU: Forensics of the living dead investigates how the world would react to a hypothetical zombie infestation. Although some fans of  the zombie genre have bemoaned the lack of ‘actual’ zombie action; the vast amount of research Maberry embarked on when writing Zombie CSU: Forensics of the living dead impressively makes up for it. The book includes hundreds of interviews with real-world experts from areas including law enforcement, forensic science, medicine, psychology, military and even philosophy to gain an insight into how an outbreak of the living dead would be managed and contained. Illustrated by numerous top artists in the zombie genre, Maberry gives a factual insight into how the world could react to an outbreak of zombies, and whether Night of the Living Dead could ever become a reality.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Zombies For Zombies” authorname=”David P. Murphy” publisher=”Sourcebooks” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”140222012X” amazonuk=”140222012X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This is the tongue-in-cheek guide aimed at the Zombie and could not be left out of this best zombie books list. It’s all well and believing you will be the hero of the story, survive the zombie onslaught, be reunited with loved ones. But what if you don’t? If you have already been bitten, David P. Murphy has written just the book to help you cope with your newly infected demeanour. A parody of motivational guides, Zombies For Zombies gives advice on how to make the most of your life as a zombie, including: how to dress, skin-care techniques for your rotting flesh, fitness tips and even helpful recipes for brains! The ultimate guide to life for the infected, or an amusing read for those who aren’t.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Autumn” authorname=”David Moody” publisher=”St. Martin’s Griffin” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”031256998X” amazonuk=”0575091274″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Surviving is one thing,” he said quietly, his voice suddenly calmer, “but you’ve got to have a reason to do it. There’s no point in living if you don’t have anything worth living for.”

Similarly to Wellington’s Monster Island, Autumn began life as a free online download becoming an instant hit among zombie fans with over half a million downloads. Moody’s apocalyptic fiction depicts a group of survivors, struggling in a world whose population has been decimated by a deadly viral disease which agonizingly kills within minutes of infection; 99% of the population are dead within 24 hours. Those who do survive are anything but lucky; at the end of the first week the dead rise up. With increasing intelligence and improving sensory perception they start hunting the survivors who now believe they may have died and been sent straight to hell. Widely regarded as one of the best underground authors of the zombie genre, the gamble taken by Moody to post his novel for free online, and the success that followed, led to sequels in the Autumn series that are equally as captivating and worth exploration by any fan of the zombie genre.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”The Zombie Survival Guide” authorname=”Max Brooks” publisher=”Broadway Books” pages=”288″ amazonusa=”1400049628″ amazonuk=”071564520X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Use your head; cut off theirs.”

Ever worried you wouldn’t know how to deal with a zombie outbreak or a post-apocalyptic world? If you answered yes, then this is the book for you. Brooks’ fictional parody of survival guides details everything you would ever need to know about the living-dead: from history of the zombie, to survival techniques, even intricate aspects, such as the kind of building best suited to lying low in during a zombie epidemic, and for the worst case scenarios, combat techniques and weapon selection advice. Think of Brooks as a post-apocalyptic Bear Grylls. A brilliantly written and well researched book that highlighted the amount of interest in the zombie-genre by making The New York Times Best Seller’s List when released in 2003.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Cell” authorname=”Stephen King” publisher=”Pocket Star” pages=”480″ amazonusa=”1416524517″ amazonuk=”1444707825″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The list wouldn’t be complete without a nightmare-inducing Stephen King novel. Cell is King’s most successful foray into the zombie genre. The novel follows Clayton Riddle, a struggling young artist from Maine, in Boston on business when ‘The Pulse’ a signal sent through cell (or for the English, mobile) phones hits. The pulse turns phone users into murderous, zombie-like creatures, leaving only the technologically inept as survivors. The book follows Clayton and the characters he meets along the way on a journey back to Maine to be reunited with his son, dodging ‘The Phoners’ or zombies along the way. However, King wasn’t happy to follow the generic zombie plot formula: A few days after ‘The Pulse’ hits, the zombies begin to develop psychic abilities, hiving together as one mind. An interesting twist to the sometimes generic  premise of zombie literature; it will have you answering your phone with apprehension for the duration of the novel. A worthy runner-up in any best zombie books list.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”World War Z” authorname=”Max Brooks” publisher=”Broadway Books” pages=”432″ amazonusa=”0770437400″ amazonuk=”0770437400″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Top of this Best Zombie Books list is World War Z: A Oral History Of The Zombie War by Max Brooks. Inspired by Studs Terkel’s The Good War: An Oral History Of World War 2, Brooks has been accredited with bringing the zombie genre back to life with World War Z. After an epidemic initially overlooked by governments all over the world, Brooks plays the role of a United Nations post-war commission agent publishing a report 10 years after the beginning of a war between zombies and the human race. Told through first person anecdotes collected by Brooks from witnesses, but ultimately left out of the final UN report, the book gives perspectives from numerous people of different backgrounds detailing their experiences through the war with the living dead. Continuing from his previous effort The Zombie Survival Guide, Brooks uses his vast amount of knowledge and research to create a truly believable account of a living-dead epidemic.

“Other monsters may threaten individual humans, but the living dead threaten the entire human race… Zombies are slate wipers.” – Max Brooks.

What sets the excellent World War Z apart from other zombie novels is Brooks’ ability to highlight the worst qualities of  human nature: from governments trying to cover up outbreaks, to people trying to make quick money from others misfortune and black market trade, as well as showing how short-sighted and isolated parts of the human race can become during times of terror or tragedy. Brooks uses the novel to question government ineptitude that resonated with a post 9/11 audience making World War Z an enormous hit with critics and zombie fans alike.

Best Baby Books

You’re never too young to have a favourite book. Introduce your 0-2 year old to the joy of reading with my top ten best baby books that are a pleasure for parents to read as well as bags of fun for your little one.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”The Odd Egg” authorname=”Emily Gravett” publisher=”Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers” pages=”32″ amazonusa=”1416968725″ amazonuk=”0230531350″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

When duck finds an egg, he thinks it is the most beautiful he has ever seen, even though all of the other birds think it is unusual. Duck looks after it and it takes a long time to hatch, which keeps everyone guessing until the very end when the surprise is revealed.    The width of the pages increases as the story progresses which is a quirky touch and the watercolour illustrations are especially enchanting. Gravett is a relatively new children’s author to keep an eye out for, as I’m sure she will write many more books that will need to be included in this best baby books list.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”Row Row Row Your Boat” authorname=”Annie Kubler” publisher=”Childs Play Intl Ltd” pages=”12″ amazonusa=”0859536580″ amazonuk=”0859536580″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The classic nursery rhyme is told through charming and colourful illustrations, which encourages children to sing along over and over again. The board book is a good size for little hands to grab onto and the print is big enough so that they can read along when they’re a bit older too.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”The Bedtime Bear” authorname=”Ian Whybrow, Axel Scheffler” publisher=”Books Are Fun” pages=”9″ amazonusa=”1890409782″ amazonuk=”1405049936″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Expect this pop up book to get bruised and battered as children will love the flaps to lift up and tabs to turn. The illustrations are wacky and the nonsense rhymes will appeal to parents and babies sense of fun. Meet characters such as the tickelmetoo monkey, the lizard in a blizzard and the bear looking for a great big hug! This is perhaps too exciting for bedtime reading, despite the title.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Peepo” authorname=”Janet Ahlberg, Allan Ahlberg” publisher=”Puffin” pages=”34″ amazonusa=”0141337427″ amazonuk=”0141337427″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Another hit book by the Ahlbergs, Peepo is set in the 1940s and describes a baby’s routine and surroundings from his point of view. The period design is a unique concept for children’s books nowadays and there is great attention to detail in the illustrations and originality in the rhymes. Babies will enjoy the repetition and the little peepholes which offer a sneak peek into the next page. I’m still not entirely sure what ‘Peepo!’ means though!

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Baby Touch Colours” authorname=”Fiona Land” publisher=”Ladybird Books Ltd” pages=”10″ amazonusa=”1846469082″ amazonuk=”1846469082″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Another wonderful book from the Ladybird Baby Touch series. A nice chunky board book that babies can sit and flick through themselves as well as read along with their parents. Each double page is dedicated to a colour and shows two animals that babies can feel for themselves, such as a ‘fluffy bird’ and a ‘soft duck’. Although it might not always be true to life (who ever heard of a green bear?) babies are encouraged to interact with the book to stimulate the senses.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Guess How Much I Love You” authorname=”Sam McBratney, Anita Jeram” publisher=”Candlewick Press” pages=”32″ amazonusa=”0763641758″ amazonuk=”1406319260″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Halfway through this best baby books list comes a heart warming story about the love between a daddy and baby hare, this book is guaranteed to bring tears to the eyes of parents everywhere. The wording is simple and the sentiment is clear so little ones can follow the story and the captivating illustrations and listen to the rhythm of the words. Perfect bedtime reading and would make a lovely, thoughtful gift for friends or relatives.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”The Monkey Puzzle” authorname=”Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler” publisher=”Macmillan Children’s Books” pages=”32″ amazonusa=”1405009128″ amazonuk=”0333720016″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

When little monkey loses his mum he needs the help of a butterfly to find her again, but the butterfly doesn’t quite understand what they are looking for at first and leads him to lots of different animals before they are happily reunited again. The vivid colours and cartoonish illustrations bring the story to life and the rhyming verses will keep children engaged throughout.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Is This My Nose?” authorname=” Georgie Birkett” publisher=”Barron’s Educational Series” pages=”12″ amazonusa=”0764161539″ amazonuk=”0764161539″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

This book is a fantastic way to teach your baby new words and to recognise the different features on his or her face. Each page shows a picture of a child or an animal pointing to his nose, mouth or chin and your baby is encouraged to do the same. Although it might seem a bit repetitive to the adults, babies will love learning the words by heart and looking at themselves in the mirror on the last page will never fail to fascinate!

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Noisy Farm” authorname=”Rod Campbell” publisher=”Campbell Books Ltd” pages=”18″ amazonusa=”1405050330″ amazonuk=”0230757502″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Another wonderful board book by the author of Dear Zoo, Noisy Farm follows the farmer’s sheepdog as he discovers the different farm animals and the noises they make. There is a surprise hidden under the flaps on each page and babies will love learning listening to and copying the oinks and quacks. Guaranteed to get your little one giggling again and again.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Baby’s Catalogue” authorname=”Janet Ahlberg, Allan Ahlberg” publisher=”Puffin” pages=”32″ amazonusa=”0140503854″ amazonuk=”0140503854″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Sometimes the simplest concepts really are the most effective and Janet and Allan Ahlberg know exactly how to appeal to parents and babies alike. This book has the delightfully old-fashioned look that is particular to the Ahlbergs and consists mainly of beautiful, quaint illustrations which are grouped by theme. There isn’t a story to follow but you will never run out of things to talk about or describe to your baby and there are plenty of recognisable situations for you  to make up stories about together. It really is possible to spend hours and hours looking through the pictures without getting bored and would be perfect to entertain the kiddies on long journeys. This is a definite classic and worthy winner of this best baby books list that will continue to stand the test of time.

Funny Books To Read

In times of global recession, British weather and never-ending stress, it seems more than fitting to compile a list of funny books to read. Some of the books in this list were designed to be hilarious and others are just simply great stories that will have you laughing out loud. So without further ado, here is a list of funny books to read that will help you beat the blues.

[top10 position=”20″ bookname=”Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” authorname=”Lynne Truss” publisher=”Gotham” pages=”240″ amazonusa=”1592402038″ amazonuk=”0007329067″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Coming in at number 20 on this list of the best funny books is the hilarious Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss. In her book, Truss tackles the fickle topic of punctuation and guides us through its history and correct usage in a refreshing and funny way. Taking on two giants, the text message and the email, Truss wonderfully explains all that is wrong in modern society’s use of the comma, semi-colon and the accursed apostrophe. Definitely a book for any English student or teacher, Eats, Shoots and Leaves is a brilliantly witty mantra on the importance of correct punctuation. We all get annoyed at that one friend who confuses “you’re” with “your”, and Truss reassures you that this is perfectly normal. Highly structured with a chapter devoted to each aspect of punctuation that is going to be tackled, makes this book a quick, easy and laugh-out-loud read. Truss manages the impossible and creates an informative, witty book about a subject hated by many – punctuation.  Brilliant! 

[top10 position=”19″ bookname=”Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years” authorname=”Sue Townsend” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”416″ amazonusa=”0140279407″ amazonuk=”0141046465″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Published in 1999, Adrian Mole is back. This time he is 30 1/4, divorced and a parent. His marriage to his beautiful, exotic Nigerian wife has failed and Mole now supports his kid by working as a top chef in a London restaurant. His life seems to be plodding along at a rather uneventful pace, when he suddenly discovers that he has an older son. His one true love, Pandora, makes a reappearance as a Labour MP. Alongside Mole’s younger sister Rosie who seems to have been absorbed by 90’s culture. There are more brilliantly witty moments in the fifth Mole book by Townsend, including the moment when Adrian becomes an unsuspecting celebrity due to a stint as a TV chef. Townsend wonderfully combines tragedy and comedy in The Cappuccino Years and wonderfully captures the excess of the nineties. A brilliant satire of England and particularly the society during this epoch, Townsend really is at her best here! Wonderfully witty and human, Adrian Mole triumphs again.

[top10 position=”18″ bookname=”Garlic and Sapphires” authorname=”Ruth Reichl” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”352″ amazonusa=”0143036610″ amazonuk=”009948997X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Ruth Reichl is a world renowned food critic and something of an expert. The chief editor of Gourmet magazine has used her years and years of experience as inspiration for this brilliant tale. She worked for The New York Times as a food critic between the years 1993-1999 and pours that into her book Garlic and Sapphires. As a famous and thus recognisable food critic, Ruth knows the importance of a foolproof disguise. Faced with the difficulty of being able to give readers an honest review, Ruth began to adopt numerous personalities and wear them out to dine. Ingenious! Ranging from the saucy Chloe to her own mother, Ruth conveys her journey in a clear, funny and refreshing style. She revels in her own trickery and delights in documenting the different ways she is treated in a restaurant when dining as an alter-ego, and then directly comparing this to when she dines as herself. Wonderfully candid, Reichl really does possess a flair for writing and this is but one of the great memoirs she has written about her job as a food critic. A funny book that will whet your appetite.

[top10 position=”17″ bookname=”Scoop ” authorname=”Evelyn Waugh” publisher=”Back Bay Books” pages=”336″ amazonusa=”B0054U5A1U” amazonuk=”0141187492″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read.” Or so thinks Evelyn Waugh in his brilliant satire of journalism: Scoop. Focussing on the newspaper industry in England during the 1930’s, Scoop follows the life of William Boot, a writer whose sole interest appears to the life of the badger. In a case of graven mistaken identity, Boot finds himself being sent to the made-up Ishmaelia in Africa. Here Waugh brilliantly pokes fun at foreign correspondents and the news industry, particularly foreign news reporters who he paints as drunkards that will make up stories for cold hard cash. Waugh manages to draw from his own time as a correspondent in Ethiopia, to bring the named Ishmaelia to life. The protagonist is likeable and funny, becoming a famous writer for The Daily Beast in a bizarre and satirical tale. Well structured from start to finish, the outlandish plot never runs away from you as Waugh knows exactly when to rein bits in, and when to let his wit run away with him. A fantastic look at life through the lens of a news reporter.

[top10 position=”16″ bookname=”A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” authorname=”Bill Bryson” publisher=”Anchor” pages=”397″ amazonusa=”0307279464″ amazonuk=”0552997021″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Bill Bryson is renowned for his hilarious travel books and A Walk in the Woods is no exception. The Appalachian Trail travels from Georgia through to Maine, and is home to some truly breath-taking natural sights. Usually I find travel books rather boring, but I have to admit that Bill Bryson may just be the best tour guide in the world. Bryson proclaims pretty early on that “I have long known it was part of God’s plan for me to spend a little time with each of the most stupid people on the earth” and describing one woman in particular, Mary Ellen as “proof that even in the Appalachian woods [he] would not be spared. It became evident that she was a rarity.” Bryson’s sense of humour is sarcasm at its best, which induces fits of laughter. Combining his broad depth of knowledge surrounding the history, zoology and ecology of the area, Bryson manages to entertain and educate in a way that never patronises you. Instead you become the third backpacker that accompanies Katz and Bryson through the epic four month trip. Fantastic! 

[top10 position=”15″ bookname=”Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch” authorname=”Terry Pratchett” publisher=”William Morrow” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”0060853972″ amazonuk=”0552137030″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

The world is going to end on Saturday. That is the prediction made by Agnes Nutter. Forces from both good and evil are gathering themselves to prepare for the battle to end all battles. Frogs are dropping from the sky and two people are particularly anxious about the up-coming apocalypse. Enter Crowley (the devil’s representative) and Aziraphale (god’s representative) who have become rather comfortable in their lives on Earth. Both have been at loggerheads since the beginning of time, but since then their differences have become more a disagreement than a fight. They have also been at each other’s throats for so long, they are now borderline friends. In the year 1999 news of an Antichrist, called Adam, reaches both Crowley and Aziraphale’s ears, and both are summoned by their respective teams to get ready to go to the hospital to greet the blond-haired baby. The only problem is that three different blond-haired babies were born there at the same time. Throw into the mix a plethora of great characters and fantastically sharp writing, and Good Omens becomes a truly hilarious read. Pratchett really does know how to draw out funny concepts, such as an Antichrist who has free will and Crowley described as a truly anti-Queen (the band) person. This book guarantees laugh out loud moments with every turn of the page. An excellent book.

[top10 position=”14″ bookname=”A Short Gentleman” authorname=”Jon Canter” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”384″ amazonusa=”0099492857″ amazonuk=”0099492857″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Robert Purcell has committed a crime, a crime that has landed him in prison. Purcell is quintessentially British, privileged from birth and follows in his father’s footsteps by becoming a barrister. Robert is a character that is incredibly difficult to swallow. He is pompous, arrogant, condescending and vain, who believes “the poor must be fed, clothed and housed, though preferably not next door”. He plans his life from the off, goes to the school he has always planned to go to and then marries the type of woman he always planned on marrying. It would appear that his life is running smoothly. Canter achieves something incredible in this book and his surprise ending has you sympathising with a man who seems detestable. A truly brilliant read to make it on the list of the best funny books.

[top10 position=”13″ bookname=”Julie and Julia” authorname=”Julie Powell” publisher=”Little, Brown” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”031604251X” amazonuk=”0141043989″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Meet Julie Powell. She is at odds with her job and has emphatically decided that in order to save herself from fast approaching depression she must cook her way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Written by Julia Child, the kitchen offers a completely different environment to the office where she answers phones for the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. Powell’s narrative coalesces with that of Child’s to form a great book which is both funny and touching. Child is followed through her time in Paris, learning all of her skills from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu. Powell herself documented her journey through French cuisine on an online blog, which later became the inspiration for her novel. An easy-to-read book, Julie and Julia is the wonderful tale of a woman’s struggle to find direction in life and combines humour with hope.

[top10 position=”12″ bookname=”The Code of Woosters” authorname=”P.G Wodehouse” publisher=”W. W. Norton & Company” pages=”254″ amazonusa=”0393339815″ amazonuk=”0099513757″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Bertram “Bertie” Wooster wakes up from his friend’s bachelor’s party to find his Aunt Dahliah demanding he “sneer at a cow creamer” in order to adequately scare the owner. En route to the antique dealer, Bertie has a slight altercation with Sir Watkyn Bassett and Roderick Spode. Woodhouse masterfully weaves together brilliant situational comedy and wonderful phrasing to deliver a truly British and fantastic book. Bertie’s faithful sidekick Jeeves manages to save the day and even though his patience and intellect are both pushed to the limit, he masterfully draws the story to its conclusion. The Code of the Woosters is perhaps the best in the Jeeves and Wooster series, and Woodhouse controls his characters and guides them through the manic situations he creates. With dry one-liners such as “I could see that, if not actually disgruntled, he was far from being gruntled”, Woodhouse pulls out all his comedic flair to create a laugh-out-loud story, that doesn’t force its humour down on your face.

[top10 position=”11″ bookname=”Catcher in the Rye” authorname=”J.D. Salinger” publisher=”Little, Brown and Company” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0316769487″ amazonuk=”0241950430″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Catcher in the Rye tells the story of Holden Caulfield as he struggles through pubescent life. Caulfield mirrors Adrian Mole and the two would probably have been friends had their literary paths crossed. It sometimes seems intimidating to attempt to read a book that is defined as a classic, however I urge you to add Salinger’s novel to your bookshelf. Caulfield is wonderfully cynical, and could become incredibly arrogant and annoying if handled by any other author. However, Salinger never pushes the reader too far and we instead begrudgingly sympathise with Caulfield as he narrates his life since the breakdown that put him in hospital. A very matter of fact tone is what makes this book brilliantly dry and witty. Not obviously funny, Catcher in the Rye rewards its readers with slick and stylish humour. The trials and tribulations of teenage life are played out in a magnetic realism that places Caulfield in to lists of the best literary characters. A fantastic novel!

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”One For The Money” authorname=”Janet Evanonvich” publisher=”St. Martin’s Griffin” pages=”352″ amazonusa=”B007SRVVYW” amazonuk=”0140252924″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Reaching the mid-way point in this list of  funny books to read comes – One For The Money, Janet Evanovich’s debut novel in the Stephanie Plum series and despite not being the most  thought-provoking story ever told – what it lacks in complexity it certainly makes up for in laughs. Stephanie Plum has recently lost her job as a lingerie saleswoman and is instead hired by her uncle Vinnie as a bounty hunter to find Joe Morelli, a former cop wanted for murder. Morelli also happens to be Stephanie’s ex-lover. One For The Money is a fast-paced, mystery novel that follows Stephanie on her mission to capture Morelli and her interactions with a loveable if slightly irritating and dysfunctional family. Set in New Jersey which as Connie, Vinnie’s assistant, states “is a challenge, what with the toxic waste and the eighteen wheelers and the armed schizophrenics”, this tale is both hilarious and heart-warming. Plum is unlucky, loveable and down right determined to get her hands on the £10,000, the going rate for Morelli. This book isn’t hugely challenging to read, however, its accessibility makes it a fun page turner. A hilarious start to a series that is worthwhile reading for some light relief.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”About A Boy” authorname=”Nick Hornby” publisher=”Riverhead Trade” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”1573229571″ amazonuk=”0141007338″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Will Freeman is a 35 year old who bums around at home listening to music, watching day time tele and generally just living off the profits of his Dad’s one hit wonder Christmas song. Single and not one for commitment, Will soon discovers that the perfect way to pick up women is by joining the local single parent groups and pretending he has a child. It is here that he meets Marcus. Marcus is a geeky, slightly odd 12 year old who lives alone with his hippy and depressed mother, Fiona. During these single parent meetings, Marcus uncovers Will’s secret – he is in fact childless – and the two characters form an unlikely bond. Marcus acts as a pseudo-father to Will and helps to get his life in order, whilst Will offers Marcus companionship in this heartwarming tale. Hornby manages to create very real, human characters whilst showing off his comic ability with numerous hilarious moments. One memorable example is when Marcus sandwiches a duck to death.  However, by undercutting the humour with serious story lines, such as Fiona’s suicide attempt, Hornby also conveys a powerful realism fuelled by emotion. About A Boy is sarcastic, funny and deeply touching. Hornby utilizes his razor sharp British wit to deliver a book that is as heartwarming as it is hilarious. A great book!

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea” authorname=”Chelsea Handler” publisher=”Gallery Books” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”1416596364″ amazonuk=”0099515024″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Are You There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea is the hilariously candid and unorthodox memoirs of American comedienne, Chelsea Handler. If you have seen any of her hit tv show or stand-up, you will know that Handler has a sharp wit and leaves no prisoners in her cutting critique of celebrities. In this book however she delves into her past with blinding honesty. The effect is a book that will quite literally have you in tears with laughter. Handler starts with tales from her childhood where she tried to convince her class she was starring in a movie with Goldie Hawn, and from then on the laughs never cease. She even details dates with men where she tells one man quite bluntly, “I’m drinking so that you’re more fun to be around.” This book is a collection of autobiographical essays that combine sarcasm and acute observations to form carefully created side-splitting tales. A great book for summer sunbathing.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging” authorname=”Louise Rennison” publisher=”HarperTeen” pages=”247″ amazonusa=”0064472272″ amazonuk=”0007218672″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Published in 1999, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is the love child of Bridget Jones and Adrian Mole. It tells the tale of Georgia Nicolson. Georgia is a typical teenage girl; obsessed with boys, trying to cope with a crazy family and trying to cope with her looks, especially her nose. Rennison’s style is incredibly accessible and doesn’t try to lecture the reader like most young fiction, instead she simply depicts Georgia’s life as it is. The female protagonist is melodramatic, self-involved and insecure and more importantly a character that you will take into your bosom and reassure that her nose really isn’t that awful. There are truly  hysterical moments for instance when Georgia is unashamedly groped by a boy and when a rumour circles the school that Georgia is a lesbian. All of these events add texture to a text that really does capture female teenage angst in an endearing and funny way. Rennison’s novel is a fantastically funny read!

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Naked” authorname=”David Sedaris” publisher=”Back Bay Books” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0316777730″ amazonuk=”0349119775″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

David Sedaris is an American humorist who depicts his childhood and college life via a collection of essays in this autobiographical book. Naked is the second memoir to appear on this list and for good reason. Opening with the line “‘I’m thinking of asking the servants to wax my change” Sedaris brings you tales that are so bizarre its hard to believe they have some ounce of truth in them and masterfully turns rather sad events into pure entertainment. One particularly memorable incident is when the young David finds a pornographic magazine and develops of fear of his predatory parents. With charming insights into family life, Naked will have you laughing from beginning to end with its dark humour. Sedaris weaves together all of these essays in a timeless fashion and proves not only is he a really funny bugger, but he is also a talented story-teller.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Three Men In A Boat” authorname=”Jerome K. Jerome” publisher=”CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” pages=”222″ amazonusa=”1484156706″ amazonuk=”0141441216″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Three Men In A Boat was published in 1889 and yet still manages to engage with a modern audience on a remarkable level. The tale is narrated by J who one day decides, along with two pals George and Harris, that he deserves a holiday due to overworking. In one swift move all three friends choose a boat holiday along the River Thames all the way to Oxford. This tale is full of anecdotes about J’s friends, including J’s blindingly obvious hypochondria. Jerome writes in a sarcastic and smart style that manages to turn a seemingly boring boat holiday into a wonderful tale. Although it was written from the depths of the Victorian Era, the language remains as accessible as any of the modern texts in this list. Portraying a quintessential British sense of humour this tale emulates Enid Blyton’s Mr Meddle series as it combines crazy adventures with such vivid imagery that the events unfold before you very eyes. A charming read and one that is as fresh when you first read it, as it will be on the tenth. 

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Bridget Jones’s Diary” authorname=”Helen Fielding” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”288″ amazonusa=”0143117130″ amazonuk=”0330375253″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Perhaps one of the funniest books ever written, Bridget Jones’s Diary is exactly what its title suggests, the diary of a 3o something, single woman called Bridget Jones. She is struggling with weight, struggling with various vices and most importantly struggling with men. The book begins with a list of New Years Resolutions where Bridget states she will not “obsess about Daniel Cleaver [her boss] as pathetic to have a crush on boss in manner of Miss Moneypenny or similar” and will “put photographs in photograph albums”. Fielding captures the anxieties single women go through without making Bridget over-indulgent or irritating. She instead creates a character you wish was your friend. Even other characters in the novel take on a certain poignancy that makes them unforgettable, like her mother who is constantly trying to secure her a husband and her father who tries to remain sane in his marriage. Bridget Jones’s Diary is a timeless novel that will have you unashamedly laughing out loud and falling head over heels in love with the main character. A brilliant book.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”High Fidelity” authorname=”Nick Hornby” publisher=”Riverhead Trade” pages=”336″ amazonusa=”1573225517″ amazonuk=”0241950260″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Nick Hornby appears again on this list with his music fulled novel High Fidelity. Rob Fleming is the proud owner of a record store in London who we are introduced to just after a pretty hefty breakup. Immediately you warm to seemingly down-and-out Rob, who decides to compile lists starting with his top five breakups. Spurred on by his memories, Rob contacts all of his past girlfriends and leads to the possibilities of a reconciliation with Laura. Just Fielding superbly captures the female psyche in Bridget Jones, Hornby beautifully captures the male psyche. Rob is endearing, funny and loveable, as a guy desperate to get his old life back and in true Hornby style the emotions are acutely observed. Hornby tackles the difficult and relatively un-documented theme of how men deal with break-ups, becoming the guys answer to chick lit. High Fidelity is darkly humorous but captures beautifully the torment of a break-up with stark realism. Simply put, this novel is Hornby at his best.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” authorname=”Douglas Adams” publisher=”Crown” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”1400052920″ amazonuk=”0330508539″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Usually when I read science-fiction novels I have to force myself to stick at it before discarding them quite quickly. However, Douglas Adams achieved something I deemed impossible, he had me hooked from page one.  The protagonist is Arthur Dent and the story begins outside his house as he lies in front of a bulldozer that wants to demolish his house in favour of a new bypass. His friend Ford Prefect swiftly arrives and informs Arthur of a potential alien invasion by the Vogons, creatures who are determined to end the human race. As the pair attempt to escape they suddenly find themselves cast into outer space. During their journey the world famous number 42 is discovered to be the answer to the meaning of life and the Earth is revealed to be nothing more than a super computer created by a far superior and far more intelligent being than mere humans. Adams writes in an accessible way as he weaves this galactic tale that unveils the cosmic joke that is our universe and our perceived meaning of life. Mirroring much of absurdist theory The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy combines Adams’ never ending imaginative capabilities with his comic flair to deliver a tale that is truly spellbinding. Like Lewis Carroll before him, Adams ridicules known conventions and modes of thinking to reveal the childish illusions underneath. An absolutely great read that transposes complex ideas into simple, hilarious bite-sized chunks.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4″ authorname=”Sue Townsend” publisher=”HarperTeen ” pages=”272″ amazonusa=”0060533994″ amazonuk=”0141315989″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

No matter how many times I read and re-read The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole I’m still over come with fits of hysterical laughter. When I first met Adrian Mole I was 12 years old, and since then I have returned again and again to Townsend’s wonderful tale. Adrian Mole is a teenage boy growing up in Thatcher Britain who emphatically proclaims “I know I’m an intellectual”. Like any typical teen Adrian is melodramatic and self-involved but Townsend never pushes his ego too far, as he remains likeable throughout. This novel cleverly portrays the eighties, an era of drastic social and political change, through the eyes of a young boy who is trying to come to terms with puberty, spots and girls, as well as where he fits into the world. The diary format offers unprecedented insights into Adrian’s mind as we watch him cope with his arguing parents. The language is easy to follow (what more could you expect from a 13 year old protagonist) and all the characters are well-rounded, as Townsend masterfully weaves together tragedy, humour and teenage angst in this truly timeless diary. If you have not already read this book, I urge you to quickly snap up a copy and enjoy the fun that follows. A truly deserving number one!

More Funny Books To Read

Of course these are not the only funny books out there. Other page-turners that will have you in stitches are Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which is a satirical novel set in World War II. It follows the story of Captain John Yossarian who is a former US pilot. Like a lot of the books in this funny books to read list Heller cleverly balances humour with tragedy to create a book that is as sad as it is funny. Another triumph is  Diary of An Emotional Idiot: A Novel by Maggie Estep. This novel is part autobiographical, part fantasy and depicts the life of a female artist in the nineties. Estep writes with a raw honesty and dark humour that makes this text insatiable. With a rare and commendable bluntness the narrator confronts you with break-ups and self destruction in this witty must read. Finally, another book worthy of note is Sick Puppy by Car Hiaasen. Meet Twilly Spree (what a name!) who happens to be an environmentalist terrorist. One day Spree catches a man littering and decides to exact revenge but soon realises that the man he taught a lesson happens to be a huge political figure in Florida. Hiaasen’s delivers on every level with this thought-provoking and funny book. His characters are deliciously evil in parts and although at times the plot seems to escape you, Hiaasen brings it back with raw comedy. All in all, these books are great accompaniments to the top funny books to read list and are well worth a read.

Best Young Adult Fiction

The books you read when you are growing up, either in school or at home have a tendency to stick with you for the rest of your life, but the best Young Adult fiction books can captivate you at any time. How many mums and dads have enjoyed reading Harry Potter or Twilight? So if you’re looking for reading inspiration for the school holidays or just feel that you missed out the first time round, maybe one of my top ten of the best Young Adult Fiction could be a favourite of yours for years to come too.

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”The Perks of Being a Wallflower” authorname=”Stephen Chbosky” publisher=”MTV Books” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”1451696191″ amazonuk=”1847394078″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Things change. And friends leave. Life doesn’t stop for anybody.” 

Kicking off this list of the best young adult fiction is The Perks Of Being a Wallflower. Set in an American High School in the 90s, shy teen Charlie is a high school freshman who confides his deepest thoughts and anxieties in a series of letters to an unknown person. Although he isn’t an overly likable character and certainly not a role model, it is fascinating to watch him navigate the high school universe and sex drugs and rock n roll lifestyle alongside his new friends Samantha and Patrick. His blunt honesty is refreshing and laugh out loud funny at times and you will find yourself turning over page after page to mark your favourite quotes. I particularly enjoy how pop culture references are woven into the narrative, such as books recommended to him by his English teacher and songs he puts on a mix tape. Although this book has a tendency to be cliché (it was promoted heavily by MTV after all) it is a coming of age story intended to be enjoyed by a wide audience.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” authorname=”Mark Haddon” publisher=”Vintage” pages=”226″ amazonusa=”1400032717″ amazonuk=”0099450259″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.”

Imagine if Sherlock Holmes had been a 15 year old boy with Asperger’s syndrome and you might be half way to understanding this gem of a novel. Christopher isn’t like other teenage boys – he loves numbers and lists, hates the colours yellow and brown and finds it hard to relate to other people. When his neighbour’s dog is murdered, Christopher sets out on a mission to uncover the truth and we are let in on his unique view of the world. It is often very funny to witness how he tackles every day activities with such innocence and judges everything at face value, but also proves to be very moving too. The plot is wonderful in its own right and The Curious Incident is a definite page turner. Perhaps this book would have been at home in my Top Mystery Books list too!

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Catcher in the Rye” authorname=”J.D. Salinger” publisher=”Little, Brown and Company” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0316769487″ amazonuk=”0241950430″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.” 

I am always slightly hesitant to read books that feature in “Top 100 books” lists out of fear that they are over hyped, but I honestly feel that this classic has earned its place. The story takes place over three days when the lovable lay-about, Horten Caulfield goes on a jaunt to New York after flunking out of his school Pencey Prep.  He tries to exist in the adult world but all of his misadventures show that he just isn’t ready yet. He doesn’t know who he is or where is going. The  slang he uses throughout the book is fascinating and the use of language succeeds in creating an absolutely believable character. This is a novel I am looking forward to reading again and again.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”The Hunger Games” authorname=”Suzanne Collins” publisher=”Scholastic” pages=”384″ amazonusa=”0545405777″ amazonuk=”B004XJRQUQ” amazonca=”0545626382″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favour.”

Set in a post-apocalyptic vision of the USA, known as Panem, the Hunger Games are an annual contest between a boy and girl from each district whereby they are forced to fight to the death until only one victor remains. It is kill or be killed. This brutal sport is arranged purely for the entertainment of the rich in the Capitol. Katniss Everdeen becomes a heroine from the start, when she offers to compete in the place of her younger sister, who was picked in the lottery. Katniss is used to fighting to survive but how can she compete against Peeta, the boy who once saved her life? This is a great read for anyone missing the Harry Potter books who wants action and romance and you feel genuine empathy for the characters along the way.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Looking for Alaska” authorname=”John Green” publisher=”Speak” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”0142402516″ amazonuk=”0007424833″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Sometimes you lose a battle. But mischief always wins the war.”

This might sound like a road trip or self-discovery novel and although the latter may ring true, Alaska is not a place, she’s a girl. A beautiful, enigmatic emotionally unstable girl (imagine any of the female characters in Skins). When Miles begs his parents to enroll him in a new boarding school, he is looking forward to a fresh start and Alaska is the shake up he needed. The narrative begins ‘136 days before.’ and ‘before what?’ is the question that hangs over most of the book. This doesn’t feel like a typical teen novel in the sense that the dialogue between the group of intellectual friends is sparkling and often very funny. This book could very easily be devoured in one sitting.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”I Capture the Castle” authorname=”Dodie Smith” publisher=”St. Martin’s Griffin” pages=”343″ amazonusa=”031231616X” amazonuk=”0099460874″ amazonca=”031231616X” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…”

Coming in at number 5 in this list of the best young adult fiction is I Capture The Castle. In the dying ages of the aristocracy in the 1930s, Cassandra lives a charming bohemian existence in a crumbling old castle with her eccentric family: her beautiful older sister, Rose, her father who is an author struggling with writer’s block and her stepmother, Topaz, an artist’s model. The sisters dream of escaping their poor lifestyle by marrying for money and when the American heirs to the castle come to visit, Cassandra is thrown into the depths of unrequited love. Cassandra captures the world of the castle in her journals and her witty observations of the sometimes chaotic goings on around her make for a fantastic read. As a teenage girl I would have loved to have a friend like her!

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”The Hobbit” authorname=”J.R.R. Tolkien” publisher=”Houghton Mifflin Harcourt” pages=”300″ amazonusa=”054792822X” amazonuk=”0007509847″ amazonca=”0007487290″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked).”

The Hobbit is a tale of a quite, unassuming sort of chap with large hairy feet and a penchant for two breakfasts, who is transformed into a (reluctant) hero. Bilbo Baggins is happy living peacefully in The Shire, when he meets Gandalf the wizard, who is searching for someone to come on an adventure with him to Lonely Mountain. Bilbo is suddenly catapulted into the world of dwarves, trolls and dragons and everything else in between. This prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy is a wonderful introduction to the imagination of Tolkien for younger readers, who can’t quite face the sheer length of LOTR. This story is just as vivid but it is perhaps less sinister than its sequel and Bilbo is far more likable than his nephew Frodo!

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”Carrie’s War” authorname=”Nina Bawden” publisher=”Oberon Books” pages=”96″ amazonusa=”1840027207″ amazonuk=”0141345187″ amazonca=”B002RI9YJ6″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

“Labelled like parcels- Caroline Wendy Willow and Nicholas Peter Willow- only with no address to be sent to.”

I remember writing a book report on this when I was 12 years old and was fascinated and horrified with the idea of children moving away from home. Carrie and her brother Nick are evacuated to a village in Wales during the Second World War. Life suddenly becomes exciting once again when they receive a warm welcome at the house in Druid’s Bottom from Hepzibah Green, the housekeeper, who is said to be a witch. She tells them the story of the Screaming Skull, which will place a curse on them if it is removed from the house. This story affects Carrie deeply and causes her to do something she comes to regret. Although war is raging in the background, this is more a heartwarming tale of a girl learning from the people she encounters and learning about herself too.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Cirque du Freak” authorname=”Darren Shan” publisher=”Little, Brown” pages=”266″ amazonusa=”0316605107″ amazonuk=”0006754163″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

“If this were a made-up story, it would begin at night, with a storm blowing and owls hooting and rattling noises under the bed.” 

When young Darren Shan visits a freak show with his friend, he had very little idea that he would become part of it! He is so fascinated with the star attraction, the poisonous, eight-legged Madame Octa that he steals her away, but her owner, Mr Crepsley the vampire won’t let her go without something in return. Something that Darren is not sure he’s prepared to give . This book is deliciously dark, easy to read and a refreshing change from recent books about friendly vampires. It is fast paced and genuinely frightening in places. An excellent number two in this best Young Adult Fiction list. If you enjoy this there are 11 more books in the series to get stuck into!

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”The Graveyard Book” authorname=”Neil Gaiman” publisher=”HarperCollins” pages=”336″ amazonusa=”0060530944″ amazonuk=”0747594805″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

“You’re brave. You are the bravest person I know, and you are my friend. I don’t care if you are imaginary.” 

It feels like Neil Gaiman’s faultless prose is giving you a great big hug.

Number one and winner of this list of the best Young Adult Fiction is a book I read last year at the grand old age of 22 and was only half way through it when I decided it had the potential to be my favourite book ever (sorry Wuthering Heights!). Nobody Owens, or Bod for short escapes from the clutches of a professional murderer who kills his parents, as a toddler and finds himself in the relative safety of the local graveyard. The resident ghosts take it upon themselves to adopt him as one of their own and he his raised by the dead and let in on their secrets, notably his enigmatic mentor, Silas. Nobody has to learn to hold his own amongst the other supernatural creatures but knows he doesn’t belong to the living or the dead. Can he stay in the safety of the graveyard forever? This story is both sinister and beautiful. It feels like Neil Gaiman’s  faultless prose is giving you a great big hug and the illustrations by Chris Riddell complement the writing perfectly. Once again Neil Gaiman has created a magical world that you don’t want to leave. I only wish this book was 300 pages longer!

Best Cooking Books

Having just graduated from university, cooking books have a firm place on my kitchen shelf. From disastrous attempts at making barely edible dishes, my time as a student has exposed me to many cooking books. Here are the top ten of the best cooking books that are invaluable to any wannabe Masterchefs out there.

Ready… Steady… Cook! 

[top10 position=”10″ bookname=”Delia’s Complete Cookery Course” authorname=”Delia Smith” publisher=”BBC Books” pages=”640″ amazonusa=”0563362499″ amazonuk=”0563362499″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

This mammoth cookery book whips in at number 10. Delia Smith is very much the David Beckham of the cooking world – an institution. Her Complete Cookery Course  does exactly what it says on the tin. It provides wannabe chefs with a full, comprehensive guide to creating the best dishes. With fundamental must know recipes like apple pie and yorkshire puddings, Delia shows she is one of the masters. With mouth-watering pictures acting as a rough guide this book is a god send for beginner chefs. No doubt a staple on your mother’s shelf, this book is perfect as a starting point in the basics of pastry making, cake baking and roast making. A genuine triumph in the cookery book world.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”The New Curry Bible” authorname=”Pat Chapman” publisher=”John Blake” pages=”368″ amazonusa=”184358087X” amazonuk=”184358087X” amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Chapman’s bible does not follow the conventional rules of cookery books, but is a diamond in the rough for curry fanatics out there and the reason it has made this best cooking books list.  The New Curry Bible does not simply show you the recipes but teaches you the history of curry making. It is not a book to be bought for people who want a quick fix curry. If you are one of those people I suggest you save yourself time and money and just buy a ready meal. However, if you are interested in the exquisite nature of curries, then this book teaches you all you need to know. Like any specialist cook book, it is a little disheartening at first to encounter all of the strange herbs and spices that you know you don’t own, but the rewards from having knowledge of these is irreplaceable. Although it may take you a while to get to grips with the fine art of balancing the spices, you will most certainly become famous amongst friends and family for the talent you will take from this beautiful book.

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Rick Stein’s Taste of the Sea: 150 Fabulous Recipes for Every Occasion” authorname=”Rick Stein” publisher=”BBC Books” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”0563384573″ amazonuk=”0563387815″ amazonca=”1580089143″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

As a massive lover of seafood, this book has literally been my magna carta. Rick Stein takes you on a journey around the coast and teaches you to really appreciate fish in all its scaly glory. From skinning methods to filleting, this book teaches you how to prepare and cook fish to perfection. Stein writes in a clear and simple fashion and it is impossible to resist his infectious passion. With a variety of dishes that cater for absolutely every occasion, this book is a must have for beginners and experienced fish mongers alike. The instructions are not condescending or set in stone, and leave freedom for experimentation. A truly great book by a truly great chef and teacher.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Simple Chinese Cooking” authorname=”Kylie Kwong” publisher=”Studio” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”0670038482″ amazonuk=”0718149521″ amazonca=”0670038482″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Following the theme of specialist cooking books, Simple Chinese Cooking is an absolute must have for anyone wanting to start a love affair with Chinese cooking. Filled with beautiful photography, this book coaches you through each dish with clear and crisp step-by-step instructions. Usually when faced with a specific cook book, there seems a never-ending list of ingredients that appear to exist in outer space, but this book has essentials that can be bought and found easily in local grocery stores. Not only is this book a great guide, but it is also incredibly exciting as each week you can watch yourself develop and gain confidence with once seemingly difficult dishes. From steamed cod to sweet and sour pork, Kwong’s recipes will have you burning all your Chinese takeaway menus from the get go.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals” authorname=”Jamie Oliver” publisher=”Michael Joseph” pages=”287″ amazonusa=”0718154770″ amazonuk=”0718154770″ amazonca=”1401324428″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

There can be no such thing as a best cooking books list without Mr Oliver, of course. One of the things I love most about almost all of Jamie Oliver’s cook books are their beautiful and impeccable presentation. They are not endless pages of lines and lines of writing but are instead filled with bright, colourful and delectable pictures, as well as no- nonsense recipes. In his 30 Minute Meals Jaime shows you that once and for all cooking does not have to be a stressful and laborious affair. Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals is amazing for working people for whom time is money, and of course students who wish to spend minimum amount of time cooking and maximum amount of time…. studying. Not only is it wonderfully organised with a designated section for starters, mains and desserts, but there are numerous vegetarian recipes scattered inside, making this book literally for every type of chef.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”The Best Recipes in the World” authorname=”Mark Bittman” publisher=”Clarkson Potter” pages=”768″ amazonusa=”0767906721″ amazonuk=”0767906721″ amazonca=”0767906721″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

After his debut cook book How to Cook Everything became an international sensation, Bittman is back to teach you it is easier than you thought to cook recipes from all around the world. With no unnecessary embellishments Bittman gently leads you on a culinary round the world trip that will leave your taste buds in a state of euphoria. The best aspect of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes In The World whilst you may never get round to cooking everything inside, the dishes you do make will leave you feeling inspired to take dishes you already cook and turn them on their head. Although it can be overwhelming to face so many recipes in one book, I urge you to add this to your collection. It is timeless and will only help to increase your knowledge of food.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets” authorname=”Gordon Ramsay” publisher=”Quadrille Publishing” pages=”224″ amazonusa=”1844000370″ amazonuk=”1844000974″ amazonca=”1844000370″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

In this incredible and not too badly priced book, Gordon Ramsay lets you in on a few secrets that have made him the world-renowned chef that we have all come to love. With a huge collection of recipes from poultry to fish and desserts to soups, this cookbook lets you in on inside info that will have friends and family thinking you are a bona-fide kitchen guru. The recipes are simple and effective and Ramsay has even added flourishes of his own, such as useful tips on presenting dishes. If you really have a passion for cooking or would love to learn more, this is the book that teaches you not just to cook but how to become a chef. These tips help to make cooking a truly enjoyable experience and will boost your confidence to be adventurous not only in cooking but also in eating as well.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”The Complete Book of Sushi” authorname=”Hideo Dekura” publisher=”Periplus Editions” pages=”240″ amazonusa=”0794603165″ amazonuk=”1845430662″ amazonca=”0794603165″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

As a self-confessed sushi addict this book is incredible – the pages are almost edible. It combines the modern with the traditional and allows you to get to grips with this difficult Japanese style of cooking. Although not to everyone’s taste, this book teaches you the secrets behind making that difficult sticky rice and how to present your sushi in wonderful ways. The most interesting thing about Dekura’s book is they way it advances from simple to expert. This allows you to move gradually at your own pace and also sets little targets within the book. Whilst there are other books on the market such as Yo Sushi’s, it is Dekura’s book that really stands out of the crowd. With gorgeous photography it inspires with a mere flick of the page, and unlike its contemporaries has clear and simple instructions. A must have for any sushi fan and it also makes a great present.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Wahaca – Mexican Food At Home” authorname=”Thomasina Miers” publisher=”Hodder & Stoughton” pages=”256″ amazonusa=”1444722395″ amazonuk=”1444722395″ amazonca=”1444722395″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

This book comes in at number two of this best cooking books top ten and is a must have for any frequent Wahaca customer. It was only recently published and plunges you straight into the vibrant and tasty world of Mexican street food. One thing that did surprise me was the breakfast section, and I have to admit I have been thoroughly converted to a mexican way of eating in the morning. Full of beautiful pictures and written in an accessible and friendly way, this book does exactly what the title states and brings Mexican food straight into your kitchen. Miers has clearly done the research required for such an exquisite book, and the information about mexican chillies is invaluable. An excellent book for cooking meals for friends and a great equivalent to BBQ parties.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”Jaime does..” authorname=”Jaime Oliver” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”360″ amazonusa=”0718156145″ amazonuk=”0718156145″ amazonca=”0718156145″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

In at number one is Jaime does. In this book Jaime travels through foodie hotspots such as Spain, France and Morocco in order to find innovative recipes. The book is beautifully presented (like all of Jaime’s books) and has wonderful pictures of his travels alongside the amazing pictures of his food. Each country has an introductory paragraph that explains the culture and food he came into contact with, and then in very simple language and an ever friendly tone, Jaime guides you through a range of dishes. From light bites such as patatas bravas to the more complex dishes like the steak tartare, Jaime’s tone never condescends you as the amateur chef. This book not only provides great enjoyment as a teaching tool but is also nice to flip through every now and again to behold the location shots of his food journey. Overall a very deserving winner of this  Best Cooking Books list. Absolutely smashing!

This is by no means the only ten cook books I think you should own. There are many other brilliant cookbooks out there for beginners such as The Student Cookbook by Sophie Grigson. This is superb for amateur chefs who simply do not have the time to cook elaborate meals every day and are after recipes for both real cooking and convenience cooking. Then for more adventurous chefs who are willing to get inventive and scientific in the kitchen, there is Heston Bluementhal’s brilliant book The Fat Duck Cookbook, which combines vivid illustrations and wacky recipes for a truly great cooking experience. Overall, the ten books that compose this best cooking books list all offer friendly, easy to follow guidance which enables you to not only enjoy them as books, but also enjoy them as learning tools that will one day make you the king of the kitchen.

Bon appetit ladies and gents.

Best Vampire Books

With the final Twilight instalment heading to cinemas later this year – vampire literature seems to be springing up from every direction.  In light of the end to Stephanie Meyer’s popular tale, here is a top nine list of the best vampire books that you should really sink your teeth into.

[top10 position=”9″ bookname=”Carmilla” authorname=”Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu” publisher=”Bizarro Press” pages=”106″ amazonusa=”0615610056″ amazonuk=”0809510839″ amazonca=”2253087793″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

One of the first vampire novels ever written, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu electrically brings to life the female vampire in Carmilla. The story begins with protagonist Laura who lives in the picturesque town Styria. One day, an unexpected carriage crash brings Carmilla thundering into Laura’s life and instantly the two girls become inseparable. Although this novel is slow at times, stick with it as the mysteries surrounding Carmilla unfold to bring you face to face with the first lesbian vampire. The text picks up energy as it reaches a climatic ending with the arrival of baron Vordenburg who appears as this tales answer to Van Helsing. Steeped in original mythology and published in 1872, Fanu offers a classic view of the vampire whilst linking it to Victorian concerns about female sexuality. A fantastic read!

[top10 position=”8″ bookname=”Dracula” authorname=”Bram Stoker” publisher=”Barnes & Noble Classics” pages=”496″ amazonusa=”1593080042″ amazonuk=”185326086X” amazonca=”1904633145″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

It would be impossible to compile a ‘best of’ vampire fiction without paying homage to the text that kicked it into action. Join Jonathan Harker as he journeys to Transylvania to meet the elusive Count Dracula. Harker, when wandering the castle at night, falls under the spell of three female vampires and escapes the castle just in time. Not long after a storm brings Count Dracula to England and places the young Lucy Westenra directly in his path. The style and language of this novel can be inaccessible at times to a modern reader but persisting with each page is well worth it, especially with the arrival of Van Helsing. Dracula and Helsing’s relationship is depicted in an intense cat and mouse game, with Harker’s fiancée Mina getting caught in the middle. With iconic imagery (the vampire as a shape shifter and the fundamental stake-through-the-heart killing method) Bram Stoker’s story is worthwhile read for true addicts of vampire fiction.

[top10 position=”7″ bookname=”Fangland” authorname=”John Marks” publisher=”Penguin” pages=”400″ amazonusa=”0143112538″ amazonuk=”0099502771″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

This reinvention of Stoker’s Dracula places the vampire in the twenty-first century in a post 9/11 New York. Fangland mimics the form of Dracula as the story unfolds via different emails and journal entries, as we follow Evangeline Harker on her work to uncover stories surrounding the elusive Ion Torgu. Playing upon the rumours surrounding Transylvania, Marks’ novel cleverly transposes vampirism for the modern reader; news readers are killed in dangerous territories, disease is spread via communication and the setting is the TV production industry. This satirical book offers a refreshing new voice in the world of vampire fiction as it cleverly draws your attention to modern society and its flaws. Sink your teeth into the murky, blood stained world of Fangland and watch as Stoker’s novel is resurrected in the present day.

[top10 position=”6″ bookname=”Lost Souls” authorname=”Poppy Z. Brite” publisher=”Dell” pages=”384″ amazonusa=”0440212812″ amazonuk=”0140173927″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Lost Souls is vibrant and the vampires are sensual, sexy creatures. Brite was only a tender nineteen years of age when she wrote Lost Souls and this permeates through as the novel drives home a real teen spirit. The vampires take drugs, have identity crises’ and embody the trauma of being a teenager in this engaging novel. The characters are brutally real and the most interesting aspect of this novel is the freedom Brite grants her characters in terms of their gender and sexuality. By far the most compelling character is the vampire Nothing. Raised by a human family, Nothing sets off in search of his real family and true identity. It is his journey that resonates deeply as you really feel for his urge to figure out who he is, a journey we all go on as teenagers.

[top10 position=”5″ bookname=”Blood Oath” authorname=”Christopher Farnsworth” publisher=”Jove” pages=”496″ amazonusa=”0515149039″ amazonuk=”0340998156″ amazonca=”B003NX7OC8″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

A delectable cocktail of vampires, werewolves and Dr. Frankenstein make Blood Oath a highly original take on the vampire tale. Nathaniel Cade is sworn to protect the President of the United States and this book weaves together two great myths, creating a modern Frankenstein who appears to be a terrorist. With humorous insights, such as Cade attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to curb his desire for human blood, Farnsworth cleverly crafts a poetic tale with deep characters and a thrilling plot line. Taking the war on terror quite literally, Fansworth creates a gothic, mythic terrorist out of Frankenstein which poses a great threat to the U.S.A. By combining this engrossing concept with a fast-pace, Fansworth propels his story forward like an action film. An incredible debut novel that really does leave you hankering for more.

[top10 position=”4″ bookname=”Suckers” authorname=”Anne Billson” publisher=”Atheneum” pages=”312″ amazonusa=”068912189X” amazonuk=”B007JQ5JI6″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Smack bang in the eclectic eighties Anne Billson’s novel appears to be the vampire’s answer to The Devil Wears Prada. Like many of the modern books in this list, it takes a satirical stance – this time the publishing world comes under fire. Billson creates a publishing house with a vampire at the helm. The protagonist Dora heads to Bellini – the vampire Vogue- and soon realises that a love triangle she was enveloped in years ago, is not as finished as she thought.  Written with verve and style Suckers reels you in at page one. A brilliant novel that will make you laugh out loud as Billson puts everything – even the vampire novel – under her sharp, direct and keen eye.

[top10 position=”3″ bookname=”The Passage” authorname=”Justin Cronin” publisher=”Ballantine Books” pages=”912″ amazonusa=”0345528174″ amazonuk=”0752883305″ amazonca=”1410432874″ amazonimg=’‘ ]

The first in a planned trilogy The Passage is set in an apocalyptic world where the world is over run with a vampire virus. Cronin’s novel is epic spanning ninety-three years with the story taking shape from a variety of narrative voices. This panoramic view of the pandemic creates an eerie and terrifying story as you begin to realise the full breadth of the dangers that face potential survivors. Amy is the main character whose body adapts with the infection and her story is well crafted as she learns to accept the changes in her body and her position in the world. The complex web of voices in this book is carefully managed by Cronin and Amy grows into a compelling character. This first instalment leaves you with high hopes for the remaining books.

[top10 position=”2″ bookname=”Interview with the Vampire” authorname=”Anne Rice” publisher=”Ballantine Books” pages=”352″ amazonusa=”0345409647″ amazonuk=”0751541974″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

 

Before the broody and vegetarian vampire Edward Cullen came along, there was Louis de Ponte de Lac. Set in New Orleans in 1791, Rice’s story follows Louis trying to reconcile with his vampire identity. Louis is sired by fellow vampire Lestat and both vampires reside on a plantation. They are forced to flee when the slaves, fearful of their bosses, revolt. During their travels Louis feeds on a young-girl one evening that is cruelly immortalised as a child vampire by the wicked Lestat. Beautifully crafted and with complex and enticing characters, Rice manages to bring a realism to the vampire which completely seduces the reader. Louis is more human than vampire and his relationship with little Claudia is heart wrenching. By far the most intriguing character of this text is Claudia herself, who becomes the antithesis to Peter Pan in this twisted take on the immortal child. With strong character development and beautiful language, Rice’s novel is a deserving second place in any list of the best Vampire books.

[top10 position=”1″ bookname=”I Am Legend” authorname=”Richard Matheson” publisher=”Tor Books” pages=”320″ amazonusa=”0765357151″ amazonuk=”0575094168″ amazonca=”” amazonimg=’‘ ]

Top of this Best Vampire Books list is Matheson’s masterpiece I Am Legend. Set in a dystopian future, the story follows the life of Robert Neville. A disease has spread throughout the world turning those infected into vampires, with Robert left as the lone survivor. Barricading himself into his house with only a dog for company, Neville’s fight for survival is depicted in raw, sharp tones and Matheson cleverly transposes the legend status of the vampire onto the human race, cleverly captured in the emphatic statement “I am legend.” Matheson never explicitly relates the disease to vampires and for that reason this book is the creme de la creme of vampire fiction. It manages to take the mythology of the vampire, combine it with modern concepts surrounding an apocalypse and force a confrontation with what it is to be human, and more directly completely alone. An incredible psychological tale that places the vampire back into its most dangerous place – the shadows – leaving you as the reader as alone as Matheson in your interpretation of this tale.

All of these books are only but a handful of the amazing books that can be found in Vampire literature. A few notable books that did not feature in this top ten list of the best Vampire books would include Stephen King’s fabolously horrific tale Salem’s Lot. Set in a small town that soon becomes overrun with a vampire virus, King creates a chilling fight for human survival. Another great read is George RR Martin’s beautifully written Fevre Dream – Published in 1982, it follows the story of Joshua York a Vampire determined to protect human life from hoards of evil vampires. With the ever increasing popularity of the vampire genre, this is truly evolving into an exciting and varied category filled with numerous books that tackle a range of significant human issues such as love, identity and growing up.

John Green – The Fault In Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Published by Puffin, 2012)

The Fault in Our Stars is the first John Green novel I have read. John Green is an author I have wanted to discover for quite a while after reading many book blogs and review websites which endlessly sing his praises. As I have recently graduated from University I have caught the book bug again and Green was one of the first authors I eagerly turned to as a book to read for pleasure rather than for course work.

John Green is an American writer for the Young Adult fiction genre and is the New York Times best-selling author of Looking for Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars which I am dedicating this article too . Green is a well-respected author in the YA Genre and has collaborated with Young Adult fiction writer, David Levithan for Will Grayson and he has also worked with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle for Let it Snow, a book which contains three interconnected short stories that all take place in a small town on Christmas Eve. John Green has a Double Major in English and Religious Studies and has experience in the writing industry. His love for the written word has dominated his professional life as well as personal as whilst writing in his spare time he has worked as a book reviewer, a publishing assistant and a production editor.

The Fault in Our Stars, Blurb:

Despite the tumour shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

I am pleased my first introduction into the work of John Green was through The Fault in Our Stars. I am grateful for this as when reading the blurbs of his other books this novel not only tells a brilliant story but tackles the most heart breaking, realistic and upsetting of subjects taking you on a roller-coaster of emotion. Writing about the big “C”  gave John Green reason to write from an honest and very vulnerable place.

I visited  the John Green website to discover a little bit more about him and I learnt that The Fault in Our Stars was written through his own personal grief, as he lost a friend to cancer. The character of Hazel Grace is by all means fictional, but the inspiration came from a friend’s death and upon reflection the novel becomes John Greens own personal journey of seeking hope and answers. I always admire it when a male author writes as a female protagonist (and vice versa) and Hazel Grace possessed fantastic traits which were not in the least bit cliché. Her reactions, feelings and beliefs all read convincingly especially reading her falling in love for the first time.

There were memorable moments within the novel when Hazel Grace had conversations about books and I found this really expressed the authors own love of books and vast knowledge of literature. The Fault in Our Stars not only delivers  a great heart-felt story, but you also receive an in sight into the mind of John Green. Furthermore, he personally signed over 150,000 copies in various coloured Sharpies!  John Green really does embrace his’ published author’ status he is, quite simply, a fantastic author.

After reading this first book of John Green’s I will definitely be reading more so please let me know of any recommendations for my next John Green novel review – please leave all comments below.