Five Books to Break the Rules for: Grace Pengelly, Graduate Trainee

Readers fall into two camps. Those who religiously re-read their favourite tomes, wallowing in the familiar landscape and interior lives of old friends, and those who do not. I fall into the latter camp, believing that there is very little to be gained from rereading a book more than once.

As with life’s other great opinion dividers (Brexit, Kanye West, to dunk or not to dunk) I think it is very difficult for members of either camp to appreciate the mindset of their counterparts. The re-readers frown at you quizzically, unable to believe that you wouldn’t want to return to a world an author has lovingly created for your enjoyment. The single-time readers point out that there is a whole WORLD of books that are waiting to be read, so why waste time covering old ground? This mentality tends to apply to a range of cultural pastimes; films, boyfriends and holidays are savoured once, unlikely to be returned to.

As a single-time reader, my first read is normally my last. It is exceptionally rare that I find myself returning to a book more than once, preferring to seek out something new and unfamiliar.

However, there are a select handful of books that I have willingly broken my rule for. These are books that I live by, that I turn to in need of advice and comfort.

  1. In the Shelter: Finding a Home in the World by Pádraig Ó Tuama

In a troubled world, what are the stories we live by? I have returned to Padraig O Tuama’s words countless times over the past four years. Pádraig generously reflects on his experiences, interweaving them with poetry and his ideas about how to live well. His answer? Say hello to here.

  1. Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy by Jostein Gaardner

This is a magical novel, which tells the story of 14-year-old Sophie Amudsen, who unexpectedly starts receiving letters with cryptic questions in her post box. This is the start of Sophie’s (unsolicited) course on the history of philosophy, delivered by a mysterious tutor named Alberto. If you don’t think philosophy is for you, give Sophie’s World a try.

  1. Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

In my opinion, Nigella Bites is peak Nigella. It has her ham in coca cola recipe in. It has beautiful pictures of beautiful Nigella circa 2001. If I’m feeling low, I have been known to go to bed with this book. These are truly recipes for the soul.

  1. New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver

If you have never heard of Mary Oliver, then I am genuinely sorry you have had to go this long without her soothing poetry. Writing about our natural landscape, Mary’s poems remind us to live a life of appreciation and wonder.

  1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Unpopular opinion, but I love Elizabeth Gilbert. The Signature of All Things is one of her lesser known and underappreciated novels. It tells the story of Alma Whittaker, a brilliantly written heroine who I fell in love with immediately. Alma has a fascination for the world which leads her to study botany and travel across the globe in search of knowledge. This is a wonderfully life-affirming novel. It will dazzle you.



Photo from Pixabay

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