Poetry Book Recommendations

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Seeing as it’s National Poetry Day, I thought I’d share some of my favourite poetry books with you all. I am a self confessed poetry nerd – I love it. I write my own after all! It’s so weird to think that this time last year I had just left my role as Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Young Poet Laureate… It honestly feels like yesterday and the time has just disappeared. I’m very much the kind of person who will pick up an anthology and read a couple of poems out of it and put it down again – I cannot pick one up and read it from cover to cover. I never have been able to, I don’t know…

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I’ll start with my current favourite: And Still I Rise by Maya Angelou. This book is just perfect. I love love love Maya Angelou’s writing style; it’s honest and raw and as much as I love those poems with vivid imagery and are all symbolism, poems that say things as they are – “ugly poetry” as I heard Jen Campbell call it in one video – is my absolute favourite. But don’t think that this is harsh and unpleasant to read, this is quite the opposite. It’s beautiful and I’m going to run out of adjectives by the end of this post if I say any more…

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The next three I want to talk about (they are in no order from now on) are by Carol Ann Duffy. I own The World’s Wife, The Other Country, and The Bees. I haven’t actually read any from the bees yet as I only got it recently from the charity shop but it’s so gorgeous! The poems in The World’s Wife are written from the perspectives of the wives of famous people, and I really enjoyed this concept as some of them were humorous, some were gritty; there was a nice mix. The Other Country (I haven’t read many from this one, but the ones I’ve read I’ve enjoyed) focus on people from other countries, immigrants and other cultures, as far as I could tell. They’re really lovely books to just pick up and read a couple from as they’re not difficult reads, but they’re thought-provoking, and I like time to process them after I’ve read them.

IMG_6571The Divine Comedy by Dante is one of the most famous epic poems to have ever been written. It follows the story of Dante (I believe it’s him anyway – it’s a first person narrator) traversing through, hell, purgatory and then paradise to find salvation – I believe anyway. I’m only on page 46. I’m absolutely loving it though – I fell in love almost immediately – and whilst I was expecting to enjoy it, I didn’t expect to fall as quickly in love with it as I have. Also, this book is my baby. It. Is. Stunning. It contains images that go with the poem and it just helps with my understanding (it’s not difficult to understand, but the pictures just make it very clear) and the pages are gold edged and ugh. This book.

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Anyone who knows me knows just how much I love going to the theatre and Cats is one of my favourite musicals of all time (it’s up there with Les Mis, if it hasn’t beaten it – it’s a tight competition). What makes it better is that it’s actually based of a poetry book by T. S. Eliot – Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. I didn’t actually realise that “Old Possum” was a nickname for T. S. Eliot until a while ago. Then it all made sense! I also really love this book which I had for my birthday, Now We Are Six by A. A. Milne. Winnie the Pooh was probably my favourite programme when I was little (and to be honest with you I’d watch it now if it was on TV at some point) and these poems are just so amazing. They’re really humorous, even when I read them now. I found this other book, Of Mutability by Jo Shapcott in a charity shop and picked it up on a whim. That was a good choice. I love that there are so many different styles within this anthology and the poems just had something about them that draws me in and makes me fall in love – but that “something” I can’t explain. I don’t know why, it’s one of those feelings that you can’t put into words it’s so weird (in a good way!).

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Finally these are my favourite four anthologies that contain poems by a variety of different poets. 100 Best Poems For Children is one of my oldest books and if I remember rightly I bought it whilst in Ireland years ago. It contains stunning illustrations and I have just always loved the poems in this book, my favourite being “The Listeners” by Walter De La Mare – I’ve always loved that poem, and probably always will. I also adore England’s Best Loved Poems which is edited by George Courtauld. There are brief explanations of the poets and poems before each one and this is such a nice touch, and the poems are so well selected. One Hundred Favourite Poems, selected by Classic FM listeners has a wide variety of poems and it’s great for flicking through if you don’t want to read poems by one poet. All of these four books are good for that. Finally Best-Loved Poems, edited by Neil Philip is a beautiful book as well. The pages are gold edged and contain small illustrations and it’s gorgeous. The poems are sorted into themes (they are in England’s Best Loved Poems as well) but there is such a range of themes that you can pretty much always find one in here to suit your mood.

These are just a small few of the poetry books that I own and I adore them all. I may do a complete collection blog post / video sometime in the future, but I’m not too sure. If you want to get into poetry, I’d definitely recommend starting with an anthology containing poems from many different poets as you can find the ones you enjoy the most as well as the theme / genre / period.

Back to School Book Recommendations

It’s that time of year again… the one that everybody dreads. This year is my final school year (it’s so weird to write that) and it’s going to be hectic! I always read less whilst I’m at school as I usually have a load of homework which simply takes forever and so I have no time to read. However, this year it’s going to be different. I’m going to aim to read a book a week by making time before bed to read as there are so many books on my shelf that look amazing! I do think however, that there are certain books that are better than others when getting back into school. Usually they’re shorter, stand-alones (not always, but often) and lighter reads. So I’m going to recommend a few that I’d say are perfect for this season, and most, if not all, have a school aspect in them as well.

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Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

Whilst I would agree with pretty much everyone when they say this is a perfect summer read, I would also say that this is a good one for going back to school as it’s super quick to read, lighthearted and it’s set in a boarding school. It’s funny and would be a good book to pick up and read a bit of before bed to relax after a long day of school.

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

This follows Cath, who starts college with her sister Wren. This is perfect if you feel that you’re struggling to fit in, or you need a reminder to be yourself. It’s a stand alone with fantastic characters, humour and fan fiction. I read this last year in October time I believe (it was in the Autumn term) so I would definitely recommend this for this time!

Fans of the Impossible Life – Kate Scelsa

Mira is starting at the same school that misfit Jeremy goes to. Sebby, Mira’s friend, sometimes goes to another school, but mostly skips it, meeting Mira when her day is over. This is the story of the friendship Jeremy makes with the two of them as they all struggle to ‘fit in’ at school.

Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

Evie has had a long time off school due to mental illness and this is her experience of trying to be ‘normal’, which involves starting at college. This book is so, so realistic and had me laughing a lot and I would recommend this at any time of year, but especially now!

Wonder – R. J. Palacio

I recommend this for two reasons. One, it’s amazing. It is such a beautiful story. Two, it is August’s experience of school for the first time. He’s bullied because of the way he looks and he struggles with fitting in but it’s such a lovely story and a really quick read (I read this in one sitting, so even reading a bit a night, it wouldn’t take long to read).

The Harry Potter series – J. K. Rowling

Now what would a school themed post be without a mention of Harry Potter?! As everyone knows, the majority of these books takes place at Hogwarts, a school for Witchcraft and Wizardry. These books are amazing. The first ones I would definitely recommend because they’re lighthearted and funny. The later ones get darker, but they’ll be perfect for those winter months.

There are so many more books that I could have mentioned in this post. I’m tempted to do a part two? I don’t know. I hope this helps if you’re looking for a book to read in this autumnal, back to school season.

Let’s talk about books.

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So for this week’s blog post I’d thought I’d talk about my favourite books. I wasn’t sure about what else to write about so I thought, well, why not? So here we are.

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1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee. This has to be my favourite book of all time. It’s the sweetest story ever and the characters are loveable and the narration is perfect for the story. I absolutely adore this book and of all the books I’ve read, if someone asked me to recommend them one, this would be it. Lee tells the story of Scout and Jem finch perfectly and portrays racism through the eyes of the children and many adults could do with taking a lesson from them! Atticus is a superb role model for the children despite the hatred he gets in the novel and some of the advice he gives his children in the book I try to use in my daily life. As you can tell my copy of this book is rather battered as I’ve read it three times completely and often flick through for a quote or to remember something. I first read it when I was in year eight (the summer before going into year nine), I think it was then anyway, or maybe the year before. I know I was quite young when I read it but I loved it so much and I can safely say that this is a book that will go with me to university and never go to the charity shop!

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2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Okay, so the reason for me reading this book is because I saw the trailer for the film and thought it looked really good but seeing as the book came first I wanted to read the book before the film came out. I really wish I’d heard of it earlier because after I’d gotten used to the interesting choice of narrator I fell in love with the story and the characters. Don’t be put off by the fact that this book is so thick, you’ll eat it up once you get into it. It tells such a charming tale of Liesel and her adoptive family, love of books and new friends. It’s a must-read. I loved the little comments that the narrator makes as they lightened the mood of the book and made it more readable and it was easier to connect with the strange choice of narrator. Although this book (I believe) is marketed for teenagers and young adults, I would recommend this book to anyone as it is one of those books that is just timeless and anyone can enjoy. I know retired people who have read this book and enjoyed it. It really is that type of book that everyone can enjoy because it is such a heartwarming story.

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3. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green. Sorry to sound like a typical teenage girl but this book made me both laugh and cry and it had to go in this list for that reason alone. The story is very sweet, and the reason I liked it was because it wasn’t your typical “I’ve got cancer, let’s dwell on the fact I have cancer” story, instead her having cancer was just a part of her character, in a way. It wasn’t the main focus of the story is what I’m trying to say. I liked this because it meant that the story could be told and draw people in for it being a good story in itself. I do think the fact that Green doesn’t focus on the cancer in fact allows the reader to connect more with the characters and realise just how bad cancer is because when it is mentioned it has a major impact on the reader (in one part it came in the form of tears). I must confess that I am a huge fan of Green’s works because he has a sense of humour in his novels that I have yet to find in any other book. The Fault in Our Stars was not the first Green book I read, and I’m rather glad about that because it didn’t give me any expectations for his other novels and I’d read ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ first. In all fairness I could have put any Green novels on this list, I’ve just chosen The Fault in Our Stars because it drew the biggest emotional response from me.

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4. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden. I wasn’t expecting to like this book when I read it. I just heard that it was very good and had seen it recommended quite a few times so I decided to read it. I am so glad that I decided to read it because I completely fell in love with it. What I really loved about this book is that it was about a completely different culture of which I knew nothing about and so it taught me a lot about how the Japanese Geisha lived back in the 1920s and through world war two. I personally love learning about different cultures (which is why I’ve taken philosophy and ethics A level) and therefore this book really did work for me. So I guess this book isn’t really for everyone. I’m going to be sexist and say it is more of a feminine book (despite being written by a male) however that’s definitely not to say that a guy can’t read it and love it as I do! I guess it just depends on the person. I mean, some of the books I’m reading for English lit I don’t like but my teacher loves, and he’s also told the girls that reading one of the suggested books is not the wisest of ideas (American psycho – I’m giving it a miss) however one of the girls in my class is enjoying it – each to their own – that’s what I say. As I said, I decided to give this book a go despite not really being sure about it and picked it up for £1.50 from my local charity bookshop (where I happen to volunteer every week) – a bargain!

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5. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë. I believe that I read this book the same summer that I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and I fell in love with this book too. (That was a good summer for reading).  Unlike many of the other classics I’d read previously (predominately children’s classics, but a couple of adult ones too) I didn’t  struggle to get into this book at all. I really enjoyed the storyline of this novel and loved all of its twists and turns. The copy of the book shown in the picture I picked up from the charity shop for £1.99 and it’s a really nice copy. Only, the cover didn’t photograph well at all! This is another book that I shall keep with me forever because I just love it and really want to re-read it at some point when I’m not reading books for English! Jane is really down to Earth and you can’t help but like her and Mr Rochester is quirky – but in a good way! A really enjoyable and easy read, despite it being a classic!

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Those are my five top books, however I could go on, and on, and on about books I like! I would definitely recommend reading these books because they are so enjoyable and readable and I loved them – and who doesn’t recommend books they love?!