MTF’s Top 10 must-read literary marvels for this autumn

BOOKS: In recognition of the fictional and factual thrills brought to us by authors great and small as well as publishers corporate and independent, MediaTainment Finance is publishing its Top 10 most recommended books before 2015 ends – courtesy of guest contributor Jo Shindler.

As we enter 2015’s final quarter (when the seasons are dry, rainy, autumn or spring in some part of the world), the ubiquitous media publicity currently surrounding this year’s Man Booker Prize, the UK’s most prestigious international literary award, corroborates our continuing insatiable appetite for reading.

A voracious bookworm, Shindler has selected 10 titles that no decent reader should miss before 2015 ends. Whether via an electronic Kindle or the earthy feel of black print on white, paper in hardback or paperback, discover new worlds, cultures, characters and emotions courtesy of Shindler’s Top 10 list of must-read books.

By Rachel Joyce

Publisher: Doubleday

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was a long list finalist for the 2012 Man Booker prize and Joyce won the UK National Book Award for New Writer of the Year. Joyce first wrote this story in the form of a short radio play aired on the UK’s BBC Radio 4 in 2007, dedicated to her father. She then developed the story into a full-length novel. The international sensation is the marvellous tale of the journey a man takes to visit an old friend who has written to him. Narrative suspense builds slowly as we travel with Harold, the main protagonist, from his starting point in Devon, across much of the English countryside. Reviews include this from Alfred Hickling in the London Guardian newspaper: “Ultimately the success of Joyce’s writing depends less on the credibility (or otherwise) of what actually happens, so much as her ability to convey profound emotions in simple, unaffected language.”

More on the author here.

By Kate Atkinson

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Life after Life won the Costa Book Awards in 2013 and was selected as one the 10 books of the year by editors of the New York Times Book Review. The main protagonist is Ursula who grows up in Britain during World War II. She lives her life over and over again as the narrative simply stops and changes direction. It is a compulsive read and despite the literary tricks used, Ursula becomes a very real and believable character that we care deeply about. Reviews include this from Alex Clark in the Guardian: “What makes Atkinson such an exceptional writer – and this is her most ambitious and gripping work to date – is that she does so with an emotional delicacy and understanding that transcend experiment or playfulness.”

More on the author here.

3. US
By David Nicholls

Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton (UK); Harper Collins (US)

Us was longlisted for the 2014 Man Booker prize and won the Specsavers UK Author of the Year. Set in the UK but also featuring travels to foreign parts, including Paris, Amsterdam and Venice, Us is the story of middle-aged English couple Douglas and Connie and their marriage. After he realises that his son will be leaving home to go to college and his wife tells him that she would like to leave too, Douglas decides to organise a family holiday that will draw the three of them together and make his wife fall in love with him again. Alternately funny and moving, it is also extremely readable. Reviews include this from Tim Auld in London’s Telegraph: “Us is a quiet joy, written with an undemonstrative simplicity that is hard to achieve.”

More on the author here.

By Jessie Burton

Publisher: Picador (UK); Harper Collins (North America)

Jessie Burton’s best-selling debut novel The Miniaturist, which won Waterstones Book of the Year for 2014, is based on the real life dolls house the author saw in Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. It is the story of a young bride Petronella, who lives in a wealthy quarter in 17th-century Amsterdam. As a wedding gift, she is given a miniature replica of a dolls house whose contents seem to hold a mirror up to real life in her own house. The story is full of secrets and betrayals that come thick and fast, balanced by glowing descriptions of domestic life and scenery. Reviews include this from Holly Kyte in London’s Telegraph: “Every sentence is a gorgeous, finely tuned thing, and domestic snapshots come straight from Vermeer or Dutch still lives.”

More on the author here.

By Helen Macdonald

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

H is for Hawk is a memoir novel that won the 2014 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction and the 2014 Costa Book of the Year Award. It reached London’s Sunday Times Best Seller List within two weeks of being published. It tells the story of a year in which the author trained a goshawk after her father died. This wonderful book is a balance of different genres, a memoir about the manner of grief and also a falconer’s diary about the process of training such a wild bird of prey. Macdonald also knits in a biographical account of T.H. White, author of The Once and Future King and a fellow goshawk trainer. Reviews include this from Christian House in the Telegraph: “This book is a soaring triumph. It is a joy to follow Mabel (the goshawk) and Macdonald’s flight out of such disconsolate scenes as one settles into a new roost and the other gradually realises that ‘hands are for other human hands to hold’.”

More on the author here.

By Fredrik Backman

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

A Man called Ove is written by Swedish blogger Fredrik Backman. Set in his home country, Backman’s 2012 debut novel has become a word-of-mouth best seller. It is the moving and funny story of Ove, a simple man whose quiet life is turned upside down by a noisy family becoming his new neighbours. Ove is a man of few words, but the novel itself is a searching and life-affirming study of the effect one person can have on lives around them. Reviews include this from Jane Clinton in the UK’s Express: “I loved A Man Called Ove so much I had to ration how much I read to prolong my time with this cantankerous, low-key, misunderstood man.”

More on the author here.

By Donna Tartt

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

This novel is the third by American author Donna Tartt. It won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 and spent over 30 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list. The Goldfinch is a page-turner of a novel, which hooks you in completely very early on. Theo, the main protagonist, is a very real character and we experience the thrilling journey of his quest for The Goldfinch in a novel where every word and detail matters.  Reviews include this from US trade publication Booklist: “Drenched in sensory detail, infused with Theo’s churning thoughts and feelings, sparked by nimble dialogue, and propelled by escalating comic angst and thriller action, Tartt’s trenchant, defiant, engrossing and rocketing novel conducts a grand enquiry into the mystery of survival, beauty and obsession, and the promise of art.”

More on the author here.

By Nina Stibbe

Publisher: Penguin; Viking

Shortlisted for the National Book Awards Audiobook of the Year and the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic writing, this debut novel by British author Nina Stibbe is the story of two sisters who decide to find their mother a man as they go to live in a small village in the English region of Leicestershire. The tone of the novel is deeply humorous but also remarkably discerning and sensitive, detailing their mum’s relationships that either develop or disintegrate. The novel does not hesitate to include more profound and poignant moments, which add to its depth, and we empathise with the girls on their quest. Reviews include this from Samantha Ellis in London’s Independent newspaper: “This book is very, very funny. Stibbe has a fine eye for absurdity, and her writing has an unforced charm…There is real darkness here, which makes the humour shimmer all the more.”

More on the author here.

By John Williams

Publisher: Viking Press

This novel was originally published in 1965 but has recently enjoyed a huge renaissance as well as become a word-of-mouth recommendation, and exploded on to Best Seller lists across Europe. It is the story of William Stoner’s life growing up as a boy on his father’s farm and eventually ending as a lecturer at the University of Missouri. A slow moving book, it is a wonderful evocation of Stoner’s painful, enduring life which is illuminated by love and understanding. Reviews include this from Steve Almond in The New York Times Magazine: writing: “I had never encountered a work so ruthless in its devotion to human truths and so tender in its execution.”

More about the author here.

By Henry Marsh

Publisher: Macmillan Publishers

Do No Harm won this year’s South Bank Sky Arts Award for Literature in the UK and several other accolades. It is the wonderfully moving memoir of Henry Marsh’s work as a brain surgeon in the UK and also as a volunteer in the Ukraine. The operations he performs are not always a triumph; in fact, his stories contain as many failures as successes.  Marsh seems to value candour above all else, as he tries to convey the pressures of the job. Reviews include this from Ian McEwan: “Painfully honest about the mistakes that can ‘wreck’ a brain, exquisitely attuned to the tense and transient bond between doctor and patient, and hilariously impatient of hospital management, Marsh draws us deeper into medicine’s most difficult art and lifts our spirits. It’s a superb achievement.”

More about the author here.

Shindler is a nursery teacher in the trendy British coastal city of Brighton. She has been a compulsive reader all her life, even resorting to the cereal packet when there is nothing else around. She loves comparing notes on books with other friends, belonging to the same book club since 1997. Since studying English Literature and History at England’s University of Winchester, she has kept a list of every book she has read. Nothing makes her happier than recommending a book to someone who subsequently loves the book and begins to read other books. Shindler believes it’s never too late to become a reader.