My Top Ten Books That Made Me See Differently

The lovely people at Hodder & Stoughton  asked me to get involved in their Twitter campaign this week to celebrate the paperback release of Jodi Picoult’s incredible book Small Great Things by tweeting books that made me see differently and using the hashtag #readwithoutprejudice.  So after careful consideration (approximately 5 seconds) and knowing that all it meant was me sharing my favourite books on Twitter I agreed and instantly started a list.

So, below are my TOP TEN books that made me see differently and why.  Which books would you add and why?

1.  Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.  It is about opening your eyes.

Why I choose this book? It is not often I am left speechless after finishing a book, but I don’t know what to say to give this book the praise it rightly deserves.  This is an incredibly powerful and thought provoking book about racism, prejudice, preconceptions and above all family. Jodi Picoult’s research attention to detail is present throughout. From midwifery to working in McDonalds, her descriptions are so minute that at times, you forget you are reading a story and think you’re being educated.  This book is breathtaking.

2. Shtum – Jem Lester

Ten-year-old Jonah lives in a world of his own.
He likes colours and feathers and the feel of fresh air on his skin.
He dislikes sudden loud noises and any change to his daily routine.
Jonah has never spoken, yet somehow he communicates better than all of the adults in his life.

Why I choose this book? Where do I begin with Shtum? This emotional and raw account of living with an autistic child was heartbreaking and yet inspirational at the same time.  Full of wonderful characters and examining the complexities of family relationships, Shtum is one of my all time favourite books.

3. You Don’t Know Me – Imran Mahmood

An unnamed defendant stands accused of murder. Just before the Closing Speeches, the young man sacks his lawyer, and decides to give his own defence speech.

He tells us that his barrister told him to leave some things out. Sometimes, the truth can be too difficult to explain, or believe. But he thinks that if he’s going to go down for life, he might as well go down telling the truth.

There are eight pieces of evidence against him. As he talks us through them one by one, his life is in our hands. We, the reader – member of the jury – must keep an open mind till we hear the end of his story. His defence raises many questions… but at the end of the speeches, only one matters:  Did he do it?

Why I choose this book? Apart from the authors incredible skill to keep the reader gripped from page 1 – this book covers everything from preconceptions, gang culture, social issues and judging someone on their skin colour.  A fascinating and original story which deserves to be HUGE in 2017

4. How to Be Brave – Louise Beech

All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

Why I choose this book? Not only is this a beautifully told and cleverly crafted story interweaving past and present, as a mother I was so moved by Natalie’s strength of character and determination to help her 9 year old daughter.  This was a real eye-opener about living with a diabetic child and knowing that the author has based some of her own personal experiences in this story made it so much more authentic and moving.

5. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – Anna McPartlin

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it.

She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

Why I choose this book?  It’s really difficult to put into words how much this story affected me and moved me.  Full of wonderful characters and heartbreaking moments, Rabbit Hayes broke me in half.  A really powerful, gut-wrenching look at grief, acceptance, love and family.

6. The Memory Book – Rowan Coleman

When time is running out, every moment is precious…

When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold onto the past when her future is slipping through her fingers…?

Why I choose this book? I read some quote recently that a great book finishes too soon. Well that is certainly true here.  This heart-breaking, beautiful and at times amusing story is about Claire a young mother who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. The last 10% was read through tears and then I had to go into a quiet room for a bit, digest everything I have just read and then tell my family how much I love them.

7. The New Woman – Charity Norman

Luke Livingstone is a lucky man. He’s a respected solicitor, a father and grandfather, a pillar of the community. He has a loving wife and an idyllic home in the Oxfordshire countryside. Yet Luke is struggling with an unbearable secret, and it’s threatening to destroy him.

All his life, Luke has hidden the truth about himself and his identity. It’s a truth so fundamental that it will shatter his family, rock his community and leave him outcast. But Luke has nowhere left to run, and to continue living, he must become the person – the woman – he knows himself to be, whatever the cost.

Why I choose this book? A beautifully written book which compassionately deals with gender identity and the ripple effect on all the family. Not an easy read in places, but obviously thoroughly researched when taking into account everyone’s emotional reaction to their father/son/grandfather huge life changing decision.  Thought provoking and eye-opening too.

8. Differently Normal – Tammy Robinson

Every family has its issues.   For Maddy, life is all about routine. It has to be, to keep her autistic sister happy and healthy. With just Maddy and her mother as Bee’s full time carers, there’s no time in Maddy’s life for complications like friends, let alone a boyfriend.

So when Bee joins a new Riding for the Disabled stable and they meet Albert, the last thing on Maddy’s mind is falling in love.   Some things, she’s about to learn, are outside of our control.

Albert has resigned himself to always being a disappointment to his strict father. When he meets Maddy, he gets a glimpse of what being part of a family can be like, and of the tremendous sacrifices that people will make for the ones that they love.

Why I choose this book?  As April is also Autism Awareness Month and having previously read and enjoyed a couple of books by Tammy Robinson Differently Normal seemed the obvious book to read next.

Almost instantly I am transported into Bee, Maddy and Alberts world. The author brings these wonderful loveable and likeable characters to life and this beautifully written sensitive story about family, love, responsibility is both heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measures.

9.  Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

Why I choose this book? This incredibly emotional and heartbreaking story about love, life and the right to die with dignity is one of the most thought-provoking stories I have read.  I think I sobbed throughout the book.  A sensitive and powerful story about loving someone enough to let them go.

10. The Curvy Girls Club – Michele Gorman

A hilarious, heart-warming read about normal women who decide to ditch the weighing scales and love themselves just the way they are.

Can the curvy girls have their cake and eat it?

Meet best friends Pixie, Ellie, Katie and Jane. Fed up with always struggling to lose weight, they start a social club where size doesn’t matter. Soon it’s the most popular place to be – having fun instead of counting carbs. And the girls suddenly find their lives changing in ways they never imagined.

But outside the club, things aren’t as rosy, as they struggle with the ups and downs of everyday life.

In this funny, heart-warming read about normal women learning to love themselves, the curvy girls soon realise that no matter what life throws at them, together, anything is possible . .

Why I choose this book? Why would I choose a rom-com/chick lit book as one that made me see differently?  Simply because I related to all the women who have ever weighed themselves, starved themselves, tried fad diets and obsessed about their weight.  This book made me think very differently about what really is important and personally I think every woman/girl should read it.