High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

After breaking up with Laura, Rob’s most recent ex, he asks himself the big questions about love and life. He also makes top-five lists about them, from his most memorable split-ups to Dustin Hoffman films and records made by blind musicians. Now, he is free to spend his time reorganising his record collection, arguing with Dick and Barry at the shop and daydreaming about recording artistes who look like Susan Dey. Soon, he reaches his own conclusions about love and marriage and it becomes clear where he’s been going wrong.

High Fidelity is upbeat and observant, it is an account of male self-pity and forgiveness from an instantly recognisable character. It is a charming story about people, full of reflections and brilliant glimpses into the male psyche.

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The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Amir, a wealthy boy, and Hassan, the family’s servant, share a love of kite fighting in the city of Kabul. Hassan is Amir’s valued ‘kite runner’; he knows where the kite will land before it has even started its descent. Amir’s father, a wealthy Afghanistan man, lovingly known as Baba, is devoted to his son and Hassan, but often criticises Amir, deeming him as feeble and cowardly. Rahim Khan, his father’s closest friend, recognises Amir’s need to be understood and acts as the benevolent father figure that Amir craves so desperately.

Other local boys mock Amir for socialising with a Hazara, who they believe are an inferior race that should be banished to Hazarajat. One boy in particular, with a sadistic taste for violence, sets against Amir with his brass knuckles, but before the fight begins Hassan jumps in to Amir’s defence, threatening Assef with his beloved slingshot. As Assef cowers away he swears to get revenge on the boys sooner or later.

A remarkable and touching story of the friendship and secrets between a wealthy Pashtun boy and the son of his father’s Hazara, The Kite Runner is an incredible novel set in a country that is in distress. It touches themes of betrayal, possible redemption and explores the power of loyalty and family.

The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared is absurdly offbeat and unpredictable – in a good way. Between laughs, I spent my time reading the nimble plot of this novel filled with curiosity, attempting to second guess the author. What’s more this book is a bucket list in motion.

‘Well, now you can see how sensible it is not to start your day by guessing what might happen,’ said Allan. ‘After all, how long would I have had to go on guessing before I guessed this?’

Centred on the escapades of the centenarian and nursing home escapee Allan Karlsson, the interspersed chapters of this tale weave between his earlier adventures and current goings-on.  Allan is very much a glass-half-full (of vodka) character, his laissez-faire attitude shapes the nature of the story and it’s light hearted and ironic tone. The free-wheeling narrative illustrates the crossed paths of Allan and many influential historical figures of the 20th century, including: American presidents, Russian tyrants and Chinese leaders. Blissfully blind to all things politics related, Allan haphazardly (and inadvertently) builds and obliterates international relations.

Dotted throughout the narrative are the endearing and quirky individuals that Allan encounters along his way. Notably, the clueless Herbert Einstein and his empty suicidal tendencies characterise the black humour of the novel. Not forgetting the growing group of friends (and an elephant) that Allan amasses by the end of his journey, which by definition is unconventional. This book is a nutty and interesting read. With the concept of ageing at its core, the novel defies social boundaries of age in its topsy-turvy world.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Another take on To Kill a Mockingbird…

Simply, this beautifully written classic tells a tale of childhood and morality. The fundamental plot tactfully and truthfully addresses the struggles and prejudices faced by African-American people living in the 1930’s.

At its heart, the book is primarily about the trial of Tom Robinson, though there is much more going on. We are told the story through the unfolding thoughts of Scout who is unwillingly hilarious and often teaches the adults life lessons through her innocence.

“I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

Whilst the novel covers such profound and serious themes, Scout lifts the story with her unjaded comments and amusing descriptions.

“She looked and smelled like a peppermint drop.”

For much of the story, I was wrapped up in Scout’s imagination and concept of the illustrious Boo Radley. I loved reading about the adventures of Scout, Jem and Dill to expose Boo and draw him out of the house. I spent my time reading To Kill a Mockingbird filled with curiosity and a need to read on.

About a Boy – Nick Hornby

A story of a begrudging friendship. Nick Hornby’s About a Boy is undoubtedly entertaining and full of British humour. This book describes the unlikely and dysfunctional relationship of Marcus, who needs to learn how to act his age (12-years-old)  and Will or ‘Ned’, who also needs to learn how to act his age (36-years-old).

When reading the book it is impossible not to picture Marcus, the instantly recognisable character unversed in pop culture. Marcus’ accidental wit and clumsy attempts to fix his mother’s depression are both lovable and laughable.

Chapter after chapter I found myself rooting for Will and Marcus’ friendship, despite Will’s questionable dating tactics and egotistical persona, I wanted/needed him to warm to Marcus, as I had, and to take him under his wing. Though, arguably, Will also needed a lesson or two from Marcus.

All in all, this charming book ties together the peculiar behaviour of adults, overbearing mothers, unlikely friendship, duck murder, countdown and Joni Mitchell. I loved the bright lines, clever observations and endearing characters.