Do you ever pick up a book and wonder “wait a second, have I already read this?”. Some books just go in one side and out the other, barely touching the sides. It’s a shame, but fortunately those books that do make an impact almost make up for it. You’ll find them rattling around in your brain, long after you’ve turned the final page. Here’s a list of ten books that will stay with you forever – no risk of forgetting whether you’ve read any of these!
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke
I’ll admit, Piranesi was a slow burn for me. It might be for you too, but I promise before you’re done you’ll know it’s a book that will stay with you forever. An amiable young man, whom The Other calls Piranesi, lives in a house. A huge house. A house so huge it has its own weather system. It’s a labyrinth of halls, each adorned with statues of all imaginable varieties. Why is he there? How did he get there? Or has he always been there? You’ll have to read to find out. This book is a unique blend of charming and cataclysmic, heart-warming and world-shaking, a thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking read from one of our greatest living authors. Read my full review of Piranesi here.
In The Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
When I first looked at my copy of In The Dream House, I saw a blurb that promised it would “revolutionise the genre of memoir”. Yeah, right, I thought – what could Carmen Maria Machado possibly do that hasn’t been done before? Reader, she sure showed me. This is an incredible, masterful examination of domestic abuse in queer relationships – a shamefully under-explored area in literature – that paints a picture with every colour on the palette. This is a book that you will quote aloud to colleagues, thrust into the hands of loved ones, and it will stay with you forever. Read my full review of In The Dream House here.
No Friend But The Mountains by Behrouz Boochani
Australia’s treatment of refugees is a source of constant shame (to those of us with a conscience, anyway). Behrouz Boochani was one of those refugees, a journalist facing persecution in his home country who came to our shores seeking help (we’ve “boundless plains to share”, after all). He found himself locked in a cage on Manus Island, an “offshore detention facility”, which is more accurately called (as Boochani does) Manus Prison. No Friend But The Mountains is his memoir, a work of critical political theory, written entirely via WhatsApp messages sent to his translator Omid Tofighian on smartphones smuggled into his cell. This book will break you, and Boochani’s story will never leave you.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
You might think that you “don’t read poetry”, but trust me when I say you’ve never read poetry like Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric. The poetry we were taught in school didn’t use photographs and video to change our perception of the world. This collection is alternately moving, confronting, enraging, and terrifying. Rankine doesn’t impose her own feelings on you with her poetry, though: she draws your own out of you. This is a singular book (a multi-media experience, really) about race in America, the shattering of false narratives, and the importance of raising one’s voice to power.
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
My Year Of Rest And Relaxation is just as compulsively readable as any beach read, but there’s a darkness at its core that will ensure it stays with you long after your holiday is over. An unnamed narrator, wealthy and privileged and beautiful, decides that she’s had enough of the rotten hand life has dealt her, and decides she wants to spend a year sleeping (relatable, right?). She figures, when she emerges, she’ll have transformed into someone better able to cope with the world – little does she know that, while she sleeps, the world is transforming, too. It all builds to a climax that will twist your stomach and turn your knuckles white.
Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
Sometimes, it’s a protagonist that really stands out in your memory of books that will stay with you. Keiko “isn’t normal”. She’s a thirty-something woman with zero interest in marriage and babies (beyond getting her friends and family off her back). She works in a convenience store, and she loves it; she has no desire to move up and out into the world, so why does everyone keep asking her to? Convenience Store Woman is Keiko’s story. It’s short, but oh so impactful. It’s a character study, a treatise on non-conformity, and an incredible insight into contemporary Japanese culture – all in one! Read my full review of Convenience Store Woman here.
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
I used to think it was just me who felt overwhelming affection for curmudgeonly old-man protagonists. The success of A Man Called Ove proves that I’m not alone! The English translation (by Henning Koch) of this quiet Swedish novel has become an international best-seller and a perennial favourite of book clubs around the world. The titular Ove is cranky and suicidal, but he’s also unavoidably endearing. The arrival of new noisy and colourful neighbours opens up his world, and proves to him that there’s plenty left to live for. This is an incredibly touching and moving novel about the impact one life can have. Read my full review of A Man Called Ove here.
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
This is a book I haven’t been able to stop thinking about (or recommending to Keeper Upperers!) since I first read it, years ago now. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves will change the way you think about family, personhood, and the way we relate to (and love) each other. The problem is, it’s impossible to tell you more without giving away the big twist! Trust me when I say it’s absolutely the kind of book that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page; I speak from experience! Read my full review of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves here.
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Few diseases break our hearts like Alzheimer’s, especially the early onset kind that strikes people down in the prime of their lives. That’s the focus of Still Alice, a book about a woman who finds herself in the grips of a terrible, debilitating disease that will tear her apart from her work, her family, and herself. The story follows her all the way from the initial onset of symptoms, her diagnosis and denial, to the precious final lucid moments she can spend with her loved ones. This book will make you cry, and make you cherish every lucid hour you have. Read my full review of Still Alice here.
The Diary Of A Young Girl by Anne Frank
The atrocities of World War II and the Holocaust still loom large over our society, and The Diary Of A Young Girl is a big part of the reason why. We can read all of the lofty historical and philosophical takes, but few will touch us and stay with us like the hopeful and heart-felt secret words of Anne Frank. She was just thirteen years old when her family fled Amsterdam, and went into hiding. Taking shelter in a secret annex of an old office building, she and her family could do little more than stay quiet and cross their fingers for salvation to come. This book will touch the hearts and open the minds of readers of all ages, and it’s definitely one of the most important books that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.