Welcome to the April edition of Bookish, but don’t expect any April Fools jokes in this column, just some great book recommendations. This month, we’ve got a variety of genres, so I’m sure there’s something you’ll enjoy. If you like my suggestions, consider joining my book club on Facebook: The Bookmarkers Bookclub!
Noughts and Crosses
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
For Fans Of: Sophie McKenzie
What’s in the pages? Callum is a nought, a second-class citizen in a society run by the ruling Crosses. Sephy is a Cross, and daughter of the man slated to become prime minister. In their world, white Noughts and black Crosses simply don’t mix – and they certainly don’t fall in love. But that’s precisely what they’ve done.
When they were younger, they played together. Now Callum and Sephy meet in secret and make excuses. But excuses no longer cut it when Sephy and her mother are nearly caught in a terrorist bombing planned by the Liberation Militia, with which Callum’s family is linked. Callum’s father is the prime suspect…and Sephy’s father will stop at nothing to see him hanged. The blood hunt that ensues will threaten not only Callum and Sephy’s love for each other, but their very lives.
Why should you read it? With Noughts and Crosses, Ms Blackman has managed an extraordinary feat – creating a modern classic. When this novel was released in 2005, it made real waves in the British consciousness; since then, it has waned in popularity until the BBC adapted it in 2020.
This resurgence in popularity pushed me to read Noughts and Crosses, and I’m thrilled I did – the story is an incredible journey that will grip you from the very start. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much sympathy for characters in any book in the way I did with Sephy and Callum. This book will make you feel every emotion imaginable; it will rip your heart out and then glue it back together.
The humanisation and realism of the alternate reality that the book is set in are what carries this novel; there isn’t one moment in the story that isn’t plausible today (despite it being written sixteen years ago). This story feels current and vital after all this time, shows just how crucial its narrative is. Everyone should read this book!
The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion
Genre: Poetry For Fans Of: Samuel Beckett
What’s in the pages? In this collection, Kei Miller dramatises what happens when one system of knowledge, one method of understanding place and territory, comes up against another.
We watch as the cartographer, used to the scientific techniques of assuming control over a place by mapping it, is gradually compelled to recognise—even to envy—a wholly different understanding of place as he tries to map his way to the rastaman’s eternal city of Zion. As the book unfolds, the cartographer learns that, on this island of roads that “constrict like throats,” every place-name comes freighted with history, and not every place that can be named can be found.
Why should you read it? The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion is poetry presented as a conversation between a cartographer and a rastaman. Creating a juxtaposition of two opposing worldviews and applying personification to make them into very different personalities allows us to relate to the arguments in a way we might not have otherwise.
Although the book’s subject matter might feel niche and strange to most readers, I would implore them to give this book a chance as it’s very approachable and a story that anybody can pick up and enjoy reading. Furthermore, Miller’s writing is incredibly emotive and engaging – at its core, this is a poetry collection for people who don’t really ‘get’ poetry – so if that sounds up your street, maybe try it out!
Twas the Nightshift before Christmas
Genre: Memoir/Comedy For Fans Of: Dawn O’Porter
What’s in the pages? Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat… but 1.4 million NHS staff are heading off to work.
In this perfect present for anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital, Adam Kay delves back into his diaries for a hilarious, horrifying and sometimes heartbreaking peek behind the blue curtain at Christmastime.
Why should you read it? In the sequel to This Is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor, Kay continues to deliver his punchy, hilarious anecdotes of working in the NHS. You don’t have to have read the first book to enjoy this one (I hadn’t when I first read it), as it manages to stand alone as its own piece of literature.
In the times we are in, this short novel is essential reading for everyone as a thank you to all the doctors, nurses and essential workers in your life as it will show you a glimpse of what they go through on a day-to-day basis. If you’re looking for a short, fun read, I would suggest this one as you can probably get through it in a couple of days!