World Book Day 2021

As it’s World Book Day–and most of the planet remains in isolation due to this pandemic, so we’re all hopefully getting even more read than usual–I wanted to share some of my all-time favourite books.

These are in no particular order, just however they popped into my head.

An angel and demon who have lived among humans since the dawn of time kind of like things as they are and aren’t particularly looking forward to the coming (finally, accurately predicted) Armageddon. They devise a plan to try to stop it by raising the baby Antichrist to not be a bad kid. Problem being, there was a mix-up at the hospital where he was born, so they’re raising a human kid thinking he’s the Antichrist, while the actual son of Satan is unwittingly being raised in a rural English village by Mr. Young and his wife Diedre, who’ve named him Adam.

A dark comedy and utterly irreverent, Good Omens was the book that introduced me to Terry Pratchett (I later learned of and began devouring his Disc World series) and gave me a better appreciation for Neil Gaiman, who I’d largely known at that point for his work on his excellent comic series The Sandman.

I gave a pretty detailed review of this book last year.

Suffice it to say, it remains the first book of one of the best fantasy book series I’ve ever read.

Helen Russell gave up her job editing MarieClaire magazine and became a freelance writer in order to accompany her husband when he was offered a job in Denmark. What she writes about in this book is her first fish-out-of-water year of living there. From not speaking the language to discovering customs to dealing with a brusk neighbour who has zero tolerance for anything done out of line with the garbage and recycling bins, Helen endures it all, learns from it, and tries to take it in stride.

I’m not a big fan of non-fiction in the greater scheme, but this was recommended to me by my Danish aunt, and it’s excellent.

Neil Gaiman has been my favourite writer for some time, and while I couldn’t say with conviction I’ve read everything he’s ever written, Fragile Things is my favourite of what I have.

It could perhaps be that short stories remain one of my go-to formats to write in so I have a soft spot for them, but there’s something about them that has always been, and I suspect always will be appealing. Gaiman has written other short story collections, but this specific mix–some short stories, some poetry–stuck with me far more than the others have.

Former combat nurse Claire Randall is just back from the second World War and on a second honeymoon with her husband, when she walks through a standing stone that turns out to be a portal to the past. She is taken to 1743, when Scotland is at war. In the midst of trying to figure out what has happened to her and how to undo it to get back home, she meets Scottish warrior James Fraser, and despite wishing to remain faithful to the husband she may never see again, Claire begins to fall in love with him.

Diana Gabaldon is one of those writers whose skill I would be delighted to even approach having. Romances, let alone historical ones, aren’t normally my thing at all, but Outlander is handily one of the best books I’ve ever read.

Another Top 10 pick from a previous year that I wrote on in more depth here.

Yet another non-fiction book that is now among my all-time favourites.

The Black Dahlia was the name the press gave to murder victim Elizabeth Short in 1947 Los Angeles. In this fictionalized story based on the real-world event (the case was never solved), two cops with their own deep problems are assigned to the case that becomes an obsession.

James Ellroy is one of those writers to me who (I hope) everyone has probably had a similar experience with: You hadn’t read any of the writer’s work before and then you do and you wonder how it is more people haven’t been reading and talking about their stuff.

Ellroy is simply one of the best crime fiction writers ever. Full stop. His stuff is not for the faint-hearted–my friend Alex, who introduced me to Ellroy’s work and is no pushover, said that while he enjoys Ellroy, reading his books tended to make him want to wash his hands–but if you like crime fiction, you’d be hard-pressed to do better than Ellroy as a whole and this book in particular.

Part memoir and part top-flight writing advice, On Writing is simply the best book I’ve ever read on the craft. I have two shelves of How To-type books focusing on various aspects of writing. This is easily the one I’d give up last.

Briefly covered here. I’d been working in a news environment for a number of years, hearing and seeing hours of it a day, and it was beginning to take a bit of a soul-grinding toll on me. In seeking out more comedy to hear, see and read to offset that issue, I came across Nice Try. It was the funniest, and simultaneously probably most touching, book I read in 2020. Three months into 2021 I’ve yet to meet its match.

If you enjoy laughs mixed with some heartwarmingly human tales, this would be my immediate recommendation.

What are some of your all-time favourite books? Let me know in the comments below.

1 Comment

  1. I will keep all of these books in mind. Thanks for your take. The one I have read is the Stephen King book on writing. The best I’ve read on the subject and I’ve read a few.

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