Reading List: The Creme de la Creme

Hello Readers,

This is a list of the books or articles or what-nots that I recommend reading. This is a list I will keep developing over time so watch this space.

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Ottoline and the Yellow Cat | Chris Riddell

I am not even half-joking when I suggest this book. I first got it the year it was first published in 2007 which was (15-7 is umm… oh god! I’m not even going there!)…a while ago. The photo (not mind, from the internet) shown here is the original cover. it has slightly altered over the years to re-vamp it a guess into a paperback version. I first borrowed it in my local library and this was the time I really was engrossed in Chris Riddell’s work written and illustrated. I even remember my family and I going to a restaurant, carrying this library book with me, reading it over and over again and I was counting how many times I have actually read the book. I got my own copy during a story-telling event my mum and I were invited by our friend and published writer, Beth Webb. Books were being auctioned and one was this very book signed by Chris Riddell himself. Our first bid was £5 and I think we were the only ones that wanted the book. We felt bad so we bumped it to £7. I was still ecstatic to have this book nonetheless.

I still have this copy today. I also have the other books in the series (only the last one in paperback, Mum couldn’t get a hardback version and it was a very sweet gift that made me too excited for a person going to University). The actual narrative of a literal ‘cat-burglar’ and Ottoline solving the mysteries of stolen items is very whimsical and charming. Her best friend is also delightful as well. I would definitely recommend this as a night time read. The choice of illustration is again beautiful as Riddell’s work often is. I really like how he only uses colour sparingly and when he does, it is only the colour red. The witty labels and arrows on certain aspects of the illustrations are also very entertaining. I would always read them first even if I was to start the story all over again. Because of the illustrations and (I might regret saying this word) cool use of font and typography, this means that what you might think is a hefty story for a child is actually a nice, light and entertaining read. I definitely recommend this book no matter what age because of the pure childish and arguably innocent joy is exudes. Love it.

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Giovanni’s Room | James Baldwin

This I found from a list of Gay fiction in a New York Times archive I was using to find literature to write about for my EPQ. I didn’t expect though such an instant favourite. The image (again, internet) isn’t the copy I have (heavily highlighted as well), it was a Penguins Great Loves edition but the image wasn’t large enough to show the illustration on the cover. That cover for me visually was a bit off-putting but the blurb really was a winner: Love is Betrayal. This really summarises the love triangle American, David experiences with Italian lover, Giovanni and his girlfriend (whose name is escaping me at the moment, but begins with H, and I’m sure has an ‘a’ in it…or an ‘e’…) in Paris.

This book is essentially all about tragedy, a story explaining the story of Giovanni and why the readers are literally told in the beginning that he is going to be executed. *gasps, oohs, ahhs and awws* Again, tragedy but in my opinion, a beautifully written one. I really enjoyed learning about the critical reception of the book and other things (in which I might write a separate post for, keep watch) involving it. I do recommend this for the quality of writing and the actual story. Although it wasn’t at all the happy ending you would want to expect, it became more poetic that way over the realities of love and homosexuality. Enjoy.

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Lighter Than My Shadow | Katie Green

On the first week when I was moving my things into my University Halls, Mum and I went to the University Book Shop (unfortunately closed during the Christmas period) to have a look around. That was were I bought for mum’s Christmas present a signed copy of a book by one of her favourite artists, Brian Fraud. Not only that, but that was where I found this book on a stand. I was immediately drawn to it because it was a huge volume, about the same spine width as fifty shades of grey, but because it was a graphic novel it had thicker paper. I was also drawn because of the beautiful illustrations on the cover. So I started reading it. I was immediately taken by not only the narrative but by how the illustration beautiful captured the narrative without any text as well. This was a really well thought out volume.

It does take your breathe away at times because it deals with a heavy matter of a girl going through her struggles with anorexia and the events that made her spiral into it at different moments. What made it more difficult to read was on the day I was thinking about buying this book (of course I did the week after, one of the few times I was willing to buy a book at its RRP) I turned to the back cover and it said ‘non-fiction’. There was this sudden realisation that this story was well written because it was the story of the illustrator. Very often the book become meta and you see the illustrator working on this volume and it brings the audience back into realisation how much this can affect a person’s life and how much a reader can be affected by it. I don’t personally have an eating disorder but I found this a very profound and beautiful graphic novel to read. I would say one of the best books, illustrated or not, non-fiction or not, that I have ever read. If you want to spend a little extra (a wallet whimpering £19.99) on a graphic novel, I would highly recommend this one.

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