Best of the Whale

Readers of this blog often ask me for book recommendations.

Here's are some of my favourites – not my whole life favourites, mind you, but my favourites since I've been blogging . . .

FREEDOM by Jonathan Franzen

A wonderful big book about contemporary American life


I CAPTURE THE CASTLE by Dodie Smith

A lovely coming of age novel set in the early twentieth century in the English countryside.


THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

It's almost embarrassing to 'recommend' this book, as if it is an ordinary text that one can like or not like. It's a awesome piece of non-fiction about Stalin's death camps.


THE HAIRDRESSER OF HARARE by Tendai Huchu

A sweetly hilarious little comic novel about gay life in Zimbabwe.

MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather

A tale of a pioneer childhood that manages to make Nebraska romantic.

NERVOUS CONDITIONS by Tsitsi Dangarembga

A classic Zimbabwean novel about childhood.

PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth

A novel that will make you reconsider men and masturabtion

THE LOVE AFFAIRS OF NATHANIEL P by Adelle Wadman

A fantastic account of the inside of the modern male mind

STONER by John Williams

The story of a university's professor life, from his arrival at school to his death

GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn

Unusually for this blog, this is a thriller. Great page turner with some interesting ideas about gender.

MIDDLEMARCH by George Elliot

A classic which I hope needs no introduction. I re-read it and was struck by how much either it or I had changed since I read it in high school.

PERSUASION by Jane Austen

Always my favourite Austen.

A MAN IN LOVE by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Volume 3 of a 6 volumes of autobiography entitled MY STRUGGLE. Proustian account of an ordinary Norwegian life.

GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson

Extraordinarily beautiful diary of a dying elderly man in Kansas.

LOVE IN A COLD CLIMATE by Nancy Mitford

Hilarious 1930s novel I re-read often.

MY BRILLIANT FRIEND, THE STORY OF A NEW NAME, THOSE WHO LEAVE AND THOSE WHO STAY, and THE STORY OF THE LOST CHILD by Elena Ferrente

Fantastic quartet of novels about a lifelong friendship in twentieth century Naples

A NOTABLE WOMAN by Jean Lucey Pratt

700 pages of real life diaries covering fifty years in the life of an ordinary woman that are quite extraordinary

LIFE AND FATE by Vasily Grossman

As the title suggests, LIFE AND FATE is a novel with a wide scope. It's a gigantic account of Stalinist Russia, mostly during the secon...