The ability to read has endured as one of the most liberating skills in the history of humankind. The magic of being transported across place and time, of inhabiting the experiences and emotions of others, whether real or imagined never ceases to amaze me. And the potential for anyone, anyone at all to improve their place in the world simply by reading and learning is surely something we should all strive to give to every child.
Reading has always been a part of my daily routine but it is a pastime with no anchor. When asked what my favourite books are, they range from fiction to non-fiction, classic to modern, popular to high literature.
This list is by no means definitive, but is a core-sample of where books will lead me:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
I started this book 10 years ago and found it difficult to dive into - but later took it overseas and finished it in 4 days, reading almost all night to finish it, in a flood of tears. It is one of the most beautifully written books with such a well crafted story. It is one of those rare books I read and re-read. I have met Markus Zusak several times and was fortunate enough to be invited to the Sydney premier of the movie version of the book starring Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson - the movie was just as moving and wonderful as the book.
Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
This Pulitzer Prize winning book is also incredibly moving. It is a passionate call-to-arm by the writers against the most pervasive human rights violations of women and children in developing countries. The creators have since launched a documentary and the Half the Sky Movement, who’s mission is ’Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide”. More information about this organisation and how to get involved here. The book showed me that philanthropy is not about having the financial means to create change - but to have the passion, whether born of outrage or love, to ignite change for good.
Kidnapped by Mark Tedeschi QC
Fiction or non-fiction , crime thrillers are a genre I love. Kidnapped is the true story of 8 year old Graeme Thorne who was kidnapped outside his primary school in 1960, and subsequently murdered. He was the son from one of the first $100,000 Jackpot wins for a $2.00 lottery. I was a young child at the time and I remember the news coverage. One of the few positive things to come from this horrific event was the change in law protecting the identity of lottery participants by being able to chose Not for Publication in the case of winning. The book has been researched thoroughly and is an exceptional and riveting read.
Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham
Michael Robotham is a commanding writer who has such control over both the language and the reader that you are in the grip of the story from the beginning until the end. Say You’re Sorry is the 6th book in the Joseph O’Loughlin series of thrillers, and relates the disappearance of teenagers Piper Hadley and Tash McBain. I have had the pleasure of meeting Michael in person and sharing my fascination with true crime writing, and thrillers with him, to then have him inscribe one of my books with “Jennifer, you’re a sick sick puppy”!!!
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
This book and the subsequent novels were originally written in Swedish and translated into English by Reg Keeland, who was so disturbed by the editors ‘prettification of the words” he insisted on using the pseudonym Seven T. Murray. But for me, none of this detracted from the story which I found to be complex, entertaining and satisfying. The risk of transforming a novel as sensational as this into a movie is always that the movie will be ‘less’ than the imagination of the reader - however I found the 2011 David Fisher directed version to be equally as rich and intriguing as the book.
There are so many more, I look forward to sharing these with you at a later time - I would love to hear what is keeping you reading late into the night - email me your favourites!
Reading is the foundation skill every child deserves to have - donate a book or fund a translation into a native language here at the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.