My Dad and I communicate through books. Every birthday and Christmas, without fail, we swap them as gifts.
These are the best recommendations in the world. I always love finding the bit in the book that I know is the reason my Dad gave it to me.
The second reason they are the best is that he always picks books that I never would have picked myself. It’s easy to get to the point where you always look for the same sort of thing because you want to be sure you’ll like it. Recommendations from Poppa Shelf are a reminder that sometimes your new favourite book is one you’d never find yourself.
Here are the best ones he has recommended (so far!):
The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
Isn’t this the most gorgeous cover you’ve ever seen?
This is the story of Renée, the concierge of an apartment block in Paris, and her unlikely friendship with one of the tenants, a twelve-year-old named Paloma who has vowed to commit suicide before her thirteenth birthday.
Doesn’t sound that cheery so far, does it?
But actually, this is one of the loveliest books I’ve read in a long time. The development of Renée and Paloma’s relationship and their various musings on life are so charming. It’s a gentle read but a very endearing one.
The Master and Margherita by Mikhail Bulgakov
This must surely be one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read.
It’s about the devil coming to Moscow, with a couple of demon friends in tow.
Just to make it more confusing, the narrative hops back and forth between what the devil is getting up to in Moscow, and what Pontius Pilate is getting up to in Jerusalem two millennia previously.
I’ll be honest, I’m pretty sure that some of the Soviet targeted satire was lost on me as I’m not too hot on Soviet political history – the book is delightful nonetheless, but you have to adapt your mindset from page one!
Also, try ‘Heart of a Dog’ if you like this – another weird and hilarious story from Bulgakov.
Mood Indigo by Boris Vian
I still get the weepies when I think about this lovely book.
It’s a love story, so usually it would go immediately into my dustbin (this is a heinous lie for effect, imagine putting a book in a BIN). However, it’s such a beautiful story I force it into the unwilling mitts of anyone I possibly can.
Poppa Shelf has a tendency towards French literature so lots of his recommendations are translations. Fortunately, this one is incredibly well done and doesn’t feel awkward like many translations do.
It’s about Colin and Chloe, who fall in love and get married, but then Chloe falls ill. As she becomes sicker, their whole lives start to reflect the sadness filling their happy little home – and even the kitchen mice start to get suicidal.
The magic of this book is in the metaphors it uses to describe Colin and Chloe’s emotions, which are a jazz-speckled art form in themselves. Truly sad and wonderful in equal measure.
The Best of Saki
This book sat continually on my bedside table while I was away at university, and every time I came home I would dip into it. These short stories are brilliant – very funny, rather dark and extremely enjoyable.
The one I always remember is ‘Tobermory’, which is about a cat which (as it turns out) can speak – and suddenly make very public all the secrets it has learnt about the household.
Who’s the person in your life who has introduced you to a brilliant book? What was it?