‘Everything about him was old except his eyes and they were the same colour as the sea and were cheerful and undefeated.’
The Old Man and the Sea was one of the last pieces of fiction that Hemingway published before his death. This short story, come-fable, tells the tale of Santiago, an aged fisherman. After eighty-four days without a catch, Santiago is beginning to give up hope. But with the help of a young boy, Manolin, he begins to see that all is not lost. This novel is a glorious meditation on life’s joys and tragedies – and the enduring power of hope.
We might think of most of Roald Dahl’s collection as childhood classics, but they are classics for a reason, and readers of all ages can appreciate and enjoy his inimitable tales. Matilda is a particular joy to revisit. It tells the story of a child prodigy, Matilda Wormwood, who, despite being shunned by her cruel parents, discovers a love of reading that leads to her uncovering her extraordinary intellect – whilst providing an escape from the reality of her life with the Wormwoods. Matilda combines everything that Dahl did best: from the most dastardly of villains to the unrelenting power of magic, Matilda is one of the most unashamedly optimistic of Dahl’s works.
Despite being set in Barbados, Jones’ novel portrays anything but paradise. Lala lives with her husband, Adan, near Baxter’s beach. After a burglary occurs nearby, four of the characters are drawn into a series of events that will change the course of their lives forever. Jones’ novel doesn’t have one singular overarching theme: it traverses love, violence, crime and shame. It could be seen as a visionary epoch of women daring to escape a history of violence and abuse, to finally find their authentic voices.
The Funiculi Funicula cafe in Tokyo has been serving customers for over one hundred years, but this is no ordinary coffee shop: visitors to the cafe have the chance to go back in time. Despite having the opportunity to better understand their past – and to perhaps enjoy a better future – there is one very important rule: they must return before the coffee gets cold. Kawaguchi’s take on time-travel with a difference asks the reader one tricky question: would you travel back in time even if you couldn’t change the past? The novel combines tragedy and triumph in a tale that asks us to contemplate what it means to take ownership of our lives.
The benefits of reading to our wellbeing are well-known — so much so that there’s even a term for it. Bibliotherapy is now used by therapists throughout the world, with books even being ‘prescribed’ to treat trauma and anxiety. In this touching and personal love-letter to fiction, Rentzenbrink explores the unbidden power of books: to comfort us, challenge us, and transform us.
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Jessica is a freelance copywriter and content writer based in Richmond-Upon-Thames. With a degree in English Literature from University College London, she has experience as a private tutor for 14-18 years olds and adult learners. She has also worked in Widening Participation as a Mentor, Student Ambassador, and Student Leader. As someone who achieved A-Levels through distance-learning, Jessica has first-hand experience of the unique challenges and rewards that distance-learning offers. She regularly contributes content to educational websites including eNotes and Tutorful.