Devourers of books and stories, hold your breath, the 2016 Big Read book list is here. We’ve taken this year’s theme ‘It’s all Relative’ – inspired by the 100th year since the publication of Einstein’s general theory of relativity – to generate a book list that will get you all excited and rearing to read!
Einstein’s Dreams – Alan Lightman
A modern classic, Einstein’s Dreams is a fictional collage of stories dreamed by Albert Einstein in 1905, when he worked in a patent office in Switzerland. As the defiant but sensitive young genius is creating his theory of relativity, a new conception of time, he imagines many possible worlds. In one, time is circular, so that people are fated to repeat triumphs and failures over and over. In another, there is a place where time stands still, visited by lovers and parents clinging to their children. In another, time is a nightingale, sometimes trapped by a bell jar. Now translated into thirty languages, Einstein’s Dreams has inspired playwrights, dancers, musicians, and painters all over the world. In poetic vignettes, it explores the connections between science and art, the process of creativity, and ultimately the fragility of human existence.
A Theory of Relativity – Jaqueline Mitchard
The compelling and heartrending new novel from the author of the million-selling The Deep End of the Ocean. A tragic accident, an orphaned one-year-old and a bitter struggle that will break your heart. For Gordon McKenna and his parents, the only way they can survive the loss of their beloved sister and daughter, Georgia, is to prepare to devote themselves heart and soul to the care of her baby girl, Keefer. But another family feels the same way and, as Keefer becomes the focus of a fiercely fought custody battle, the limits of love, and its capacity to heal, are tested again and again.
The Einstein Girl – Philip Sington
Two months before Hitler’s rise to power, a beautiful young woman is found naked and near death in the woods outside Berlin. When she finally wakes from her coma, she can remember nothing, not even her name. The only clue to her identity is a handbill found nearby, advertising a public lecture by Albert Einstein: ‘On the Present State of Quantum Theory’.
Psychiatrist Martin Kirsch takes the case, little suspecting that this will be his last. As he searches for the truth about ‘the Einstein Girl’, professional fascination turns to reckless love. His investigations lead him to a remote corner of Siberia via a psychiatric hospital in Zurich. There the inheritor of Einstein’s genius – his youngest son, Eduard – is writing a book that will destroy his illustrious father and, in the process, change the world.
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
The Book Thief centres around the life of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old girl living in Germany during World War II. Liesel’s experiences are narrated by Death, who describes both the beauty and destruction of life in this era.
After her brother’s death, Liesel arrives in a distraught state at the home of her new foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann. During her time there, she is exposed to the horror of the Nazi regime and struggles to find a way to preserve the innocence of her childhood in the midst of her destructive surroundings. As the political situation in Germany deteriorates, her foster parents hide a Jewish man named Max, putting the family in danger. Hans, who has developed a close relationship with Liesel, teaches her to read in secret. Recognising the power of writing and sharing the written word, Liesel begins to not only steal books the Nazi party is looking to destroy, but also write her own stories and share the power of language with Max. As Liesel copes with the trauma of her past and the violent horrors of the war-torn world around her, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, the formation of a new family, and mostly, her life as a book thief.
Trumpet – Jackie Kay
When the love of your life dies, the problem is not that some part of you dies too, which it does, but that some part of you is still alive.
The death of legendary jazz trumpeter Joss Moody exposes an extraordinary secret. Unbeknown to all but his wife Millie, Joss was a woman living as a man. The discovery is most devastating for their adopted son, Colman, whose bewildered fury brings the press to the doorstep and sends his grieving mother to the sanctuary of a remote Scottish village.
Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, Trumpet is a starkly beautiful modern classic about the lengths to which people will go for love. It is a moving story of a shared life founded on an intricate lie, of loving deception and lasting devotion, and of the intimate workings of the human heart.
Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’– returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past – a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.
My Name is Lucy Barton – Elizabeth Strout
A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. In My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.
Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
Lovely, Dark, Deep – Joyce Carol Oates
From the legendary literary master, winner of the National Book Award and New York Times bestselling author Joyce Carol Oates, a collection of thirteen mesmerising stories that map the eerie darkness within us all.
Insightful, disturbing, imaginative, and breathtaking in their lyrical precision, the stories in Lovely, Dark, Deep display Joyce Carol Oates’s magnificent ability to make visceral the terror, hurt, and uncertainty that lurks at the edges of ordinary lives.
In Mastiff, a woman and a man are joined in an erotic bond forged out of terror and gratitude. Sex with Camel explores how a sixteen-year-old boy realizes the depth of his love for his grandmother – and how vulnerable those feelings make him. Fearful that that her husband is ‘disappearing’ from their life, a woman becomes obsessed with keeping him in her sight in The Disappearing. A Book of Martyrs reveals how the end of a pregnancy brings with it the end of a relationship. And in the title story, the elderly Robert Frost is visited by an interviewer, an unsettling young woman, who seems to know a good deal more about his life than she should.
A piercing and evocative collection, Lovely, Dark, Deep reveals an artist at the height of her creative power.
All synopses are taken from the Amazon website except for The Book Thief (Wikipedia) and My Name is Lucy Barton (Goodreads).
All titles are available as an audio book.