Where I've reviewed the book previously, I've linked to it in the title, and quoted from my review in italics. I also plan to go through my blog tags and include one for Be A Good Human.
Few books have completely challenged my worldview so much as this beautiful story of a friendship between a bright but innocent young lad and a curmudgeonly old widower with a love of Kurt Vonnegut books, who are faced with a very difficult decision. The novel combines humour and pathos, sometimes uncomfortably side-by-side, in a way reflective of real life.
Speak - Laurie Halse Anderson
I first read Speak when I was about fifteen, and it was a book I reread a lot in my high school years (see how battered my copy is in the picture above!) I was reminded of it a few years ago when parents called for it to banned from school libraries - ironically, considering its theme of encouraging people not to suffer in silence. Although, of course, there are books inappropriate for certain places and age groups, literature gives people a safe place to confront the dangers that well-meaning but misguided moral guardians may not be able to protect their children from. Author Laurie Halse Anderson has written about how many students have found help through reading this book, and how it has quite literally been a life saver.
Two stories in different timelines: one of a young boy called Byron who becomes fixated on an unattainable "perfection" in the 1970s, to try to bring order to his troubled family life, and the other of an older man in the present day, who, after decades of battling mental health issues, is trying to get back into the community and live something resembling an ordinary life.
Deceptively simple in style, Rachel Joyce's prose is powerful and hard-hitting, yet it is not without hope or beauty. Perfect leaves the reader with a lot to think about and to feel, concerning family, class and mental illness, the power of friendship, the nature of time and the struggle for an impossible perfection.
Elizabeth is Missing - Emma Healey
This was the first book I read in 2015, an excellent start to my reading year. Elizabeth is Missing is a mystery with a twist; it is told from the point of view of an elderly lady with dementia. As she muddles around trying to find out what has happened to her friend Elizabeth, she finds herself reliving her past and uncovering a long-forgotten mystery.
We get to experience Maud's frustration and fogginess while seeing what she forgets, as she forgets it. This fictional view inside a fading mind encourages empathy, patience and understanding. Maud's world is not the same as the one she physically inhabits, but is a world of the mind, of past and present perceived as fluid and changing.To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
How could one write a list of books that help you to be a better human without including this one? Harper Lee shows us very adult issues simply, shown from the point of view of eight-year-old Scout Finch. This youthful point of view makes you want to scream and cry - especially when, daily, you read online of systematic racism in the American police force. Prejudice is not natural, it is learned, and it is stupid. A child can tell you what is right and what is wrong, but somewhere in adulthood things get muddied. Let's all retain a bit of the innocence of childhood, and the quiet heroism of Atticus Finch, a man who knows he will not change the world overnight, but who will fight just as hard as he can for right because he can do nothing else. And slowly, perhaps, the world may change a little for the better.