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Five Books chosen by Jessie Greengrass

Parable of the Sower - Octavia E. Butler

First published in 1993, this novel has achieved the rare feat of growing more relevant as time goes on. A powerful depiction of a boiling America which offers hope among the chaos.

The Wall - Marlene Haushofer

An unnamed woman wakes up in a friend's holiday cabin on an Austrian mountainside to find that she is alone, surrounded by an invisible wall on the other side of which everything appears to have stopped, or died. This book is a deceptively simple account of how she spends her time, taking care of her cow, her dog and her cat, and trying to plan for her future. The result is profound without feeling heavy-handed, and often surprisingly lovely.

Seasonal Quartet - Ali Smith

Ali Smith's four books, each set in a season, have won enough praise and prizes that they probably don't need recommending -- except that, reading them again recently, I've found that with a gap of a few years from the events they describe their weight has shifted. Still joyfully readable, they now seem more universal. Very much worth reading for the first time for anyone who hasn't, or reading again for those who have.

Alison - Lizzy Stewart

This is a graphic novel and one of my favourite books of the last few years. It's beautiful  -- beautifully drawn, beautifully written, beautifully told -- and tells the life story of a woman, born in Dorset in 1958, who meets a male artist and becomes, with his encouragement and despite his hindrance, an artist herself. I found it incredibly moving  --- one to read in a single go, on a wet Sunday afternoon.

Homer - Christopher Logue

Another book (or series of books, depending on the edition) which I have recently returned to. Logue's blank verse retelling of the Iliad is a marvel, often more like a film than a poem. Even if, like me, you often can't remember who exactly is who, and what exactly they're doing, the writing is so thrilling, the images so extraordinary, that it will carry you through.


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