As we move through the last weeks of summer and into autumn, we also approach what is arguably the prime time of the year for reading. I have composed a list of some perfect page-turners that will have you glued to your seat, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying. The best books we read stay with us, and plant ideas within us that grow in time; these are books which have stayed with me and left a lasting impression.

1. I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou – The first of seven remarkable and touching memoirs, this is a book rooted in passion and reflection which Angelou sculpts with grace and skill to evoke amazement and emotion with ease. Angelou is a major and inspirational figure within American history – and indeed world history  – and everyone should read her splendid books. In fact I cannot comprehend why she isn’t taught in schools. This is a truly beautiful and inspiring book, and is one of the few books that you can read and feel it changing your world view as you do so. It encapsulates so much growth and struggle and joy it is frankly impossible to dislike.
2. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov – This is a book known for its difficult subject matter as it follows the doomed Humbert Humbert and his obsession with so-called ‘nymphets’. It is regarded by many as a classic, and although at times it is difficult because of the inherent discomfort caused by the paedophilia at the heart of the story, it mercifully lacks any graphic content, which is perhaps what makes it bearable. I struggled not with the content but with how much I liked the weak and unfortunate narrator. For all the reasons you have to hate him, Nabokov has constructed an overwhelmingly human element to his protagonist. A really powerful and thought provoking novel that is at times laugh out loud funny and deeply self-aware.
3. The Colour Purple, Alice Walker – This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is told phonetically through the diary entries of Celie, a beaten down and abused young black woman in the American South in the 1930s. It is truly heart breaking from the onset, and Walker hits again and again with brutal truths, at first subtly through Celie’s naivety and later candidly as Celie’s character develops and becomes increasingly eloquent. Celie’s growth is shown artfully through her own self awareness and the change in how she writes, alongside her moving relationships with other characters. A gorgeous and rich narrative that reaches out to the reader and makes them feel and cry alongside the ever-strong Celie, which provides a powerful look on race and sexism during the period in the troubled south, and casts a lights on what has changed and should change within today’s society.
4. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Ken Kesey – This is a magnificent look at mental health and the institutional process. Told through eyes of Chief Bromden who presents himself as deaf and dumb, he tells the story of Randal, a loud and charismatic juxtaposition to the other timid patients in the Oregon Psychiatric Hospital. Another classic, but this time one that observes the workings of the mind of mental patients at a time when mental health care was far less than it needed to be, a fact embodied by the tyrannical Nurse Ratched. It is one of the great pieces of American literature of the 20th century and is a must read for book lovers everywhere.
5. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, Raymond Carver – This is a collection of short stories set in suburban America around the 1950s and 1960s that are told masterfully through Carver’s stripped-back style that looks at the way people communicate and the emotions behind sometimes difficult and sometimes easy decisions. It is a remarkable collection that captivates the reader with its fascinating style and occasionally obscure stories and the meaning behind them. The characters leave lasting impressions despite brief appearances as human nature is stripped bare and analysed against a seemingly basic background, but one that has woven within it many of the struggles of the day-to-day lives of the majority of human beings. It is expertly told and is a book easily devoured in one sitting, although it still manages to hold within it several layers of understanding.