Social Secretary Ella Kipling shares the books that shaped her, from Jacqueline Wilson’s children’s books to Junior Doctor Adam Kay’s nonfiction This is Going to Hurt
The books that will always have a special place in my heart
Jacqueline Wilson books were my first love. Something about the realness of the characters and the drama of the stories just captivated me when I was younger. Wilson wrote books for children that hadn’t been written before, and told the sort of stories which you would rarely find in books for children under 12. Reading Wilson’s books – when so many others aimed at my age group were childish or mostly fantasy – made me feel grown-up, and I could find myself getting lost in these heartbreakingly real stories. I liked that the characters were normal children, with broken families or living in poverty, and it definitely sparked my interest in people and their stories. I also think that Wilson’s books sparked my desire to become a journalist – I’ve always loved reading about people and I realised that I wanted to write about them too. Particular favourites include: Lily Alone, Little Darlings, Hetty Feather, and Secrets.
A book I read way too late in life (but instantly became obsessed with)
I feel as though I was very late to the party when it came to Harry Potter, having only read them for the first time this January. I’ve spent nearly my entire life being dismissive of the films and books, thinking that fantasy and magic was not really my speed. After finally caving in and watching the films, I raced to the shops the next day and bought the entire series of books. At the time I was deep into a reading slump, and reading something fast-paced and comforting with lovable characters pulled me out of it and made me feel like I was ten years-old again, staying up all night to finish the series.
My favourite book
The Song of Achilles came highly recommended, and yet it still managed to exceed every single one of my expectations. I read it all in one sitting and was absolutely captivated. I wasn’t too sure I would get into the book, given that it was about the Ancient Greeks and I usually prefer modern settings, but the story, and the romance at the centre of it, is timeless. If you’re looking for a book to make you cry, this is absolutely the one for you. Despite being set over the lifetime of protagonists Achilles and Patroclus, the book was fast-paced but made you feel as though you had lived their lives alongside them – something which I have rarely encountered before in literature. I also enjoyed the accuracy of the book; the characters, storylines, and myths mentioned made me feel as though I was learning something new. It also makes you wonder – how many great love stories have disappeared into history because they were gay?
Trigger Warning for the book: sexual assault.
The book I will always recommend
Trigger Warnings: This paragraph contains themes of homophobia, transphobia, and the AIDS epidemic which some readers may find distressing.
I will warn you, The House of Impossible Beauties is a very heavy book. But it is also insanely beautiful and gives a brilliant insight to the world of ballroom drag queens and the entire New York City community back in the 1980s. If you have seen the documentary Paris is Burning then you should absolutely read this book, because the people in the story – though fictional – are based on real queens from the ball circuit in the 80s. Set during the AIDS epidemic and the height of balls in New York, this is a tragic story about the mistreatment and abuse suffered by gay men and trans women doing what they could to survive. I cannot emphasise enough how heartbreaking this book is, and it truly showcases the endless loss faced by the gay community because of AIDS.
Trigger Warnings for the book: homophobia, transphobia, drug use, child abuse, sexual assault, prostitution, death, suicide, violence, AIDS related death, and addiction.
The book I cannot stop thinking about
A Thousand Splendid Suns is a modern classic. The ‘airport bookstore book,’ as one of my English Lit teachers once called it, is a story which everyone should read within their lifetime, but is especially poignant given the current situation in Afghanistan. I studied this book in English Lit A-Level and while I usually found myself bored of the texts we read, I couldn’t get through A Thousand Splendid Suns fast enough. It really is that good. This book, and the stories of the two protagonists Laila and Mariam, shows readers the heartbreaking truth that no matter their background, how liberal their parents are, or how much money they have, women in Afghanistan will always suffer the most in the hands of the Taliban.
Trigger Warnings for the book: sexual assault, child abuse, graphic violence, and war.
The non-fiction book I got hooked on
While I’m usually more of a fiction fan, This is Going to Hurt: Secret Diaries of a Junior Doctor is by far one of the most interesting books I have read. Junior doctor Adam Kay documented his time as a junior doctor in short diary entries, which he eventually turned into a book. This book shows off the flaws of the health system and the struggles of the overworked and underpaid junior doctors on the front line, and yet, manages to be one of the most hilarious books I have ever read. Despite being an amusing and colloquial book which makes you feel like you’re talking to a friend, it touches on some serious points, particularly at the end. Kay is now a script writer for comedy TV shows, which explains how he manages to make some heartbreaking situations sound somewhat comical, but the part of the book where he explains why he quit his job as a doctor actually made me cry. The pressure doctors face, and the immense weight on their shoulders (especially in the NHS) is truly portrayed in this book, and as a reader, you feel as though you are in the hospital ward with Kay, getting a front line view of what life as a junior doctor is really like. If I were to summarise This is Going to Hurt in one line, I would say: ‘It’s like thirty episodes of Grey’s Anatomy condensed into one book.’
Trigger Warning for the book: graphic descriptions of injury/wounds.
Enjoyed this? Read more on Redbrick Culture!