On Chuck a Book today I am really pleased to welcome the rather lovely Kathryn McKenna, Children's Marketing & Publicity Executive at Simon and Schuster.
1) The best book you have ever read.
This is near impossible to answer, so when asked this I tend to fall back on books I have read again and again because I get a new satisfaction with each read. So I’ll pick The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, which won the Man Booker in 2004. I read this book a fair few years ago, when I was in uni, and devoured it. I’ve read it four more times since. There was a period where I read it every summer. It’s a stunning piece of literature, set in Britain in the Thatcher years and centred around Nick Guest, a young closeted gay man living in London and soaking up the luxury of the wealthy friends he has made in his time at Oxbridge. Set in three parts, it takes its reader through the story in such a perfect, smart way – I can only recommend it as a beautiful piece of writing that teaches you not only about the politics of a difficult time, but sexuality, love and the power and diverse meaning of ‘beauty’, and what that is to different people. The TV adaptation was lovely, too.
2) A book you loved from your childhood?
The first book I really remember loving was Matilda by Roald Dahl. I loved many books as a child (I was as an avid reader as I am now!), but this was the first book that left me with a real sense of pride and achievement. I was around eight years old when I read Matilda, in just two days when I had the flu and was off school sick – and I remember very vividly my mum telling me how impressive it was that I’d read it so quickly! It very possibly gave me affirmation that reading was an achievement and not a hardship. Not only that, but Matilda is a magical story perfect for little girls who love reading and are a bit shy and awkward and want to overcome that… which I was. Matilda was like my childhood superhero.
3) A book that made you laugh.
I think I’ll give the credit for this one to the Georgia Nicolson books by Louise Rennison. They were probably the first books I read that properly made me laugh out loud, had me in fits of giggles. From her wild, evil Scottish cat Angus to her idle musings when snogging boys to her dalliances with inappropriate footwear, Rennison never makes a misstep with her comedy, which is a difficult thing to do with books. I was actually a teenager when I read the first instalments of the series, believe it or not, and I can still remember the most hilarious lines from them. Teehee.
4) A book you could not finish.
I’m not very good at not finishing books. I truly believe you can’t really get the whole experience of a book unless you’ve read it cover to cover. That said, I just couldn’t finish Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer. Keeping in mind I am not (please don’t throw things at me) a fan of the Twilight series, I forced myself through books 1-3, grumbling along the way. Breaking Dawn tipped me over the edge though. It all felt a bit too SO WHAT?– marriage, babies, sexy times… really? Those things are not the reasons I enjoy reading paranormal fiction and therefore it got biffed about halfway through. I had done my time in Meyer’s world and it was plenty enough for me!
5) A book that made you swoon.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Good lord, Etienne St. Clair. There are a small pool of us at work who only have to SAY the word Etienne to have a little swoony moment together. The love story Stephanie Perkins weaves in Anna and the French Kiss is basically perfect. I won’t hear a word against it. You truly get the feeling that Anna and St. Clair are FRIENDS, best friends – one thing I can’t stand is insta-love, and this book proves how much more effective a romance can be when you truly care about both characters, and understand why they are perfect for each other. Plus, St. Clair is HOT. Right?
6) A book you can’t wait to read.
I have literally just started the new Sarah Dessen book, The Moon and More, so I think it still can count. I adore Sarah Dessen. I have every book she’s ever written on my shelves and I’ve read almost all of them at least twice. She’s a brilliantly skilled YA romance writer, who has managed to populate an imaginary town, Colby, in the South, with some of the most likeable, quirky teenagers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I feel like part of me has grown up in Colby too, having visited it for eight or more books. So, every new Dessen book is like a present waiting to be unwrapped. I often count down the days until I get the next fix! If you haven’t read a Dessen – do it now. They’re all as good as the next.
7) A series you have read and loved.
The Hunt, by Andrew Fukuda. We publish this series at Simon & Schuster but I feel it deserves a shout out for those who may not have come across it. The Hunt tells the story of Gene, a seventeen year old human hiding in a population that has been eaten almost to extinction by ‘duskers’ – for all intents and purposes, vampires, but not the sparkly kind. These are truly rip-your-throat-out, terrifying creatures. The thing I adore about this series, is that not only does it improve with every book (no second book syndrome here; The Prey is just as addictive and awesome as The Hunt), the mythology is totally original and very well thought out. I think people underestimate just how difficult it is to breathe new life into the vampire story and give credence to it, but Andrew Fukuda does it with ease and skill. The Trap isn’t out until October, but I’ve read it and it is ACE. Yay.
8) A book that made you cry.
Too many of these; I’m what they call a ‘crier’. Most sentimental things will set me off - I’ve been known to cry through episodes of Project Runway. But I will give the honour this time to the wonderful Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. We publish Morgan, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with her. I’d read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and loved it, and so clawed at the chance to read Second Chance Summer once we had the final edition in our UK editor’s inbox. I read it on printed A4 paper in my bed at home and spent about the last third of the book in floods of tears. It’s a beautiful, very real account of a teenage girl and her family coping with her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis– somehow managing to remain charming and light until the worst is upon them. It ruined me. Read it – but have tissues handy!
9) Your guilty pleasure book.
Most of the time I will say that any book that is a pleasure shouldn’t be guilty because reading is such a wonderful, absorbing pastime. That said, I read all three of the Fifty Shades books, and I’m not sure I can attribute that to anything but a very guilty pleasure (oo er). I was very ready when I picked up Fifty Shades Of Grey, to be offended by them as a feminist, as a writer, as a human being. But I found myself annoyingly charmed. Yes, the plots (when there are plots) are ridiculously far-fetched, and yes, there are writing issues, and yes, Ana and Christian and douches of the top order… but… BUT. Something kept me reading and reading until I’d read all three of the things. And the nice thing about that was, I had previously been experiencing a massive reading slump. So Fifty Shades of Grey has to be thanked for pulling me out of that, at least.
10) A book that took you out of your comfort zone.
I’m always talking about how I never like to read historical fiction, so it seems apt to select the last book I read for this choice. Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is possibly a book I would have never picked up had it not been for all the buzz about it and the fact that it was on a Kindle offer (sorry!). I am generally a bit impatient and shallow when it comes to tomes set anytime before about the year 2000, and so when I finally decided to read this novel set in World War II, I was uncertain of how I’d get on with it. But, having finished it, it might just be the best book I’ve read in 2013 so far. It’s an epistolary novel, which I LOVE, with strong female characters who you just want to best friends with, and a tale of slow menace. The tension throughout is palpable, and reminds me of why I love words so much – to think they can evoke those emotions! It forces you to face up to some of the horrors of war, too, which again is something I tend to try to avoid (I’ve still never been able to watch Schindler’s List). It achieves this with class and subtlety, allowing what isn’t said to evoke as much fear in a reader as a graphic passage might. Code Name Verity is a very special sort of book, and I’m very glad I took the leap and dived into it.
Thank you Kat for sharing your book choices with us.
If you want to read more about the books Kat likes and promotes then follow her on Twitter at @katmckenna_