My favourite reads: Hayley Skirka

Here are five great books that range from comfort reads and short stories to historical fiction and travelogues

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman. Courtesy Pushkin Press

That hour at the end of the day when work is done, everything is taken care of and I get to slip between the pages of a book is something I treasure. Whether it’s for pure escapism, reflection or to get truly tangled in the threads of a story, genre doesn’t matter when it comes to a good read.

Tragic Shores: A Memoir of Travel to the Darkest Places on Earth by Thomas H Cook (2017)

Cook’s first foray into non-fiction was one of the first books I reviewed as a travel editor. The author, best-known for his fictional mysteries, describes historical details and observations at locations such as the suicide hotspot of the Golden Gate Bridge, clutching for a silver lining amid the direness.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki (2013)

A friend gave me this to read and I’ve never given it back! The story weaves together two tales through the diary of a 16-year-old Japanese girl called Nao and a novelist named Ruth, who finds the diary washed up near her Canadian home as part of the debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami. This story highlights how one person’s life can truly leave a mark on someone else’s.

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (1933)

I first read this classic in high school and wasn’t a fan. Picking it up years later, I couldn’t help but get emotionally involved. Principal character Chris Guthrie scraps her way through rural life which encompasses love, loss, sadness and courage, and I just love the strength she shows, especially given that the book was written so long ago.

Binocular Vision by Edith Pearlman (2011)

Short stories aren't usually my thing, but this collection by the somewhat undervalued 82-year-old American fiction writer is perfect for a quick bedtime escape. The 32 short tales are curiously observant and understated, and depict life, love, dilemma and coincidence. My favourite is Inbound, a stirring description about the relationship between two young sisters.

First They Killed My Father by Lounge Ung (2000)

Now a Netflix Original directed by Angelina Jolie, I read this haunting tale while travelling in Asia and it really stirred something in me. Ung describes her horrific journey after she was forced to flee the Khmer Rouge. It is a tale of death, starvation, disease and suffering, all told through the eyes of the 10-year-old Ung – tissues are essential.

Hayley Skirka is a lifestyle writer for The National


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