Like many expats, I left my library behind when I moved to the UAE – much to the disgruntlement of my mum, whose garage is stuffed to the rafters with boxes of books. Impossible, therefore, to recall everything I’ve read. The five I have chosen here were first that sprung to mind.
The Golden Gate by Vikram Seth (1986)
Written in rhyming verse but you hardly notice it, The Golden Gate sweeps you through the lives of a group of technology professionals in 1980s San Francisco. I read it in my last year of boarding school imagining the freedoms the working world would bring (more fool me!). I love how the words flow. You would not believe the structure works as a novel, but it does.
Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak (2017)
This recent read has lingered in my mind. It’s not a comfortable book – its protagonist is a psychologically unstable Turkish housewife with a dark, complicated past that isn’t explained until the final pages. It explores the theme of God in the modern world: the dangers of dogma, the divisive nature of doubt and certainty, and the difficulty of reconciling the two.
The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane (2007)
A must-read for anyone tired of the smoke, glass and concrete of urban living. Macfarlane documents his journey to find the remaining wilderness in the British Isles. He climbs, hikes and swims across mountains, rivers, forests and swamps to prove the country is not dominated by roads and buildings, but by a chaotic infusion of nature and elements.
How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (2011)
I love Caitlin Moran. I’ve been reading her columns in the Times Magazine for years and am still in awe of how she can write with such tenderness and empathy, yet be so utterly, brazenly, laugh-out-loud hilarious. Her memoir is an account of all those significant life moments injected with a witty dose of rational feminism. I implore men to read it too, it’s not just for women.
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr (1971)
As a child, I loved stories about the Second World War and this one’s fantastic and can be read by children or adults. It’s the first in a trilogy about Jewish girl Anna and her family, who flee from Germany to Switzerland to escape the Nazis. Anna’s carefree existence of homework, friends and family is interrupted by the turbulent events of 1930s Europe.
Sarah Townsend is a senior business writer for The National