Title: The Reading List
Author: Sara Nisha Adams
Genre: Contemporary, found family
Trigger Warning: Suicide, depression, untreated mental illness, death of a spouse and parent
Summary: Widower Mukesh lives a quiet life in the London Borough of Ealing after losing his beloved wife. He shops every Wednesday, goes to Temple, and worries about his granddaughter, Priya, who hides in her room reading while he spends his evenings watching nature documentaries.
Aleisha is a bright but anxious teenager working at the local library for the summer when she discovers a crumpled-up piece of paper in the back of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a list of novels that she’s never heard of before. Intrigued, and a little bored with her slow job at the checkout desk, she impulsively decides to read every book on the list, one after the other. As each story gives up its magic, the books transport Aleisha from the painful realities she’s facing at home.
When Mukesh arrives at the library, desperate to forge a connection with his bookworm granddaughter, Aleisha passes along the reading list…hoping that it will be a lifeline for him too. Slowly, the shared books create a connection between two lonely souls, as fiction helps them escape their grief and everyday troubles and find joy again.
This debut is one of the best I’ve read from an author in some time. I took my time with this book, fingers creasing the pages lightly as I read, and often re-read every word.
Much like Aleisha I didn’t get into reading straight away in life, and much like Mukesh I found solace and comfort in books after a loss in my family. One of the books I’ve loved for a while is actually in the list.
The characters in this novel may not seem familiar to you, but they become so, and by the end I was able to clearly picture them in my head, and hear their words and picture their expressions. They felt like living, breathing people who you could meet at your own library, full of passion, thoughts and feelings as real as any I have ever felt.
I felt their happiness and wonderment at reading the books in the list, and it made me want to read them as well, and find someone to read them with.
This book does such a good job of illustrating how much the world of books can give people, and allow them to discover about themselves and each other.
When I got near the end I found myself pretty much ugly crying and hugging the book, not only because of what happened between the pages but because, like an old friend, I very much did not want to let it go.