Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin! Starting this Saturday, 30 January, it’s the Society for Storytelling’s 16th annual National Storytelling Week. Here at Average Janes’ HQ we love curling up with a good book, especially on cold winter evenings, so we thought we’d share some of our favourite books and stories to inspire you to get involved with National Storytelling Week.
From novels, to agony aunt columns, to children’s favourites, get some inspiration from our favourite stories, just in time for National Storytelling Week.
Books we can’t put down: National Storytelling Week
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – Whitney
I first had to read this book by force. It was during my university creative writing degree, as part of a ‘Children’s Writing’ module, so after exploring ‘Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy’ in depth, I had not at all expected this hugely compelling Holocaust novel to follow. The setting of this book is Nazi Germany, the main characters are children, and if that doesn’t spell out disaster enough for you, the entire thing is narrated by Grimmy himself (Death that is, not Nick Grimshaw).
I love this book because this Australian author has actually created the most beautiful literary journey for the reader, which is centred around one of the most appalling events in human history. The language is playful and highly visual, the descriptions appeal hugely to your senses and beneath it all is a story that illustrates what is really being destroyed during genocide – love. Oh, it’s definitely a heart flutterer this one.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Soph B-B
This book has no boundaries to inspire and awaken your dreams. When life doesn’t quite add up or you find yourself at a standstill, let yourself fall into its pages and breathe in its simple yet deep philosophy for life.
The Alchemist tells the story of Santiago, a shepherd on his journey to follow a recurring dream leading him on an adventure of a lifetime. Coelho perfectly describes the journey of life, sometimes unable to understand why we follow certain paths and decisions in life but all will lead us to our destiny. The tale will capture and lift you and allow you to bring the same meanings and teachings into your own life, and your own story. Having been written way back when in 1988 and translated into 67 languages, we are not alone in this being a dream to read.
Winnie the Pooh, The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne – Holly
When I was little, maybe 4 or 5, I was given this book and quickly fell in love. This wasn’t Winnie the Pooh, the big yellow bear in the red t-shirt that became famous; this was Winnie the Pooh, the little scruffy sketch drawing that went on adventures around Hundred Acre Wood. I remember loving one bit so much I would only read those few pages over and over again. It also had a little map at the beginning so you could see exactly where all the animals lived and I would spend ages trying to figure out where parts of the story were taking place.
Night by Elie Wiesel – Libby
Arguably one of the most important works of the twentieth century, Night is the account of Romanian-born Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, who as a child was sent to the Nazi concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. The short volume navigates through Weisel’s time in the camps: the horrors he endured, the loss of his family and his unimaginable struggle to survive in a world without compassion, dignity or grace. Hailed as a deeply intimate and poignant depiction of the Holocaust, it should be required reading for all humanity to reflect on one of the darkest chapters of history.
Beloved by Toni Morrison – Becky, editor
The story that always haunts me and tempts me to re-read it is Toni Morrison’s Beloved. I love that it is twisty and dark and so beautifully, lyrically written. There are moments when anger pours out of the pages, and it contains lines that have really stuck with me. The plot is set in America in the 1800s and revolves around Sethe, a fugitive slave who becomes haunted by the physical return of the young daughter she killed. It’s emotionally raw and, at points, fantastically creepy. Writing this review makes me want to read it all over again!
Tiny beautiful things: Advice on Love and Life from someone who’s been there by Cheryl Strayed – Soph
OK, apart from this book having the longest title ever (sos, Cheryl), this really is a gem of a read. It’s a collection of agony aunt style letters and responses. Before she wrote the hiking adventure, Wild, Strayed had a column called Dear Sugar on The Rumpus website and this is those columns published. I was expecting a sort of “Dear Deirdre, my wife is shagging the gardener, what shall I do?”, “Dump her love!” light hearted style. But Strayed is quite frankly wonderful in using her own – often dark – experiences to offer brilliant guidance that had me laughing, crying (I was literally sobbing in the airport) and every emotion in between. From a love triangle, to a grieving father, to a strongly religious drug addict, there’s every quandary you can think of and Strayed offers thought provoking advice to each one.
She ends one response with a beautiful line: “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the motherf***ing shit out of it”.
Have we inspired you? There’s plenty of events to get involved with this National Storytelling Week – check them out on Twitter.
We’d love to know what your favourite book is – share with us @tweetjanes.