ENRG Culture Must Reads 

In celebration of World Book Day this year, writers from the ENRG Culture team have curated a list of their must-reads…   

World Book Day is the time to acknowledge and delve into a whole extensive universe of books! Whether it be horror, comedy, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, young adult, or romance, books have an endless stream of knowledge, inspiration and wealth to give you. Not only do they increase your intelligence, they also strengthen your happiness and take away all your stresses as you enter a completely new world.  

To a lot of us, books are a lifeline. They give us a new lease of life every time we read them. At ENRG Culture, we want to show you our lifelines. We have carefully compiled a list of our must-read books, books we adore, celebrate and forever treasure.  

Hopefully, this can inspire you to pick up a book today or reread your favourite book, or maybe fall in love with reading all over again…  

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy 

(Photo from Amazon)

Cormac McCarthy’s revisionist Western masterpiece, Blood Meridian, might be the single most powerful piece of art I have ever consumed. It is truly epic in scope, on the surface telling the story of a teenage runaway, known only as ‘The Kid,’ who gets swept up in the violence of an America desperately racing to expand and plunder the rest of the continent. Born during the Leonid meteor shower of 1833, The Kid runs away from home as a teenager and falls in with a gang of scalpers marauding across Texas and Mexico, and has his humanity tested as the group sinks further and further into depravity.  

        McCarthy’s trademark sparse prose takes you deeper however, and the novel explores themes including man’s propensity for war, the cyclicality of violence, the nature of religion and if a person can control their own destiny. Unrelentingly bleak and constantly unflinching in its depiction of extreme violence, McCarthy paints an incredibly vivid portrait of the lawless frontier that was the Wild West. The novel also features perhaps the single most terrifying character in all of fiction, McCarthy’s preternaturally gifted antagonist, Judge Holden.  

        The first time I finished this book, I could not get it out of my head for weeks afterwards. The philosophies Cormac McCarthy presents in the book swirled in my mind, and I could find only one solution to get them out. Pick Blood Meridian up and start all over. 

        By Logan Walker 

        Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte  

        (Photo from Rakuten Kobo)

          Wuthering Heights is not a book you like. It tests your patience and often makes you feel as if your book is missing pages. 

          Wuthering Heights is a book you admire. A book that engulfs you before you even have time to realise it. I remember reading the first few chapters and feeling like someone had thrown me in the middle of the ocean, and I had instantly forgotten how to swim. It stretched my brain in ways that made me feel beyond tired. I was hurled into a setting as if I had known the characters for years. It made me feel utterly frustrated. I finished every couple of pages screaming to myself, ‘What?’. But soon enough, I realised this is why this book is truly outstanding. Bronte plays a mind game to set up a puzzle, which you find yourself involuntarily desperate to solve. Just like the beloved anti-hero, Heathcliffe, you start as an outcast, and the narrative slowly invites you into its guts. 

          When you finally get the plot, it makes you feel proud. You feel like you’ve almost outwon the master but in reality, Bronte has had you where she wanted all along. You become a parallel piece in the plot. You feel the shame, the disgust and the sheer pain of your fellow characters. It is a book that takes so much out of you that you are left with this sort of numbness once you finish it. It makes you run to the moors and scream Heathcliff, hoping somehow, somewhere, he will jump out of the pages into reality. Warning advice: it’s a book that needs time. The key is in the small details, so if you get lost for one second, you might lose the thread of it all. A true masterpiece, but a masterpiece that not everybody is ready to read. 

          By Sofia Villegas Navarro, 

          Pachinko by Min Jin Lee 

          (Photo from Amazon)

            A story I have never been able to shake off. I can vividly remember being unable to put this book down, tear stains on just about every page. I am an extensive reader, some may say a bookaholic, but I have never read such a moving novel about compassion, resilience and exile before.  

            Pachinko, named after the Japanese arcade game, has followed me like I followed Sunja through her incredible journey of motherhood, sacrifice and loyalty. Spanning over nearly one hundred years, we follow four generations of one family. Starting in 1911 Yeongdo, Korea, teenage Sunja, the daughter of a disabled fisherman, falls for a wealthy Yakuza member. He promises to give her everything, but when he finds out she is pregnant, he falls back on that promise, only offering her wealth for her silence. Sunja finds out her beloved faithful had actually had a wife in Japan the entire time.  

            Standing tall in the face of ruin, Sunja has no other option but to accept the kind offer from a young minister travelling through on his way to Japan. Making the journey to a hostile environment that does not accept her, with a mere stranger she has married, Sunja truly realises that her life has now just begun.  

            Lee’s evocative writing should make her be known as a true literacy great. I cannot remember a time when I read a book so seamless, yet broad. In a mere 531 pages, Lee gives us four generations’ worth of beautiful storytelling. We learn about a fallen group in history, Koreans who were born and raised in Japan through the Japanese rule of Koreans. For decades, Koreans in Japan were scared of shame and oppression if they mentioned their true Korean Heritage.  

            Pachinko’s female characters are such strong and poignant women, whose resilience and strength are enough to keep their families alive through the most painful and difficult time of their life.  A rich story about the loss of innocence, with shame and guilt glistening over every scene in the novel, characters are faced to make such painful sacrifices all because of their second-class citizen status. An immersive yet humbling read about the tale of immigrants,  

            I truly implore you to give Pachinko a chance, the masterpiece itself is such a self-discovery journey, that not only Sunja, but you, yourself endures. Pachinko will forever be by my side, it is my inspiration, my footing and my lifeline.  

            By Niamh McCabe 

            Malory Towers by Enid Blyton 

            (Photo from Biblio)

              I’m convinced if you didn’t read Enid Blyton’s books growing up, you have missed out on the best books a child could read. For as long as I can remember, I have been reading the Malory Towers series over and over again. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the whole series. Although, I’m sure it doesn’t take as long now at 21 as it did when I was 7. They have always brought me so much comfort, and continue to do so to this day.  

              Escaping to the Cornwall countryside with Darrell and her friends will never fail to make me feel like I’m little again, living in the countryside, having a hot chocolate, and settling down to go to sleep. The ancient hot chocolate stains on the pages attest to that. The books are set in a picturesque all-girls boarding school on the coast in Cornwall and they are to blame for my dream of going to boarding school for most of my life. I’m glad my Mum and Dad never gave in to my pleading. I can’t imagine it would have lived up to my very high expectations. All of Enid Blyton’s stories are nothing but magical every single one from the Famous Five to The Magic Faraway Tree. Nonetheless, Malory Towers is the one that sticks with me the most.  

              My friends and I even dressed up as the main characters for World Book Day one year in Primary School. Unsurprisingly planned by me. Reading stories you know back to front is a great comfort, therefore I did take a few of them with me to university. If you see me reading them now, just know I’m stressed and I probably have a deadline coming up. But I don’t think this is the worst coping mechanism I could have! Even if you didn’t read these books growing up, still try them out now, they never fail to feel magical, warm and safe. 

              By Esme Anderson 

              Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  

              (Photo from Rakuten Kobo)

                For me, Little Women by Louisa May-Alcott is more than just my favourite novel. It’s what got me into books in the first place. Both of my parents are massive bookworms, so I probably would have realised I had the genes at some point in my life. But what triggered my adoration for all things literature is Alcott’s 1868 story of the four March sisters.  

                I learnt how to read pretty quickly, but obviously, my 5-year-old brain was not yet catered to such classics. By day, I would be reading the Dr Suess collection, but by night I would be read a bedtime story from the set of classic literature my parents so kindly bought me as a child. Why they bought me such advanced books as a toddler, I’m not sure, but it’s something I will always appreciate. 

                My bedtime story was always a toss-up between Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and the book that would change the way I looked at books for the rest of my life, Little Women. After I got over the fact that my dad would read each character in a completely over-the-top voice, I fell in love with the story, the author, and the characters.  

                Once I was older and was able to scan the words of the page for myself, I would spend all my free time reading. I was described by my Mum’s friends as “always having my nose in a book” and at times would stay up until the early hours reading Enid Blyton (Mum, now you know why I was such a crabbit bitch in the mornings). However, I would come back time and time again to Little Women, and nothing would ever come into comparison.  

                I’m still an avid reader, and over my 21 years, I have found so many books that I will treasure and love for the rest of my life. But Little Women will always hold such a special place in my heart. It’s a book filled with nostalgia, love, and importance. It’s a comfort, but I’m able to discover something new every time I read it. It’s a story I will never get bored of.  

                By Emma Cooper-Raeburn 

                Blueberries by Ellena Savage 

                (Photo from Amazon)

                  I am notoriously bad at reading, particularly in terms of finishing a book. I love most books I read, but it just takes way too long for me to finish them. Maybe it’s the thought of actually being done with it and never being able to read it the same way again. Or maybe I’m just lazy. The book I’m reading right now (reading might be an exaggeration) is Blueberries by Ellena Savage. I’ve been reading this book for over a year now. You would wonder how can I review a book before I’ve finished it, but it only took the first chapter, Yellow City, for me to know I’d like it.  

                  Savage describes the book as essays about understanding, and it really is. She writes about her life in Australia and Madrid, her thoughts on writing retreats, blueberries and dating, and more serious topics, like power, the lack of it and rape. It’s so enticing to witness how she confronts her past when the world would try and hold her back from doing it every step of the way. It’s entertaining to read about her very expensive writers’ workshop in America where she learned that very expensive writers’ workshops are for the elite. She plays with the idea of home, something I’ve been fighting with my whole life. She believes IKEA furniture is made for people who don’t intend to stick around. I used to think buying IKEA furniture is an investment. I read another chapter, and I went to IKEA and bought a chest of drawers that I intend to leave behind in a year’s time. I’m halfway through the book, and I still stand by the fact it might be my new favourite book.  

                  Have you ever written a book review before you finished reading it? Maybe, this is the year I finally sit down and read the few chapters I have left to discover her messy, intelligent, beautiful life.  

                  By Ieva Ozola  

                  Bluets by Maggie Nelson 

                  (Photo from Amazon)

                    “Name me a book that’s changed your life.” I was once asked and my mind went blank. I’ve read a vast amount and felt so engulfed by so many that the idea of just one changing my life seemed ridiculous.  

                    I was recommended Bluets written by Maggie Nelson by my flatmate who previously studied her work. When I bought it from the bookshop, I was taken immediately by its striking blue cover…and the size of it, a mere 95 pages. 

                    After the review I got from my friend, I knew I was holding gold dust. So, I took it to my favourite cafe and read the entire novel with a pot of breakfast tea by my side.  

                    Nelson numbers a string of thoughts together in a list form, with the consistent theme being the author’s lifelong obsession with the colour blue. Whether she referenced characters along the way that had their own connection with the colour such as Joni Mitchell or Andy Warhol, or any other art that played close to the blue rule, the reader is constantly emerged into a blue-coloured world that displays a melancholic, disarray of frightful emotion.  

                    Following along the gentle muse of blue, we are often brought back to reality by the author as she details memories of her breakup. As if the blue-coloured glasses are ripped off our faces and we are instead faced with, not just the blue, but the sadness it represents before she jumps straight back into the list style telling of her favourite colour.  

                    I turned the last page and went to the cafe bathroom to weep when I finished it – fuelled by every memory Maggie Nelson had told, so immersed in her romantic story of blue and how painfully sad love can be.  

                    Now when someone retorts, “What book changed your life?” I’ll look at them with my blue eyes and say, “Bluets by Maggie Nelson”.  

                    By Jessica Matthewson 

                    Funny You Should Ask by Elissa Sussman 

                    (Photo from Amazon)

                      I’m going to be honest, I judged this book by its cover. It has a pretty pink cover and I was drawn to it. But after reading the blurb, I knew I would love it. The story features a twenty-something-year-old journalist as its antagonist, and as I am a twenty-something-year-old journalist, it really appealed to me. Probably in the same way I idolise the life of Andy Sachs in The Devil Wears Prada. The book bounces back and forth in its lead character’s life and career as she navigates professionalism, working with celebrities in LA, and her love life. From that description, it sounds like every other rom-com book on the market, but the way it’s written and structured gives it an edge.  

                      With articles and pieces of the main character, Chani Horowitz, journalism throughout, it shows us the stories behind her articles and her ever-evolving career. This book has sparked my love for reading again and although I found it was quite predictable in parts, some pages had my jaw physically dropped in shock. If you’re looking for a bit of light-hearted escapism from your own life I would recommend picking up this book.  

                      Special shoutout to Rarebirds Books in Stockbridge where I purchased my copy. Rare Birds is Scotland’s only bookshop dedicated entirely to women’s writing and it’s a pretty cool place, I would definitely recommend popping by. They are always more than happy to have a chat and recommend books based on your interests or help you try out a new genre.  

                      By Esme Anderson 

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