The best books about the magic in the ordinary

Who am I?

Before I started to focus on writing, I was a performer: an actor, a magician, and an escapologist. I’ve learnt a great deal about how to construct a story for an audience. I’m excited by the layers of a good narrative—by what makes it work. In my own life I’m always looking for the details: reflections in a puddle, the interactions of strangers, lost items left behind. My book is all about stopping in the middle of this overwhelming world to notice the everyday moments and to celebrate them. I often find that there is magic there, hidden in plain sight.


I wrote...

The Year I Stopped To Notice

By Miranda Keeling,

Book cover of The Year I Stopped To Notice

What is my book about?

"January: A man walking along Caledonian Road falls over onto the huge roll of bubble wrap he is hugging, perhaps for just this sort of situation."
Miranda Keeling notices ordinary things. Through the changing seasons, on city streets and buses, in parks and cafes: moments between friends, the interactions of strangers, children delighting in the world around them, the quiet melancholy of lost items on the pavement. The Year I Stopped to Notice brings together Miranda Keeling's observations of the strangeness and beauty in the world around her. The result is a joyful, poignant, and familiar portrait of everyday life. Accompanied by stunning watercolour illustrations from Luci Power, this book invites us to discover the magic of stopping to notice.

The books I picked & why

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The Scapegoat

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of The Scapegoat

Why this book?

I read this book as quickly as I could, picking it up whenever I had the chance to, and thinking about it in the moments in between. I found it in an outdoor library, in a small village in France. It was the only book in English, so it was complete chance that I started to read it. And this book is all about chance. What would happen if you bumped into someone who looked so exactly like you that they could step into your life and live it for you, and no one would notice? This book constantly questions how much of our identity is shaped by things outside of our control. It is set in a world we recognise but under the ordinary façade, something eerier and more fatalistic simmers.

The Scapegoat

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Scapegoat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Someone jolted my elbow as I drank and said, 'Je vous demande pardon,' and as I moved to give him space he turned and stared at me and I at him, and I realized, with a strange sense of shock and fear and nausea all combined, that his face and voice were known to me too well. I was looking at myself." Two men-one English, the other French-meet by chance in a provincial railway station and are astounded that they are so much alike that they could easily pass for each other. Over the course of a long evening, they…

Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel,

Book cover of Wolf Hall

Why this book?

This historical novel is set in the 1500s and follows the rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of the infamous Henry VIII. Hilary Mantel’s writing is unlike anything else I’ve read. Her prose is somehow rich and full yet feather-light. Incredibly I found myself falling for a character who I’d learnt at school was a calculating, cold, and violent man. With great skill and the merest breath of the supernatural, she plays with language and tense, to make us feel that we are Cromwell – that we have his thoughts. This text takes some getting used to but once you’ve dived into it, the reward is a world described in such detail and with such tenderness it will stay with you for a long time. I loved it.

Wolf Hall

By Hilary Mantel,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Wolf Hall as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the Man Booker Prize Shortlisted for the the Orange Prize Shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award

`Dizzyingly, dazzlingly good' Daily Mail

'Our most brilliant English writer' Guardian

England, the 1520s. Henry VIII is on the throne, but has no heir. Cardinal Wolsey is his chief advisor, charged with securing the divorce the pope refuses to grant. Into this atmosphere of distrust and need comes Thomas Cromwell, first as Wolsey's clerk, and later his successor.

Cromwell is a wholly original man: the son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a charmer, a bully, a man with…


The Outrun: A Memoir

By Amy Liptrot,

Book cover of The Outrun: A Memoir

Why this book?

I was born in a fishing village in Yorkshire and although I live in the city now, I always feel the pull of the sea. This book is a memoir set in Orkney and London. It is about the writer’s struggle with addiction and her recovery – partly through reconnecting to the natural landscape again. Amy’s prose is clean and bright. She constructs sentences with no fat on them. Her descriptions are sharply accurate. I really related to her need to get away from London to find her way back to health. London life is intense and although I love it here, it is a constantly demanding city. Reading this novel reinforced my desire to look at things closely, notice them anew, and to remember to go and visit the sea, whenever I can. 

The Outrun: A Memoir

By Amy Liptrot,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Outrun as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

After a decade of heavy partying and hard drinking in London, Amy Liptrot returns home to Orkney, a remote island off the north of Scotland. The Outrun maps Amy's inspiring recovery as she walks along windy coasts, swims in icy Atlantic waters, tracks Orkney's wildlife, and reconnects with her parents, revisiting and rediscovering the place that shaped her.

A Guardian Best Nonfiction Book of 2016
Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller
New Statesman Book of the Year


Where the Wild Things Are

By Maurice Sendak,

Book cover of Where the Wild Things Are

Why this book?

This is a children’s book published in 1963. My mother read it to me, and now I read it to my daughter. It is, quite simply, wonderful. You probably know this book already, but just in case you don’t, it’s about a little boy called Max who is sent to his room without a meal because he has been naughty and ends up going on a magical journey to a land of wild monsters, where he becomes king. Eventually he returns and finds his warm supper waiting for him. I love this book. It spoke to me as an imaginative child. Here I found language that believed that underneath everything, there was magic, "That very night in Max’s room, a forest grew…" The illustrations are perfect too. Read it.

Where the Wild Things Are

By Maurice Sendak,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Where the Wild Things Are as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Read-along with the story in this book and CD edition!

One night Max puts on his wolf suit and makes mischief of one kind and another, so his mother calls him 'Wild Thing' and sends him to bed without his supper.

That night a forest begins to grow in Max's room and an ocean rushes by with a boat to take Max to the place where the wild things are. Max tames the wild things and crowns himself as their king, and then the wild rumpus begins.

But when Max has sent the monsters to bed, and everything is quiet,…


Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood

By Hollie McNish,

Book cover of Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood

Why this book?

This is a memoir and poetry book rolled into one. It’s about the author’s experience of discovering she was pregnant at Glastonbury Festival and the three years afterward – taking us with her from pregnancy through to being the mother of a toddler. It is raw and funny and honest. It made me laugh and gasp and feel seen. I first came across Hollie’s poetry at a live event where she read from this book, and it made me furious and sad and I also laughed more than I had in a long time. This collection finds the magic of motherhood in amongst the mess and exhaustion. It looks unflinchingly at the day-to-day struggles to try to understand what it is to be a parent and a person.

Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood

By Hollie McNish,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Nobody Told Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There were many things that Hollie McNish didn't know before she was pregnant. How her family and friends would react; that Mr Whippy would be off the menu; how quickly ice can melt on a stomach. These were on top of the many other things she didn't know about babies: how to stand while holding one; how to do a poetry gig with your baby as a member of the audience; how drum'n'bass can make a great lullaby. And that's before you even start on toddlers: how to answer a question like 'is the world a jigsaw?'; dealing with a…


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