I can’t believe June is bringing us to the halfway point of the Backpacking Bookworm Reading Challenge!
I’ve had a blast creating my first ever yearly challenge and it has certainly enriched my reading – I hope it has for you too 😊 If you’re new to the challenge this month, welcome 👋 If you’ve been here from the start, thank you for sticking around; even if there’s only one of you, I couldn’t be more honoured that you’ve chosen to take part in the challenge 🥰
June is all about epistolary and diary books, so anything that is either written in letters/diary/journal format or that features this literary technique. There are so many amazing books on the list this month, you’re in for a treat! Let’s get started ✍
Every month, I share my top recommendation. For June it is:
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows
Genre: Historical fiction
I finally read this book after it had gathered dust on my shelves for YEARS and loved everything about the story, the setting, the characters, and the letters 😍
Ahhh the letters – the reason we’re here. This book is written fully in epistolary format which sounds like it shouldn’t work but it absolutely does. It was a unique and engaging way to connect with the characters, particularly Juliet who is sweet-natured and witty, with a hint of don’t-fuck-with-me. I laughed out loud at some of her one-liners. I totally related to her and think she accurately represented many women during this era.
Set between London and Guernsey during WW2, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society follows the correspondence between Juliet and a mystery man from the tiny island who finds her name written inside a book. Captivated by Guernsey’s way of life and quirky inhabitants, Juliet makes a spontaneous decision to visit. But what she finds will change her life forever.
Here are some other books that use letter, diary, or journal-writing techniques to tell the story.
Griffin and Sabine by Nick Bantock
Genre: Graphic novel (epistolary and postcards)
Griffin and Sabine is a visual novel that begins with a postcard from Sabine, a woman living on an exotic island. She turns Griffin’s life, a methodical, isolated painter, upside down with her unexplainable postcards that contain details about Griffin that he can’t comprehend. What transpires is an intimate and artistic journey that brings the reader along for the ride.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
Genre: Classic (epistolary/diary)
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall tells the story of the title’s lodger, Helen Graham, who moves into the dilapidated home following the breakdown of her marriage. The novel is written as letters from Gilbert Markham to his friend detailing the mysterious inhabitant who he soon strikes a friendship with and uncovers her past.
The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell
Genre: Nonfiction (diary)
Sharing an unobstructed insight into Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop, The Diary Of A Bookseller details the ups, downs, and eccentricities faced by owner, Shaun Bythell and his bookshop by the sea.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Genre: Young adult (epistolary)
The Perks Of Being A Wallflower is a coming-of-age tale about a boy and his high school journey. Through intimate, internalised letters, Charlie opens up about his struggle to live his life while simultaneously trying to run from it. His introverted nature makes it hard for him to navigate all the new pathways thrust on him in this new and unchartered world. A poignant story that will throw you right back to your teen days.
Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller
Genre: Contemporary fiction / mystery (epistolary)
In Swimming Lessons, Ingrid reflects on her marriage with Gil through a series of letters. Once written, she hides them in different books before disappearing. Fast forward twelve years and their daughter, Flora, starts investigating her mother’s disappearance, not realising the truth is hidden right in front of her, within the pages of Gil’s sprawling book collection.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Genre: Classic short story (diary)
The Yellow Wallpaper diarises one woman’s descent into madness due to her being told to ‘rest’ (i.e. be left alone with her thoughts and have only the hideous wallpaper for company). Unbeknownst to her husband, the woman furtively writes her feelings, craving the intellectual stimulation. But as the days creep by, so do the figures in the wallpaper as they begin creeping into the corners of her mind, causing her mental health to deteriorate even more.
The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
Genre: Psychological thriller (diary extracts)
The Silent Patient is a fast-paced thriller about a woman in a mental institution who shot her husband in the head. For the last 6 years, she has not uttered a word. New therapist, Theo, is determined to unravel the mystery. After building a relationship with Alicia, she finally relents and hands Theo her diary. But do the answers reveal what really happened?
Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Lousie Rennison (10 primary works)
Genre: Young Adult (diary)
Georgia Nicholson was probably my best fictional friend between the ages of 13 and, erm, 28 (aka. now) because let’s be honest, I’m never going to tire of the best YA series ever written (opinion, but true). If you haven’t yet read Georgia’s hilariously British and drama-filled teen diaries, I highly recommend, no matter your age. These books still make me snort with laughter and get better with every reread. Seriously, if you need something light-hearted for June, start here.
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
Genre: Contemporary fiction (epistolary)
April 8th, 1999. Reports have come in of a school shooting massacre. Nine are dead.
We Need To Talk About Kevin is an agonising tale that examines the complexities of motherhood, as main character Eva tries to come to terms with her son’s unexplainable actions.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Genre: Historical coming-of-age fiction (journal)
I Capture The Castle records 17-year-old Cassandra’s life over six months in 1934 where she lives in a crumbly castle in Suffolk with her quirky family. In that time, the family’s lives are turned upside down when the heirs to the castle arrive, prompting Cassandra to fall deeply and hopelessly head over heels in love.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Genre: Classic (epistolary)
Set in the early 1900s in the deep American South, The Color Purple contains a series of letters written by Celie, a young black girl who knows little outside of poverty, segregation, and pain. That is until she meets Shug Avery and sets out on a journey of realisation and self-discovery.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Genre: Historical fiction young adult (journal)
In early WW2, a British plane containing two girls (a pilot and a spy) crash lands in Nazi-occupied France. Separated on landing, one girl is captured by the Gestapo and must reveal her assignment or face her death. The girl (Code Name Verity), writes her confession in the hope that she can save herself and her best friend from the enemy.
Other books you can read in June that have featured in previous book challenge months but that you may not have read then (man that was a really long and confusing sentence):
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones (letters, featured in March’s theme)
- Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon (diary entries, featured in January’s theme)
- The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time by Mark Haddon (diary, featured in January’s theme)
- The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer (diary, featured in January’s theme)
A big list this month but hopefully some good starting points if you’re not sure what to read. Let me know your June pick or any that I’ve missed 👇