Welcome to My Life in Books, a weekly series where readers, writers and content creators share how books have shaped them over the years.
Rachel Soo Thow is an Auckland-based Beauty Development Executive whose beautiful Instagram The Lit List – that fuses thoughtful musings on books with stylish setups – is one of my go-tos for book recommendations. A self-confessed beer lover, on weekends you can find Rachel scouring the web for book fairs, discovering new thrift shops and purchasing even more books to add to her ever-growing TBR.
What’s your earliest memory of reading?
It would have to be in primary school – I remember sitting in the library on beanbags surrounded by The Saddle Club, The Babysitters Club and Goosebumps books, and devouring them cover to cover whilst the rest of the kids were outside playing soccer… I loved every minute of it.
Do you have a favourite book from childhood?
Probably anything from the Goosebumps series by R.L Stine – I remember seeing the cover of ‘Stay Out of The Basement’ and it was love at first sight. I’ve loved anything horror related ever since.
Do you have a favourite book from school?
The Twits by Roald Dahl. The entire premise of the book was ridiculous, wonderful, and magical all at the same time.
How often do you read now?
I try to get in reading time every day but with a full-time job, I have to admit, I do find it a bit difficult to squeeze in as much as I would like, but any time I get a quiet moment in the mornings or late at night, it’s the best form of silence that you’ll ever come across in your life.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Book of Goose by Yiyun Li! It’s a rollercoaster of a ride looking into a toxic friendship between two girls – I’ve never read anything like it and I must admit that I’ve been rushing home from work just to read it!
Is there a book you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t yet?
Ok, I’m currently staring at my TBR right now and it’s a tad bit confronting. There’s so many I want to read, but I’d say The Book of Jacob by Olga Tokarczuk – she’s a monster but I’m anticipating this as a holiday read end of this year! I’ve seen fantastic reviews on this and I’m so ready for a saga.
Is there a book you’d recommend to almost anyone?
Conversations on Love edited by Natasha Lunn and Notes on Heartbreak by Annie Lord. No surprise that these are both on love – Lunn’s novel draws in the experiences of 15 essayists and writers and explores the definition of love in all forms whilst Lord’s novel is a love story told in reverse exploring the pains and tribulations of heartbreak. I couldn’t put either of them down and would recommend them both time and time again!
What book didn’t live up to its hype?
Oooh, that’s a hard one, but I’d have to say Today a Woman Went Mad in The Supermarket by Hilma Wolitzer – the cover art was A+, but the content was lacklustre for me personally. I wanted more drama and more hilarity and wit in the relationship between Paulie and Howard and instead all I could gather were mediocre observations.
Do you have a favourite character from literature?
Hmm I would have to say Aomame from IQ84 by Haruki Murakami – she’s a badass martial arts instructor and physical therapist with a heart for romance. Give me a character any day that encompasses love and hope like she does.
Is there a book you often re-read?
A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates – every time I read this; this family saga just transforms into a film in my head. It’s like watching the OG Jurassic Park or The Mummy and being absorbed in characters and a plot of which you can’t look away from. Oates’ writing is splendid and detailed – she encompasses American culture so well that I really can’t fault her writing.
Do you have a favourite author?
Siri Hustvedt. I cannot wait to add more books by her into my repertoire. If you haven’t experienced her writing, I would highly recommend The Blazing World. There’s something about her ability to combine both art and relationship dysfunction that attracts me to her work – her prose is detailed, emotive and addictive.
The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle. I remember receiving an illustrated version as a gift and it set into motion my love for detective novels involving myths and legends.
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls – I’ve never read a memoir quite like this. Walls’ entire upbringing is a must-read and the incredulity and dysfunctional family lifestyle is one that you won’t be able to look away from. Her journey towards resilience and dealing with an alcoholic father and a mother’s frivolous and nomadic dependency is extraordinary.
Is there a book you think everyone should read?
She’s a doorstop but 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. If you’re not a believer of love, this novel will prove you wrong. Rich imagery is scattered throughout in typical Murakami fashion, and you’ll have yourself thrown into a surreal world that will leave you daydreaming about it for months to come.