I have always been an avid reader. I have always loved the moment you really find yourself immersed in a fictional world, no matter what form that world takes. I blogged (rather extensively) about my love for Harry Potter earlier this week (which you can find here ICYMI…), however my love of fiction stems from much earlier than that. Over the years, I have read hundreds upon hundreds of books – eventually I will definitely need a Belle style library, because I’m also not very good at letting them go…
Out of those hundreds of books, there have been a few which have really stuck with me. It’s hard to pick from the list, and it will probably be a growing list until I’m 100 years old, but I thought I would share my top few with you. So, in no particular order…
- Wonder – R. J. Palacio: I read this fairly recently compared to the rest of this list. I’d heard a few whispers about this book and decided to give it a go last summer on a trip to Barcelona. Despite being a children’s book, this is actually really encapsulating. (I say ‘children’s book’ as if I don’t enjoy them, but this is probably my favourite category in Waterstones… Totally unashamed…) It follows the story of August Pullman, a ten year old boy, on his first adventure into mainstream education. I don’t know whether it’s because of the job I do, but I really connected with this little boy. This book made me laugh, cry and consider myself incredibly lucky. If you liked Curious Incident, you’ll love Wonder.
- Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte: To quote a colleague, Wuthering Heights is a bit like Marmite; you either love it or hate it, but whatever you feel, you’ll be passionate about it. I am in the ‘love’ camp; once you get over the waffle and unnecessarily irritating narrator in the first three or so chapters, you encounter a love story which is full of raw emotion and uncut sorrow. You will find yourself simultaneously loving and loathing the main characters. Bronte creates characters who are so fundamentally flawed, morally ambiguous and utterly believable characters, that you can’t help but invest yourself in their futures. I think the fact that it is Emily Bronte’s only novel, makes it even more tantalising – the only insight into her creative bubble. Plus, no matter what anyone tells me, I will always be a little bit in love with Heathcliff, despite… everything.
- Journey’s End – R. C. Sherriff: Not a book, but I first read this play when I was at school, studying for my GCSEs. World War I has always fascinated me, and Sherriff, having lived through it, recreates the emotion and uncertainty of the trenches with ease. Raleigh enters the trenches as a young officer, and we follow his relationship with other members of the Company, and their battle to survive in a world that is intent on preventing it. I was fortunate to see this play performed at The Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury, around the same time I was studying it, and the performance only made me fall in love with it more; the silence of the single scene, the eerie offstage drama and the poignant and moving use of sound effects at the end bringing me to tears. If you haven’t seen it before, and it comes to a theatre near you, I can’t recommend it enough.
- His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman: As a teenager, I had read many fantasy books, Harry Potter being one of them. With Pullman’s Dark Materials however, the fantasy genre took on a new meaning for me. What is great about Harry Potter is that the books grew up with me – Philosopher’s Stone was perfect for me as a 7/8 year old, while Deathly Hallows appealed to the 17 year old I became. However, when I first read The Northern Lights, I was about 14, and I was immediately gripped by the darkness of it; it felt like a real adult reading experience, dealing with religion, morality and restrictive society. I also almost convinced myself that I had a dæmon, and was insanely jealous of Lyra when I realised that I, in fact, didn’t.
- The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald: American literature is an area that I haven’t delved into in great depth. I need to, frankly, as Fitzgerald has given me firm foundations. Consumerism, decadence and the virtues (or lack thereof) of 1920’s America instantly lends itself to a fascinating and complex setting. Narrated by Nick Carraway, the life of Jay Gatsby is complicated and enthralling. I promise, if you read this, you won’t put it down until you have reached the end.
Today, a friend posted the following video on Facebook:
It got me thinking. I had seen this video years ago, and totally forgotten it’s existence and, sadly, the message that comes with it. When reading comes naturally, I feel like it’s not always immediately obvious that it’s a positive thing, an endearing thing, or even an attractive quality to have. My boyfriend has recently discovered a series which is getting him back into reading regularly, and it has been really fun to watch him immerse himself in the fictional battles and mysterious world created by John Gwynne; it’s made me fall in love all over again, seeing him itching to buy the next book in the series, and staying up late to read just one more chapter. Reading really is an attractive quality in a human being and I am proud to say that I am a reader. Hopefully, one day, the whole world will be proud to say it as well.
“A mind needs books, as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge” : George R. R. Martin – A Game of Thrones