8 February 2013

books, books, books!

I mentioned in another post that my list of favourite books probably deserved special attention. This is not because I think I have read some deeply important books that you won’t have, more because I wouldn’t be able to pick just one if asked.

I think I better limit myself though. Maybe I should do two top 5’s: Kids/YA and adult. I need to do this as two lists as I read quite a lot of the kidult books that have been coming out in recent years. I am including whole series of books as 1 book in some cases. And in the best of traditions let’s do this in reverse order!

        5. Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials trilogy. I enjoyed these books tremendously and have read them all several times. Not something I tend to do very much anymore. I like how they’re not afraid to deal with big, seemingly quite adult, themes in what is essentially a children’s book.

        4. Anna Sewell – Black Beauty. I, like many young girls, went through a phase where I was really big on anything to do with horses. I remember this book really touching me and even though I haven’t read it in a really long time I wouldn’t want to not have a copy of it in the house.

        3. Garth Nix – The Abhorsen trilogy. I actually would like to single out the middle of these 3 books, Lirael, as being one of the best fantasy books I have ever read. It is a truly great book and can be read without having read the first in the trilogy. I find Garth Nix to be a really great story teller with some great places to take his readers. These books are just so beautifully written that I often lose hours to them without even noticing.

        2. C. S. Lewis – The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve placed these books ahead of the Abhorsen trilogy mainly as they were a childhood favourite and the others I only read as an adult. But I loved these books. I remember reading the first one by myself when I was 7. It was the first book I ever picked out of the junior school library. My mother had read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to my brothers and me as a bedtime story but this was the first I even knew that there were other books in the series. The Magicians Nephew along with Voyages of the Dawntreader remain my favourites in the series. And I still read my original copies fairly regularly.

        1. Roald Dahl – Matilda. For a person my age to not include at least one Dahl book would be weird. And this book is the one that spoke most to me. It told me I was ok to have my nose constantly in a book. It taught me that intelligence was a thing to nourish. But most of all it gave me a female role model who I hadn’t found in books until that point. She had a fabulously naughty streak and ingenious ways of getting back at her vile parents. She had awesome powers that I could only envy. She beat the horrid head teacher and got the happy ending she deserved.

I think the fact that she existed gave a generation of girls the confidence to be a reader of books. This is exactly how it should be.

So that was kids’ books, and it hurt me to leave out so many of my old favourites and just focus on those I chose.
As I was thinking about my mum reading Narnia to us it brought back some of the other books she shared with us (The Phoenix and Carpet, Five Children and It). I’m so glad that I was always around books and that I have a love for them that will never leave me.
I try to instil the same in my daughter and have read copiously to her since birth. She loves a good book and the moment reading clicks for her there will be no stopping her.

So, onto the adult books I picked for my top 5. And boy, was this a hard choice. I tried to restrict myself to one from each genre I read most…

        5. Terry Pratchett – The Discworld series. This is almost certainly cheating a bit as there are so many of them. But I couldn’t pick just one and I couldn’t leave him off the list though it was an incredibly hard choice between him and Douglas Adams. I will single out the Wee Free Men books as a particular pleasure. And any about Death; Hogfather and Reaper Man being two that instantly spring to mind.

        4. Stephen Fry – Making History. If you haven’t read any of Stephen Fry’s books I would heartily recommend this as a starting point. It’s a book that postulates what would have happened if Hitler hadn’t been born. The world would be so much better, right? It’s a wonderful piece of writing and I have included it as I’ve lent/recommended it to so many people.

        3. Audrey Niffeneger – The Time Traveller’s Wife. An amazing book, a not that brilliant film. It’s a bit like Pulp Fiction in the sense the beginning is also the middle and the end. I can’t imagine how she managed to keep track of where her main character was on his own timeline as he moved up and down it. It was just such an interesting take on the love story that I couldn’t leave it out.

        2. George Orwell – 1984. I first read this when I was at university. It appeared (along with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World) at the bottom of my reading list for my Leisure 101 class. I was so intrigued at getting actual novels that I’d read both of them before the semester even started. This was my favourite of the two and ended up helping me to the highest mark I gained in my first year. I don’t get tired of reading it over and over and feel like I find new meanings in it every time I do.

        1. Charlotte Bronte – Jane Eyre. Picking just one classic was a nightmare too. I could happily have had most of the Bronte’s entire catalogue (barring Wuthering Heights which I find dull and Shirley which is a bit meh too). And there was no room for lots of other favourites, too. So why pick Jane Eyre specifically? I think Mr Rochester is the first literary character I fell in love with. He’s so hard on the outside with seething passions within. Lovely ;) I read this for the first time when I was about 13. I found the mystery of who was in the attic a real page turner. It’s a real great mixture of a novel and I still try and read it about once a year. If I could only have one book to take to a desert island, I’m pretty sure it would be this one.

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