I love literature. I am not a bookworm, I am a book dragon. I’m not sure that there is a pleasure quite like piggybacking someone else’s imagination and making it your own.
A fantastic book can have you enthralled for hours, seemingly unable to put it down and willing to ignore those around you, indignant at anyone who dares to interrupt you.
A life-changing book is one that you’re compelled to wax-lyrical about and make other people read – you need them to share your experience, because there is every possibility that, that story is going to stay with and haunt you for the rest of your life.
Like a nurturing loved one, it shapes your view of the world, teaches you through its didactic messages and moulds you [with any luck] into a better person.
In the early hours of this morning, I read A Monster Calls from cover to cover in under two hours. Ness confronts the sensitive issue of a young boy’s struggle to come to terms with his mother’s terminal illness with a compelling honesty and does not shy away from the darker side of the emotions felt by Conor.
Upon closing the book, I found myself thinking that all young people should read it. Not only to understand what their peers go through but to understand that it is ok to feel the full range of emotions – that there are multiple sides to a personality and someone’s story.
This would be so helpful to read, particularly for anyone living this ‘truth’ – a difficult, emotional read but so well written you cannot help but be spellbound.
It also made me consider the books that shaped me and my view of the world. This was difficult – I love Early Drama, Elizabethan & Jacobean Drama but I have not included any because although I learnt things from them about humanity, they do not haunt me or want me to make the world a better place.
There are so many but here’s a selection. [I’m sure there are many more that should be on the list, classics even, but these are the ones that immediately popped to my mind with simplistic overviews.]
· Stone Cold – Robert Swindell
This made me actually see homelessness and led me to view it as the issue that it is.
· The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
The messages about overcoming adversity, friendship and the complexity of the human condition stayed with me and I have read it so many times I have lost count.
· Lord of the Flies – William Golding
I do not know anyone who was not unnerved by this coming-of-age novel. It highlights the peril of succumbing to peer pressure and makes you question your integrity – how would you like to behave vs how you could behave in a horrendous situation.
· Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The imagery in this novel will be burnt into your memory and it should be. A dystopian novel designed to scare us and remind us of the importance of humanity, diversity, and love for our fellow man.
· 1984 – George Orwell
Another dystopian novel which resonates in today’s society. Similarly, to ‘Brave New World’ there are elements of this novel that will haunt and shake you to your core. Who are you? What will you allow to happen? Would you stand up for your fellow man? Anyone who has read it will also understand my phobia of rats.
· After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell
A modern novel written in, what seemed to me, a revolutionary style of snap-shot memories. I cried buckets reading this. I have read it repeatedly and loved it every time. A last-minute purchase as a fourteen-year-old jumping on a train and not suitable for that age group. A celebration of the complexity of love and character and a dissection of family dynamics, secrets and lies.
· The Monk – Matthew Lewis
A gothic novel and the oldest work on my list. I studied this at university and have never experienced revulsion reading a book before. I struggled to detach myself from the horror in this, particularly as it was steeped in historical truth. It gave me literal nightmares and despite trying to read it again, I have not been able to. This is for adults.
· My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult
If you think the film adaptation made you cry buckets then you need to prepare yourself for the book. It has a different ending and is far superior to the film. Picoult raised the ethical issue of birthing one child to heal another and their subsequent struggle to refuse to be used as a utility.
· Jo’s Boys – Louisa May Alcott
Obviously, I love Little Women and Good Wives but Jo’s Boys has so many lessons. A heartwarming coming of age story about honesty, integrity and family. My copy is threadbare.
· To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
This is a must-read. It broadens the mind about justice, not taking things at face value, and the sanctity of life. Set in a time of racism and gender inequality it tackles the issues subtly but thoroughly by discussing the importance of character and how we resolve our differences with logic, kindness and without violence wherever possible. Every read offers another thought-provoking nugget.
· The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Attwood
A chilling novel that shows a government overthrown by a totalitarian regime that subjugates women. It tackles the issues of suicide, political and religious resistance, and psychological issues.
I’d love to hear which novels shaped your view of the world! Please let us know – the next one will be specifically about children’s books!