“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
I don't know if anything (apart from cheese) makes me happier than reading. There is nothing like picking up a new book, the pages crisp, the spine unfolded and delving into another person's world and creation. My degree is in English Literature, and I often joke that I have a degree in reading. I would read every minute of the day if I was able and have been known to call in sick just so I can stay at home to finish one particularly good book! The one major downside to my new job is that the commute is so short that I am not reading nearly as much a I did before.
And so, inspired by 'Book Week' a couple of weeks ago, I thought I would share my favourite novels with you,
1. Career Girls - Louise Bagshawe (also writing as Louise Mensch)
I wish I could remember where I first found this book, or the first time I read it. All I can tell you is that it is the most read book on my bookshelf. the pages are hanging off, the spine is so creased you can't make out the author and I must have read it 30 times but still every time I re-read it, it's like the first time again. The general plot is based around two uni friends, who fall out and spend the next 10 years trying to get revenge, whilst trying to get to the top of the respective career ladders. It is not especially highbrow, and it's quite a romance chick-lit book with sex scenes peppered throughout but I like the way the women work hard toward their career goals, ignoring the glass ceiling.
2. Summer Sisters - Judy Blume
Who doesn't love a Judy Blume book? My childhood was littered with her novels but this book is aimed towards an older generation and you can see why. It tackles sexual topics with abundance, from first female crushes to developing relationships. The novel itself is primarily written from the view of 'Vix,' however I have always loved that several pages are dedicated to the other characters thoughts on the situations the Vix lives through. The story is about two girls who grow into women, the summers they share together and the relationships they have. My best friend and I adore this book and will often re-read it together. I find the older I get the more references I also understand, there is something new every time.
3. The Pursuit of Happiness - Douglas Kennedy
My favourite books are either Dystopian or set in either WWI or WWII, and this one covers the WW side of things. Set in 1945, just after the war, it spans American History, spending time on the McCarthy witch-hunts, and the fall out from that. This novel is quite tragic, don't expect a happy read, but I find the story stays with you and you really root for the main character, Sara. I have bought this book for several friends to read because it is such a good novel
4. The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
From almost the first line of this novel I knew I was going to love it. The whole concept was so original and the story is so heartbreaking that it keeps me returning time after time. Could you imagine loving someone but knowing that you could only see them at certain points until your timelines ran parallel? The whole idea of time travel fascinates me and when combined with a love story this novel has a special place in my library!
5. Anne Frank's Diary - Anne Frank
I remember the first time I read Anne Frank's Diary and I remember starting my own. This book means so much to so many people, as a guide through teenage years, as a symbol of hope, as a reminder of past events. It is almost hard to believe that this feisty woman was contained for so long and tragically never to escape. My version has photographs which make it even more real. I have also been to the Anne Frank Museum twice and both times have felt moved to tears. This novel is a huge part of my childhood and if you haven't read it you really should take the time to.
6. Wild - Cheryl Strayed
A big regret of mine is that I never travelled for a long amount of time. I have seen a lot of the world but in small chunks! For this reason I tend to avoid travel books because they make me jealous but with this one I saw the trailer for the film and really wanted to read the book. For a start the fact that it is based on a true story makes it more appealing, and also had me googling Pacific Crest Trail and wishing that I could walk it to. I like how Cheryl isn't afraid to show herself in a bad light at times and it is refreshing in a world where everyone tries to show their best selves always.
7. A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy) - Deborah Harkness
So technically this would fall under '12 favourite books' as this is a trilogy but I think you will allow me this. A Discovery of Witches is all of the fun things, witches, vampires, history and time travel. What is not to love here?! My mother was the one who introduced me to these books and I'm so glad she did. I was really sad when I got to the end of the trilogy and realised there were no more to go. On the plus side they currently making the first book into a TV series so I have that to look forward to in the future.
8. Diary of an Ordinary Woman - Margaret Forster
I have never been so frustrated by a novel and to tell you why would be giving it away so instead you can read it yourself and then let me know if it has also frustrated you. The novel itself however is a glorious span of two wars and a whole heap of history, 1914 to 1995 to be exact, all told through the journals of a woman who lived it. As I have mentioned before, I kept a diary for many years and this is exactly why, so that people can see what life was in the past. You fall completely in love with the main character, Millicent and root for her the whole way through.
9. The Versions of Us - Laura Barnett
This is a fascinating novel, providing a different version of events following a butterfly-like effect on two people's lives. We follow three different versions of their future as their story changes and intertwines. You start with one favourite version, and then something happens and you prefer another. It is some very clever writing that keeps you hooked and interested.
10. The Post-Birthday World - Lionel Shriver
Similar to The Versions of Us, this is a sliding doors type book that never fails to impress and focuses on the 'What If's' in life. Perhaps one of the reasons it struck such a cord with me is because I actually spend quite a lot of time thinking about the 'What If's' and imagining what my parallel self is up to. The novel splits after the main character's birthday and we see her make a choice that will determine which route her life takes. The thing I love about this is that both versions of her life have their own sets of happiness and sadness. No choice is the right one.
I devour books and I am always on the look out for new and interesting novels, so please if you think of any that I might love leave a comment!