One day I came across the BBC programme, My Life in Bookswhich invites celebrities to discuss their favourite books and why they have been important or particularly enjoyable at different times in their lives.
I thought this was a great idea and I instantly started to think about the books that I have enjoyed throughout my life.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
As a young child (and admittedly even now as a university graduate!!) I had lots and lots of cuddly toys and I would go to bed squashed up against the wall with the rest of the bed filled with endless teddies (although I’m not quite so squashed up against the wall now…) I was particularly attached to a bear, named Bessie, I was given when I was born and would hate going away without her. Doggerby Shirley Hughes tells the story of a young boy and his toy dog, Dogger and what happens when Dogger goes missing. I remember getting this book out of the library so many times when I was little as it was my favourite and I loved both the story and the illustrations. The book was such a big part of my childhood that my parents even bought me a copy for my 18th birthday.
My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards
Another of my favourite books as a young child was the My Naughty Little Sisterseries by Dorothy Edwards. The series tells lots of short stories about the mischievious antics of a little girl and all of the naughty things she used to do. I think the reason I enjoyed these books so much was because I was the youngest of two girls, and I liked to compare myself to the “Naughty Little Sister” and realise that my behaviour was nothing like the antics that the little girl in the stories used to get up to (at least I hoped). I used to love having my Mum put me to bed and reading me one of the mischieious stories.
The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot
As an early teen, I began to read the The Princess Diaries series by Meg Cabot. The series follows Mia Thermopolis as she discovers her true identity as a Princess to the fictional country Genovia. The series is made up of ten books, each detailing Mia’s life as a high schooler – featuring friends, love, heartache and her Mother dating her teacher, as well as showing Mia learn from her Grandmother the ways of Princess life and expectation. Every one of the books is both hilarious and heartfelt and as a reader, you are taken on a fantastic journey with Mia through her teenage years.
“There are four million people in Manhattan, right? That makes about two million of them guys. So out of TWO MILLION guys, she has to go out with Mr Gianini. She can’t go out with some guy I don’t know. She can’t go out with some guy she met at D’Agostino’s or wherever. Oh, no. She has to go out with my Algebra teacher. Thanks, Mom. Thanks a whole lot.”
I think I enjoyed The Princess Diaries series so much because the character of Mia is so relatable. Yes, she may discover that she is a Princess and that definitely hasn’t happened to me, but her characteristics, her thoughts and the way she reacts to certain events is so true to that of a teenage girl’s that, after ten books, you truly feel as though you have grown up with this character.
Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
Whilst possibly a book series on everyone’s ‘read’ list, the Harry Potterstories are one of my all time favourites. For anyone who might not be familiar (if there is anyone out there who has managed to stay away from the franchise?!), the seven books outline the story of Harry Potter – a boy who discovers he is a wizard and becomes a pupil at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, with each book following one school year at Hogwarts. I think the books have been so successful for a great number of reasons; the imagination of JK Rowling, the fact that it’s a story about a wizards and witches AND school children, the long running good vs evil plot and the pure edge of your seat reading that the reader has throughout the entire series. For me, there are so many things I love about the story of Harry Potter. I love every one of the characters; the good ones who I route for and the bad ones, who were just so evil that I loved to hate them, and I loved reading about this fictional world that, at so many times, felt as though it could just be real (I still maintain my Hogwarts letter got lost in the post!).
“A breeze ruffled the neat hedges of Privet Drive, which lay silent and tidy under the inky sky, the very last place you would expect astonishing things to happen. Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous, not knowing he would be woken in a few hours’ time by Mrs. Dursley’s scream as she opened the front door to put out the milk bottles, nor that he would spend the next few weeks being prodded and pinched by his cousing Dudley… He couldn’t know what at this very moment, people meeting in secret over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices:
” To Harry Potter – the boy who lived!””
The explosion of the Harry Potter series has been extraordinary and, as a huge fan, I still find it shocking when I hear people who haven’t read the books or seen the movies. If you are reading this and you haven’t read the books yet, then I do strongly recommend reading them! The hype is true and deserved; they are fantastic, escapist reading and the storyline and characters are so interesting and so enthralling that I find it impossible to put them down.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Following the end of the Harry Potter series, I was looking for something the fill the void… and The Hunger Gamesdid just that. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing similar about the two stories, but The Hunger Games has, like Harry Potter, become one of my favourite stories, filled with characters and excitement that just leaves you wanting more and more as you get further through the trilogy. The series tells the story of Katniss Everdeen, a young girl who lives in Disctrict 12 of Panem, what once was North America. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl (between the ages of 12-18) from each of the twelve districts must compete against one another in an arena and fight to the death. The last person alive at the end of the Games wins. The purpose of the Games is punishment for the twelve districts for the uprising against the Capitol (Panem’s biggest city and the home of Panem’s government). When Katniss’s little sister, Prim, is called to compete in The Hunger Games, Katniss volunteers to go in in place of her…
“”Prim!” The strangled cry comes out of my throat, and my muscles begin to move again. “Prim!” I don’t need to shove through the crowd. The other kids make way immediately, allowing me a straight path to the stage. I reach her just as she is about to mount the steps. With one sweep of my arm, I push her behind me.
“I volunteer!” I gasp. “I volunteer as tribute!””
I’d heard about The Hunger Games a while ago, but it wasn’t until I saw the teaser trailer for the film that I decided I needed to read the books. As I said before, the trilogy was a story that I became completely hooked on and again, I could sit here for ages listing the many things I enjoy about this story but I think my enjoyment mostly lies in how addictive and compelling I found the story. There would be times where I would be sat reading one of the books on the train and we’d be getting near to my stop and I would be so annoyed that I would have to stop reading (although this often happens, I would find it so much more difficult to put THG down!). Whilst billed as a teen book, in a similar way to Harry Potter, I would say The Hunger Games is suitable for people of all ages and would highly recommend it as your next read.
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Admittedly, I read The Help after I watched the film based upon the Kathryn Stockett novel. I absolutely loved the film so I started the book as soon as possible. The story is about African American maids who work for white families in 1960s America. Written in various viewpoints, from two of the maids and one white woman, the book explores the lives of the maids and the racial issues they face whilst working for white families. Aibileen and Minny, both maids, and white Skeeter form an unlikely alliance in order to tell a story that needs to be told.
“”But the guest bathroom’s where the help goes,” Miss Hilly say. Nobody says anything for a second. Then Miss Walter nod, like she explaining it all. “She’s upset cause the Nigra uses the inside bathroom and so do we.” Law, not this mess again. They all look over at me straightening the silver drawer in the sideboard and I know it’s time for me to leave. But before I can get the last spoon in there, Miss Leefolt give me the look, say, “Go get some more tea, Aibileen.””
As I had seen the movie prior to reading the book, I knew what happened within the story, but it did not stop the book from being so powerful and moving. I think I most enjoy books that I find difficult to put down and this was certainly one of them. The book switches from viewpoint throughout the novel and often a character’s section would finish on a small cliffhanger, making you want to read on until you returned to that character’s narration to find out what happened next. I completely fell in love with the characters that when I finished the book, I felt so sad to be leaving them behind and I wanted the book to continue so that I could find out more about their lives. The Help is one of my most recommended books now and I urge everyone to read it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Whilst definitely up there as one of my new favourite books, The Perks of Being a Wallflower has been added to this list mainly because it is the last book that I finished. A coming of age story, Charlie is a freshman in high school – shy and unpopular, he is a “wallflower” and writes letters to an unknown recipient telling the stories of his day to day life. (It is difficult to describe what happens within the story without spoiling some major plot points.) Similarly to The Hunger Games, I saw the trailer for the The Perks of Being a Wallflower film and decided I needed to read the book before the film’s release.
“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times with those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope that they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.”
I read the novel in a matter of days (which even as much as I love a book, doesn’t happen very often as I’m a very slow reader!) and fell completely in love with it. I find it difficult to pinpoint what it is that I loved so much about it, but I think it’s simply the way it is written. I found it so beautiful and so heartwrenching. As a 21 year old reading the novel, I couldn’t help but wish I had read Perks as a teenager but it did not stop my enjoyment of the story. I think one great thing about the book is the anonymity of the person Charlie is writing to, it’s a clever writing tool by Chbosky to make you feel even more a part of Charlie’s life.
This list would NOT be complete without some honourable mentions… I wanted to add them in to my list but this post would have been a lot longer and I found it difficult enough to choose anyway. I will keep it short and sweet as I could write about how much I love them for ages!
Roald Dahl: My favourites being The BFG, Matilda, The Witches and The Twits.
Jacqueline Wilson: A big fan of all of her books, I held on to them for years, but I’ve finally parted ways with them and given them to my young cousins. Again, favourites are: Double Act, The Lottie Project, Bad Girls, Dustin Baby, the Girls series and of course, The Story of Tracy Beaker.
So, that’s my Life in Books. What books would make up your list? Post yours and any suggestions for future reading in the comments.