My Favourite Books

My Favourite Books |

Ever since I can remember, I've loved reading books. No, scratch that. I've loved devouring books. On every birthday, on every Christmas, on every achievement, my present would always be a new book which I would immediately proceed to gollop as we were waiting for the dessert. I don't know if this love of reading is something that is innate in me or if the circumstances and the environment were fertile for this love to bloom. For me, the answer is always a bit of both. Being slightly introverted by nature and shy, books were what kept me company most of the time. Wait, that sounds utterly pathetic, but I swear it wasn't! Sure, I wish I had been trying a little harder to come out of my shell a bit sooner, but even if that were the case, I'd still love curling up in a corner to read a good book whenever I could. However, as I was growing older and slowly (like very slowly) more confident, I'd try to make up for all the socialisation I'd missed out on, and that had an effect on my reading. I would even choose to go out on a Friday if possible, than sit in bed and read. Gasp! Horror! I know.

Nowadays I just can't seem to find as much time to read. Whenever I'm tired, the internet just seems like the easiest option, and although I know in the long run it's not the most pleasurable, I will still be sucked into the black hole that it is. I also catch myself feeling guilty from time to time when I'm reading recreationally. That inner critic whispers malevolently in my head, "You could be doing something more productive with your time," or "If you've got time to read, then why don't you do *insert something vaguely boring here* instead?

I'm not sure how I feel about this turn of events. I always believed that reading was never, ever a waste of time but rather, an indispensable tool for gaining knowledge, insight, growing your horizons, becoming more empathetic and compassionate. These were values that my parents had instilled in me, always encouraging my reading and my book buying. Books were always the one thing I never regretted or felt guilty buying. It's how I got closer to other cultures, how I developed my love for languages and writing, how I became open-minded. Now, I'm going to make a conscious effort to get some of that mentality back. I've not stopped reading, but I would like to make it part of my every day again (I read every day but not as much as I'd like.) The positive is that I read very broadly. I can read the stuffiest classic the one day and a fun young adult novel the next one. My mood changes and depending on it I will change what I'm reading. Sometimes, when a modernist text just ain't happening, it's got to be the next instalment of a young adult fantasy instead. I used to be a book snob, but now I'd like to think I'm beyond that.

Still, my favourite books vary. And to be frank, I'm not sure if some of them would make this list if I read them again. However, on this list, sentimentality trumps reason. These were my favourites when I was fourteen and in my mind, they still are. The way I've tried to compile them is by asking myself if I'd be excited and willing to reread them. If the answer is an emphatic yes, then I there must be a connection between me and that book, that doesn't always make much sense, but it's not to be discarded.

My Favourite Books |
My Favourite Books |
My Favourite Books |

  1. The Harry Potter Series

    I think this is where it all began, and I'm sure it's the same for many of you, too. How can I begin to describe the impact these books had on me? I honestly believe they've played a tremendous part in my upbringing and in shaping my tastes and interests. It's only natural since they saw me through all the stages childhood and adolescence. They provided friendship and comfort, escapism but life-lessons, too. They taught me to be kind, to value friendships, differences, to keep an open and inquisitive mind. Because of them I became passionate about the English language and culture (and therefore literature.) They also taught me to enjoy fantasy. They have become my haven, my comfort blanket, and even now whenever I want to feel comforted I will grab one of them, along with a hot chocolate and a warm blanket for the ultimate nostalgia binge.

  2. Great Expectations

    Let's get something out of the way: I was one of those weird kids that loved reading classics. Okay? Well, now that's out of the way I'd like to explain how this particular classic ended up on my list. I think I must've first read this book when I was around fifteen. Around that time, I was quite sensitive and romantic in naive sort of way. I liked reading sad and emotional stories with troubled heroines and tortured heroes. I thought that this was a perfectly acceptable way to learn about the turbulences and cruelties of life without having to experience them first hand. When I picked up this novel, I instantly fell in love not only with Dickens' writing but with the plot too.

    Just in case you're unfamiliar, this novel is about an orphan boy, called Pip, who has been brought up "by hand" by his merciless sister and her kind-hearted husband, Joe. His life will unknowingly change forever when he meets an escaped convict and helps him. As he grows up, he is accepted into "good society" via Miss Havisham, a strange old lady who lives alone with her adopted daughter Estella, with whom Pip will fall in love with. In their mansion, his great expectations will start forming, and as the years go by, they will be transmuted, take on ugly forms and eventually get crushed. I know many people hate the novel, but I was really invested in Pip as a character and his ambitions. I'd always have a thing for flawed characters, and their flaws were never a hindrance for my love. Back then I wasn't thinking of that at all. All I knew was that the author had managed to move me and make Pip precious to me. I knew he was wrong and acting out of line on so many occasions, but I was able to disregard that. It never even occurred to me that people would object on a character and a novel on this account. Only retrospectively have I understood why he's such a disliked character. It's just that I never narrowed my favourite characters to the "good" or "right" ones. So, yes, I've cried over this book many times, and it was one of the first ones to move me so deeply. (I mean, Harry Potter excluded because who knows how many times I've cried over those?) For that reason, it's still got a place in my heart, even though I know that if I were to read it again now and look at it more critically, I would be frustrated for so many reasons. Dickens' depictions of women being one of them. But I'm trying to be truthful and so I'm including it in my faves anyway.

  3. Wuthering Heights

    Another classic with an embarrassing backstory. I learnt and sought out this novel because of Twilight. Yes, Bella was mentioning it quite a bit. Yes, I was curious, and yes, there was a time when I loved that saga. (Cringing.) At least I've got one positive outcome: it introduced me to Wuthering Heights, with its complex characters and eerie storyline. I loved the angst and gloominess of it. It was unlike any of its contemporaries, and it took me by surprise. However, I appreciated much more once I had to critically study the novel for a uni course.

    And Jane Eyre

    I realised what geniuses all of the Brontes were, and how talented. Their female characters were like bright beacons for the coming of a new more feminist heroine. One tutor called them once "protofeminists", and I think she was right. Sure the men in their stories were just a tad too abusive to let it slide, but Jane Eyre and Catherine Earnshaw had guts and mind of their own; they had clear and loud voices. But I've also loved the social commentary that's weaved through their books. Unlike Jane Austen who skims through important issues without even a mention, the Brontes are preoccupied with questions of class, of nature and nurture and even of race. And though when I first read both of these novels, I was mostly into them for their plots and love stories, (because, duh!) still, these ideas were embedded into my head somewhere and worked at a subconscious level, fertilising the ground for my literary maturity.

  4. My Favourite Books |
    My Favourite Books |

  5. Les Miserables

    This one was bloody huge. But bloody enjoyable, too. I read it on my summer holidays when I was around fifteen. No one had forced me to. I guess, I just went "Hey, what's something light and fun that I can read over the summer at the beach?" (Still a lighter story, than A Little Life.) Joking aside, I loved this novel so, so much and I'm always trying to make the time to read it again. I'm sure it will read much differently now (as will every other book on this list.) This is such an important novel in the literary history that I'm lost for words. It's got everything: history, complex ideas, a love story, a big revolution, a cast of exquisite characters, from the most major to the more minor. You will fall in love with one of the characters for sure. I loved Marius and the other student revolters to bits. The moral questions that arose made me pause and the detailed descriptions had me edged on my seat. It holds a special place in my heart, and I'm really curious to read it again and see how I find it now. I'm sure a feminist reading, won't benefit it that much...

  6. Crime and Punishment

    Time for the most controversial one, probably. If I've got to pick one, just one, book as my all-time favourite, this would be the one. I realise all the books I've loved at that age had long narrations of the protagonist's thoughts and emotional state. I also love when the authors intervene in a parenthesis of their thoughts and ideas. I love Dostoyevsky's writing, and I desperately want to read another one of his novels. I even wanted to learn Russian at some point to be able to read it in the original. I loved Raskolnikov, the ultimate anti-hero that oscillated between being a villain and a true romantic. Raskolnikov in many ways reminds me of Hamlet, or what Hamlet could be, had he acted as soon as he found out about the murder of his father. Dostoyevsky's asking a lot of important questions through this novel. He is the master of depicting society in its bleakest but, dare I say it, truest colours. Unfair and imbalanced societies will always be where madness and crimes arise and where sadness and misery will always rule.

  7. 1984

    Another cheery one. I swear I hadn't realised most of my faves are total downers. This one is the dystopia to end all dystopias. George Orwell placed his novel in the 1980's, and if seen from a distance, one could claim that he wasn't that far off his predictions. Everything is surveilled, censorship is imposed on every written and spoken word, and Trump is president of the U.S. No... wait, that's our world. Aside from the poignant political and social critique, the novel is also very addictive and gripping. You read and read trying to figure out what's going to happen, and you question everything you think you know. It twists reality and fiction; you can't tell which is which; who is on your side and who isn't. By the end I was stressed out but completely satisfied.

  8. The Final Empire

    Eey!! A lighter one! Another fantasy novel would make its appearance on this list, but I wasn't sure which one. I was considering adding "His Dark Materials" trilogy, but I haven't completed it yet. Well, I haven't completed this one either but I thought I'd add something more recent for a change. This one is an epic fantasy of a grand scale. It has amazing world building, fantastic and multiple characters, a badass female protagonist who is nowhere near perfect -as is the case a lot of times, unfortunately- and a quite realistic love story. More than anything, it's got magic and magical creatures and a great evil lord. It's fair to see that I'd be hooked. I find Brandon Sanderson's writing almost fluid-like. It reads so smoothly but that's not to say that his writing is simplistic. That's what happens I guess when you've got a talent at manipulating words. The story is about a girl Vin, " a street urchin" who is a Mistborn, meaning she can manipulate all metals. Each one gifts you with a different power. She meets a man who teaches her how to develop her unique talent and so together and with a team of opposing characters they will try to rebel against the Dark Ruler's reign. If you like your fantasies, then definitely give this one a go!

On finishing this list, I realised how many of these books are old faves and tried to understand why that is. It's not that I haven't enjoyed the books I've been reading for the last years. I'm just assuming that I've become more critical and expect more of a book to be able to call it my favourite. Now, it's not enough for me to enjoy it but it has to satisfy other criteria as well. On the one hand that's kind of sad because I've lost that excitement at reading a book simply because it's fun and enjoyable but on the other hand it's made me much more attentive and thoughtful. Still, I can enjoy a novel even if it's nothing more than a typical young adult romance without any regrets. It's just that it will probably not make it to my favourites. However, since this post has been classics-heavy, I was thinking about talking about my favourite young adult novels on a separate one at some point. Let me know if that is something you might be interested in!

Here are all the books mentioned in case you want to pick them up!

Harry Potter | Great Expectations | Wuthering Heights | Jane Eyre | Les Miserables | Crime & Punishment | 1984 | The Final Empire (there's also this beautiful new edition that I've got my eye on, but trying to resist)|

xx Mary

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