I always thought that choosing my favourite books would be an incredibly hard decision, however apparently this decision wasn’t as hard as I was expecting. Although, no doubt this list will change over time but right at this moment, these are books that I would enthusiastically recommend people to read:
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I studied this book for my GCSE’s, which is why it’s one of my favourites as I had to read it countless times in preparation for the exams. The story line (a harsh and shocking one) instantly captivated me, sparking my interest in literature surrounding the Deep South. Capturing the childhood of the protagonist Scout Finch, it explores the racial tensions and injustice prevalent in Maycomb County, Alabama. The naive and innocent narration of events really contrasts with the gruelling prejudices presented from the other characters in the book.
Witch Light by Susan Fletcher
I can’t remember what made me buy this book. To be honest, I can’t even remember buying the book in the first place. All I remember was forcing myself one evening to start reading it as I knew otherwise I wouldn’t read it at all. The plot of the book follows a woman’s experience of being accused of witchcraft during the witch hunts in Scotland. It is also interwoven in the timeline of the Massacre of Glencoe, which I knew nothing about, so as well as being an incredibly interesting book I actually learnt a bit about specificities of this time period. I really liked how the book gave a spiritual energy to the conflict between Protestants and Catholics in the 17th century. The style of the book was also incredibly unforgettable, written in poetic style prose, it flowed beautifully and really intrigued me as I’ve never really read a book written in this style before.
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
I studied Sylvia Plath for my AS English Literature exams and found her poems immensely dark yet captivating which encouraged me to start reading her debut novel. I think knowing that Sylvia Plath committed suicide was a factor which made me want to read the book, considering it follows the story of a young lady living with depression and anxiety and suicidal impulses. Her style of writing really engages how depression affects young women however it’s really hard to detach the book from Plath and read it from a auto-biographical standpoint. In a strange way, I really admire her way of writing as she writes around morbid topics in a beautiful manner which makes it more sad and heartfelt.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
I never actually bought this book myself, I got given it during World Book Day 2012, so the prospect of gaining a new book for free was quite exciting. I instantly read this book, not quite knowing what to expect as I knew nothing of the plot. My first thoughts after finishing the book were of shock and bewilderment. Although don’t be fooled, the roller coaster of emotions you feel whilst reading the book, such as relief, fear, worry and anger are also what I think defines this book. Another thing I found intriguing, which I thought was very effective for the plot of the novel, is the fact that the female protagonist remains unnamed throughout the whole novel which reinforces the dominating existence of the dead wife Rebecca, adding further suspense whilst reading the novel.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegalman
I’d never really read any graphic novels before, so when I started reading this book I was dubious about whether I’d find it easy to read, or even enjoy it. Not only is it a recount of Art Speigalman’s father experience during the holocaust but it also presents the emotional and trauma inflicted but through illustrations instead. It depicts the different groups of people involved in the war in an original, interesting way; the Jewish are represented as mice, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs and the Polish as pigs. Appreciating how long it took to write this graphic novel and illustrate it, really makes it seem like such an important book: historically and artistically.
Ways to Disappear by Idra Novey
Kidnappings and ransoms in South America are very interesting to me, probably because the concept is so terrifying and mainly unheard of in England. This book not only involves a kidnapping but also presents how relationships and friendships are thus affected by this sort of event. Knowing that what occurred in the book actually happens in real life, is shocking and disturbing as you come to the realisation that even in these dark times, life still continues. I also found the book incredibly easy to read as it has a very light, poetic prose, which in some places may seem disjointed but in fact emphasises the shock and depersonalisation that could follow.
The Manifesto on how to be Interesting by Holly Bourne
Being in my late teens when I read this book, I had undoubtedly experienced anxiety, self doubt, self hatred in some level. So reading this really opened my eyes and made me realise that probably a lot of people my age were going through the same experiences. Written from the perspective of a teenage girl, who hates herself, dealing with very serious topics such as self harm and depression. I felt like it was written in such a knowing way that really communicates to the reader the struggles of growing up and mental illness. From this perspective it could also offer a beacon of hope for anyone reading who is experiencing something similar, so for me I feel like this places importance of the book itself.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Another devastating book (I don’t know why a lot of my favourite books revolve around morbid themes and topics but this book is just beautifully written). Set during World War II, when the burning of books happened to eradicate anything that might oppose Nazi propaganda. It can be gathered from the title of the book, that the young girl Liesl manages to steal books and teaches herself how to read, whilst simultaneously forging friendships in this dangerous time. It is predominantly sad throughout the entirety of the novel; the happy moments are still tinged with sadness adding a bittersweet mood to the whole book.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
A really shocking book set in a futuristic America where society has fallen into the hands of an oppressive totalitarian system. It questions the roles that are set out by gender and follows the story of one woman who aims to regain a consciousness separate from the controlling system she exists under and even this is a dangerous feat. The society of Gilead’s, main points of interest is to control sex and reproduction and in doing so establishes a status based on gender. Where strict adherence to the rules leads to punishment, it becomes a very tense novel where I was reading with my fingers crossed hoping that Offred, the protaganist of the novel, would survive the harsh regime that she lives under.
By Beth Morley