Books, books, books; how I adore you. I just can’t get enough! After much painstaking deliberation (think The Hunger Games, but with splattered ink and torn covers), here are my top books of all time in no particular order.
The Book Thief – Markus Zusak
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
The Book Thief was one of those books I casually picked up at the library that blew my mind. First off, the setting is close to my heart as I grew up in Germany, so that grabbed me from the start. What made me stay was the characters; Death was my particular favourite. They were engaging and so damn real that I would honestly believe that they lived in our world. Then there are the themes of writing, friendship, death and family all swirled together to create a deep and thought-provoking narrative not always expected in fiction aimed at younger readers. Then there’s the writing and description; look at that quote above and tell me that doesn’t get you a little bit! It’s striking, soothing and serene all at once and Zusak does this so naturally. This book honestly, in some ways, felt as though it was meant to be read by me.
A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Kite Runner, And The Mountains Echoed – Khaled Hosseini
“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.” (The Kite Runner)
Khaled Hosseini is my favourite author to date. Sure, I’ve loved other stories by other writers, but no writer has consistently lured me and seduced me the way Hosseini does. Every one of his books so far has touched and inspired me deeply; he is the reason I went to study my Creative Writing degree (along with Perks, which I’ll discuss below). I owe a lot to each of his books for showing me how beautiful uses of setting, description and theme exploration can be as well as how to craft flawed and multi-layered characters. I look his stories regularly for guidance in my own fiction writing. Longingly, I await his next novel Sea Prayer, which is due to be released in late August (I’m practically counting down the hours at this point).
Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
This one was yet another surprise hit with me. I discovered it in my art department at school and was told that someone had presumably left it there years ago. Since no-one would miss it, I was allowed to keep it. I read it immediately after school ended and a passion that would span years was born. The philosophy of this novel and the allegories used to discuss it are so unique and poignant. The illustrations only pulled me in deeper – I want to get tattoos of some of them. This short tale moved me and I think of it every day.
P.S. Also, I actually enjoyed the Netflix film version of it – go check it out!
The Perks of Being A Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky
“And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.”
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
These two quotes are arguably the two most famous quotes from the book and with good reason. However, Perks is endlessly quotable because it is so damn relatable. It is a beautiful piece of YA fiction that I personally believe deserves all of the hype it has received. Just like The Book Thief, this book felt as though it was written for me. I could see myself in each of the characters and the events were so relevant to my life at the time that it was kind of spooky. My goal is to make someone feel this way about my own writing. Perks resonates with me in a way that I have rarely experienced; I will always be grateful for that.
Romeo and/or Juliet, To Be or Not To Be – Ryan North
“This was a really amazing part of your adventure, Hamlet. You’re sure that, should you ever one day write a book about this story or perhaps a stage production, you’d DEFINITELY include this scene. Why, you’d have to be literally crazy to write a story where you journey to England, get attacked by pirates — actual pirates! — but then just sum up that whole adventure in a single sentence. Hah! That’d be the worst. Who puts a pirate-attack scene in their story and doesn’t show it to the audience? Hopefully nobody, that’s who! Even from a purely structural viewpoint, you’ve got to give the audience something awesome to make up for all the introspection you’ve been doing; that just seems pretty obvious is all.” (To Be or Not To Be)
Are you a fan of choose-your-own-adventure novels? Do you ever think to yourself ‘man, I could totally use some randomness, hilarity and adventure in my life but I also love Shakespeare.’ Same, my dude. Which is why I love Ryan North’s two CYOA novels Romeo and/or Juliet and To Be or Not To Be. North just takes Shakespeare’s two most iconic plays and just messes with them and drags you along for the ride. They feel a lot like video games and are just a whole lot of fun. They were the main inspiration for my dissertation piece, which was a CYOA version of The Great Gatsby. Basically, read these if you want to laugh until your stomach hurts.
We Should All Be Feminists – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
“We teach girls shame. “Close your legs. Cover yourself.” We make them feel as though being born female they’re already guilty of something. And so, girls grow up to be women who cannot say they have desire. They grow up to be women who silence themselves. They grow up to be women who cannot say what they truly think. And they grow up — and this is the worst thing we do to girls — they grow up to be women who have turned pretense into an art form.”
Departing from fiction, this short piece adapted from a TEDx talk Adichie did in 2017, is incredibly important to me. It put a lot of what I had thought or been taught but could not make tangible into words. Powerful, frank and precise, this piece hit home a lot of truths and gave my worldview more shape and definition. I want everyone to read this book and discuss its ideas. It is through discussion that we can begin to rebuild.
What do you think of these novels? Have you read them? What are your favourite books? Let me know down below. I’d love to chat about them with you