Recently, Life Of A Wolsey (also my sisters blog and I try not to be biased, but it is pretty great, head on over and check it out!) wrote about her top 10 favorite books in A Book is a Dream You Hold in Your Hand. After reading it, it got me thinking about my own favorites, and if it was even possible for me to pick a top ten!
Over here at Sweet Silver Linings HQ, I’m always up for a book related challenge!
It wasn’t easy. I first decided to only choose from books I currently own, because I keep the ones I really love and that I will re-read at some point. Even though I’ve read other great books on my sisters or husbands kindle, or I’ve borrowed them, I thought it was easier if I could physically see the book. I also discounted non-fiction, because I mostly read them for academic purposes, and whilst they are always interesting, I don’t associate them with the happiest of memories.
So, there I was, standing in front of my book-shelf, deep enough to hold two rows of books. I’m huge book nerd, I quite often have my nose stuck in the pages of some story or other, and frequently have more than book on the go at a time – currently, Stephen King’s IT, Hans Christina Anderson’s Fairy Tales, and The Movie Book (DK Publishing).
I also took away the books I’ currently reading from my options, thinking that even though I am really enjoying them, I might not continue to. (I also have a load of books in storage, that I’m just remember now…!)
I first pulled them all off the shelves a made a pile of the ones that I stuck out in my mind! This pile, or rather piles, consisted of 37 books! 37! How on earth would I narrow it down?
I went back through them, and took out as many as I could, and narrowed it down to 23. The more I removed, the harder it got. I was really getting down to the bare minimum in my opinion! I then tried to narrow down any series’ of books I had. I mean how on earth do you pick one from the Harry Potter (J.K Rowling) series?
From there, I managed to get five quite easily, I just went for the no-brainers. But then I had to pick another five. I got it up to eight books, but still had five to pick from. How?
I picked them up and rushed off to the garden to consult with my husband, not a big reader but someone who is always good at helping me focus! He was sitting in the sun, probably hiding from my mad ramblings about my love of literature, and how good the pages of a novel smell, but for someone married to a book lover, there is no escape!
I went through each of these five books, reasoning as to why they had made this far, and finally settled on the last two.
So here they are, not really in order, although I think I’m going to save my most favorite for last!
- Odd Thomas (Dean Koontz) – I originally fell in love with Odd Thomas on the big screen. Well, the living room screen, not the actual big, cinema screen. Odd Thomas (Stephen Sommers, 2013) was there one evening when myself and my parents were trying to find something good to watch, and couldn’t settle. I read out the IMDb description and we all thought it sounded okay, but had the potential to be rubbish. As it happens, it was brilliant! I’m huge fan of Anton Yelchin (may he rest in peace), and imagine how happy I was when I discovered that this was based on a book, that was part of an entire series! Odd Thomas follows a character of the same name, who has the ability to see the dead, although they don’t speak, and he doesn’t know why. He uses his power for good, often helping solve murders, and thankfully the Chief of Police, Wyatt Porter knows exactly what’s going on! Together, with his girlfriend Stormy Llewellyn, they must try and stop something devastating happening to their home town, Pico Mundo. Of course they don’t know what it is, but it just so happens that Odd sees creatures he calls Bodachs, a sign that trouble of the worst kind is on it’s way. It was hard to pick just one from this series, and it came close between this one and Brother Odd, and whilst I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the books in this series, this one won out. I don’t think the others quite have the same amount of excitement, not to mention the level of heartbreak caused. I’m already fascinated by the supernatural, and I love horror, so this tense, thrilling page turner was an obvious choice on my list. I love Odd’s character (Anton Yelchin played him perfectly) and I love his love for Stormy. He does not play a martyr, he does not brood over the burden that his gift is, and he does not believe that he is better than anyone else, despite all of the good he has done in the world. He is the perfect hero, and I highly recommend reading this.
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky) – This is one of many books, just like the aforementioned Odd Thomas, where I have seen the film first. Whilst I am a huge book nerd, I’m also a massive film geek. It’s one of the best adaptations I’ve ever seen, but that’s a story for another time. This book actually ended up in the last five that I picked from, and I picked it for the final countdown, because I spoke so passionately of it. Charlie is an intelligent introvert, some might say an old soul in a young body. Like any other teenager, he is trying to navigate the harsh, confusing world of High School (or as we Brits call it, Comprehensive school). Haunted by tragic events from his past, he writes to an unnamed person about his life. At school, he befriends a group of people and he starts to come out of his shell, although remains socially awkward throughout. A shocking revelation at the end of the book makes the reader clearly understand why he behaves the way he does. I loved this book so much for many reasons. Firstly, it doesn’t just focus on the difficulties Charlie faces, but also what those around him – his new found friends, and his family – are going through at certain stages in their lives, giving the book depth. Secondly, the character growth and progression is fantastic, not just for Charlie but for the other characters too, primarily Sam and Patrick. I love Charlie’s character because he has the honesty of a child, in a world where children and teens are so keen to be adults. Thirdly, the heartbreaking story had such an impact on me as a reader, that is has really stuck with me years after reading it. And finally, it really teaches you that even in the worst of times, there are moments, happy moments, that can go on forever, and these are moments to treasure, moments to be thankful for. I actually got the quote “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite” tattooed to my side, as a reminder of this (blog here).
- The Help (Kathryn Stockett) – Set against the back drop of the deep South in 1962, this book follows the lives of the “help” and the families they serve. Skeeter, a young woman fresh out of collage is determined to be a journalist, and telling the story of the maids that have served her own family, and the families of her rich, white friends for years. She can’t understand how these families can be so horrid towards them, how they can treat them so differently, when they are trusted to raise their children. After all, her own maid, Constantine who mysteriously vanishes from her life whilst she is away at college, was like her best friend. Skeeter is different to the other girls, treating Aibileen, Minny and the other maids she is working with, with respect, kindness and friendship. She slowly uncovers the disgusting treatment of these women by the very people she has called her friends for years, and in the midst of it all, makes new friends. This tale is both heartbreaking, and heartwarming. It makes me laugh and cry, and it is one I read over and over again. I love the way Skeeter forms a bond with Aibileen and Minny, and I love how much Aibileen cares, and that by the end, she isn’t afraid to stand up to Hilly, the horrid woman who has it in for anyone who goes against her, no matter their skin colour. I’ve previously written about this book before, read more here.
- Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (Louis de Bernieres) – At our wedding, my cousin read a passage from this book, although this was before I had actually read it. I read it last year, and I loved it. Set primarily in 1941, during the German and Italian occupation of Greek Island Cephallonia, this story perfectly combines the horrors of war with the joys of love, and mixes in a wonderfully wicked sense of humor. I instantly loved the fierce Pelagia and her father Doctor Ianis, and I fell in love with cheeky Captain Corelli. It is a book of conflict – Pelagia has already promised herself to Maris, and tries to deny to herself that she has any feeling towards the Captain, who is after all, the enemy; Corelli is part of the Italian army occupying the island, but in actual fact is their purely on orders, and doesn’t want to terrorize the people of this island, he just wants to play his mandolin and be with Pelagia; even the other characters have their own conflicts going on. It is a book to fall in love with, and I couldn’t put it down. Written from several different characters points of view, who all interlink at various points, it’s an easy to read book, with such an in-depth story full ups and downs, tense moments, and unforgettable passages.
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) – I’ve read this book at least twice, and I love it. Of course that’s obvious, it wouldn’t be on this list if I didn’t! Another book exploring class and race in the deep south, only this time set in the 1930s. It is told through the eyes of a child, Scout. The innocent lives of her and her older brother, Jem, are told over their father’s struggle for justice. Atticus Finch is a lawyer, called up on to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused raping a white woman. Atticus is a man who sees people for who they are, rather than the colour of their skin, or the house they live in, much like Skeeter in The Help. The father of the young woman is raped, Mr Ewell, is much like Hilly, turning on anyone who is against him. You can see where some of this story influenced that of The Help. The two stories in this book mirror each other in some ways. Scout, Jem and their friend Dill, have a fascination with neighbor and recluse Boo Radley. The towns folk are frightened of him, and he is a very misunderstood individual. In Atticus’ story, he is trying to fight a town and their prejudice against Tom Robinson. They automatically discriminate against Tom Robinson due to his skin colour, and never for one moment think he could be innocent. In the end, neither of them are really shown to be the innocent parties that they actually are, except too those close onlookers.
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (J.K Rowling) – I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too. I had all of the books in the series to choose from, and I chose the last one. The last one? Really? Well, yes. For many reasons. I’m not going to rehash the story for this one, because we all know what it’s about – if you don’t you should really invest some time into this! Instead, I’m going to tell you exactly why I picked this. As with many people of my age, I grew up with both the books and the films. I recently re-read them all, and whilst I love the magic (chuckle) of the first book, and the exciting adventures of the five in between the first book and the seventh book, but when I read them now as an adult, none of the grip me like this one. For me, the series turned truly dark on the page the Cedric Diggory died in The Goblet of Fire, and it never really brightened up after that but I sort of like that. After all, the trio are fighting the darkest wizard in the world, it was never going to be easy! Each book is gripping, fun, scary and agonizing as characters that you love are hurt in numerous ways. This book offers a spectacular ending to the serious, revealing secrets that we never we always wanted to know that answer to, and I actually cry in anticipation of some of the more heartbreaking, gut wrenching pages. I rejoice when the battle is won, and my heart melts when Ron and Hermione FINALLY share that kiss that’s been lingering between them all along. It’s the perfect end to the perfect series.
- The Muse (Jessie Burton) – I first read Jessie Burton I think last year, or the year before, when she released The Miniaturist. I was taken by the story of the mysterious dolls house, as I have always been fascinated by them, and in fact own two myself, that were handmade for me as gifts. I really enjoyed the book, but was quite disappointed by the ending. I was worried that I would feel the same way about The Muse, but in fact I loved it ten times more! Set in two time periods, the 1930s and the 1960s, it follows Odelle (60s) and a mysterious painting that comes to the gallery that she is working at, via a man she meets and forms a relationship with. In the 1930s, we learn of the Schloss family, living in Spain during the civil war, and how their lives intertwine with their hired help, Isaac and Teresa. Primarily a mystery novel, each chapter unravels the secret behind this painting, and keeps you guessing all the way to the end. It was certainly gripping, but I also love it because of the way that Burton writes. She uses enchanting language, and places alliteration perfectly. Her words roll of your tongue in a beautiful way.
- Inkheart (Corneila Funk) – This one is a flashback to my childhood, and again hard to pick because it part of a trilogy with Inkspell and Inkdeath. Meggie and her father Mo both love books, but her father never reads to her, not at least since the mysterious death of her mother. One night, their lives are disrupted by an unusual visitor, Dustfinger and his pine martin Gwin. Little does Meggie know that this visitor is about to change her life. This magical book really captured my imagination – as it turns out, Mo other wise known as Silvertongue can read books to life. Having the power the pull out your favorite characters, I mean really, what more could you want? Of course, it can work the other way, and you can also get sucked into a story, and it’s probably worth mentioning that your least favorite characters can also come out of the book. I mean, if Harry, Ron or Hermione came out, I’d be thrilled, but I really wouldn’t want Voldemort just wandering out into our world either, there enough horrors in our reality thank you very much! Still, Meggie and Mo end up on a thrilling adventure, filled with magical creatures. This is one of the only books that I own from childhood, and as an adult, I would happily re-read this for a bit of escapism.
- Doctor Sleep (Stephen King) – I’m a HUGE Stephen King fan. In fact, I don’t know why this list isn’t just filled with his books. Now, I know this is another “controversial” one – I’ve got the sequel to The Shining, but The Shining isn’t on the list. How? To be honest, it was an easy choice. You see, I love The Shining, it’s scary, it’s haunting, it’s well written, but Doctor Sleep has more to offer. It follows Dan Torrance, the little boy terrorized by the ghosts of the Overloook Hotel in the first book, all grown up! After a traumatic start in life, Dan is living in New Hampshire and discovers little girl Abra, with a similar gift to what he has. They form a psychic bond and together they must stop a group of people called The True Knot, who feed off something called steam, given off by people with the shining when they die in pain. This book is scary, but it doesn’t have the same terrifying edge that many of his others books have. Instead, its quite haunting, sending chills down your spine and making your hair stand on end. It is also an interesting exploration of the shining outside of the young Danny Torrence and the Overlook Hotel.
- 11.22.63 (Stephen King) – Another King book. This is my favorite book of all time. I read it at least once a year. Jake Epping (or George Amberson, depending on what time period you’re in) is a school teacher, thrown into the past after a friend of his tells him he’s discovered a “rabbit hole” to 1958. Burdened with the task of the stopping the Kennedy assassination, with the belief that it will make the world a better place, Jake/George discovers that time is a monster with teeth and it is not to be toyed with. I get completely lost in this book, longing to be drinking root beer in 1950s America. I love the way King links it to the book I am currently reading (IT) and that historically, it’s quite accurate. Its combination of fact and fiction make for a very interesting read, but the real story here is the love story between Jake/George and Sadie, as he desperately tries to save her and the President. This book inspired me to visit Dallas last year, and furthered a life long fascination with Kennedy. Like many on the list, it makes me cry and laugh from one page to the next. I get so caught up in it, that I dream of time travel at night when I read it!
There we have, it my top ten books. It’s been hard to pick but I’m happy with my choices. I love reading, I try to read at least a few pages a day if I can.
Some of the books that were considered but were left off the final list include all of the Harry Potter and Odd Thomas books, the rest of the Inkheart trilogy; The Tower In Ho-Ho Wood (Enid Blyton); Desperation and Under The Dome (both Stephen King); Rebecca (Daphne Dumaurier); The Rose Labyrinth (Titania Harding); Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) and Rose Red, Snow White (Marcus Sedwick)
What are some of your favorite books? I’d love to know!