ask any bookshop peruser what they’re reading right now and you’re guaranteed to have a solid conversation.
you’ll go home with more books on the to-read list than minutes in a day and possibly a warm feeling on the inside that can only be described as a ‘post-bookshop glow.’
but question that same person on their favourite book of all time and don’t expect so much chat. there’ll be a lot of pondering, possibly further questions of specificity ~ what genre? what author? what time frame? is this question legal? ~ and a whole lot of annoyance at making them pick just one. prepare yourself for further grimacing, uncertain huffing and chin rubbing when you ask them why that book gets top shelf.
here’s a small but friend-filled collection of favourites garnered from far and wide; the classics, fantasy, memoir, autobiography and the humble novel. if you’ve read one of them, you’ll understand what your reader means. and if you haven’t, there’s more to add on the list. if you’re simply in awe of how these chaps have so perfectly described their love affair with the paper back, you’re not alone. i mostly feel it’s quite inexplainable.
ANNIKA// UGLIES by SCOTT WESTERFIELD
it opens with ‘the early summer sky was the colour of cat vomit.’ what a sentence // a young, smart, kick-ass character Tally is forced by the government to follow the cryptic poem her runaway friend Shay left her, in order to find her in the wilderness and return her to society, but not everything is as it seems // i’ve read it twice. that’s sort of a big deal // it’s the perfect mix of adventure, romance and sci-fi but brings up themes like the pursuit of perfection and unsustainable living // its powerful and defiant//i read it as a teenager and it definitely allowed me to feel cool to be clever and to challenge what society tells me to think, be and feel
BEC // THE BOOK THIEF by MARKUS ZUSAK
it’s about so many things: colours, death, a girl known as the book thief, a Jewish fist fighter and some fanatic Nazis // i don’t know how many times i’ve read it, sometimes i read it cover to cover but most often i’ll flip to a random chapter and read snippets. if i find a sentence i love i’ll read it aloud to see if it sounds as beautiful as it reads // i have a copy bound by sticky tape and also another copy not bound by sticky tape to lend to (deserving) friends // i love the way Zusak uses a well known moment in history and tells it simply through the eyes of a young German girl with a preface and afterthought from Death // he uses common words to paint a world full of uncommon characters // when i close the book and return it to it’s shelf i feel a tingly feeling of content and a small longing to read the words again and again
BELINDA// TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by HARPER LEE
on the surface it is a story of radical injustice and discrimination however I think it is more significantly the coming-of-age story of a young girl’s changing relationship with those in her life as her innocent view of the world is transformed // i make an effort to read it once a year. the first time i read it was when I was 13 so i’ve read it about eight times // the book is such a dichotomy of experiences, some points radiate such warmth and make me feel so positive and optimistic, but other points make me feel so enraged at the inequalities that the legal system presents to vulnerable individuals // it actually inspired me to study law at university, to pursue social justice at every available opportunity and instilled the fundamental life lesson to consider situations from others’ point of view in order to be kinder and more understanding // it’s no secret that i love the book. i work at a bookshop and despite it being more than 55 years old it frequents my ‘staff picks’ choice. however i enjoy the private ritual of reading it once a year, so i mostly keep that habit to myself
BLAYNE // THE HARRY POTTER SERIES by J.K ROWLING
everyone knows my love for Harry Potter // i’ve read the series over five times // i love it because it is written so well with a fantastic plot, great characters and a theme of magic and wonder overall // it needs to be read before you die // it makes you feel like you’re magic and exciting too // my inner wizard has been brought out
DOMINIC // THE INHERITANCE CYCLE by CHRISTOPHER PAOLINI
this is the sort of book that completely takes you to another dimension // it’s a 4-book series and i’ve read the series twice now // it immerses you, the way the author has created a whole fictional world of people, languages, history and religions // it’s not a series for everyone so i don’t really tell people about it unless i know they’re the type of person who’d enjoy it // it transports you to a time beyond this world, plus it has dragons // it makes me want to see the world // i’d like to think it makes me bolder. if Eragon can get through his tough times then ultimately so can i
LAINE // THE AUDACITY OF HOPE by BARACK OBAMA
Barack emphasises this need for governments to be founded on values of common good for all citizens // it addresses politics in America and globally and he gives his personal thoughts on particular values and ideals that have guided him through public life // i’ve read it nearly twice now // it makes me feel inspired, motivated and purposeful! // i’m telling everyone to read it because it’s fab. that’s all i can say // it makes me want to work towards progress that promotes common benefits rather than being self-serving // it’s totally changed my perspective on politics and makes me get up and make a difference in our political system
LAURA // MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA by ARTHUR GOLDEN
i love memoirs, and although this isn’t a traditional memoir it is told in that style // the voice of the main character, Sayuri, is so strong. she speaks in this beautiful descriptive way that at times is almost childlike which makes her very endearing // i love that Golden had to embody this woman at all stages of her life and research the realities of a life totally disconnected from his own. it’s fascinating // i think i’ve read it about four or five times // the book captures her whole like so i feel like it takes you through a whole range of emotions // i like to tell people about this book, because i feel like it changed the way i write and it made me value the power of research in writing // it influenced me to travel to Japan earlier this year and honestly i felt like such a know-it-all walking around the streets of Gion telling my boyfriend little fun facts i knew from the book // it changed the main genres i read and also added more description into the way i write. that’s really helped me out
“never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them” – Lemony Snicket, Horseradish.