I caught an old episode of ‘My life in books’ this lunchtime and it got me thinking about which books I would choose. I believe the format is two childhood books, one formative book, one adult book and one guilty pleasure: five books in total. Phew, it is a hard task to narrow down all those books I love but here goes:
1. My first childhood book is Matilda by Roald Dahl
2. My second childhood book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3. My formative book is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
4. My adult book is Atonement by Ian McEwan
5. My guilty pleasure is Katherine by Anya Seaton
The first book from my childhood was the most difficult of this whole list to choose . I have so many happy memories of fairy stories, Enid Blyton, C.S Lewis, Nancy Drew, Mrs Pepperpot, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, The Borrowers etc that I read, and had read to me, in my early childhood. I choose Matilda in the end as it was one of my favourite books when I was very young. I think Roald Dahl mixes the humour and the darker side of childhood better than anyone. Matilda trotting off to the library to read appealed to me as a bookish child and Miss Trunchbull has to be one of the best literary villains of all time.
Jane Eyre was the first classic ‘grown up’ book that I read aged 10 or 11. I remember being precociously proud that I was reading Jane Eyre whilst my friends still grappled with The Famous Five. At last, I had found something I was really good at: reading! Since then, I have reread Jane Eyre many times for pleasure and more recently for one of my early MA essays. It contains one of my favourite quotes from any book: ‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will…’ Ever since that has helped me remember that I am free to choose, which I do need reminding of sometimes!
The Handmaid’s Tale is a strong contender for my favourite book ever. I was 15 or 16 when I read this for this first time and I vividly remember reading the last sentence, looking up from my chair and feeling like my understanding of the world has profoundly changed. It literally blew me away. Since then, like with Jane Eyre, I have reread it many times for pleasure; studied it for A Level English Literature and chosen to use it for my MA dissertation. I think it is one of the most important books of the twentieth century and I am sure it will stand the test of time.
I have chosen Atonement by Ian McEwan as another for my list. This is again a rare book which fundamentally changed my outlook on life. I was haunted by it after I’d finished for weeks and thought the twist at the end was one of the most clever things I’d ever read.
Finally, my guilty pleasure is Katherine by Anya Seaton. This is one of my favourite books and I am blushing as I type this as I know it is somewhat uncool. I am a complete sucker for a good historical romance and Katherine is one of the best. The research Anya Seaton had done shines through and Katherine emerges as a real, believable woman, very much of her time, but someone who made her own independent choices (see Jane Eyre quote above to know that is important to me!) I recently had to buy a new copy as my original – given to me by my Grandma – was falling apart I had read it so much!
What would your list contain?