chestnut book blog

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My ten most influential / inspiring books

A little Facebook meme has been keeping me and my friendship group amused recently. We’ve all ‘tagged’ to write a list of the ten books that have most influenced / inspired us. I thought I’d share mine here to hopefully inspire a few more recommendations and inspirations!

1. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The first time I read this book, the world looked a little bit different after I had finished it. I have read this book countless times now and every time I love it a little bit more.

2. Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery
My favourite childhood series and I have a very soft spot for the red headed orphan to this day.

3. Howards End is on the Landing by Susan Hill
* I wrote a little explanation below for my friends on this one, but if you are a regular here, you’ll know how much I love this one already!

Am I allowed non-fiction? This book is virtually unknown, but I turn to it every time I need a comfort read. It describes the author just reading from her own library for a year, without buying any new books. She discovers old favourites, remembers the authors she has met and the stories around her books. In the end she complies her list of 50 essential books…fascinating and inspiring.

4. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
Not as well-known perhaps as The Age of Innocence (which is also one of my favourites) but Lily Bart’s story broke my heart. Beautifully written.

5. The Lord of the Rings by J R R Tolkien
My Dad’s favourite book and so I absorbed this from the cradle upwards! A masterpiece.

6. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Just how did a woman who had barely left a Yorkshire parsonage imagine a man like Heathcliff??

7. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
As a Yorkshire woman, I feel I am allowed two Brontes on my list. This was the first classic I read around the age of ten or eleven and so it has a special place in my heart. I have a quote from Jane Eyre engraved on one of my favourite bracelets: ‘I am no bird, and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will’ …just to remind me!

8. Othello, Shakespeare
Does a play count? I really struggled whether to choose Othello or Macbeth, but went for Othello as I don’t think anyone understands or describes human beings better than Shakespeare and all his genius is displayed in Othello. Having studied both at school and seen them many times, I can quote from them copiously!

9. Atonement by Ian McEwan
The ending astonished me. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for weeks after I had read it. A modern classic.

10. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Opened my eyes in so many ways.

I apologise to all the wonderful books that I have forgotten to mention, but this was the list that came to me on Tuesday night. My friends’ lists contained some other wonderful recommendations that I have never read: I’ve added the The Deptford Mice trilogy by Robin Jarvis and Shogun by James Clavell to my wish list! What would be on your list? I’d love to know.


Autumny delights


For a long time, I kidded myself that my favourite season was spring. I think this was because it seemed more fashionable and more positive than any other season. However, now I am older I can be truer to myself and come out as a person whose favourite season is actually Autumn. I stood in the garden this morning pondering on this and came up with a few reasons for this love of all things Fall:

1. I love leaves. They are my favourite motif and any leaf themed piece of clothing, jewellery or fabric has to be mine! I particularly love them in Autumn when they are at their most beautiful. It is my ambition one day to go to New England to see the ‘Fall’  but until then, here is a little display my own trees put on for me this morning in leafy North London:

Autumn leaves

Autumn leaves in North London

2. One of my favourite things in the world is cuddling up on the sofa with a book and a real fire in the hearth. This is intensified by the dark evenings and storms of Autumn. I also have specific books I like to read or reread in Autumn as they just feel right; does any one else do this? Every November I feel drawn to Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Wuthering Heights in particular.

3. One of my next favourite things is striding out for a walk in a crisp, sunny Autumn day. The smell of the leaves, the smell of bonfires and seeing the warm, cosy glow of people’s homes is lovely. If I’ve been organised and made a slow-cooker casserole before going out, the smell as you open the door after a crisp walk is the cherry on top of my enjoyment!

4. Bonfire Night! What is there not to love about Bonfire Night? It even comes with its own rhyme:

Remember, remember the fifth of November,

With gunpowder, treason and plot.

I see no reason, why gunpowder treason

Should ever be forgot.

Bonfire Night is an English tradition where we celebrate Guy Fawkes failing to blow up Parliament in 1605 (there is more to the rhyme above which explains) The uniquely English, eccentric (bordering on batty!) festival is one of the best nights of the year for me. I have so many happy memories of being pulled into at least five pairs of socks and gloves by my mum and being bundled into the car to go to the local Rugby club to watch our ‘Guy’ (made by the local schools) being roasted on a bonfire. The year that the bonfire was just a little too close to the floodlights was a particular highlight! There are always wonderful fireworks and salty, buttery jacket potatoes to eat. It is also usually raining, but somehow it never seems to matter.  

 The one thing I do not like about Autumn is the dark mornings – getting up in the dark is extremely difficult! However, it is a price worth paying for all the things above!