Happy World Book Day! Since I do write about books every now and again, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share my absolute favourite books with you. Now, these books aren’t necessarily my favourite narratives. I’m not including plays, films, or TV shows in this list. As you read through the list, you might notice a pattern in themes.
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
This is my favourite book of all time. It’s not one I could read over and over again, but it’s one that has had a huge impact on my memory.
It’s constructed of two plots. The first is set predominantly during the First World War, with the protagonist, Stephen Wraysford fighting in trenches, supporting the lower class trench tunnellers. The second follows Stephen’s granddaughter Elizabeth, following her ancestry, and aiming to understand her grandfather’s experience of war. Though Elizabeth’s story can be a little dull in places, the plot set in France is incredible. The imagery is powerful. The experiences throb with realism. I devoured it.
I finished the book, sat on a sunbed in Bulgaria in tears, but with a new knowledge that soldiers actually attempted to tunnel across No Man’s Land.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
I read this one last year as part of a reading challenge, and really enjoyed it. Queenie follows the eponymous character though her experience of a painful break up, and subsequent struggles in society. A major theme as the novel progresses is mental health, which is a really important topic of our time. Powerful depiction of the experience of black women in London and society.
Read my detailed review here: Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams Book Review
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre is an epic classic that everyone should pick up in their lifetime. It was written in 18- under a pseudonym, as Bronte’s work would not have been taken seriously had publishers known she was a woman.
With another eponymous character, the novel follows Jane’s life in the mid-19th century. We start by feeling pity for her character, but as the novel progresses, we see her bloom and blossom into a strong, independent woman. The narrative is long, but beautifully crafted.
Yes, there are some elements in terms of colonialism, which people might find problematic. However, it’s not a reason to cancel the novel – we must read it in context of the time it was written.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
A Thousand Splendid Suns is another story about strong, resilient women. Set in Afghanistan during the rise of the Taliban, it follows the story of two female protagonists Miriam and Layla, who find themselves in an abusive marriage during a period of war. Hosseini expertly starts with a split POV narrative of the two characters, until they fuse midway through.
It’s another book that reduced me to tears, this time at various points throughout the narrative, rather than just at the climax.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I read this novel in secondary school, and loved it ever since. I’ve actually taught it to 13 year olds on two occasions and used it as a World Book Day activity in class.
Austen’s novel is a classic romance, following the story of Elizabeth Bennet, one of five sisters in the early 1800s, and her relationship with the very rich and very handsome Mr Darcy. Although it’s written in early 19th century language, Pride and Prejudice is an entertaining text. I love Austen’s characterisation of Mrs Bennet and Mr Collins – they’re so much funnier in the novel than they are in any adaptation (although the 1995 BBC version is excellent).
Sabriel by Garth Nix
The first book in a series I read as a child. It’s a young adult novel that focuses on an eighteen year old Sabriel, who enters the fantasy land of her birth to find her missing father. While there, she has to battle the undead, raised by necromancers to take over the world.
I’d read a few children’s fantasy novels, but found them all a little wishy washy! Imagine a Katniss Everdene style character, with a daemon style companion, killing monsters with bells. Pretty wild, but pretty awesome for 11 year old me.
Milkman by Anna Burns
This 2018 Booker Prize winner is set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and follows an 18 year old girl who is harassed by a local man. For me, the best thing about Milkman is that none of the characters have names. This is a more challenging novel to read – some of the story is vague and some of the chapters are uncomfortably long, but I found myself hooked, desperate to know what would happen in the end.
I Want My Hat Back by Jon Klassen
The first book I bought for V is one of my favourites. There’s a bear. It wants its hat back. There’s not much more I can say without ruining the ending. Get it for your kids!
Use World Book Day to get yourself some new stories to dive into. Hopefully, you’ll pick one from this list and enjoy it as much as I did.