One of my very favourite past times is reading. I love nothing better than to sit down with a good book, cup of tea and some chocolate, and enjoy being lost in a book for a few hours (or days). After my last post, where I mentioned my love of the book Middlemarch by George Eliot, I fell into a discussion with a lovely colleague of mine about books. Thus I was inspired to share with you my favourite books of all time.
This list was extremely difficult to create, as I have read thousands of books and enjoy pretty much every genre. I also like to think it is a fluid list, as I may well read a book tomorrow that simply must be added. I think the list below reflects the books I have enjoyed the most, as well as books that have changed me in some way, or moved me deeply. I hope some of you share my love for these books – and if you haven’t yet read any of them, I encourage you to!
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
My all-time favourite book. It has everything I love – a historic setting, social commentary, complex and flawed characters that grow throughout the course of the book, and a deeply compelling love story. Sigh.
Middlemarch by George Eliot
This novel competes for first place because, like North and South, the characters are wonderfully believable, there are multiple love stories, and it allows Eliot to explore and comment on the inequalities that existed in the Victorian era. Dorothea is one of my favourite characters.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Elizabeth Bennet is probably the most likeable heroine in all literature. Intelligent, quick-witted, self-deprecating and vivacious, it’s no wonder she turned the head of the proud but reserved Mr Darcy.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I loved this book so much that I gave Bookworm the middle name “”Atticus” after the main character. A profoundly moving story about racism in America’s South, this book changed the way I think about the world and how to live honourably in it.
Anne of Green Gables series by L.M Montgomery
I couldn’t pick one book – I had to pick the whole series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if teenage girls read Anne, the world would be much better off. Again, I gave the name “Anne” to Little Miss for a middle name. I love Anne’s imagination, her love of life and desire to bring joy to those around her daily.
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
I don’t think I have ever been more astounded by a book than by this one. I found it deeply moving – and actually quite upsetting. It is exquisitely written – and stayed with me for days after I had finished reading it.
Narnia series by C.S Lewis
Again, I couldn’t choose just one book from this series. My all-time favourite is Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but I love them all. True classics that deserve multiple readings.
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Another astounding novel. If you ever want to experience the genre that is magic realism, then read this book. It’s not an easy read, but it is remarkable.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
A deeply moving, life-changing novel. I read this when I was just 15 and I think it was the first time I truly grasped what poignancy really was.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Richard Lacayo
This is not a novel probably many people have read, but it’s quite unusual in that it tells the story of the first Mrs Rochester (the mad woman from Jane Eyre). A very interesting feminist take on a classic (that I also love, for different reasons).
1984 by George Orwell
I love dystopian fiction and this is probably the best-known of the genre. It disturbs me that Orwell’s brilliant commentary on authoritarian regimes has now become the title of a moronic reality TV show.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I actually find Brave New World more disturbing that 1984 because I think this is the kind of dystopia that still awaits us. A world of apathy and mind-numbing idiocy. I think it’s being hurried along by shows such as “The Shire” and “Being Lara Bingle”.
The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The world is divided about Twilight (and yes I did read and like them, but no I don’t think they’re great literature) but I have to say I was far more impressed by The Host. It had a really original premise, was thoughtfully written and had characters that didn’t feel like the cardboard cut-outs of the Twilight books.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
I love the whole four books in this series, but the first is a stand out. Delightful characters and an engaging tale of four sisters – I actually burned with anger when Amy burned Jo’s book.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Mr Rochester was the original, and the best, brooding, melancholic hero. Their passion for one another is swoon-worthy; for the time period it was written in, the raw chemistry is pretty racy.
The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
While Oscar Wilde’s plays and poetry are among my favourite pieces of writing, I love this novel. It is an unusual and confronting picture of how the soul can be tainted and destroyed.
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
It’s not a brilliant classic – but it is an eminently readable novel with great characters and a superb twist. I also love the opening line, “Last night I dreamed of Manderlay again.”
Harry Potter by J.K Rowling
There’s a reason J.K Rowling is so successful – she’s good! I personally liked the first four Harry books best; they really captured that magical sense of wonder I remembered from reading fantasy when I was a child. I thought once they got darker and more “young adult” they kind of lost something special.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
When I was a child, my mother had this as an audio book on tape. I can still recall lying on the couch in the late golden afternoon sun listening to this wonderful novel. Great memories.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll may have been higher than a kite when he wrote it, but it was worth it because this is a true classic. One of my very favourite poems is “The Walrus and the Carpenter” – in all its absurdist glory.
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A Milne
These stories are just delightful. They are so beautifully “English” – I loved having them read to me as a child and I love reading them to my kids.
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Not a novel you read for enjoyment – it’s truly heart wrenching. But absolutely worth it.
The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
Really, this list could have been filled with Enid Blyton books, but I restricted myself. No other author captured my imagination as a child as much as she did. Of course they do require some explanatory notes about the period they were written in – not all girls have to do the washing up and not all black golliwogs steal things – but we are all products of our time. The Magic Faraway Tree series was my favourite.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A beautiful, poignant little tale. I first read it in English, and then when I studied French in high school, tried to understand it in Saint-Exupery’s native tongue. Despite the horror of that experience, it remains a favourite.
Fairy Tales and stories by Hans Christian Anderson
These tales don’t require any explanation – they are timeless classics, despite some of them being Disney-fied. The original tales and often the best, even though they don’t always have happy endings.
The BFG by Roald Dahl
Again, there are so many Roald Dahl books that are absolutely wonderful, but the BFG is the best, in my opinion. A beautiful read for all ages.
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
I remember loving this book and being disturbed by it at the same time. I do like though that it is a children’s book that isn’t afraid to deal with death. A moving tale for the older kids.
Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
Another namesake book – Picasso’s middle name is Daniel. In true Eliot style, this novel is an incisive social commentary – this time, on anti-Semitism in the Victorian age. Not the happiest read, but wonderfully rich and thought-provoking.
So there you have it!
My favourite books – for now 🙂