This month we had the joy of World Book Day – sadly a day not overly celebrated in university land unless it ties into some kind of Student Union event (which it did, yesterday – World Book Day fancy dress disco). It was always a highlight for me as a child for several reasons.
1) We almost always had a fancy dress day at school that said ‘pah’ to the curriculum and instead involved readings, creative writing exercises and the odd film clip or two.
2) Book tokens – being given a token to exchange for a brand new book!
3) I could show off my knowledge of literature and talk about books FOR A WHOLE DAY.
Sadly it means slightly less for me now. As a Drama and Creative Writing student it’s a day that should be embraced and celebrated. Sadly, the curriculum and looming deadlines meant that it passed unnoticed by many of us. So here I am taking the opportunity to talk about the 50 Books That Will Change Your Life (or at least some of them) as chosen by both young people and adults and compiled by World Book Day.
Northern Lights by Philip Pullman
This book, this entire series, changed my literary tastes in so many ways. First and foremost, it has a genuinely strong female protagonist who is not only decades younger than almost everyone she meets, but the strongest and bravest person in her entire universe (in my opinion). The following two books in the series are also perfectly crafted. I can’t say a single bad thing about this book. What’s more, it was the first book to make me cry. And when I say cry, I mean a sobbing mess on the bed. Inconsolable. Those who have read The Amber Spyglass will know exactly what I’m talking about.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’. As first lines go, this is wonderful. It’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. I don’t know where I found this book or what made me pick it up but it is beautiful and timeless and wonderfully, tragically romantic. It’s a young girl’s story of growing up, falling in love and discovering herself. Every time this book crops up online I shed a little tear that my copy disappeared in one of the many house moves. Maybe I’ll invest again…
Wuthering Height by Emily Bronte
I first studied this at A level and, like everyone does when they study a book, hated it with a passion. This passion has evolved and changed as I have re-read it and is now equally as strong as it once was but completely opposite. I can read any section of this book and fall headfirst into the world. The prose is beautiful, the characters are hateful and wonderful and complex, and it doesn’t have a happy ending. I hate unrealistic happy endings. My copy of this is still on my shelf, and it is battered and scribbled on and very much loved. One of the few classics I have devoured time and time again.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Of course this was on the list, with very good reason. I was about 24 when I first read these books, and sped through them as fast as possible before buying them for the Bearded One and then recommending them to anyone who stood still long enough. The films have done a very good job of representing them on the big screen, and Jennifer Lawrence is perfect as Katniss. I’m very much looking forward to the final two instalments and may even have another read of them before they come out.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I read this one on the recommendation of one of my housemates. It’s not my usual taste – I don’t like romances and I especially don’t like books about cancer/terminal illness. Despite this being a book about those exact things, it isn’t. That sounds so silly and confusing but it’s true. Hazel has cancer and falls deeply, truly in love with Augustus yet it is about so much more than just their love story. I can’t describe it myself so I shall quote World Book Day themselves – an “ambitious and heartbreaking work… brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and magic business of being alive and in love.”
This is just a small selection of the final collection. The full list can be downloaded from here. I could write something about almost every book on the list but I’ll leave it to you to explore them and fall in love with them.