I think it is fair to say that I am a voracious reader. I also think it is unfair to say this has always been the case. I remember loving books at a young age. I would read them over and over again until the spines were so cracked you could barely make out the title; though I loved them anyway. However, that love began to feel more like a hindrance than a passion. When secondary school came around I started to read less and less, until eventually I stopped all together until a few years later.
I thought I would list my top 5 most important books that have shaped and influenced my life as well as my reading preferences. Maybe your next favourite book is on my list too!
5) Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan
“Meet Darren. He’s sixteen going on immortal. “– Darren Shan
The reason this young adult/horror/vampire literature book is on my top 5 is a good one! This book was my first taste of the horror genre of which would lead to my love of another author featured on this list. In retrospect, this novel was the first step towards more serious stories aimed at an older audience.
During my time at secondary school, we attended a tutor group everyday for 40 minutes. Once a week we participated in an initiative called DEAR time: Drop Everything And Read time; in which we were expected to read a book for the entire lesson in silence. On a day like any other, I realise I had forgot to pack a book that morning. Fortunately, one of the lovely teaching assistants had a box full of books and there it was, amongst the dusty and mostly ripped books laid Cirque Du Freak. The title immediately caught my interest I grabbed it and got stuck in.
I was so enthralled by the end of the 40 minutes, I plucked up the courage to ask the TA if I could borrow the book and give it back once I had finished. All day I felt the book calling me. I tried to read it during my science lesson but was swiftly told to put it away. Finally when the end of the day came I returned to the magical world of vampires and consumed its words with such haste, I finished it within hours of arriving home.
The next day I returned the book and went straight to the library to check out the next book in the series. This was the first book that really inspired me to write a story of my own. I called it “The Nightwalkers”. I bought a notebook and from this my first ever attempt at novel writing came to be.
Thank you Darren Shan, the Vampires Assistant.
4) The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
“Bruno: We’re not supposed to be friends, you and me. We’re meant to be enemies. Did you know that? ”– John Boyne
This is another pivotal book of which shaped who I am and the type of books I am attracted to. I had an amazing primary school teacher in year 6 who believed we were old enough to read and understand the complex themes within this book. My early memories of this story take me back to sitting on the carpet with my peers intently listening to the characters developing and the story unfolding before our eyes. Despite our young age, I remember the emotions the story evoked from not only myself but my peers. We wrote stories from the perspective of the main characters, which helped form my understanding of empathy and the idea that everybody experiences the same event differently.
I re-read it a few years later and found I was reading a completely new book. My life experiences had changed how I interpreted it, the characters felt more real than they did the first time and my knowledge of Nazi Germany made the story even more harrowing.
This is a definite must read for anybody who loves historical fiction.
3) Kill The Father by Sandrone Dazieri
“Have you ever heard of the boy in the silo?”– Sandrone Dazieri
I feel like I’m repeating myself with every book, but this is another pivotal novel in my reading career. It rejuvenated my passion for reading fiction. I had been reading so many academic texts, articles and books I had lost the desire to get lost in a fictional characters life.
I was a second year in Brighton, waiting for a delayed train back home. My phone was dead and the journey was long and cold. By chance, I walk into a small WHSmith to grab a drink when I spot a display of books on sale. I remember feeling a dusty switch flicking in my head and a light began shining inside me. It was a feeling of comfortable familiarity. I read the back of a few books until I came across this one. The plot was so interesting I felt my irritation at the thirty minute wait transform into a sense of gratitude. I was grateful I had thirty extra minutes to absorb this new story.
The feeling of dread caused by delayed trains and miserable weather dissipated as I got lost amongst its pages. The writing is beautiful, the characters are scary real and the story is original. Overall, an excellent, emotive and satisfying read.
2) IT by Stephen King
“Eddie discovered one of his childhood’s great truths. Grownups are the real monsters, he thought.”– Stephen King
It wouldn’t be a top 5 books without a bit of the King. Luckily for me, I grew up around the biggest Stephen King fan. My grandad must have owned all of King’s classic books when I was a kid; I would often wander in his room to see him reading one by the light of a single lamp. Although I love many of King’s novels, I have a special place for IT. I first read this mammoth of a novel as a young teenager and watched the TV mini-series soon after. There is something about being scared witless by his words that is so entertaining… Captivating even. Words on a page can evoke true fear, but that fear is remedied by the satisfying underlying themes present in this story.
My grandad also had a tattoo of a clown on his right shoulder blade holding a shiny knife. He always joked it was Pennywise the Dancing Clown. It made the story feel even more real.
Everyone needs to read this book at least once.
1) Sleepers by Lorenzo Carcaterra
“As we grew older, the violence around us intensified. The moment a boy’s age hit double digits, he was no longer a mere nuisance to the older neighbourhood kids: he was a potential threat.”– Lorenzo Carcaterra
This is the single most important book on my list, for multiple reasons. My mum had two copies of this book and she noticed I was reading the same old young adult books over and over. Although this book contains distressing and graphic language, she felt I was old enough to appreciate its contents. I must have been eleven or twelve the first time I read it and I have lost count how many times I have re-read it since.
Firstly, Carcaterra claims this book is based on real events he experienced as a young boy. I have never doubted his sincerity although it has been widely contested but I am not going to go into the politics surrounding this amazing book. My personal opinion is that he is being honest.
Secondly, the author beautifully shows what life was like in 1960’s New York, I felt as though I was walking along Hells Kitchen’s streets as I read every word. The story telling is outstanding.
Thirdly, this book changed my life. It changed who I am and I truly believe the heartbreaking stories of four childhood friends helped shape my emotional intelligence. Carcaterra retold his story with such elegance, such vivid detail and with pain lurking in and amongst its pages it forced me to face the fact that the world can be a horrible place. It taught me to understand the evil in the world; but more importantly it showed me you don’t have to succumb to the demons living amongst us.
My Beloved Copy
As you can see, this book has been through a lot. It has definitely been well read but it has sadly sustained tearing on the spine and front cover over the years. This is partly due to water damage – I brought this book with me to University and managed to spill a bottle of water over it. However, most of the damage is due to its age. This copy once belonged to my mum, she bought it back in 1996; the year it was published but more curiously… The year I was born. Make of this what you will!
I hope if anyone is indeed reading this, you have enjoyed my little list! I enjoyed taking a look into my past and showing my appreciation for these momentous books. Each story takes me back to the first time I read them and I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them with anyone who stumbles upon my blog.
Feel free to comment your most important reads!