Why are your favourite books your favourite books?

12:00 pm


I've had my blog for over three years now and I cannot for the life of me remember, or be bothered to search to find out, if I've ever written about my favourite books. So today, my birthday (!), I write to you about my favourite books. And instead of a boring list with no context, I thought I'd tell you a little about why I love each one, and what sets them apart from other books I've read. I can't really see a theme between them, so at least I can rest safe in the knowledge that my taste isn't predictable.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
This book shit me up real good, man. I know I'm supposed to be a writer, able to articulate thoughts and feelings, but, damn, this book shit me up real good. That's the only way to explain it. I've read scary books before, but none of them have made me feel as unnerved as Annihilation, and it's not even a horror, or a thriller. A group of four female explorers are sent off to explore Area X as the twelth exhibition in a series to find out what resides in this assumed uninhabited zone. You might think you can predict what's going to happen (Aliens? Mutant? Science experiments gone wrong?), but you really have no idea.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton
This is a bit of a strange one, a book on architectural psychology (yes, that is an actual genre, and a bit one at that), but there's something about it that really worked for me. It discusses the human need to create a world and home around them that reflects their ideals in order to be happy. I guess it's hard to explain why I like this one so much. It's an experience, with de Botton's signature writing style lulling you into comfort as he talks about ceilings and Doric columns 

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer
Amanda Palmer's book is what you need to read if you're feeling out of control of your own life, and a little scared to take risks. The whole premise is to ask for things that you need, and not feel the shame of needing help. A self-help/memoir hybrid, Amanda speaks about her life in relation to this way of thinking, describing how it's gotten her where she is today. It's fascinating, very emotional, and deeply inspiring. I think I need to give it a reread.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
This is a rather recent read compared to everything else on this list, but it's really stuck with me. You can read my review here, but to summarise, this is the story of three women in different time periods, and their links to the original story of Rapunzel. It's a dark read at times, but the way Kate Forsyth describes the settings of Versailles and rural Italy is so engrossing. Her characters aren't always good people, and that's what makes them so compelling as we're shown all of their emotions and motivations. It weaves realistic historical fiction with magic and fantasy; I need to read more of this genre!

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
This is one I read back in sixth form as part of my English A Level on gothic fiction, and it's stuck with me ever since. Carter writes dark and twisted feminist retellings of fairytales, laden of literary imagery and references to classic fiction. I would always recommend to someone to read this around Halloween. It's quick, it's fun, and it's devilishly eerie. Carter was just a superb writer.

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Do you want to cry for the duration of a book? You do?! Okay, well pick up The Book Thief and get back to me. Liesel is a young girl in Germany who finds herself dropped off to a new set of parents during WWII. She finds comfort after stealing a book from the bottom of a book-burning heap, and is introduced to the world of reading by her Papa. At the same time, a young Jewish man is being hidden in her house, who she shares her stories with. The entirety of The Book Thief is narrated by Death, if you want an idea of how this is going to make you feel.

The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno
Billy Argo, the child detective, is sent into a depressive episode when his partner-in-crime, his sister Caroline, commits suicide. This story takes place ten years later, as Billy is leaving a home for 'Mental Incompetence' and seeks the answers to all of his questions about his sister's mental wellbeing and subsequent death. It's a sadly sweet little book that felt a lot like reading a Wes Anderson film as Billy befriends some nerdy children, a terrible pickpocketer, and works in telesales.

Death Note by Tsugami Oba
It wouldn't be a list of my favourite books without the series that got me into manga. Flashback to my teenage years and actually owning a Death Note backpack which I actually don't remember getting rid of. This series may have entered your consciousness thanks to the recent trailer for an American adaptation being released on Netflix. Pretend you never saw that and come back to me on the good side. We don't need them. Death Note follows a young student, Light, after he finds the 'Death Note' of a Shinigami (basically, a death god). Whoever's name gets written in the notebook will die. Light gets a little power-hungry, vowing to bring justice to the world, people catch on to everyone dying, everything becomes a detective story. That's the simple version. Trust me, it's a hell of a ride, and the anime is absolutely incredible. This is pretty much my favourite story...ever.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Hands down, my favourite book (yes, I know I just said Death Note was my favourite story, shh). We follow Aziraphale the angel and Crowley the demon who attempt to ruin the End Times that have been brought about by the birth of the son of Satan. They really like living quiet lives in the English countryside, so the End Times isn't ideal for them. There's a lot of plots going on at once, one involving the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, disguised as bikers. There's witchcraft galore, and a whole lot of sass. It's a hilarious read in typical Pratchett fashion, complemented by his own and Gaiman's fantastic world- and character-building. If you don't feel like reading, the BBC did a fab radio adaptation a few Christmases ago which is really worth a listen.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
I never thought there would be a play on my favourite books list, but Oscar Wilde was just a fantastic wordsmith and his wit was something to envy. There's something about 'mistaken identity' plotlines that I absolutely despise, but this one makes me cringe in the most enjoyable way. If you don't know anything about this story, I'm not going to give any of it away because, well, it's basically impossible to explain without just outlining the whole plot, so pick up a copy! It's short, and it's hilarious, like Danny DeVito.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I like a lot of miserable books. This one is no exception. Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth go to a boarding school for special children, and the novel outlines their lives growing up together, and how their relationships change as they become adults. It's a really emotional story with a lot of unexpected plot elements I won't give away to you here, but they really turn the book into something very different. Let's just say this is classified as 'dystopian' and we'll leave it there.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud
Last but most certainly not least is a graphic novel from the grandmaster of comics, Scott McCloud. This chunky 500+ page volume details the experiences of artist David who makes a deal with Death. He can create whatever he wants with his hands, rekindling his love for art, but he will die after 200 days. Naturally during this time, he meets a girl and falls in love. You can feel the tragedy already, right? This is a stunning graphic novel, drawn in hues of blue, in a really formidable hardback.

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