Books have been the making and the breaking of me over the years—they’ve been the reason for losing friends and what brought me to the people who mean the most. Whenever I find myself alone, I can always turn to those fictional worlds I’ve experienced on a page. From the moment Hermione taught me it was OK to be a bushy haired, bossy boots stories have been the great love of my life.
We should never underestimate the power stories have. They really do save lives and we need it now more than ever. So, with that in mind, here’s a list of the books that have defined my life (so far!) and have made me the person I am today.
The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy
Basically the first book series I ever read by myself. I was obsessed when I was a young child—I watched the TV show, I read the books, I refused to read Harry Potter because I thought it was a rip off…it had to make the list.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Okay so saying these books defined me would be the understatement of the century. Harry Potter was everything to me. After relenting to the mania I fell head over heels for the world J.K. Rowling created. I waited for my letter to Hogwarts like everyone else and had Voldemort nightmares. I was bullied for being the Harry Potter nerd and then eventually found friends for that exact reason. I’m proud to say even in the bullying years I never once pretended I didn’t like Harry Potter. I’m a firm un-believer in the ‘guilty pleasure’. People hated me for being the bookish nerd, but I stuck to what made me happy anyway, so hats off to little me. I can always rely on Hogwarts whenever I’m at my worst and I have no idea who I would be without it.
The War Poetry of Wilfred Owen
I recently took a trip to Ors in France just to visit Wilfred Owen’s grave, that’s how much his poetry means to me. I stopped writing for the latter part of school, relenting to the bullying I received, until Owen came along. His work taught me I didn’t have to write about beautiful things for the work to be beautiful. I just had to speak my truth. Thus, I spent the rest of the year writing angsty poetry, was made a finalist for the Wicked Young Writers’ Award, and developed my skill set into angsty novels instead. I also developed an obsession with the First World War and have spent years pouring over WW1 letters, accounts, books, and photographs.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Set during the First World War I’m not really sure what’s defining about this work. Except the fact I think about it on probably a weekly basis. I love it. Go read it. Also, it was one of the books Hitler banned, so all the more reason to put it on as many lists as possible!
Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
This book has inspired so much of my own writing it’s ridiculous. From a screenplay I wrote during my MA about Dodger (I got a distinction, GET IN!) to the original opening of my fantasy novel, there’s barely a piece I’ve written that hasn’t been inspired by Dickens’ harrowing portrayal of poverty-stricken Britain. The scene that sticks in my mind the most is the one in which Oliver is offered the scraps of meat not even suitable for the dog and falls upon them with joy. If that’s not enough to melt your heart I don’t know what is! Also, it got made into a kick-ass musical. Consider yourself our mate, consider yourself one of the family…
The Luxe Series by Anna Godberson
Now for something much more modern! I’ve read this series so many times my copy of book one is falling to pieces. The story is basically Gossip Girl set in 1899 and if that alone doesn’t make you want to read it, I’m not sure we can be friends. I’m a huge lover of historical fiction, and I think that in part is due to this series. It also inspired my first ever novel-length work (which was terrible, but it did teach me I could write novels sooo…c’est la vie.) I must do a re-read of this series ASAP because it’s been years.
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
I first read Throne of Glass when I was studying for my MA in Creative Writing. At the time I was dealing with the whole YA versus literary fiction minefield and basically feeling like crap for writing the former. (I was told I’d never find an agent, which was a kick in the teeth.) Whilst reading Throne of Glass I looked up the author on social media and distinctly remember an interview in which Maas spoke of her own similar experience in her studies. It felt as though she were talking directly to me when she said to write what you want regardless of whether academics like it. I’d already had an idea for a fantasy novel but thought I wasn’t clever enough to write it. I took my cue from Sarah and began to plan. The rest, as they say, is history.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I wish I’d written Gent’s Guide. Mackenzi Lee seems to channel my humour through the MC Monty and the whole novel is a masterclass in voice. Not only that but listening to the audiobook (the only audiobook I could afford at the time) on repeat as I worked doing a temp job alone got me through a particular low point in my mental health. This book was able to make me laugh when not much else could. More recently I’ve used Gent’s Guide as a comp title for my own novel and had full manuscript requests based solely on that (one from Mackenzi Lee’s agent!). So, it had to make it onto this list. Mackenzi Lee is also a lovely person and speaks openly about mental health/ the business of writing on social media which is so refreshing.
Now, this is in NO WAY a comprehensive list of books I like. These are books I feel have got me through specific periods in my life or led to a change of some sort. There are so many other books that have kept me up well into the night to find out what happens (The Song of Achilles, for example, is one of my all-time favourite reads and as a child I was obsessed with the tales of Beatrix Potter and anything at all related to Eeyore. Seriously, I had a collection. A whole wall of my room was shelves for my Eeyore merch and I wore an Eeyore watch until I was about fourteen…yikes! I’ve loved loads of books, in essence).
Which books have defined you? Leave them in the comments, I am always after great book recs.
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