The 5 Most Loved Books on My Shelf
Every avid reader has books on their shelf that are worn beyond belief, cracked spines and dog-eared pages, tear stained or coffee stained - the books that feel like your favourite blanket, like a cup of tea in your parent’s living room on a rainy day. From the first sentence, these books are a deep breath of fresh air, no matter how many times you read them.
I have plenty of these - for me, every book I read (even the ones I don’t like) feels like an escape from reality, valuable in their own right - but there are several that have had a more profound impact on me than the rest, and they are the ones that I return to, over and over again. I’m a serial re-reader; I dog-ear the top corners of my pages to mark my spot as well as the bottom of the pages to make note of passages to return to. I underline and write in my books, so I can see what sentences stood out to me the first time I read it versus the fifth.
The books I’m going to talk about today are five such books - they have moved me, been read and re-read, migrated from city to city, gone on vacations, been a comfort blanket, a sounding board, caught my tears, and made me who I am today. I encourage you to read them, tell me what you think - and tell me your holy grail book list. I want to read them, too.
If I made this list without Harry Potter being the top of it, I don’t think Brianna would let me publish it. Anyone who has known me for more than an hour knows that the Harry Potter books are my be-all, end-all, if-I-was-only-allowed-to-read-one-series-for-the-rest-of-my-life books. Out of all of the Potter books, Goblet of Fire is my favourite, and the one that I have read the most (at least once a year since I got it at the midnight release in 2000, and probably five or six more times beyond that). It is when the tone of the series majorly shifts to one that is darker and more mature, and demarcates the moment that Harry truly begins to grow up. I read Goblet of Fire when I, too, was beginning to mature, and it was the character development and growth within it that made it my number one. Of course, it got eclipsed by Deathly Hallows when it was published, but that’s a discussion for another post. Goblet of Fire holds a lot of kernels of wisdom that I try to follow to this day: truth is always preferable to lies, we are always stronger united than divided, and what matters most is what you grow to become.
When I was about 10, my mom was reading the Song of the Lioness Quartet. Drawn in by the redheaded girl brandishing a sword and glowing purple on the cover, I asked to read them. Mom debated, then ultimately decided that they were still too mature for me. Maybe next year, she said. That night, determined, I snuck out of my room and stole Alanna: The First Adventure off of the bookshelf and the flashlight off the wall, and read the first 100 pages with my sheet pulled over my head. The next night, I did the same - until I finished the series before my mom had. I was a lady knight that year for Hallowe’en. Alanna made a huge impact on me. She taught me what feminism was before I even knew the word feminism, and she taught me about bravery and determination and standing up for what is right. I’ve now read every book Tamora Pierce has written, and she remains one of my all-time favourite authors. Her characters always have a choice piece of wisdom for me, whenever I truly need it.
I stumbled upon this book by accident - I picked it up at random from a used bookstore, simply because there was an endorsement by J.K. Rowling on the front cover. I figured that Rowling wouldn’t steer me wrong, and it would probably be a decent read that I could gobble up and give back to the bookstore next time I was in. Little did I know that it would be a permanent fixture on my bookshelf, moving with me from house to house, city to city - it was the first book ever that I finished reading, then immediately turned back over to the front and started again. Goudge’s writing is heavily descriptive, and just fantastical enough to capture your attention and hold it for the remainder of the book. She concentrates on characters, developing them so intricately that they seem real. I remember acting out many a scene from The Little White Horse in the backyard.
I know - this is a departure from the previous three young adult books on this list. The Iliad taught me what sort of depth could be wrung out of the English language, even in translation. My copy is highlighted in no fewer than 4 different colours, tracking extended similes and repetition as well as characters and plot points. I read this over the course of two months for a Literary Theory course in first year university, which was quite a task, but well worth it. I highly recommend picking up the Robert Fagles translation and committing to reading - it is an incredible story, but more than that, it is an almost mind-blowing feat of language and oral tradition that we even have this text at all. It’s daunting, I know - 944 lines of translated poetry - but it’s so, so worth it.
Mrs Dalloway is a very personal book for me - it was the first Woolf book that I read, and I read it in a university study abroad course in which we went to London, England, where Mrs Dalloway is set, and had the opportunity to walk the path of the characters. Of course, the walk itself was a 7.5 hour long adventure traipsing from one end of the city to another during an unprecedented heat wave - so could have been a better experience overall - but that trip gave me some incredible memories and introduced me to some of my best friends. I read Dalloway again in my fourth year, in a course dedicated to Virginia Woolf (thanks to which I can now say that I’ve read every book Woolf has written), and found a new love for the text. It is an exploration of sexuality, of mental health, of love and of loss - all over a 24 hour time period. Because it was published early in Woolf’s career - and has a definite time frame - it is a manageable introduction to Woolf’s masterful use of language within her works.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts - if you have read one, or some, or are convinced by my ramblings to add these books to your reading list, tell me! One of the best things about literature is its ability to be shared.
Micropublishing Blog by Brianna and Natalie of Penrose Press