Ten Books.

An embarrassingly long time ago I was tagged by Bethan to talk about ten of my very favourite books. Part of the reason why it has taken me so long to even start thinking about which books are my favourites is because, well, when it comes to things like this I appear to lack the ability to make a decision. Instead of trying to narrow down my ten all time favourite books here are ten, okay maybe eleven, pieces of fiction, non fiction and poetry collections that have resonated deeply with me at particular points in my life.


Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
For many years I carried around with me a preconception that I wouldn't enjoy Rebecca and my goodness, I've never been more wrong about anything. Captivated from beginning to end, with subversiveness galore, I seem to uncover something new within pages every time I read it. A masterclass in storytelling, immersive atmospheres and one of the most beautiful opening passages I've ever encountered, Rebecca will be a firm favourite always.


Ariel by Sylvia Plath 
Do I even need to say anything? Probably not. And to be honest I wouldn't even really know where to begin. But it's safe to say I'm well on the way to knowing a few poems completely by heart, I've read them that many times.

“If the moon smiled, she would resemble you.
You leave the same impression
Of something beautiful, but annihilating.”


Just Kids by Patti Smith
Just Kids is an intimate glimpse into Smith's relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. It's a portrait of two young artists as they make their way in the world. It's simply beautiful and one I have pressed into the hands of many people whispering, read this, I think it might be exactly what you need.


A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
You've heard me talk about A Little Life more than a handful of times and it's no secret that I adore it. I also still don't really have adequate enough words to explain exactly how this novel makes me feel. Is it perfect? No. But did it make me feel something that I really needed to feel? Absolutely.


The Listeners by Leni Zumas 
A book I bought knowing nearly nothing about that turned out to be exactly what I needed to read at the time. Tin House is one of my favourite publishing houses, they have a real knack for finding incredibly visceral work that completely draws me in.

The story slowly reveals itself, a little like a dot-to-dot, allowing the reader to explore missing details before they uncover themselves. It's almost not about the plot itself at all, instead about the things that happen in the space between. And about how something can be the driving force for success, or a burden that one can never quite shake off. And about how the actions and opinions of people can embed themselves so deeply in our subconscious. It's hazy, hypnotic and disquieting.


Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
A few years ago when Canongate were running one of their occasional and utterly 'buy some books and we'll pick one out for you for free' promotion, this was picked out for me. I loved it the first time I read it and I love it more now, several rereads in. Inside are, as the title suggests, forty vignettes exploring different versions of the afterlife. They're funny and wistful, strange and wonderful. In one of my favourite versions of the afterlife we are forced to do everything we have ever done in life all at once, so we sleep in one long stretch, etc etc. I really don't want to give anything away because this book is even more delightful simply diving straight in.


Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
A play I'm not sure I would have read had it not been for University, but I'm eternally grateful that I have. When we discussed in in class there was an interesting 50/50 divide: half of us loved its wordplay, its comical touches, its barren setting and half of us despised it. I absolutely loved it and the ensuing discussion.


Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
I whipped this off my parents' bookshelf when I was going through my pretentious period in my teenage years and honestly, I haven't read it since. There isn't a lot about it that I remember clearly, but I just remember an overwhelming feeling of 'wow, this is the power of literature'. Whether I would feel that way now, I'm not really sure. I think I would like it, but I'm not convinced I would be as blown away as I was then. Perhaps it's time for a reread.


Ruby by Maggie Glen
One of my very favourite story books from when I was a child and I'm so happy that I still have it, albeit with a few glue splodges on the front cover. Ruby is a bear who has been made using some of the fabric meant for the toy leopards. In the factory she is placed in a box stamped 'second best' along with a bear with bunny ears and a larger bear who snores.

Ruby and the other bears plan their escape and once out of the factory they go their separate ways. Some squeezed their way through letterboxes, some hid in toy cupboards and some crept into bed with lonely children. Ruby climbed into the window of the very best toy shop in town, but the other toys already there are mean and make her stand at the back. At the end of the day Susie and her Grandfather peer into the window, they're looking for something a little different - a bit special. They choose Ruby.

The lady in the shop spots that Ruby is a second and tries to fetch another, but Susie and her Grandfather insist she's perfect just as she is. When they get home Ruby spots a little S necklace around Susie's neck and thinks 'hooray, one of us is special'.

Oh my gosh it's so sweet I could cry!


The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
At 44 Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of French Elle and a father of two young children. He was known and loved for his wit, style and impassioned approach to life. In 1995 he was the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brain stem and after a 20 day coma he awoke into a body that had all but stopped working.

Only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and to, letter by letter, word by word, write this beautiful memoir by blinking. Full of wit, mischievousness and at times anger, he shows that he is as determined to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He died two days after the French publication, but he continues to inspire decades later. 


It Shouldn't Have Been Beautiful by Lia Purpura 
I've spoken about this collection a few times already recently, so I won't repeat myself too much. All I'll say is that this collection of brief poems is so full of honest, unassuming moments of clarity, beauty that intensely capture the feeling of what it is to be alive in this moment. Truly, truly beautiful.


I'd love to hear a little about which ten books would be on your list!


Jennie

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Comments

  1. Ooh, I always love hearing about people's favorite/most influential books. I love watching those videos on YouTube too, although most tend just to list the titles, whereas I always love when someone elaborates on it a little. So I really enjoyed this post of yours.

    Because you mentioned Sum I remembered I still have a dvd of the Japanese film After Life. I haven't watched it yet, so I can't quite recommend it, but since it seemed to be something you might enjoy I thought I'd throw it out there anyway;)

    Anyway, I might share my favorite books too, at some point. Although I'm also a terrible decision maker when it comes to lists like that. Same goes for movies, and albums...

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    1. Ooh I'll definitely look up After Life, definitely sounds like my kind of thing!

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  2. You have a fascinating list of favourite books, of these I've only read Rebecca (which I loved)... I'll have to try some of the others you've mentioned :)

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    1. Rebecca is so so wonderful, can't believe it took me so long to realise its beauty!

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  3. I loved reading this! Out of all of them I've only read Just Kids (took it on holiday with me and loved it so much I read it twice in a row) but now I want to read everything else on your list. Especially The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, it sounds incredible x

    Josie | Sick Chick Chic

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    1. The Diving Bell is stunning, definitely worth a read!

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  4. I'm glad you got around to doing this tag, it was really interesting to read! You've mentioned a few books that have been on my to-read list for a long time but for some reason I keep putting them off. Rebecca is one of those, and I think I've also got the idea in my head that I won't enjoy it, although I'm sure I'm wrong!
    I am also really interested in A Little Life, and now that it's out in paperback i'm definitely going to buy myself a copy! xx

    Bethan Likes

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    1. I think you would really enjoy Rebecca!

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  5. Ruby was my favourite book as a child too and I've never known anyone else who's even heard of it! I love finding out what books really mean something to people. It's always so interesting. And you've totally reminded me how much I need to get around to reading Rebecca!

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    1. Me too! Ahh yes, you must give Rebecca a read!

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