Hell is just a place without books

ReadingI’ve realised that I haven’t yet blogged about one of the biggest loves in my life: reading. Not a day goes by without me delving into a book, according to my boyfriend it’s not my hobby it’s just what I do. I’m always astounded when people say they don’t really read, I mean how can people not read? To me that’s like someone saying they don’t breathe! For me reading has always been a way to access things that you can’t come across every day. A way to see into the past, to explore worlds that would otherwise be in our imaginations, a way to explore and understand emotions and relationships or to see into different cultures around the world. Literature is a gateway to so much, every book is an individual personality and every time you open one you feel a part of something bigger than yourself. Reading helps us learn and grow our ideas and opinions, puts our lives into different contexts or just provides us with an escape. I could easily be accused of being a bit of a literary snob, I guess that’s immediately obvious by the fact I tend to use the word literature before I use the word story or book. I fear that I will always remain “a student of literature”, a lifetime of schooling culminating in a literature degree means I find it hard to just enjoy without analysis. Even when I’m enjoying my guilty pleasures I find it difficult not feel like I’m doing something wrong, I’m constantly aware that what I’m reading has little literary value and part of me wants to hide them inside an empty sleeve of War and Peace. That said, aside from the classics which will always have my heart, I’m a sucker for fantasy and my favourite books will always be the Harry Potter series.

I want to share my favourite reads with you and hopefully hear a few new recommendations in return.

Fantasy
1. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
An obvious choice I know but seriously, is there a better contender for the top spot?
2. A Song of Ice and Fire – George R. R. Martin
If you’re one of those people who has only watched the TV show I implore you to stop what you’re doing and read this series. Not only is this a fantasy-lovers dream world but it is seamlessly written by an expert craftsman.
3.The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan
I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason this isn’t higher up on my list is because I’m only on book 7, however, the fact that it’s still number 3 when I’m only half way through the series and I’m completely confident in this statement shows the strength of this story. If you like fantasy then you will love this.

Classics
1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
So I’m a massive cliche but I don’t care. Anyone who sees the line “Reader, I married him.” and doesn’t fall in love with the greatest example of Bildungsroman ever written is insane. It’s perfect from start to finish.
2. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
As established I’m a massive fan of the heroine who wins against all odds but what keeps me going back to this novel is how prominent Rebecca is throughout the text when she never even crosses into the realms of reality.
3. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
One of the greatest openings to any novel ever and some of the finest skills I’ve ever come across at character creation.

Childhood throwbacks
1. The Magic Faraway Tree – Enid Blyton
God bless Enid Blyton. If you were unfortunate enough to not have her as part of your coming of age experience then I really pity you, especially if it means you’ve never had the joys of this book. I’m pretty sure it’s responsible for my ongoing love of fantasy.
2. His Dark Materials – Phillip Pullman
I think for me Lyra and Pan are a symbol for what we all face growing up; how to hold on to our childhood. This is what makes it both an amazing story and a timeless one, it was also one of my first introductions to what I call good writing.
3.The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Despite this being inarguably a classic it will always be a series that symbolises my childhood. I think I owe my love of classics to C.S. Lewis as it was my first real experience of the distinction between a story and a piece of literature. 

Guilty Pleasures
1. Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter – Laurel K. Hamilton
Something I had to accept a long time ago is that I’m a sucker for a good vampire and Jean-Claude is one hell of a vampire, guilty or not I always end up going back to this series.
2. The Inheritance Cycle – Christopher Paolini
If I had found Eragon in my youth then The Inheritance Cycle would belong with the childhood throwbacks, but seeing as I came across it in my very late teens and fell in love with it over and over again I think it’s earned it’s place with my guilty pleasure. It’s one of those books that despite you enjoying it immensely it also makes you extremely sad, in this case because I know I’ll never be friends with a dragon!
3. The Age of The Five – Trudi Canavan
I’m still not sure whether this is an insult to the author or not and despite being a great fantasy read I just can’t bring myself to grant it a significant status elsewhere, I’m still a big advocate of reading the series though.

This is by no means my exhaustive list and, oddly, does seem to miss out a few of my favourites that don’t fit into these categories but I hope to have given you a little glimpse at my bookshelf. I haven’t taken into account my taste in poetry where Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience still takes my breath every time I turn a page. Nor have I touched on plays where Ibsen’s A Doll’s House firmly cements my belief that macaroons are a simple kind of greatness.

It continually makes me sad that no matter how many books I read and how much of my time I dedicate to literature I will never be able to read all of the books that I want or need to. I am, however, forever grateful for the blessing of the lending library which makes it ever easier to continue my quest.

Like I said this is the smallest of snippets into what I like and I am always on the lookout for new reads so if you have any please don’t feel restricted by what I’ve laid out here and suggest away.

peace pink

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