A Brief Journey through my Five Favourite Books / Series
|Picture from Book Riot. This is how my bedside table looks.|
I've always been a reader for as long as I can remember. I can't pinpoint the moment when I thought to myself that reading was going to be a lifelong love affair. As soon as I learned to read, I wanted to devour books. Anything from fairy tales (Cinderella was a personal favourite) to Maurice Gee's Under the Mountain, I was hooked. (Although perhaps a tad scared when I first read Under the Mountain. And I'm still terrified of scary movies and books.) Thus began a journey that continues today. I still love the thrill of cracking open a brand new book, that smell of paper and the fact I'm about to embark on a new journey to places unknown. Each page I turn is a step into another dimension; a step towards the conclusion. Sometimes it's a race to reach the end, and at other times it's a slow meander, savouring each written word.
After the jump are five of my most treasured books/series that I've read to date. Let me take you through my reading history to highlight some of the books that left an impression on me. Note there might be the odd spoiler.
Anne of Green Gables by L. M Montgomery
The book sticks in my mind as it was the first book to really make me bawl my eyes out. I cannot read the book today without crying, even though I know that Matthew is going to die. I get a lump in my throat whenever I read the buildup to his death, and then the tears are already flowing before I get to the scene. The fact that "mere" words could have that impact on me, that I would feel such compassion for fictional characters, introduced me to the power that the written word can have.
I identified with how stubborn she was, which is a trait we had in common. There were many times I wished I were adopted, too, when I was really angry with my family as a child (and I am sure this is not unusual). Of course, in my childhood imaginings, being adopted was much more glamorous than my own life. Perhaps my "real" parents were rich, or had a beautiful house, or would let me eat all the salt-and-vinegar chips I wanted.
I also discovered that I'm a sucker for the hate / love relationship in a story. Gilbert Blythe was an early book boyfriend of mine. He was just kind of scrumptious and I wanted to gobble him up in later books. Anne wasn't afraid to stick up for things she loved. In turn, she hated down to the very depths of her soul. I laughed out loud many a time as she tried to avoid Gilbert once he had called her “Carrots! Carrots!” , and she then smashed her slate over his head. It was wonderful how in her mind he had ceased to exist, yet she remained acutely aware of him and let him bring out the competitive nature in her. I am sure this competitiveness helped Anne to become an independent young woman as the books progressed, when she went on to have a career as a teacher.
|The start of a wonderful hate / love relationship. |
On Anne's side anyway.
Book compilation designed by Olga Daniels.
In the Interim...
After Anne of Green Gables, I went through a phase of being addicted to the Nancy Drew Mysteries, copious numbers of abridged versions of stories, and stories in Readers Digest books, where each book tended to have four stories in it. I had an ample supply of these for some reason?? It remains a mystery to me. But I read quite a lot of war stories through this period. An avid fascination with history and WWI and WWII might have been the main instigators in the recent direction of my reading interests. I also discovered the romance novel, thanks to my Grandma. However this all led me to being sixteen and ready for the next influential book to strike me. Given my later reading habits, I would credit this as the most influential book of my life to date.
“Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.”
Here was this hobbit called Bilbo Baggins, about to go on an adventure, and I wanted to be along for the ride. He wasn't a very adventurous soul, but he had that essential spark, or perhaps a Tookish spark, which meant he was prepared to go out into the world and explore. Gandalf needed a hobbit, and Bilbo was the hobbit for the job. We got to journey with Bilbo as he transformed into a more worldly soul and of course battled Gollum with riddles in order to capture THE RING!!
The Hobbit opened a window into a world I didn't know existed. A world where magic was possible; where elves, dwarfs and men worked together to create a better world. It also taught me that I love a good book revolving around the theme of good versus evil. After all, the essential element of this story is a band of fourteen going off to save Middle Earth. Not that they realised this at the time. Gandalf liked to play things close to his chest. This book has such universal appeal that it doesn't matter if you are an adult or a child, it charms you. If you haven't read it, I recommend remedying that at once. You'll be propelled into a world where your imagination has free reign, absorbed in a truly magical, memorable story.
I often refer to things from the book when talking to my children, such as second breakfast (I wish I could eat as much as a hobbit) and hobbit holes, the little huts they create to live in. I also love the fact that hobbits don't wear shoes, having been very averse to them as a child. I don't think I will mention to my children how much Bilbo liked to smoke a good pipe, though.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
Quotes from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin
I love how he sucks readers in, so they are completely invested in the characters' fortunes, and keeps them turning pages frantically to find out whether their favourites remain alive and in one piece. Of course the dreaded cliffhanger ends every book. Martin excels at crafting those, which is clearly, it seems to me, a reflection of his screenwriting background. When a television episode ends, the show's creators want to keep viewers on the edge of their seats so they will tune in for next season / episode. Martin loves ending each book with a surprising death or the looming question of whether a character will make it to the next round. Of course, the last book he published, A Dance With Dragons, did this brilliantly, and a fan favourite is in a very perilous state now, with the question very much up in the air as to whether that character is dead or alive. No one is safe, and that's exactly how Martin likes it. I confess I love it too. I like thinking no one is safe. The characters live in perilous times, and it is unrealistic to think everyone would get out alive. I also hate watching TV series where the writers aren't prepared to kill people off. I bow to you too, Downton Abbey, for having the guts to do this.
Right, I've knocked a few off in my mind. *cough Daenerys cough* Each twist is part of the Game of Thrones, as each player battles to play it better than the competitors. Littlefinger seemed an astute player for a long time. But, like so many characters, he has a fatal flaw. A woman. I think this flaw will be his undoing. Other characters have gone from strength to strength: Jaime, Brienne, Arya (I think this playing piece is merely getting ready for the next phase in the fight), and Sansa. Yet one wrong action scatters the playing pieces across the board, until Martin reassembles them as the game swiftly changes direction. I think the series is exactly like a game and very aptly named. As you know, when playing a game, one strategic move or one unforeseen event can instantly change the political landscape.
I waited anxiously for my books to arrive, and when they did I devoured the series and thought, "Hell this is a lot better than the TV show." At that point there were 8 books in the set, and each book was action packed. There was always a mystery to solve, and big-hearted Sookie was at the centre of the action. The whole series being told from Sookie's point-of-view made me love her. I could see how she interacted with the world around her as the supernatural world was divulged before her eyes. Telepathy a curse? Hell no, it was an asset. I laughed and cried with her. I was fearful for her and wanted everything to be okay for her. If I could have fought by her side I would have. Of course, my preferred supernatural identity would have been vampire.
In the Interim...
The authors made me feel for the characters. If I can feel for them and want to stop their suffering or fight their battles for them, then they have pulled me into their story. I didn't think I would love Soldiers as much as I did, but Vadim and Dan remain two of my favourite m/m characters by miles. As I mentioned, there are three books in this series, but I think the other two have nothing on this one. Called Mercenaries and Veterans, they tended to make me angry and want to throw things. Not a good look. All I will say on that matter is freakin' fake Frenchie. Enough said.
Book cover from www.aleksandrvoinov.com