favourite books

Four of My Favourite Books

I’ve said this before, but I don’t really DO “favourites”: in fact, “what’s your favourite…” is one of my most hated questions ever. 

Seriously, it makes me break out in a cold sweat. Sometimes if I’m asked to name a “favourite”, I make one up on the spot, just to make myself seem normal, then I’ll jolt awake in the middle of the night and think, “Why did I choose X? I should totally have picked Y! No, Z!” And so on and so forth. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that, actually. Anyway!

I don’t have a favourite book, is what I’m trying to say. I mean, out of all the books in all the world, how on EARTH could I pick just one? Or even two? Or fifteen? Or fifty? Can’t do it, won’t do it. I do, however, have a cupboard in the spare bedroom which I use to keep all of the books I refuse to put into storage or download onto my Kindle. Most of them are dog-eared and full of underlining (which I know is sacrilegious to a lot of book-lovers, but I don’t mind them looking well-loved…), but I still read them – or at least pick them up and flip through them, to re-read my favourite parts – and seeing as I’ve shown you the shoes I couldn’t live without, I figured why not the books?

These aren’t my all-time favourite books, or even the top 4 – they’re just four of my many favourites, and they are…

my favourite books

Generation X by Douglas Coupland

I’ve read quite a few of Douglas Coupland’s books, but Generation X was the first, and it remains my favourite. This book is absolutely chock-full of scribbles and underlinings – I think I first read it at university, and it was one of those “OMG, someone in the world actually understands me!” moments. This book doesn’t have a big, dramatic storyline – instead it’s about the act of telling stories, which is something that really appeals to me, and is what my own book is (more or less) about, too – or will be, if I ever finish it. Ahem. (70,000 words and counting, though! Not saying any of them are particularly GOOD words obviously, but still…) It’s beautifully written, painfully relatable, and one of the reasons I’d always wanted to visit Palm Springs, where it’s set. I finally did that this year, and was happy to find it every bit as “other worldly” as I’d imagined it…

“[she said] that the only reason we all go to work in the morning is because we’re terrified of what would happen if we stopped. ‘We’re not built for free time as a species. We think we are, but we aren’t.’  Then she began almost talking to herself. I’d gotten her going. She was saying that most of us have only two or three genuinely interesting moments in our lives, the rest is filler, and that at the end of our lives, most of us will be lucky if any of those moments connect together to form a story that anyone would find remotely interesting. “- Generation X

On the Road  by Jack Kerouac

I realise it’s a bit of a clichรฉ to study literature, to want to be a writer, and to read On the Road, but, well, I AM a giant clichรฉ sometimes. I wrote my final year dissertation on this book (and a few others), and I wrote my Sixth Year Studies (final year of high school) dissertation on it too, so I guess you could say I like it. As with almost all of the books in this list, I mostly love On the Road for the poetry in its pages: there are some paragraphs you just can’t help but underline, and go back to over and over again.

I also love that it’s a book which is as much about writing as it is about travel: it’s ostensibly the thinly-fictionalised tale of Kerouac’s own travels across America, but it’s also about his attempts to write, and I like the fact that throughout the book the author feels he has nothing of importance to write about, without realising that the things he’s experiencing ARE his story, no matter how insignificant they might seem.  On the Road is the reason I’d put “drive across America” right at the top of my bucket list – if I actually had one – and it’s also one of the reasons I want to one day finish my own book. I have a lot of insignificant stuff to record too, you see: I’m just not sure “In My Office” is quite as catchy a title, somehow…

“And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded – at least that’s what I thought then.” – On the Road

Sexing the Cherry by Jeannette Winterston

This is another story about stories (amongst other things), and another book I love as much for the sheer poetry of the language as for the plot, which meanders through space and time, and (loosely speaking) looks at gender and identity, and how history frequently ignores the female perspective. All of which makes it sound incredibly dry and dusty, but I studied this as part of a feminist literature module at university, and loved it so much I immediately went out and bought as many of the author’s other books as I could afford at the time. (They’re all good, but this one’s my favourite. Yes, I just named a favourite – I CAN do it if I try, apparently…)

“Everyone remembers things which never happened. And it is common knowledge that people often forget things which did. Either we are all fantasists and liars or the past has nothing definite in it. I have heard people say we are shaped by our childhood. But which one?” – Sexing the Cherry

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

I COULDN’T pick a favourite of the Harry Potter books, but I can’t really imagine anyone being able to read just one of them anyway, so I don’t think it matters, does it? I actually read the third book first, having assumed the series was just for kids, and not worth bothering about – which just goes to show what I know, huh?

Anyway, the third book landed on my desk one day when I was working as a journalist: our paper had just started a book review column (Yes, it was my idea, and yes, it was totally just so I could read books and get paid for it. Oh, don’t pretend you wouldn’t have jumped at the chance, too…), and I selflessly volunteered to take on Harry Potter. I read Book 3 in about two days flat, and immediately went out and bought the first two: Terry and I then stood in line at midnight for the release of all the rest, and I’ve probably cried more tears over these books than I should really admit. I re-read them all fairly often- which reminds me, it’s been a while since I’ve done that. If anyone needs me, you know where I’ll be…

“Mr and Mrs Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. They were the last people you’d expect to be involved in anything strange or mysterious, because they just didn’t hold with such nonsense.” – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

I’m not going to ask you to tell me your favourite book now, because obviously if you’re able to narrow it down to just one, we can’t be friends. Sorry. I WILL ask you to name A book you love, though, so I can go and read it if I haven’t already: that should be easy enough, no?

my all-time favourite books - for now, anyway

COMMENTS
  • Jane Eyre is probably my favourite book of all time. I love His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, too. I’m also a huge fan of Harry Potter but I’ve never read Sexing the Cherry or Generation X – must give them a go!

    October 13, 2015
  • Erin

    REPLY

    Circle of Friends – Maeve Binchy. I have read this book at least 100x and have had three copies because I wore out my first two. I love that I can pick it up anytime, flip to any page, and just dive in. The movie does not do the book justice and changes the ending.

    I also love The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series (Stieg Larsson), In a Sunburned Country (Bill Bryson), and Rachel’s Holiday (Marian Keyes).

    October 13, 2015
  • Chiarina

    REPLY

    Speaking of female perspective on history, in this respect I particularly like Philippa Gregory’s books. Perhaps fictionalized but still highly credible interpretation of historical events seen from the female protagonists…

    October 13, 2015
  • Erin

    REPLY

    Oh! I forgot because it’s so early – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn! Better than Gone Girl. And all Jane Austen, but particularly Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. Now I need to pick a book for vacation this weekend!

    October 13, 2015
  • I CANNOT name A favourite book ~ but one I’ve absolutely adored for forever is “Plenty of Ponies” by Josephine Pullein Thompson. She’s my favourite pony book author, {and pony books are one of my favourite genres} and that one was the first of her books that I read. There are others that she’s written that are also my favourite, but that’s one that springs to mind first.

    Yup, can’t name my absolute favourite… Books are like shoes. You can never have too many good ones. ๐Ÿ™‚ โค

    xox,
    bonita of Lavender & Twill

    October 13, 2015
  • Roverandom by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s a story he wrote for his son when he lost his favourite toy dog. It might be for children, but it sounds quite grown up at times. ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 13, 2015
  • I’d have to say Jane Eyre as well. It still moves me like no other book. I especially adore Brรถntes metaphores and descriptive poetic style, as well as her (for that time) obvious feminism: ‘I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.’

    I also really like Bret Easton Ellis’ work, I just wrote my Masters dissertation about his oeuvre. It’s raw an provocative, but such a poignant critique of modern society…

    October 13, 2015
  • Generation X is one of my absolute favourites too! I remember reading it in 6th form for the first time and loving it xx

    October 13, 2015
  • Ooh new comment box again – like this one; I couldn’t see where the last one started and ended on my darn computer monitor! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am a huge reader and an ex literature (and creative writing, not that that ever got me anywhere!) student so I find this questions particularly impossible. Are you on Goodreads, by the way?? If you are, you know my real name – add me! If not, get it, it’s amazing and will help you keep track of everything you read (sorely needed, in my case). I’ve got three recommendations of books I’ve read in the last couple of years that I really, really loved, that just happened to pop into my head:

    * Ready Player One by Ernest Cline – everyone I’ve ever recommended this book to, no matter who they are, has absolutely loved it. It’s even better if you love the 80s, but I know very little about the 80s and it’s still in my top 5 books of all time.
    * The Song of Achilles – it’s a book about ancient times but it is absolutely AMAZING and you won’t be able to put it down – like the above one actually
    * She Rises – this is by a debut author and you’re going to see the publisher and twig as to why I’ve read it, but it was a real surprise to me in how much I completely adored it. It was different to everything else I’ve ever read and it completely hooked me.

    All three of these are recommendations mostly based on the amazing plots and unique concepts – they vary in how ‘literary’ they are, but I definitely endorse them all 100%!

    October 13, 2015
  • On the Road is a favorite of mine too, but I am going to recommend Play it as it Lays by Joan Didion. It’s one of the only books where I felt every word hit me like a ton of bricks. On the surface, it may seem like it’s a story about first world problems, but there was something about Maria’s inner struggles that resonated with me. It’s a quick read too.

    October 13, 2015
  • Annabel

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    Favourites are quite hard for me too- I just love far too many things for that! But I’ll try to name a few favourites anyway
    1) Harry Potter series: I must have read them about fourteen times, no joke. Once a friend told me they suck. He’s not my friend anymore
    2) Little Women: it’s a bit heavy and boring at first, but I think it’s part of its beauty. The girls go through tough times before finally seeing the light and so does the reader
    3) Sherlock Holmes: just all of it. All of it
    4) Annabel Lee: technically a poem, but still. Equal parts romantic and dark. What’s not to love?
    5) Five Little Pigs: one of the best books by Agatha Christie I’ve read. A murder more than fifteen years old and a comparision with a nursery rhyme? Sold.

    October 13, 2015
  • I love talking about books but you are right, picking favorites is impossible. Here are a few I really like:

    Persuasion by Jane Austen. Because I can’t start a book list without Jane Austen

    One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes. A quiet but beautifully written book about one day in the life of a woman in a small village right after WWII. I have to admit that it is not the most eventful book but if you enjoy books for the writing itself this is fantastic.

    Anything by Georgette Heyer. Escapism at its finest. She wrote the original Regency romances but don’t let that put you off. They are well-researched, well-written and witty. Pure fun best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a bar of chocolate.

    I’ll limit myself to three recommendations. Now I am off to check out your books.

    October 13, 2015
  • Myra

    REPLY

    One of my favourites is A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

    I love it because it surprised me that a man could write so sensitively and with such empathy of women’s lives. Set in war torn Afghanistan, the writer creates great empathy in the reader, for the protagonist. The characters are wonderfully drawn.

    Also Wild Swans by Jung Chang
    Set in the age of foot binding in China, the writer weaves an unmissable narrative of the lives of three generations to recent times.

    HE Bates first of the series about The Larkins (he also wrote Perfick, Perfick.
    It is a gentle satirical look at social class in post World War II Kent (the garden of England). It was serialised on TV (without the satire) and was Catherine Zeta Jones first screening.

    All the Harry Potter books too

    One not to read EVER
    Cancer Ward by Alexander Soljenistin (can’t remember how to spell his name)

    It left me with a dreadful fear of cancer for at least a decade after reading it.

    October 13, 2015
  • Catherine

    REPLY

    Anne of Green Gables…precocious red headed Canadian (and all the books that followed)

    To Kill a Mockingbird…which I somehow missed reading in high school and just recently finished

    The Handmaid’s Tale…the only Margaret Atwood book I can stand (sacrilege for a Canadian to say they don’t like Margaret Atwood)

    October 13, 2015
  • I think m top favourite is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, trailed slightly by The Great Gatsby. Definitely need to check out Wintersons work ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 13, 2015
  • Fran

    REPLY

    Susan Sontag, The Volcano Lover

    October 13, 2015
  • Claudia

    REPLY

    Well, after years (literally!) of just reading your blog and maybe commenting once (!) I took your own resolution to heart and am now going to comment since I have something to say :).
    I loved this post because I’m an avid reader myself and I was very interested to see what you liked. Will definitely read Generation X and Sexing the Cherry now that I saw you review. The others I’ve read and loved as well.
    Some of my favourite classics: pretty much everything from Steinbeck but I loved “Grapes of Wrath the most. Cormac McCarthy too but his books need to be read in special “life feels good” moments and they still break your heart in little pieces.
    Contemporary literature: definitely all of Kate Atkinson’s books with “Life after Life” being my favourite; the sequel, “God in Ruins” isn’t as good.
    Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for a different cultural perspectives – I’ve enjoyed “Americanah” the most.
    And, finally, more of a guilty pleasure but have anxiously been waiting for each new release – Kate Morton. Family, mysteries, castles, gardens. Page turners!
    I’d vote for a regular book review or what I’m reading at the moment kind of series on this blog. If there’s a voting going on :).

    October 13, 2015
  • Fiona

    REPLY

    Thanks for the reccomendations, i’ve never read any apart from the HP books.
    I’ll go for four of my favourites since that’s what you have done.
    1 – Dracula by Bram Stoker. If you’ve never read it, read it now, even of you think it won’t be your thing.it is amazing!
    2 – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. Wonderful.
    3 – Wonder (can’t remember the author’s name). Children’s book but a beautiful message.
    4 – My Beautiful Friend by Elena Ferrante. First in a series about the lifelong friendship of two women.

    October 13, 2015
  • Erika

    REPLY

    Jeannette Winterson – anything.
    Tanith Lee – the Flat Earth series
    Mary Grant Bruce – the Billabong series, although she also wrote a number of others.
    Maurice Walsh – The Key Above the Door – because that started me reading and collecting his writing.
    Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen.
    Kevin Hearne – the Iron Druid series. Oberon the wolfhound is perfect.
    Spider Robinson – Callahan series. Full of bad puns and total humanist.
    Theodore Sturgeon.
    Geoff Worboys – Narun series
    Saki
    PG Wodehouse
    Noel Coward
    A C Swinburne (poetry and Lesbia Brandon)
    Neil Gaiman – again, absolutely anything!
    Damon Runyon

    Is that a good enough start?

    October 13, 2015
  • Jaynie

    REPLY

    When I was small it used to bug me so much when my dad refused to answer “what’s your favourite x” questions (he’d only say “I don’t have to have a favourite”) but as an adult I’ve come around to his way of thinking. Books are really tricky to choose between. Les Miserables is special to me, both because it was the first Serious Literature I loved, and because it shaped a lot of my sociopolitical philosophy, but it, er, doesn’t exactly lend itself to frequent rereading. The Hitchhikers Guide books are probably my most re-read. But if I were going to go about recommending things, I’d probably go with The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (alarmingly, many politicians seem to view this theocratic dystopia as a how-to) or probably One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, which is about being a political prisoner in the soviet union (although not as dreary a novel as you’d expect given that descriptor). Or The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, which I just finished, which was funny and captivating cover to cover.

    So, er, sorry, six year old me. I don’t have to have a favourite. Although I do have a couple of new books on my shopping list, thanks to this post!

    October 14, 2015
  • I have a few favourites and my actual number one favourite changes all the time. I usually say it’s Of Mice and Men, which is just stunning, but I think it might REALLY be A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which you should definitely read if you haven’t already.

    October 14, 2015
  • Great reads Amber! I can’t imagine life without my Brit classics-Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice, Vanity Fair etc etc. Apart from these Gone with the Wind is my all time favourite! I’ve always been fond of literature- Urdu & English being my favourite languages!

    http://www.rakhshanda-chamberofbeauty.com/

    October 15, 2015
  • Well…Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and other books by the Brontes basically. So there. You have like around three.
    Then Lord of the Rings Trilogy (plus The Hobbit), Charles Dickens ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ and Agatha Christie’s ‘Miss Marple’ series.
    Oh! And not to forget ‘Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
    Those are BOOKS I love. Sorry Amber. I cannot name only one.

    October 15, 2015
  • Well, we won’t be able to be friends, because I have a favorite book – Gone with the Wind. ๐Ÿ™‚ It was the first adult book that I read, so it’s always held a special place in my heart. Plus I love Rhett Butler! And I love the Harry Potter series! Like you I waited in line for, and cried many tears over those books. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I agree, I don’t mind if a book looks well-loved. My copy of Sorcerer’s Stone is falling apart but I could never buy another.

    October 15, 2015
  • I pretty much love everything Jeannette Winterston has ever written! Great picks!

    October 15, 2015
  • any Rumpole of the Bailey (John Mortimer), Lucky Jim (Kingsley Amis), anything by Nancy or Deborah Mitford, any James Herriot, The Joy of Cooking and/or any cookbook with good not-too-flowery stories, All My Patients are Under the Bed: Memoirs of a Cat Doctor (Louis J. Camuti), Basilica: the Splendor and the Scandal (R.A. Scotti), Diary of a Provincial Lady (E.M. Delafield), The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs (Alexander McCall Smith), and Smith of Wooton Major (J.R.R.Tolkien).

    October 17, 2015
  • …and let us not forget Madeline, Eloise, and Winnie the Pooh!

    October 17, 2015
  • Erin

    REPLY

    “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving…..well, pretty much anything by John Irving, but Owen Meany is my all time favourite ๐Ÿ™‚

    October 17, 2015
  • Amanda

    REPLY

    One of my favorites, one that changed me really, is The Book Thief. If you havent read it, you need to, its the kind of book that steals your soul and never really gives it back.

    October 21, 2015
  • Cal

    REPLY

    Susan pulls the strings by Jane Shaw

    October 21, 2015
  • Amy K

    REPLY

    A few favorites: The Dark Is Rising series, A Christmas Carol, Little Women, The Poisonwood Bible, A House of Pomegranates, Charlotte’s Web, The Night Circus, The Book Thief, all the Harry Potters, His Dark Materials series, and many others that I’m leaving out and will remember later and fret because I didn’t include them.

    October 23, 2015
    • Amy K

      REPLY

      And The Wrinkle in Time quintet. How could I forget those?

      October 23, 2015
  • Amberre

    REPLY

    Thank you for some awesome recommendations ladies – I have pinned with abandon from good reads! I too have a bookshelf bursting with books I need in hard copy, it is my most prized possession and will be dragged out the front door before anything if my house ever caught fire ha! I have to say I too could never have an ultimate favourite list, it would be like loving one child more than another, or favouring one organ in your body – they are all vital in their own way, and represent different parts that make you you, the same as books <3 That being said, I LOVE Alice in Wonderland.. LOVE IT. Like. Obsessively. I also adore Dracula, The Secret Garden, House of Leaves by Danielewski, Life of Pi, all the HP's, the Peculiar Children series, Labryinth by Kate Mosse (I love Mosse, really recommend her). If you like Harry Potter I recommend the Snow Globe by Jenna Nelson; I read as a kindle freebie but loved it! The imagery portrayed by the author is fantastic and it has a bit of everything involved so check it out. And who could forget Forever Amber by Winsor, my namesake! My guilty pleasure author has to be Fiona Walker for a bucolic chick lit read ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for the essay, books are my happy place!

    January 19, 2016
  • Andrea Thomas

    REPLY

    I love Kate Mosse too. Labyrinth is an excellent place to start. What about The Crow Stones by Jenni Mills? That’s a seriously good mix of rite of passage and archaeology (seriously). Oh and Cats Eye by Margaret Atwood. My total friend on growing up different and wanting to fit in..

    March 1, 2016
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