Although I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I saw some really lovely book-related posts about books people are thankful for, and thought it was a really lovely idea. So, without further ado, here are some books that I am thankful for.
1. The Judy Moody Series
Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). I wasn’t always an avid reader, and in fact I have a very clear memory of when I was about seven or eight in class and we had to bring in a book for reading time – and I brought in this sort of guide, non-fiction, about tropical animals that was bright green with a lizard on the cover. I couldn’t read half the words (most were of the latin names for certain creatures with their various different body parts) and every week my teacher would write on my progress sheet that I should probably pick something easier to read.
Then I found the Judy Moody series with their simple brown covers and illustrations. For some reason this was the series that got me reading, and I absolutely loved them – it also sparked an obsession with mood rings for a while, and I remember I had a hardback of one of the books that had a little arrow you could spin that would tell you what mood you were in. Most people say the first books they loved were Harry Potter or The Northern Lights, but for me it was the simple, sassy character of Judy Moody, who had so many mood-swings it was hard to keep up.
Ok now bear with me here. I know Twilight isn’t great, and I know the movies aren’t great, but this is one series that I remember starting in between primary and secondary school and absolutely loving. It’s the first series I found that I was always desperate for the sequel. I remember finishing New Moon on holiday and waiting anxiously until the next time we had internet to find out when the third book would be out. Ok, yes, they aren’t great books – and I can say that now when I’ve read much better – but from the ages of 11/12 to about 14/15, these books made me excited about reading. It was the first time a book was the main topic of conversation at school, and everyone was talking about them, so it was great to be the person that had read more than others and could engage in serious debates over which character was better. I was on Team Jacob, and I think I also have Twilight to thank for those years where I became obsessed with wolves – not to mention Taylor Lautner, who I also loved in The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lava Girl. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, definitely go watch that movie because oh man, it’s a good’un.
3. The Night Circus
Still one of my favourite books of all time, The Night Circus showed me what a brilliant fantasy book could be. Not only were the descriptions beautiful, but the plot was cleverly woven together, the world was crafted with an amazing imagination, and I absolutely adored the characters. Even the concept – a circus that opens at sunset and closes at sunrise which travels around the world, appearing without warning – is just brilliant. Something so simple is made into pure brilliance, with one grand duel, magic, and more, interspersed with sections detailing various exhibits at the circus. This was the book I discussed in my interview for the bookshop I work in now, and the manager joined me in complaining that there wasn’t another book out by her. There’s no doubt about it that this book truly is breathtaking.
4. A Little Life
So we’ve gone from fun kid book, to vampire teenage romance, to magical mayhem, to the cause of my first true broken heart. A Little Life ruined me and my emotions for the whole time I read it, up to today. Even when I think about this book I feel my stomach clench – Hanya truly is a master of words and characters. Never have I cared more about characters than I did for the four boys in A Little Life, and it’s the first book that made me scare people in public. There are several traumatic events in the book, but one particular twist I did not see coming towards the end had me slamming my book shut on a busy train and say ‘For God’s sake’ out loud whilst tearing up a little bit. The girl sitting next to me looked very alarmed, and shifted as far away from me as her seat would allow.
This is also the first book I was recommended by a colleague at work – several of them, actually. I thought I’d finally found where I belonged, walking in to the staff room those first few weeks only to see literally everyone reading proof copies of this book. It was all anyone talked about for a very long time, and when I finally read it I had a support group that I messaged with my progress. Although it wasn’t very comforting to have someone say ‘Oh, you’re almost at that part’ every single time I messaged.
5. The Odyssey
I had to have something about classics in the mix. The Odyssey was my first real introduction to Classical Studies, and I couldn’t have loved it more. Here I thought it would be something boring, just about war and sailing and fighting and old white men. Alas, it was about war and sailing and fighting and old white men, but it was also about witches and vengeful gods and monsters that tried to eat you and a very arrogant protagonist you can love to hate as he winds up being the sole survivor of hundreds of his men. (Why anyone thinks Odysseus is a good leader I will never know)
Honourable mentions go to Antigone, Picture of Dorian Gray, The Hunger Games, Frankenstein, and Uprooted. It was so difficult to narrow down to just five (especially when you know you have to include Twilight for reasons I will not repeat), but it serves as a great reminder to how much a book can have an impact on your life. This year, and probably every other year, I am so thankful to books for providing an escape from the world – and, as 2016 draws to a close, it’s clear I’m really going to need that escape often.