Back when the ice bucket challenge was doing its shiver–inducing rounds and people were daring to bare (their faces, that is) for charity, there was something less well publicised being sent from Facebook user to Facebook user.
“Ten books that have stayed with me.”
I was pretty gutted that the latter never found me, particularly as the no make-up selfie did (and just after a gym workout, when pale people like me tend to be an alluring shade of blancmange-pink). So I put together my own list. Perhaps not sad in itself, but a little moreso given that “the ten” has just been festering in my brain ever since, begging me to re-read it. So I decided it’s time to share this list with others.
Why do books stay with us?
I believe that books stay with you for a variety of reasons, not necessarily because they are the books you enjoyed most. Perhaps a book might stay with you because you so DIDN’T enjoy it. Perhaps your subconscious is crying out for you to read it again because there is something it feels you can learn from one of the characters. Maybe you just happened to read it at a time of life you remember very distinctly and the book has knotted itself inside your memories. This is why a list of my 10 FAVOURITE books would probably be pretty different to the list below, as hinted at on my “about” page.
I will only let you read on if you promise not to laugh at some of the entries. Cross your heart and hope to die? Okay, here goes…
The 10 books that have stayed with me
- House of Leaves (Mark Z. Danielewski)
- Ten O’ Clock Horses
- The Enchanted April (Elizabeth von Armin)
- Harry Potter (You know who (no, fellow HP fans, not Voldemort))
- Any of the Baby-Sitters Club “scary” ones (Ann M. Martin)
- Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Edward Albee)
- Room 13 (Robert Swindells)
- Dracula (Bram Stoker)
- Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
- Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
Completely unlike any other book I have ever read. An adventure within a story within a story. Look it up.
Ten O’Clock Horses – flying horses that would sneak into your bedroom at, um, 10pm, and steal you from the safety of your duvet – appear to be a very popular bedtime threat. Try as I might, I can’t find a compendium containing this story anywhere online, but I’m sure I had a copy somewhere. I was convinced they really existed for a very long time…
A month in the Italian Riviera in the 1920s. Not a lot happens, but this book really made me want to experience that not a lot, particularly when I am need of a holiday, like now…
Okay, so this one, being a series rather than a single book, is cheating slightly. But. Harry. Potter. Need I say more? These are still the books I turn to when I am in need of a spot of comfort reading, and only last night I shouted “Accio phone!” when I couldn’t reach my mobile (it didn’t work).
I spent many a rainy day in the school holidays curled up on my bed with one of these in my hands. I remember so vividly how it felt to be deliciously frightened with a storm caterwauling outside my window. This is probably the reason I feel an urge to retreat to my “reading room” with a ghost story and a glass of wine whenever the rain starts up…
Perhaps another cheat option, being a play. I studied this in drama at school and have never forgotten the scathingly witty dialogue and the endless opportunities to dissect the characters’ psychology. Just the other month, I found my school copy on my bookshelf (sorry, drama department).
This is the book that, as a child, I wished I had written. A school trip. A creepy guest house. Vampiric activity. Even (spoiler alert) a cunningly blank chapter 13. What more could a child want?
One of the few books on the list to also be one of my all-time favourites. I love the atmosphere, the cast of characters and the mix of straight prose, letters and diary entries.
As much as I enjoy Dickens at times, I found this book dull. I read it on holiday in Florida as a teenager, and even now, palm trees and golf courses occasionally bring to mind the seemingly neverending hours I spent trying to get through this massive tome. I think there might be a small part of me on a sunlounger in a parallel universe still trying to work my way through it…
Technically a young adult book, but a great lesson nonetheless. Be yourself, even if yourself is weird.
It’s probably no coincidence that the majority of these books were ones I read in my formative years, when my literary tastes were being shaped into what they are today. It’s probably another non-coincidence that I am drawn to writing books with a spooky or psychological undertone given what I grew up reading. And it’s probably no coincidence that I still breathe an inward sigh of relief as the clock on my phone hits 22:01 and I realise I’m safe for another night.