I love sharing book lists with people and I love it even more when people contact me telling me that they've enjoyed some of the stuff they've read by me and taken away one or two books from the list to read. I rarely do lists concerning my personal favourite books of all time and yet, I know that I should because there are people out there that should know that I am not just about the classics.
I love a range of different books and in this list of my personal top five favourite books of all time, I'm going to give you a little overview of how I discovered each one. Now, I was asked a very interesting question recently. The question consisted of how I remember when and where I was when I discovered my favourite books ever. Well, the easy answer is that I have an incredible amount of journals and diaries that I wrote as a teenager (I rarely journal anymore but it was a thing whilst I was growing up). I probably have around 15-20 different notebooks that served as journals. Within these books there are books that I read at a particular time and why I picked that book up. I was pretty big on reading and writing because of my lack of friends. I probably had a grand total of one friend in my teens. And since social media wasn't a big thing, there was little else to do than read. Let's just put it this way, Instagram wasn't even created when I was at school.
There's are so many reasons to read, even today with the age of technology. Remember, reading is supposed to be a form of entertainment so, if you're not reading something you enjoy then there is little point of reading it at all. If you're pressured by others to read the classics but don't enjoy the classics, then don't read the classics. There's no shame in reading YA, Fantasy or New Female Nonfiction. There is no shame in preferring black authors, or reading mainly Male Victorian authors or anything else of a sort. Read what you prefer reading, but remember, exploring out of your comfort zone means that you may be able to discover more.
In these lists I'm going to talk about some of my personal favourite books of all time and discuss not what the book is about but why the book is so important to me. I'm going to explore the anecdotal background of how the book and I came to be together and what happened thereafter. I continue to read and document my reading, so if you're interested to discuss, my Instagram handle is in the bio - just drop me a message.
1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Picture of Dorian Gray is my favourite book of all time. I own over thirty different copies of it and I read it every single month as a ritual-type thing (and have done so for over ten years now). I was only 11 when I discovered this book and it has one interesting story behind it (if you can say this is interesting).
I was at school when I found this book in the Victorian section of the library. I took it to the counter to get it marked after descending the horrid spiral staircase in the middle of the library that always gave me vertigo. I was then told that I wasn't allowed to check it out as it was only for students who were over 16 years' of age. I was only 11. The only reason I was borrowing it was because it was next to the book I'd borrowed before. It was the next logical step along.
In those days, school started at 8 AM and finished at either 5 PM or 6 PM after extracurricular activities. So, after Cadet Training, I walked back into the library and waited for the librarian to be 'occupied' with another student before shoving the book into my army boots and (I think the term is) 'belting it' out of the library without looking back.
It was the classic case that if it was banned then there must be a reason. I then stayed up all night to read the book and immediately, I knew that we would be together forever. We have been together ever since and I haven't regretted a single second of it. There is not a single book that I have read since that can live up to The Picture of Dorian Gray.
2. Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
Anne Rice is one of my favourite authors of all time, and her book Interview with the Vampire had a massive impact on me as an early teenager. It may not be that much of an interesting story and you might think I'm a little weird after this, but seriously—it had an impact in the strangest of ways.
When I was 13 years old, I got my hands on Interview with the Vampire after seeing the film on television. When the book was finally in my hands I then proceeded to read the whole thing flat out in a few hours. Over the coming years, I read the rest of the series as I found it (now Amazon wasn't a huge thing and so I had to go to libraries and bookshops etc. I only got an Amazon account when I was about 18-19). When I was about 14 though, I got a new music teacher. Now, my previous music teacher knew that I was pretty freaking good at music, being the best pianist in my school. But the new one, from the moment she walked in the door she hated me for reasons I still do not have a single clue.
There was only four kids in our class and she always hated me. No reason, just didn't like me. I took to drawing comics in her class because she made it clear that she didn't like me. In practicals, I used to take the back room so that I didn't have to be near her. My parents also came in to discuss the fact that I now hated a subject I once loved because of the horrid teacher. When I was about 15, she took my exercise book in and in the back, it was filled with Interview with the Vampire comics that I drew (from drawing comics in her class). She gave me my book back with a note in the back which said "I love Interview with the Vampire too!" And thus, we bonded for the next year and a half.
3. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The story behind this one isn't interesting as it annoys the daylights out of me every time it happens (and it happens often). It's a silly story with a strange back story and it may not be as long-winded as say my story about Interview with the Vampire or as questionable as The Picture of Dorian Gray—but it is still memorable because it to this day, replays in my head for some reason.
I was around 18 when I first read Brideshead Revisited and so, I was pretty young to be discovering this sort of literature and felt like it would be difficult to read as I was only just starting my degree (I wasn't so confident about myself). But, I actually read the entire thing on one car journey. My mom was driving and I was sitting in the back and reading "Brideshead Revisited" whilst she was screaming at me to put the book down for the following reasons:
- Create conversation
- You'll feel sick, watch
- Can you not read for say, two minutes?
4. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
This story is pretty interesting and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember it so well because I have re-read the book so many times. It is a brilliant, wonderful, twisted fantasy of a novel and has so much packed within it. I guarantee you won't be able to put it down nor stop thinking about it, even after it is all over.
When I was 16, the movie for the book "Cloud Atlas" was being advertised everywhere, and I noticed various posters on busses and billboards. It was being advertised quite a lot and it seemed to sound really good. I decided to check it out, and seeing it was a film by the Wachowski Sisters, I was more than incredibly excited to the point of no return. I explored the movie and noticed then that it was based on a book by a guy named David Mitchell, now I had heard of him after seeing some people having read "Ghost Written" (another book by him). I decided to get my hands on the book.
When I got the book I assumed to try and read it all in one night, as per normal with me. I'm not going to lie, when it was over, I simply went back to the beginning and read it again. And again.
I read it about five or six times before actually putting it down. I had never read anything like it before. A book that goes forwards, then backwards, but continues on with all the other stories. It absolutely changed my life and made me so much more aware of the perception of time. I told my English Teacher all about it and she was actually really interested.
I read it so many more times over the course of the next few years and, on the night of my twenty first birthday, I decided to re-read it once more as midnight approached upon me and I turned the great age of 21.
I have also read it since, at 22, I marked my favourite quotations off as a way of telling myself that yes, this copy is mine and will never be anyone else's.
5. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner
Absalom, Absalom! is a great novel and is often cited as being considered for the TGAN (The Great American Novel). I understand this having read it, it is an amazing novel of tragedy and a grand example of the Southern Gothic. It has so much going on and is told is such an amazing way that it is mind-blowing in its ability to keep a hold of you from the first page to the very last word.
I first read this book at the age of 20 and was quite surprised when I initially found it to say the least. I found the book on a library shelf in my hometown and it was all tattered and torn, the front cover was actually entirely missing. Thinking that the book needed some TLC, I took it only to find out it wasn't a library book at all—someone had abandoned it. I immediately felt quite upset and so, took it home looking to give it refuge.
I read it over the course of the next day or so and started telling my friends how I found it. They asked me whether I liked it or not and I said that it was one of the greatest things I'd ever read. Then, after listening to my favourite podcast called Literature and History—they mentioned it on an episode about the Bible (as the title of "Absalom, Absalom!" is taken from the Bible), and I was thankful that others had heard of it as well.
Unfortunately, the original copy I owned was so destroyed that it wasn't worth keeping anymore and I got myself another copy. I have read it since and I always recall how I got to it... or rather, how it got to me.