As World Book Day was this week, I thought for this month’s Friday feature I would look at the top five books that have impacted me in some way. A couple of these novels aren’t what I would consider to be favourites of mine, but they are all ones that have stuck with me in some way, or have been an introduction into something I love to see in books now.
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
HERE IS A SMALL FACT:
YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.
1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with her foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME MORE IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH.
I remember first seeing this novel in a WH Smiths Bookshop at an airport, the cover and the description both really caught my attention. At the time I didn’t have enough pocket money to buy it so I, unfortunately, had to leave it there. After coming back from my holiday I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the novel so I was determined to find it! I’m so pleased I did as it was such a beautiful novel and unlike anything I had ever read before. As a child I did read quite a lot of fiction around WWII but this one just stood out to me. I loved all of the characters, especially Liesel and the friendship she had with Max who her family was hiding in their basement. I don’t imagine there’s anyone who hasn’t read this novel now, but if you haven’t it is well worth picking up!
Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers
Claire and her mother are running out of time, but they don’t know it. Not yet. Claire is wrapped up with the difficulties of her bourgeoning adulthood—boys, school, friends, identity; Claire’s mother, a single mom, is rushed off her feet both at work and at home. They rarely find themselves in the same room at the same time, and it often seems that the only thing they can count on are notes to each other on the refrigerator door. When home is threatened by a crisis, their relationship experiences a momentous change. Forced to reevaluate the delicate balance between their personal lives and their bond as mother and daughter, Claire and her mother find new love and devotion for one another deeper than anything they had ever imagined.
This is either the first book, or one of the first books, that I ever read which made me realise that novels didn’t have to be written in continuous prose in order to be a good book or tell a great story. Whilst it’s been years since I read this novel, I remember enjoying the way the story was told – through a series of notes that a mother and her teenage daughter would leave each other as they rarely saw each other. Whether the novel still stands up now the same as it did when I first read it, I’m not entirely sure, but the fact that I did read this novel so long ago and I can still remember how it was written and how it ended shows that it did make a lasting impression on me. Even now, I seek out novels that subvert the norm in terms of structure.
Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage is the remarkable story of a young man haunted by a great loss; of dreams and nightmares that have unintended consequences for the world around us; and of a journey into the past that is necessary to mend the present. Here Haruki Murakami—one of the most revered voices in literature today—gives us a story of love, friendship, and heartbreak for the ages.
This novel was my first exposure to Japanese fiction, I had no idea when I picked this novel up that it would spark an interest in the genre which has now become one of my favourites. Even before I understood the nuances of translated fiction and how different Japanese novels are from Western ones, I could tell there was something unique about the way it was written. That this storytelling and characters was very different to what I was used to. This is also a fabulous novel if you have never read a Murakami before!
1984 by George Orwell
Winston Smith works for the Ministry of truth in London, chief city of Airstrip One. Big Brother stares out from every poster, the Thought Police uncover every act of betrayal. When Winston finds love with Julia, he discovers that life does not have to be dull and deadening, and awakens to new possibilities. Despite the police helicopters that hover and circle overhead, Winston and Julia begin to question the Party; they are drawn towards conspiracy. Yet Big Brother will not tolerate dissent – even in the mind. For those with original thoughts they invented Room 101 . . .
When I was in Sixth Form I was really into dystopian fiction, however I had never read 1984 even though it was said to be one of the greats of the genre. So, I knew that I needed to pick it up and see what all the fuss was about. I adored this novel and quickly understood why so many people still talk about it today and why there are so many references to the novel in everyday life. The future that Orwell imagined was a chilling one, that coupled with the complicated and, not always likeable, characters, really packed a punch. So much so that it was this novel that inspired my dissertation looking into dystopian fiction and how I branched out of YA dystopian novels to classic ones and ‘adult’ ones.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son—and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.
But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth—more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.
A few years ago I went through a phase of reading a lot of Stephen King novels, however out of the ones I read there was only one that managed to actually scare me and that was Pet Semetary. I’m not sure what exactly it was about this novel that I found so creepy compared to his others that I had read too. There was just something about the way King described the characters after they had been buried in the Pet Semetary, that was incredibly unsettling. What probably didn’t help was the fact that I was reading this on holiday and where we was staying was close to a cemetery. But the point still stands!
What books have you read that have impacted or influenced you in some way? Let me know in the comments!