There are over a hundred million books out there – we can never hope to read even a fraction of them. Of that tiny percentage, we will enjoy many (if we choose well). However, there are an even smaller category of very special books that stay with us. In these books, there are characters as familiar and as loveable (or otherwise) as people we have known in real life. The stories are recalled as easily as events that happened to us. They might have a conclusion or message that makes us think; most likely, though, they are books that make us feel. These are ten books that have stayed with me.
1. Harry Potter – the whole series
I was one of the Harry Potter generation, and I am so grateful for that. I grew up with Harry and co. I unashamedly queued outside bookshops, waiting for midnight when the new book would be released. I could list quotations from the seven books until you got bored and asked me to stop – unless you’re a fellow Harry Potter fan, in which case you’d contribute the other half of the text. Harry Potter wasn’t just a book series, it was a phenomenon.
2. The Humans, Matt Haig
I had a serious book hangover for about a year after reading this because I loved it so much. Knowing the author suffers from depression, you can find other layers to it, but I love the book exactly as it is. To describe it simply – a book in which an alien comes to earth with a mission – does not do the heart of the story any justice. It made me laugh out loud and sob uncontrollably. Genius.
3. Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman
I think this was the first book to break my heart into tiny little pieces. It looks at the issue of racism in an original way, and the love story between Callum and Sephy is still one of the most epic I have ever read. You cannot forget this book.
4. The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
This book! Harold receives a letter one day from someone in his past. He goes to the nearest letterbox to post a reply, and decides to go to the next letterbox instead, and the next, and the next. He decides he will walk from one side of England to the other to deliver his letter, and it just might save his friend’s life. I love this book for all the minor characters we meet along the way, and for Harold himself. Read it!
5. One Day, David Nicholls
I love a gimmick, and the fact that this novel revisits the characters on the same day of every year is a great one. We miss chunks of their story and have to catch up. We can be surprised by the changes that occur over the course of a single year (or the changes that don’t occur over many). I found myself willing them to speak their minds, to do something. In the end, you’re left with the desire to never leave things too late. And yet, with many things, we will.
6. The Gift, Cecelia Ahern
Another character who could use a little more time, Lou Suffern finds that there is a pill that will allow him to split in two. Great stuff, he can get double the work done! Then he starts to realise the other ways in which he could use his extra time – spending time with his wife and children, for example. Christmas is drawing closer, and commitments and pressures start to pile up. This is a book about what is important.
7. If I Stay, Gayle Forman
This was another YA book that broke my heart, and I don’t think I can ever forget this story. Mia has a wonderful life. And within a few pages, one of the worst things imaginable happens to her. This novel is about determining the things worth living for.
8. The Forgotten Garden, Kate Morton
This is a complex, well-woven tale by Kate Morton, who is an expert at writing big books with a layered mystery. It doesn’t sound particularly interesting if you describe it as the story of a girl working out a family secret, but it’s all in how the secret unfolds. I am in awe of her storytelling.
9. The Lorax, Dr. Seuss
I am convinced that this book is why I so strongly feel the need to recycle. Dr. Seuss is a genius. I also have a soft spot for Oh, The Places You’ll Go. However, it is The Lorax that I read when I was a kid and have remembered ever since, for the fantastic rhymes and the message at its heart. The ending genuinely gives me goose bumps.
10. Guess How Much I Love You, Sam McBratney
One of my absolute favourite children’s books! I found a French version of this in a little library just outside Paris, which made me realise that the best stories really are universal.
Once you start thinking about it, it’s so difficult to narrow it down to ten. Ultimately though, I tend to lean towards novels with a hopeful – if not happy – ending. Other truly memorable or moving books were My Sister’s Keeper, Me Before You, The Lovely Bones, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Before I Fall.
What are the ten books that have stayed with you?