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Books that can change your life (My Top Ten)
Top Ten Fiction - General
Member Name: ps8sjk
Top Ten Fiction - General
Advantages: Entertainment, challenging, thought-provoking and educational
Books are quite important to me! I think they can change the way you look at the world as well as being my favourite form of entertainment. There are just too many books I would like to read. I found this very hard to choose my top ten fiction books, would find it easier to choose my top 100! These are in no particular order, choosing your favourite book to me must be like choosing your favourite child as a parent! I will give a quick summary of each one but want to focus on why I have chosen it as some well-known ones here.
1. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte. This tells the story of the Earnshaw family. Heathcliff is brought into the home and falls in love with the daughter, Cathy. She chooses instead to marry Edgar Linton, a rich and upper class man which causes Heathcliff to wreak revenge on both families. This is such a powerful book; I love the dark, gothic elements and the character of Heathcliff. Many say he is unlikable and he does unforgivable acts in his destruction of people's lives but this complex character and tortured soul is one of the most interesting characters to be have been created. This novel also highlights issues for women at this time - which partly excuses the dreadful behaviour of Cathy (well some of it!). Bronte, like her sisters is an incredible writer and writes very detailed descriptions invoking an atmosphere that is not easy to forget. I also love this novel because it highlights different types of love - the destructive nature of passionate love and the dissatisfaction of a romantic / friendship love. It uses clever techniques to slowly reveal to the reader what has happened by using different narrators, such as Mr Lockwood - a visitor to the house many years later and the interfering housekeeper, Nelly. Not always reliable narrators, it leaves you to make your own mind up about what had happened and who was to blame. If I could have 11 books, Jane Eyre would have been in this list too!
2. Rebecca - Daphne DuMaurier. It is clear that the Brontes influenced Du Maurirer in both her style of writing and her content. However, this is a novel that deserves credit of it's own. It starts with the famous lines; "Last night, I dreamt I went to Manderly again." The young wife of Maxim DeWinter, a widower, is taken back from Monte Carlo to live with him at Manderly. She lives under the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca whose memory is kept alive by the presence of the housekeeper, Mrs Danvers. This is a haunting book; Rebecca is a powerful force throughout the book, despite the fact she dies before it even begins. The mystery surrounding her death intrigues the reader and the descriptions of the landscape and the setting, including the house itself is evocative. It is Mrs Danvers who steals the show; a complex, manipulative and mysterious character who readers all love to hate.
3. Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy. My favourite author, if I had to choose! His books are often bleak and depressing (and very descriptive) but I love them, his characters are so complex and this one haunted me afterwards (in a good way!) and made me think about life issues, it is one of those books that can have a profound effect on you. It describes Egdon Heath and the small community including Clym Yeobright (the returning native) and Eustacia Vye. It describes the various love triangles between the main characters and slowly the fates of all of them unfold. I love Eustacia - she is flawed but that's why I love her - Hardy has created one of the strongest female characters in literature. Hardy always keeps you guessing - you don't necessarily always get the end you want or suspect but his books are gritty. I can't really put into words just how much I love this book. If you try it please persist through the first few chapters - they are long-winded and actually almost unnecessary to the plot (I almost gave up when I first started this!) but to me this is probably the best novel ever written.
4. Hotel New Hampshire - John Irving. My favourite contemporary author. John Irving, an American author best known for 'Cider House Rules' and 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' is a bit like marmite, you love or hate him! His books are very quirky and original, amusing and sad - a bit of everything. He tests boundaries in his books - he portrays a lot of heavy and often controversial issues but very readable. I would recommend any of his books but for me, my favourite is Hotel, a lesser-known book. This is essentially a twist on the family saga - it follows the lives of the Berry family, particularly the 5 children who live in various hotels which their family runs. This is not your typical family saga though - it deals with incest, a stuffed family pet after a tragic plane crash and a bear. Bears seem to be a recurring character in Irving's books so watch out for them! I would also highly recommend 'The World According to Garp' and 'A Widow for One Year.'
5. Sophie's World - Josteein Gaarder. I remember reading this at college when I was about 16. It is a strange mix of fairy tale and an introduction to philosophy. It is a mysterious book; Sophie meets a mentor who lives her strange letters which read as short introductions to various different philosophical perspectives. Letters are also left for another girl so she struggles to understand who this girl is and essentially, who is Sophie? It opened up my mind to new ideas and is an original read. However, I re-read this as an adult and it didn't have quite the same impact on me so perhaps this is a book to read as a young adult. I just remember that feeling of wonderment when I was a teenager so it still remains a favourite book for that. I also went on to study Psychology partly because of this book so it really was a book that had an effect on my life!
6. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry. I think Rohinton Mistry is one of the most underrated contemporary writers and would encourage everyone to read this. This is set in the 1970's in India. This is a tale of class, race and poverty. Mrs Dina Dalal, determined not to have to marry again sets up a sweatshop in her home and takes in a lodger and two tailors. Over time they become close, almost life a family. Not the lightest (or happiest) of reads but this is beautifully written and very moving. It is also a fascinating read into the Indian culture.
7. Grapes Of Wrath - John Steinbeck. I love this and Of Mice and Men. Grapes of Wrath focuses on the Joad family who are forced to travel west in search of work and is a tale of survival. It deals with the theme of poverty and is also a discussion of whether the American Dream exists for some. Steinback is another writer that writes amazing descriptions and creates characters you care about. This is shocking at times and I realise a lot of my books are about depressing subjects but in a strange way they are also heart-warming tales of how people cope in extreme circumstances.
8. Northern Lights - Phillip Pullman. This is complete escapism. This is the first, and in my opinion the best in the 'Dark materials' trilogy. It tells the story of Lyra, a young girl living in Oxford who travels to the Artic to save her friend. My favourite part of the book is the descriptions of the various daemons which is part of their soul living in animal form. Pantalamon, Lyra's daemon, is a character in his own right and adds to the appeal of this book. The recent film made of this can not compare to his novel. He is a brilliant writer for both children and adults since it can be read on many different levels and I felt transported into Lyra's world, if only for a few hours! For me this is the best example of the fantasy novel - I feel I enjoyed this even more then Lord of the Rings which is another exceptional book of this genre.
9. Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M Auel. I love this whole series (Earth children) - this is the first one in the series and is my favourite of the 6 so far (although Mammoth Hunters is also very good) and there is one more to be published. However, fans have to wait a while as she takes a long time to research and write them but they have been worth the wait each time! This is a very interesting book about prehistoric times - she researches them meticulously so they are a fascinating insight about what life was like. The series starts with Ayla, just five years old is orphaned after her parents are killed in an earthquake, who is taken in by the clan - a tribe of Neanderthals whose medicine woman decides to rescue her. As a Cro-Magnon, she is an outsider throughout and she struggles to find her own sense of identity, as many do not accept her. She has created a strong main female character in Ayla who is very likable and is a fantastic heroine. I was gripped by them as a young adult and still love them now. Just will have to wait a few more years for the last one now!
10. Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett. An exceptional book - an epic tale of ambition, power, religion, love and revenge. This is based around the building of a cathedral and a brilliant example of historical fiction. It tells the story of Phillip, the prior of Kingsbridge and his mason, Tom who helps him build his Cathedral. This is over 1000 pages long but it does not feel like an effort to read this as it is a page-turner. The novel has lots of pace so I never got bored of reading this and I look forward to reading more by this author and have only just discovered him.
Summary: Hope you will want to read some of them.