Monday, 4 March 2013

B is for... Books

I have always been an avid reader. As a child I would DEVOUR books in a way that adult me is now quite jealous of. My mum says she has memories of me linking arms with her and having to lead me blindly round shops as I was too engrossed with the book in my hand to look at where I was going. I would read on all car journeys, no matter how short; I would read until the small hours of the morning; I would read at the dinner table. I have a vague memory of counting all the books in my room with my mum once & giving up somewhere around 600. So even though my appetite for reading may have dwindled slightly as I've gotten older, I am still a real bookworm & a bit of a library geek at heart. I get obsessive about reading in the summer months & have to admit I still occasionally stay up until 4 AM because I just can't sleep until the whole book is finished.

So here is my list of my 3 favourite ever books (this was really hard to pick!)

3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Secret History is the most amazing (& beautifully written) tale of 6 students at Hampden College who have to deal with the fallout and psychological repercussions after the death of one of their group & the circumstances around it. It's written kind of like a mystery novel, with events unfolding backwards to the final reveal. The characters are charming, beautiful, mysterious & seductive and by the end of it I kind of wanted to be one of their group too, despite, you know, all the betrayal and death. (I've always thought this story would make an AMAZING movie too). Tartt has also written another great novel, The Little Friend, which is fantastic too, and has a book (FINALLY OMG 11 YEARS) coming out later this year, titled The Goldfinch. She also went to uni & is friends with Bret Easton Ellis, which I used to think was so cool and spent a great deal of time imagining, but now we all know that Bret Easton Ellis is a moron (gee thanks Twitter) it's not as special. Oh well his novels are still good (Less Than Zero, Rules of Attraction get on these asap & thank me later).

2. The His Dark Materials trilogy

Okay, so technically this is 3 books, but the over arching story & how closely they intertwine makes it feel (to me anyway) more like one huge epic. I also wouldn't necessarily classify this as children's literature in the same way I would Harry Potter- both are marketed at children & both can be enjoyed by adults (for the record I will always be a Harry Potter fan til I die) but His Dark Materials feels more adult & full of a subtle, lushness of writing that I'm not sure children would grasp until they were older (although I do think it's important for children to be introduced to these when they are young- definitely want my as yet non-existent kids to read them). It is a remarkable story full of adventure and mystery and has its own complex mythology. I'm not even going to begin to start trying to summarise all three books here, but all you need to know is Lyra is a small girl with a fierce character & unending bravery who you will probably love forever. And you will totally cry your eyes out multiple times.

1.  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I have written about my love of  Lolita before. Back then I wrote 'It is challenging, subversive, perverse, beautiful, nostalgic, darkly funny, romantic, poetic & disturbing. In other words, perfect, and probably one of the greatest novels of our time.' and to be honest I couldn't agree with myself more. It shaped me as a person in a way that only great art can. All my life I had never read something so dangerously beautiful until I read Lolita and it changed the way I looked at the world around me. Can we just take a moment to call out the realness of Nabokov writing some of the most amazing prose the English language has ever, ever seen? (Not just in Lolita, although imo it is his finest work, but check out Pale Fire & Ada or Ardor too.) Because yeah, that shit is hypnotic. If you don't know the basic premise of Lolita it's a story about a monstrously charming deviant of a man kidnapping a young girl & taking her around America until eventually his life implodes. I know it sounds like a difficult & challenging topic, and that's because it is, but it's also beautiful & life changing. If you have never read this please do yourself a favour & rectify this immediately. Beg, borrow or steal a copy of this book and it might change your life too.