#52 Books can bring the greatest happiness

“Alice laughed: “There’s no use trying,” she said; “one can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Now Lottie, there was much debate over this post, as to whether we should or shouldn’t recommend books and what’s suitable and what’s not.  I shall start by saying this:  Find the books you love reading, and read those ones, don’t let people dictate to you what you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ read.  A good book will bring you joy in the way a film or TV show can’t.  Open a book and throw yourself in to it, tear through the pages, devour the words, conjure up a million impossible worlds in your head and lose yourself in them,  become the characters, visit the places you never thought you would, think new thoughts and believe new things, and come back to the world with re-energised thoughts and ideas.

Your mummy wanted me to mention that she would recommend reading real books, not e-books.  There is nothing so exciting as cracking the spine of a real book for the first time, or the smell of the pages.  Whether they be old or new.  If they’re very old, how fortunate you are to share that story with it’s past owner; it now gets to live and breathe in your imagination for a little while.

Find time to read.  In our busy world it can be hard to find that stillness, and peace that it takes to concentrate on a good book.  But it’s worth trying to set that time aside.

Hopefully you’ll find your own way with books, your mama has LOADS of historical fiction, and promises she’ll help you understand Shakespeare, so you don’t struggle with it as school as she (and I) both did.  I know sometimes it can be hard to know what to read, or what’s good, so I asked some of my best people to send over their favourite, and the books they deem the most important for a young woman to read.  So if you ever find yourself short of ideas, hopefully you’ll find something on here to tickle your fancy.

My recommendations are:

Childhood:  The Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken.  A beautiful collection of stories.

Early teens:  His Dark Materials.  A huge, marvelous story by Philip Pullman.  This was the first book I truly loved when I was 19 years old, in that I felt like I was going through a breakup after I’d finished it. Zlata’s Diary, by Zlata Filipović.  The ‘Un-‘ series, by Paul Jennings.

Mid Teens: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee. I was fortunate not to have to read this for school, but because I chose to.  And I loved it.  It changed my thinking on a lot of things.  It’s an important book.  A picture of Dorian Gray I sped through, and Oscar WIlde is marvelous. I am Malala, by Malala Yousefzai,

Late teens:  I loved Memoirs of a Geisha when I was this age.  Also the Time Traveller’s Wife and Philip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ.’ Which is a brilliant and genius take on the bible.  Also The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Here are other people’s recommendations:

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austin

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Siddharta by Hesse

Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte

The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri

A Midsummer’s Night Dream, William Shakespeare

Harry Potter, JK Rowling

Goodbye to all that, Robert Graves

The Lottie Project, Jaqueline Wilson

Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

Re-read all fairytales and then the Brothers Grimm versions (gave me a completely different perspective on what I thought I knew),

Wicked the book, Gregory McGuire

Mortal Engines, Philip Reeve

ANYTHING by Neil Gaiman,

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden

Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë

Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maude Montgomery

A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini

I Capture the Castle, Cold Comfort Farm, Anne of Green Gables

The Once, then and Now series by Morris Gleitzman

My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece, Annabel Pitcher

Paper Towns, John Green

The Sherlock Holmes stories, Arthur Conan Doyle

Angus thongs and full frontal snogging, Louise Rennison

Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman

Midnight’s Children , Salman Rushdie

Brother of the More Famous Jack, Barbara Trapido

Lord of the Rings, JR Tolken

The Swish of the Curtain, Pamela Brown

Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keys

Witch Child, Celia Rees

I Capture the Castle, Dodi Smith

Immaculate Conceit, Stella Duffy

Roald Dahl’s Short Stories

Doris Lessing – The Golden Notebook

Mary Wollstonecraft – A Vindication of the Rights of Women

Simone de Beauvoir – Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter

Margaret Atwood – The Edible Woman

Mary McCarthy – The Group

Marge Piercy – Woman on the Edge of Time

Janet Frame (novels rather than autobiogs, esp Owls Do Cry, Faces in the Water, Living in the Maniatoto)

Katherine Mansfield (ALL the short stories)

Cider House Rules & A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving,

Riddley Walker, Russell Hoban

When you’re slightly younger – Trixie Belden books (not Nancy Drew); the Chalet School books; Black Beauty; Tess of the D’s. And some Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinam, Shere Hite, Germaine Greer. A collection of Emily Dickenson poems. Plus the Caitlin Moran and, so she knows how to be in a band, Tracey Thorn’s Bedsit Disco Queen. Bonjour Tristesse to add to her cool. And Salinger – not Catcher in the Rye or Esme but Raise High The Roofbeam, Carpenters (best short story ever) & Seymour, An Introduction (how to write).

Once and Future King, T.H White

Singling out the Couples, Stella Duffy

The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper

St Trinians, Ronald Searle

Fire and Hemlock, Diana Wynn Jones

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglous Adams

Lord of the Flies, William Golding

How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff

Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl Strayed

How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

The complete works of W.H. Auden

The complete works of E.E cummings

Little White Horse, Elizabeth Goodge

Beowulf and the Oddyssey

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken

George Orwell’s essays

1984, Orwell

A portrait of the Artist as a young man, James Joyce

The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

Smiley’s People, by John le Carre

Bridget Jones’s Diary, by Helen Fielding

The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner

Heroes and Villains, by Angela Carter

There is some debate over the Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath.  Some think it’s too depressing.  I didn’t understand a word when I tried to read it.  Make your own choices Lottie.  These books are for all ages, between 11 and 19, but I didn’t want to make you feel like you should be reading certain books at certain ages. Read what you want, when you want.  If you’re ready for the more grown up books at twelve.  Do it.  My one piece of advice (and your ma will agree with me) is NEVER stop reading children’s books.  I mostly read kids books, and love them.


Pooh, by E.H Shepard


 “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?” “Understand what?” “Oh, nothing.” He laughed and jumped to his feet. “Come on!” “Where?” said Pooh. “Anywhere.” said Christopher Robin.

So, they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”


2 thoughts on “#52 Books can bring the greatest happiness

  1. That is a FANTASTIC list of suggestions and some of those choices sent me haring down memory lane. Nothing quite so much as the Necklace of Raindrops. I’d completely forgotten that story until now. I think it was read to us when I was about six, and it’s just come back in full. Also “never stop reading children’s books” – stellar advice. When I went to uni, a lot of my kids books were given away, and I’ve spent my late 20s early 30s trawling through secondhand shops re-buying them.

    For early teens, I’d add almost anything by Robert Swindells, Robert Westall and early Jean Ure (Plague 99 in particular) to the list. And another suggestion for the list would be The Exiles by Hilary McKay. My sisters and I read and reread it endlessly, and each got a new copy of it this past Christmas.

    …I LOVE this whole blog, by the way, not just this entry.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s