Opinion

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way

OPINION: And they say nothing sensible ever happens on Facebook.

Well, recently, something I really enjoyed happened on the social media we hate to love, or love to hate.

A friend challenged me to list 10 books that had stayed with me in some way.

Narrowing it down to 10 was the hardest challenge.

People who love books will be touched, moved or inspired by dozens of them in some way during their lifetimes.

So I thought I would share my list with you in the hopes you will share your list with me.

Happy reading.

1. All Quiet on the Western Front

Every time I read this book, written by Erich Maria Remarque, I find something fresh to love about it.

The story is told from the perspective German soldier during the First World War, a soldier who was fighting on the opposite side of the Allies during the war but whose war time recollections encapsulated an experience that transcends nationality.

The book is heartbreaking.

By the conclusion of the novel just about all the narrator's comrades have died during the war and he is left alone to face the horror himself.

He realises he has a life force in him that will carry him forward, whether his conscious self likes it or not.

For those who have read the book, you will already know that just as Paul Baumer, the narrator, reaches this conclusion, that he will go on, he himself is killed, just weeks before the war ends in armistice.

I haven't read another book that has so poignantly shown how pointless war can be, if it is not fought for the right reasons.

2. Catch-22

This is a book that I hated vehemently when I first started to read it.

Chopping and changing and using language in a way far from the norm, it is a difficult book to embrace in many ways.

But if you do, the rewards are plentiful.

The book is at times terribly funny, shocking and sad.

Yossarian is a great character because crazy events don't just happen to him - he is reacting to them, questioning them and calling people out on their rubbish all the time, which makes him a fantastic leading man.

But so far as this novel goes, my favourite character has to be Major Major Major Major.

He has a difficult time, right from the start.

This is another book that you could read 20 times and still get a lot out of.

Author Joseph Heller wrote several other books too, all with the same sardonic style.

My second favourite of those is titled God Knows and is told from the perspective of King David of Old Testament fame.

To say you've never seen Bible stories told like this would be a massive understatement.

3. Persuasion

Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel, but it only narrowly edges out Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park.

I don't like Emma or Northanger Abbey as much, but those novels are still better than many others out there.

Jane Austen's novels are humorous, amazingly well-written, and contain brilliant observations of human behaviour.

When I was in high school the common consensus was that Jane Austen's books were novels in which nothing much happened, people took a lot of walks and the plot is slow pace.

I have to say, nothing could be further from the truth.

The way Austen captures the machinations of her own society are remarkable and she does it will such humour and sense it is impossible not to enjoy her writing.

Austen has a certain emphasis on order and morality as well - something that probably wouldn't hurt people to read these days.

Of course Pride and Prejudice is her most celebrated novel.

Elizabeth Bennet is a delightful character and it's hard not to enjoy the moment she and Darcy, after much trial and tribulation, finally realise they both love each other.

But it is Persuasion that is my personal favourite of her novels.

Anne Elliot is a sensitive and loving woman who gives up the love of her life after getting some bad advice from a close friend when she becomes engaged at 19.

She is Austen's oldest heroine, unmarried after turning down a proposal from another man years later.

Her original suitor, Frederick Wentworth, then comes back into her life, having made his fortune and ready to settle down, but with anyone but her as he is still angry that she broke their original engagement.

The story of how they find their way back to each other is not only Austen's best novel as far as I'm concerned, but also one of the best I have read.

4. Vernon God Little

This book, written by D.B.C. Pierre and winner of the Booker prize, can make you laugh, marvel at unspoken truths and cry, all within the same page.

It's the story of Vernon Gregory Little, whose closest friend, Jesus Navarro, goes on a shoo/tting rampage at their Texan high school.

Jesus then ends his own life in a story reminiscent of many high school horrors that have happened in the United States in recent years.

The town is left in shock after the shooting of its children and, because Jesus has killed himself, they need to direct their anger and blame elsewhere.

Enter Vernon, who is the most convenient target as the shooter's closest friend.

It's fascinating the way innocent actions and behaviours become "evidence" against Vernon as the witch-hunt ensues and maybe it's hypocritical of me to say, but the book shows perfectly how the media has a lot to answer for when it comes to ignoring the presumption of innocence and refusing to let facts dictate the day.

Most moving is Vernon's recollections of his friend, who was abused and bullied, the feeling he has that he is the only one that remembers that Jesus had good qualities.

At the end of the book, Vernon, at 16, is on death row.

I won't spoil the ending by telling you what happens.

5. On the Jellicoe Road

Melina Marchetta has long been one of my favourite authors.

She wrote Looking for Alibrandi, which I loved when I was a teenager, and from then on I kept an eye out for anything she produced as I knew it was sure to be wonderful.

She has never disappointed me.

After Looking for Alibrandi I read Saving Francesca.

There is a moment in that book that reduces me to tears, no matter how many times I read it.

Francesca's mother has been suffering from intense depression after losing a baby and has barely been out of bed in a year.

Her father has been taking care of both Francesca and her brother while the family has been devastated by the effects of mental illness upon a woman who was once so vibrant.

At the end of the novel, Francesca's mother is slowly recovering and the moment that brings tears is a moment that probably seems banal to most - Francesca's mother is finally able to leave the house and pick her and her brother up from school.

That moment has never left me and Saving Francesca was my favourite Marchetta novel for a while.

That was until On the Jellicoe Road hit the shelves.

The storyline can be a tad confusing due to the structure, but stick with it. The pay-off is incredible.

The novel is set in both the present day and in the 1980s, with flashbacks to a group of five teenagers who bonded after a tragic car crash that killed several members of two families.

Taylor, telling the story in the present day, uncovers the mystery surrounding the five teenagers and her own family.

To say the story is sad yet uplifting would be a massive understatement.

6. Harry Potter

It's hard to pick a favourite among the Harry Potter novels, which were written by J.K. Rowling.

These have been so well loved and well read, and there is a reason for that - these books are utterly fantastic.

Funny, moving, exciting, it's hard to think of a better way to introduce children to reading.

I loved the Prisoner of Azkaban, which saw Harry rescue his godfather.

But I loved The Order of the Phoenix more when Dumbledore explained his love and affection for Harry at the conclusion of the novel.

I didn't particularly like the way the series ended, but who cares.

These novels will stand the test of time and will go on delighting children and adults alike, as they rightly should.

7. The Lovely Bones

This novel is a great example of how one can absolutely loathe a movie, yet love a book.

Susie Salmon is a 14-year-old girl who is sexually assaulted and then murdered horribly by a neighbour.

The book is about how Susie watches from heaven while her father tries to solve her disappearance and her mother dissolves under the weight of the grief.

This book is tremendously moving.

There's not much humour, which I tend to enjoy in most books I read, but when you take the subject matter it hardly matters.

This is an account of how one horrible act can devastate a family and a community and I have never seen it as well done as this.

The beauty of this book can be summed up in one heartbreaking passage, which I will share with you:

"These were the lovely bones that had grown around my absence: the connections - sometimes tenuous, sometimes made at great cost, but often magnificent - -that happened after I was gone. And I began to see things in a way that let me hold the world without me in it. The events that my death wrought were merely the bones of a body that would become whole at some unpredictable time in the future. The price of what I came to see as this miraculous body had been my life."

After reading The Lovely Bones I did some research on its author, Alice Sebold.

Before she wrote the novel, she wrote another, titled Lucky.

I would advise anyone who reads The Lovely Bones to read Lucky first, because that book details how Sebold herself was violently raped during her first year in college in the United States.

The book tells of how she fought for justice for herself, her long road to recovery after the attack and the impact her assault had on those around her.

And it made me understand how she came to have the terrible knowledge she imparted with such intelligence in The Lovely Bones.

8. Middlesex

The story of incest, a baby born that is thought to be a girl who is actually a boy and everything that happens in between may sound a bit weird at first.

But try not to worry about that.

Middlesex is one of the most remarkable books I have read because it made me feel like I actually looked at the world through quite different eyes.

At the start of the book a brother and sister fall in love.

The two are emigrating from Greece to America and no one on the boat knows them, so the two are able to disguise their incestuous relationship.

Desdemona, the sister, never stops worrying that one of her children may be born with an abnormality, but that misfortune skips a generation and the child born to Desdemona's son has the appearance of a girl, but is actually in reality a son.

The discovery of that fact 14 years later is only part of the fascination of this book.

The best part for me is when a tearful Desdemona, having lost her husband/brother and her secret now exposed, tearfully apologises to Calliope, now known as Cal, and Cal tells her not to worry - he is going to have a good life.

The idea of the new generation forgiving the sins of the past generation is kind of a beautiful one, isn't it?

Jeffery Eugenides wrote the novel and he is also responsible for another of my favourite books, The Virgin Suicides.

When you can say that about a book in which five sisters commit suicide that is indeed an accomplishment on the part of the author.

9. Wuthering Heights

This book refuses to bow down to any notion of a happy ending and that's partly what I like about it.

Yes, the second generation has a chance to right the wrongs of the past, but it's not them we truly care about, is it?

Catherine and Heathcliff have to be two of the most flawed lovers ever paired in a novel, but sometimes when a love is expressed as powerfully as this, is doesn't seem to matter.

Emily Bronte's writing is so powerful it's no wonder this book is still treasured today and thought by many to be the best of the novels written by the three Bronte sisters.

Maybe with the exception of Romeo and Juliet, rarely do we see a love story so tragically rendered.

10. Pet Sematary

I love many novels written by Stephen King but this is the one that has stuck with me.

It's not the idea of the demon child coming back from the grave with a scalpel at hand that keeps me awake at night, either.

In the novel, Louis and Rachel lose their son Gage when he is struck by a truck and it is unsurprising that King had a similar incident happen to him when his son was young - the difference being King was able to chase down his son before he met his end in the road and the novel became only the terrible imagining of the grief King and his family would have suffered if his son had been killed.

King has said he wrote the novel and put it in a drawer, unwilling to share his story with the world because he felt it was the darkest thing he had ever written.

The loss of a child and the heaviness of the grief felt by that child's parents is expressed so well in this novel that for weeks after first reading it, I carried that feeling with me and hoped to God I would never have occasion to actually experience it.

It makes Carrie seem like a light-hearted read in comparison.

Share the 10 books that stayed with you in the comments below.

Topics:  books, carlie walker, facebook, opinion




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