This week’s topic is Top Ten Books I’ve Felt Differently About After Time Has Passed. I really had to think about this one but I’m happy with the bunch I’ve come up with. Quite a few are from school/college as reading a text when you’re not having to study it really does change your perspective!
1. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
I bounced off this book the first time I read it – I just couldn’t get into it at all. Then I picked up again years later when I was stuck for something to read and I fell in love with it. The way Gaiman deals with mythology and storytelling is so satisfying and that ending is utterly brilliant.
2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The first of my school related picks. I read this at speed in one night whilst I was on holiday. I think I was about fourteen and although I enjoyed it it didn’t really strike a chord with me until I was older. Once I understood the origins of the book and a bit more about the fantastic Mary Shelley herself I appreciated it all the more!
3. An Inspector Calls by J B Priestly
Another school text. Perhaps the only thing I truly disliked about English Literature at school was that we had to read plays bit by bit lesson by lesson. You don’t get the full effect and studying plays like this is never the same as seeing them performed. But I watched the recent BBC adaptation and it absolutely blew me away. The writing is so deftly done, how it all ties together and David Thewlis gave a mesmerising performance.
4. The collected works of William Shakespeare
School again. I love Shakespeare, I always have. Ever since I read the first few pages of the opening to Macbeth at primary school – I mean it had witches and brilliant dialogue what’s not to like? But I never truly felt that I was understanding it or getting the most out of the text. Bizarrely it was only once I did my module on it at uni that I could let myself just feel the language as a whole rather than worrying about all the words!
5. The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin
My final school choice, well, technically college. My AS Literature syllabus was painfully depressing: Philip Larkin and Dancing at Lughnasa oh my. Even Helen, our tutor, was depressed by the end of it. We were all so down that we decided we needed to invent a happy syllabus at the end of the year to save whoever came after us. But rereading Larkin when I wasn’t studying him week in week out was a revelation. I could understand his dark sense of humour better – the beautiful imagery combined with the flatness of phrases like ‘Ate an awful pie’. Few are the poets who could fit that in a stanza.
6. The Wee Free Men (Tiffany Aching #1) by Terry Pratchett
I remember liking this the first time I read it. But I didn’t LOVE it. Not until last year when I reread it in preparation for The Shepherd’s Crown. There are some books that you have to read at a certain time of life I think and this one hit me at the perfect moment. Pratchett gets Tiffany spot on, a very ordinary girl dealing with extraordinary problems all whilst trying to deal with the death of Granny Aching. There’s plenty of humour and wry observations but this is one of his books where he gets the pathos just right too!
7. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
The first time I read this book I was so bizarrely worried about several plot points and whether the book was going to be as good as I hoped that I think I lost a bit of the enjoyment. Rereading it at the moment is hugely enjoyable. I can fully appreciate Schwab’s sprawling world building, the excellent characters and the banter. A very different experience.
8. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
This was another one that I enjoyed the first time I read it from the library, but fell head over heels for later. So much so that my paperback copy is falling apart and my boyfriend bought me a shiny new hardback version for my birthday. There’s something new in this book every time I read it and considering how many times I’ve read it that’s truly saying something.
9. Otto and the Flying Twins by Charlotte Haptie
Read and really enjoyed as a kid then rediscovered when I was sorting out my bookshelves a couple of years ago. Reading as an adult there are so many layers I missed as a child. The humour is sly and very dry – especially the part about class and the Karmidee being identifiable because of how they said the word lemon. Haptie is hugely underrated and her book has stayed with me long after I read it.
10. Spindle’s End by Robin Mckinley
The first fairytale retelling I ever read. I liked it, it was fun and though provoking as a kid but once I was older it took on whole other dimensions. The wider genre implications, the idea that ‘princessness’ was something that could be transferred, smiths as mythic figures. It’s all so deftly done you can only see the work when you look really hard.