The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
The first novel on my list is The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S Lewis, and in particular, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Everybody has a childhood book that they will treasure forever. For my mum, it is Polly of Primrose Hill by Kathleen O'Farrell, and for my sister it is The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton. For me, it is The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I discovered Narnia even before I discovered Wonderland. It was the first book I read that truly captured my interest and my imagination, and without it, I doubt that I would be reading fantasy today. I was first in line when the film adaptation was released, and I still pick it up when I'm feeling sad for some childhood comfort. I think I will always enjoy Narnia. I'm going to end this paragraph with a quote from C.S Lewis that I think is very apt.
“A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.”
The Lord of the Rings
As a fantasy reader, there was absolutely no way that Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings could not make this list, and I doubt anybody will be surprised that this has been included! I was actually quite old when I discovered Tolkien. My Dad convinced me to read The Fellowship of the Ring when I was eleven as he'd read both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. The Fellowship of the Ring was one of the first books that I can remember picking up and refusing to put down. I can distinctly remember trying to read it at night and my mum wandering into my room and telling me to switch off my light (they eventually caught on and bought me a book light). Everything about The Lord of the Rings fascinated me. The language, the sheer scale of the plot and the imagination involved were just beyond anything that I'd read previously. I still read the trilogy at least once a year, and I wrote a piece of comparative coursework using LotR and Beowulf for my A-Level in English Literature when I was 18.
Lord of the Flies
Next is the book that I studied for my GCSE English Literature. Lord of the Flies by William Golding. The first real 'classic' that I read was actually Great Expectations by Dickens, but I think I was a lot more interested by Golding, which I suppose is quite unusual. I was torn between choosing Lord of the Flies for this slot or 1984. I decided on Golding because Lord of the Flies led me to both 1984 and Animal Farm. It's one of the most haunting and striking books I've ever read. I've never met anybody who has read Lord of the Flies and simply forgotten about it afterwards. It's the kind of book that you never truly put down. It's a fascinating study of human nature and there's a lot of truth in it too, even if that truth is a little unnerving.
The Bloody Chamber
I first encountered Angela Carter's collection of short stories titled The Bloody Chamber when I was studying for my A-Level in English Literature. Reading The Bloody Chamber for the first time was like pieces of a jigsaw slotting into place. It was like I was finally reading what I had been searching for throughout my life as an avid reader. It is everything that I love about writing. It's elegant, it's clever, beautiful but grotesque, and simply wonderful. It has an almost hypnotic quality to it. One girl in my class was so appalled by Carter that she refused to study The Bloody Chamber completely. Perhaps you either hate or love her, and I certainly fall in the latter category. Reading this made me want to start writing. Not professionally, but for myself. I read the entire thing in one hour. I own several of her other works, but The Bloody Chamber is still my favourite. My favourite stories in this collection are The Bloody Chamber, The Erl-King and The Lady of the House of Love. They are perfect for a quick read on a dark, lazy Sunday afternoon.
Measure for Measure
I couldn't quite decide if plays were supposed to be included in these lists, but since Shakespeare has had a huge influence on me on my studies, and I thought it would be impossible for at least one of his plays not to make my list. The first Shakespeare play I encountered was Romeo and Juliet when I was at school. I studied Much Ado About Nothing for my SATs, Romeo and Juliet again for my GCSEs (my school did not encourage variety) and Othello at A-Level. I've taken theatre modules in every year of my studies at university, and I didn't encounter Measure for Measure until my second year, and I have now written an essay and a dissertation chapter on it. There's something particularly captivating about Measure for Measure as Shakespeare's first Jacobean play. It's an incredibly intriguing study of government, power and immorality and it quickly became my favourite play. I discover something new and interesting every single time I pick it up.
I'd love to know what books would make your list and why! If you've written a similar post to this, please send me a link! I love seeing what other people enjoy reading! I'd also like some feedback on whether or not you enjoy this kind of post?