10 Books That Have Stayed With Me

I recently got tagged in a Facebook post by my friend Sue asking me to list 10 books that have stayed with me. Now if anyone knows me at all, they'll know that such a list is a huge challenge for me, partly because I love to read, but also because I read very fast and so books tend to flit and flounce across my brain like crane flies. However, I figured that the first 10 books to come into my head would be the most appropriate and rather than simply state my choices, I wanted to explore the reasons why these particularly works have stayed with me. Also, I decided not to include the bible because it's kind of a given that it would stay with me, but also because I haven't finished reading it and I don't think I ever will. 

1) The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath before reading this the only thing I knew about Plath was that she was severely depressed and gassed herself to death. I assumed that her novel would be gross and sticky with self-pity but instead I found myself absorbed in a light narrative with meaningful, albeit slightly dark undertones. It was so relatable that it changed my perspective on mental illness. 

2) Moon Palace - Paul Auster I was given this by Franzi to read on the bus journey between Karlsruhe and Berlin last Summer. It was in a tiny red reclam book with no blurb and no clues on the cover as to what lay inside. I realised that so often I do judge books by their cover and there was something deliciously releasing about diving into a book with no preconceptions. It is one of the best books I have ever read and so many sentences and scenarios still resonate with me on a daily basis.

3) Ballet Shoes - Noel Streatfeild  I used to read this book whenever I was ill or couldn't sleep. At the time I was in the middle of a grand love affair with all things ballet and so was constantly reading books about ballet school and dancing. As I got older, I loved the old fashioned simplicity of the Fossil Family and I desperately wished I could be a child actress like Pauline (surprise, surprise) It has stayed with me because I have read it so many times, but also because it reminds me of all the things I wanted as a child growing up.

4) Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte this was the first book that made me cry and no, it wasn't just those polite few tears rolling down my cheeks, I was uncontrollably sobbing. That in itself is a reason to remember it. Also, I love the story with all its passion and drama. 

5) The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald I was very fortunate to have an incredible class and teacher for my A-Level years. We would sit in this tiny library at the top of the school and just explore, discuss and debate literature. It was wonderful. Anyway, there were many books and plays that have stayed with me on account of those memorable lessons (Othello, The School for Scandal and Spies to name a few!) but The Great Gatsby was certainly the highlight. Those lessons unpicked the mystery behind it and made me fall in love with all the small kooky details that I hadn't noticed before. It also kick-started my long-term relationship with Fitzgerald's writings and I try to read one of his short stories or novels every year. 

6) Anna Karenina - Tolstoy I can't quite describe how brilliant I think this book is. So I won't. All I'll say is that Levin's final passage at the end of the book is just incredible.

7)  Looking for Alaska - John Green I read this book in my final year at school and I've reread it a few times since. It has such a powerful voice and is an excellent example of how teen-fiction can explore adolescence without being cliche or dramatic. I think that's why I liked it so much. Also because I found myself in a similar situation to the protagonist about a year later. 

8) One Day - David Nicholls I enjoyed this book so much that I think I actually read it in one day. Then I made myself read it again to make sure I hadn't missed anything out. It was one of those stories that I just couldn't stop thinking about it. Even as I was walking up Arthur's Seat this Summer I thought about Emma and Dex on their first day together. 

9) If This is a Man/ - Primo Levi I did a course on Levi's work in my 2nd year at University not realising that most of his literature was about his experience in Auschwitz. His memoir is haunting and whenever the holocaust is referenced, passages from this book become vivid and important all over again. Until this point I hadn't really engaged with the subject matter because it made me too upset but this book forced me to recognise that humanity has so much capacity for evil in every generation and that it shouldn't be contained in the past. 

10) The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Perkins Gilman this was the first book I read this year. I was in a pretty desperate place, much like the protagonist. I think it sticks in my mind so much because I read it aloud to a very kind, compassionate friend one January afternoon in Berlin. I remember the beautiful words and pictures Gilman creates, as well as the woman's sensation of being stuck behind the wallpaper. It's one of those books that I turn over and over in my mind trying to find undiscovered nuances. 

Now that I've chosen 10 at least 10 others have popped into my mind, but I shall be disciplined and stop right there. 


  1. looking for alaska by john green is the only one of those i read so far, a few are on my reading-list :) and you really made me want to read all the others too! looking for alaska is one of my faves too! because of this book i'm currently reading all works by john green and loving them. his writings are so insightful! another favourite by him is 'the fault in our stars' you sure have heard of it :) lovely greetings from germany!

  2. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath: definitely one of my favourite books... ever. I can't wait to read "If This Is A Man" and it's a shame that I haven't read the classics such as Anna Karenina or Jane Eyre... yet. Which one struck you the most? I absolutely LOVED The Great Gatsby... to the point of thinking about the story whenever I see a green light (it's usually just a traffic light or a lighthouse). I've just purchased "The Last Tycoon", haven't read it yet.