An addiction to reading can be strangely like an addiction to chocolate. Certainly I find that I can go into a bookshop and come out without buying anything, similar to the way I can go into a chocolate shop and not buy anything – although both these things can be very difficult! However, if I go into my local library I just have to get something out, just like if I go out for a meal I will always choose the chocolate option on the dessert menu. Another similarity is when it comes to quality. I can sit and eat Dairy Milk like there is no tomorrow. It tastes great, but it’s not the best of chocolates. I can also sit and binge-read on ‘chick-lit’ – it’s usually predictable and not very clever, but as soon as I finish one I can be straight onto the other. However, take a good quality, high percentage dark chocolate and I will savour a piece (possibly two), and then my cravings are satisfied. It’s the same with a really good book – once you’ve finished it, you don’t actually want to start reading another one straight away as you are still going over it in your mind, overwhelmed by the emotion it has made you feel.
I’ve seen a lot of ‘must read’ lists in my time, and whilst usually I would recommend at least a few of the books on each list, there is definitely a difference between recommended reading and you HAVE to read this. I quite regularly recommend some of my favourite authors to friends, or simply books I’ve read which I can see appealing to people, but I really do believe there are some books that everyone should read which is why I will sing their praises to anyone. As an English Literature graduate I can appreciate clever ideas and well crafted words, but for me a great book is still one that makes you feel. One that you can’t stop thinking about, that gets under your skin and stays there even after you’ve finished reading.
Everyone’s ‘must read’ list will look different as you need to be able to make a personal connection to the book. I imagine my top 5 will change over time, but here are those I would recommend now and why. Please comment below with any that you would add!
- The Breadwinner – Deborah Ellis. I read this book in primary school, and whilst I am yet to revisit it, it certainly had a lasting impact. It’s set in Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban. When Parvana’s father is arrested and taken away, she must pretend to be a boy in order to save her family. At only 11 years old, I knew little about Afghanistan than the odd things I saw on the BBC news, which I didn’t pay much attention to. This was a real eye-opener into a different world and made me desire to be much more conscious of what was happening in the world around me.
- My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult. I first read this book when I was 12, and again it hasn’t been one that I’ve revisited. I need to, as I probably didn’t understand it anywhere near as much as I should have. In case you’re not familiar with it, this is about a girl who sues her parents for the right to her own body. It made me think of things that I never had before and really made me question what was right and wrong.
- Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Since reading this, I have gone on to read other books by Adichie which I believe to be even better, but Americanah was the first that I read and was what inspired me to read more. Again, I feel like I saw the world from a different viewpoint which made me a less ignorant person. This book made me consider race in a way I hadn’t previously. I would recommend this, or any of Adichie’s other novels.
- The C Word – Lisa Lynch. I read this for the first time this summer and think I must have recommended it to just about everyone I know. I don’t think I ever imagined that a book about cancer would be funny. But this is hilarious. It is honest and personable and I couldn’t put it down. This book will make you laugh and cry in equal measure – read it now!
- I am Malala: The girl who stood up for Education and was shot by the Taliban – Malala Yousafzai. Ever since I first heard Malala’s incredible story on the news, I couldn’t help but be inspired. Now I have finally gotten round to reading her autobiography and I’m even more in awe. This book is great because it is written in a very honest and modest way. It’s written as though she doesn’t really believe she did anything great, and it makes it all the more inspiring to encourage other people to speak out for what they believe in.