The Most Memorable Books in My Life (so far)

I’ve pinched this meme from Kimberly and was inspired to write my own post. I’m still young (quite) and hopefully still have long reading years ahead for me. I wonder at times if there should be an age limit for these sort of things. Would writing up a list like this be something akin to a 17 year-old celebrity writing her autobiography? Nonetheless, these are the ten (only an arbitary number or I could go on and on) books that have resonated with me so far. In no particular order:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I adore this book. It’s so romantic, fierce, Gothic, dark, strong, melodramatic and sinister. I could go on with the adjectives. There are so many layers in the story. The crux of it, though, is the one that’s most inspirational which is, of course, the story and struggle of Jane Eyre. Plain, little, alone and poor, Jane makes her own way through the heavily patriarchal world and chooses what feels right for her. I think I have around four various copies of this book scattered around.
  2. Tintin by Herge. I grew up with these books and these definitely don’t read like comics. The expressive and wonderful illustrations along with the stories really captured my attention. The stories taught you about morals and what was wrong and right. They also took you to the most interesting places around the world from the Congo, Scotland and China. I still re-read them occasionally and they’re a treasured part of my collection.
  3. Matilda by Roald Dahl. The original and most inspiring bibliophile! I think it was reading this book that first made me realise how much I indeed did love books. The lovely illustrations by Quentin Blake also added its own enchantment.  Awhile ago, I copied down a list of books that Matilda had read. I have only read six out of the fourteen!
  4. The Tomorrow series by John Marsden. This was a significant read for me during my teenage years. It’s a very quintessential Australian series, largely set in the country but it also explored important social and political issues. It’s about a group of teenagers who goes camping for a long weekend and come home to realise that the country has been invaded by a foreign nation. The foreigners are never identified in the book. I remember the books being quite filled with action, with the teens initiating their own impressive guerrilla attacks against the invaders,  but it also had the typical teen issues like sex, relationships and friendship. I’d always thought if we were ever invaded, I’d want these books with me. Somewhat bizarrely, it also introduced me to Pride and Prejudice.
  5. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman. This book was assigned reading for a second-year Anthropology subject and it truly opened my eyes and mind. Fadiman writes about an unusual case where they have been misinterpretations between both parties. There is the family who are Hmong refugees and who have only recently settled in America. Anybody familiar with Hmong traditions know that they differ vastly from the Western idea of ‘normality’ and ‘rationality’. The youngest Hmong child suffers from a severe form of epilepsy and because of the massive cultural barrier between the parents and the American doctors, and the belief of what causes epilepsy, there is a large division and mistrust between both parties which inevitably harms the child. This book really taught me to always question the concept of culture and it really broadened my mind. I didn’t even know who the Hmong people were until I read this.
  6. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Ah, my first Sensation read and it was marvelous and what fun! Wilkie Collins is particularly memorable because not only are you guaranteed a ripping read but his insight into legal loopholes and issues women face is fascinating too. It is nice to know that Collins can be considered an advocate for women’s rights especially in what was such a patriarchal society.
  7. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. This was a book that surprised me by how much I really did enjoy reading it. It was suspenseful, gripping story with memorable and excellent characters – Pip, Estella and of course, Miss Havisham – a woman wholly consumed by her failed nuptials and who has stayed in a her wedding dress ever since. It’s one of my favourite Dickens.
  8. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451 – the temperature at which books begin to burn. The whole concept of the perceived dangers of a book, historically and presently, was foreign to me until I read this slim but powerful book, a cautionary tale of how oppression and narrow mindedness can breed. I’m still amazed at how threatened a society can feel by the mere presence of a book.
  9. The Outsider by Albert Camus. I read this when I was seventeen and I loved it immensely. I could, perhaps frighteningly, identify with Meursault and his perspective on life and freewill. While most in class was ready to cast Meursault as a villain, I viewed him as a sort of hero who had the courage to live his life without bowing to social conformity.
  10. The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre. If I had to pick a religion or faith, I think I would pick existentialism. Sartre really made me rethink the idea of freedom and, really, in the end we may think we are free but we are not. There are too many attachments in life holding us down that our concept of freedom have been misconstrued. I love books that make me think like this!

I wonder if this list will change dramatically if I do it again in a few years time. What books have been most memorable in your life?

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  1. Yes, Jane Eyre. I read it first at nine, having swiped it from my mother’s bedside table. And Rochester’s the first [fictional] man I ever loved, haha. I try to reread it every year or so–it always gets better, I think.

  2. Eek, I sent “Submit” too soon. Anyhoo, I was going to add how, immediately after reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time, I was kind of obsessed with that dork-cocktail party question of what book you’d stand for? The one you have to know by heart so you carry it with you forever? That. My answer changes every couple of weeks or so. Maybe the final answer would be, “Fahrenheit 451.” :]

    1. That would be an excellent answer! I think that’s a really difficult question because if one is truly a book lover then we would stand for all books. Rochester probably inspired, and still inspires, generations of women swooning over dark and brooding men…

  3. You’ve got a pretty diverse list there. Some of the books I’ve heard of, some I’ve read and loved and some I haven’t heard of before. I would agree with ‘Jane Eyre’, ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘The Woman in White’, I completely share your opinion on these. I’ve always wanted to read ‘Fahrenheit 451’ – you’ve convinced me to move it up to the top of the pile. 🙂

    It’s really nice to meet you!

    1. Thanks for your comment Susi. It’s nice to meet you too! 🙂 I highly recommend Fahrenheit, not only because it’s great, but also because it’s a relatively short read.

  4. Great list, Mae! Again, twice within one week I’ve heard Bradbury’s work mentioned and am now thinking I need to run to the library and pick it up when I’m finished with my current read. Truly, so many interesting works here! Matilda, btw, I have the same recollections of it. That little girl’s story brought me a tremendous amount of comfort in my formative years and I feel badly I forgot to include it on my own list. Thank you so much for sharing this! And, as always, you mentioned a few for me to add to my TBR list. 😀

    1. It must be Murphy’s law. That happens to me too. Somebody will mention a random and obscure author and I’ll start reading it everywhere. Thanks for doing this meme. I really enjoyed reading yours and compiling mine. It was hard work though!

  5. I need to read The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, as it sounds absolutely amazing. And Tintin! I loved it as a child, but I really need to rexperience it as an adult. Also, I love Jane Eyre and The Woman in White too, and I need to read more Dickens!

    1. Oh, you must read Spirit. It’s amazing and it really impacted on my life. Anne Fadiman is terrific writer. I’m going to re-read it soon. I don’t think I ever grew out of Tintin. I still flick through it now and again and I have the cartoons on DVD! Dickens is difficult to get started with but once you get the ball rolling, it’s surprisingly an easy and usually thrilling read!

  6. Interesting and diverse list! Love Jane Eyre, admire Camus and Sartre, not so keen on Dickens. I’m planning on re-reading The Woman in White – do like a good Gothic thriller.

  7. I have only read The Woman in White and Tintin (of course), but I can see that I might like some of these books in the list! I plan to read Jane Eyre this year.

    1. I hope you’ll like Jane Eyre. I’ve been itching to re-read it soon too. I’ll somehow slot it in within my tottering pile of TBRs… *sigh*

  8. What an interesting and diverse list! I’ve wanted to read that Anne Fadiman title for a while. Jane Eyre is one of my top ten too – such a brilliant, passionate, heartfelt book. My own list is filled with rather random selections – I blogged about it once – and I always find it fascinating how different people’s reading tastes and influences are. Great post!

    1. Jane Eyre seems to be a great favourite. I love how she far she reaches. I’ll be interested in your list. I’ll look for it on your site.

  9. Those are really amazing books! I completely fell for Jane Eyre as well when I read it, although I took this to the beach with me 🙂 And of course Mathilda, and Fahrenheit. Only read The Woman in White last year but it was a great introduction to Wilkie Collins. And I must read some Fadiman 🙂 Hehe, love your list!

    1. Thanks Bina. I’ve been meaning to read more Fadiman but, curiously, she writes more about bibliophiles and about books and reading. ‘Spirit’ is the exception. I think she used to be a journalist because it was so well written and researched.

      1. That´s how I´ve heard of her, because of bibliophilic books. I´ve been meaning to get a copy of Ex Libris.

        Spirit sounds very interesting though, I´m glad it´s so well-researched, especially with such a topic as the Hmong (which I´ve only heard of on the X-Files 🙂 ).

        1. They were also featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy… 🙂 Fadiman gives a great background to the Hmong, how they were used by the U.S during the Vietnam War and how they have resettled in U.S fleeing from Laos’ communist government. She writes with great insight and empathy but also very objectively. I really should re-read this book!

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