Friday, 6 June 2014

Top 10 books

I love books more than your average teenager. When talking to other people my age it actually shocks me how few of them read regularly, if even at all. I've been a bookworm ever since I could read; even when I was just learning to read. In fact, even before, I'd always be getting my mum to read me books. But thinking about it now, I was just so keen from a young age to be able to shut myself away from my family and just read on my own. I don't really know why, it felt more personal I guess, like, I didn't want to hear what other people had to say about a book until I'd experienced it for myself first. My sister being only a year older than me meant that usually she'd just finished reading the books I was starting and she'd tell me about them, but I'd never want to hear it until I'd read it too. It's kind of ironic because nowadays I'm always finding books from reviews and reading what other people thought of them before even touching the cover. I think books are just something really special, because you never see anything, you just picture it in your mind. And it makes it so personal, because your perceptions will always be different from someone else's.

Soooo, I thought I would share my top ten books.

There's huge potential for this list to change dramatically after my exams finish as I have an enormous pile of books waiting to be read (two history and an English exam down, media and saxophone to go (English was awful hahahahahhhhhh)). It's taking soooo much determination not to just stop revision and pick one of them up, but I need to do well in these exams and I know I'll become too consumed in the books if I start even just one (which will lead to another, and then another, and another etcccccc (I love books gaaaaa)). And let's face it, I spend too much time writing to give up even more revision time to read as well. Although, I am still reading of course, it's mainly been the books I've studied for my English exam, which was this morning, but it's still reading.

Anyway, here we are; in no particular order:

1. Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I read this book for the first time around Christmas time 2012. For my AS English coursework we were studying dystopian fiction, and so I wanted to read around the subject, rather than just the core texts. Of the dystopian novels I read, this was by far my favourite. And it was a good job I read it too, because about a month before our close analysis piece of coursework was due in, our teacher realised he'd been teaching us a book that the exam board would no longer accept (A Clockwork Orange (which was not enjoyable in the slightest). As a result, we switched to this book, which was incredibly handy for me.

It was so easy to read, basic English but with a twist, with terms like 'donation' being used in ways that initially seemed unfamiliar and out of context. Things aren't really explained early on, but you just sort of pick up on what's happening and what the novel will result in as you read on. I thought it was very gripping and incredibly perceptive. Ishiguro has just the right kind of written style that eases you into the novel, and before you know it you completely understand the plot. There's kind of a lacking of emotion, but equally you can just tell how the characters are feeling without it being said outright at most times. I would recommend this book to anyone.

2. Animal Farm - George Orwell

I read Animal Farm in year eight or nine at school. It was that sort of age where I was just becoming aware of politics and what it was all about, and so I think it was definitely the right time to read the book. Essentially, the novel revolves around the idea of communism. Communism is 'a theory or system of social organisation in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.' It was written as a sort of response to the growth of communism in the 1930s/40s and all the fears that it brought. I think that Animal Farm explains it all really well. It shows that ultimately communism won't work, as no one will ever really be economically equal. The pigs in the novel show that even when the farmer is evicted from the farm, and overthrown as such, someone else will always have to take the lead in order for things to work; so even if the pigs were convincing the other animals they were all equal, they would always hold a little more power, thus causing tension and conflict. A brilliant, insightful book.

3. The Nanny - Melissa Nathan

I have read this book so many times. And every time I love it more. It's one of the very few books that I would love to see a film developed from. The first time I read it I think I was around eleven; my mum had had it on her bedside table for months, convincing herself she would read it and in the end she just said I might as well read it first (she didn't read it until we went on a holiday about three years ago). Even for an eleven year old it was easy to understand, yet witty and kind of complex relationship-wise I suppose (although nothing I hadn't heard of before). It revolves around protagonist, Jo, who moves to London to act as a nanny for three young children. It's very modern and doesn't really closely compare to Mary Poppins, but I think there's kind of a likeness between Mary and Jo. I suppose it's probably considered a women's kind of book, but to be honest I think men should be encouraged more into this sort of relationship/women's lifestyle genre; maybe they'd understand women's minds a little bit better. I love it, unconditionally; would recommend it to anyone, although it's probably best aimed at teenage girls and women in general (don't let that stop you though, men).

4. My Sister's Keeper - Jodi Picoult

First off, the novel is five hundred billion trillion times better than the film. If you've seen the film, you should know that the novel has a completely different ending. It's so unexpected you almost can't believe what you're reading, unlike the film, in which, everything you expect to happen, happens. I was literally gutted when I watched the film, so if you haven't read the book, I would actually recommend watching the film first, because the book will blow your mind. I feel like the topic of cancer or any life threatening disease is always a morbid one, but Picoult makes the whole novel seem more political than medical. Equally there's a lot of heart, and a lot more than you could possibly expect if you've only watched the film. Literally, just read it, please.

5. Looking For Alaska - John Green

How teenage girl of me. Despite not being Green's best known book, I actually prefer Looking For Alaska to The Fault In Our Stars (the controversy). I think the best two word description of the book would be: unexpectedly deep. Green is one of those writers who has a knack for intricate metaphors. The title itself causes one to think that someone's looking for Alaska, which to me is representative of how Alaska is a part of America, yet isn't connected, so you sort of just have to know where it is. And the character of Alaska is very similar: you either know where she is (physically, mentally and emotionally) or you just sort of look hopelessly. It is deeeeeeep. I also like how it's written from the perspective of a teenage boy. I don't know, you just don't really get that a lot. Typically I'd recommend this to teenage girls, but to be honest I would probably have read it if I were a boy (even if I was a cool, hot one (can you imagine lolz)).

6. Of Mice And Men - John Steinbeck

Pretty much every GCSE student has read this book at some point. And most of them have hated it. But looking past your teacher saying 'highlight any evidence of foreshadowing' and resultantly highlighting practically the whole book, it's actually got a really strong message of friendship, dependence, trust and ultimately kindness, doing the right thing. Literally, I think GCSE English has ruined this book, because teenagers are often pretty dumb and as a result unappreciative of anything that actually means something. Ugh. And if read from a feminist perspective it's also really good evidence of the oppression of women, in so many ways. Curley's wife isn't even given a name. Worth reading. Don't resent it because you have to read it for school.

7. To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Don't read this book if you're only twelve, because there's a good chance you won't really appreciate the content. My English class had to read this over the summer between years seven and eight and I didn't get a word of it. However, I read it again when I was sixteen and it literally made all the sense in the world. Set in the southern states of America during the 1930s, essentially the novel depicts the situation for African Americans, especially in court, during this time, which wasn't pleasant. Telling the story through the eyes of the child is probably the way Lee made things so eye opening. Children are generally very honest, and so Scout's character really brings out the unfairness of the way blacks were treated. It kind of goes to show how the popular opinions of adults impact the future opinions of children. A very interesting and historically accurate read.

8. Alone On A Wide, Wide Sea - Michael Morpurgo

I wish I had read this book when I was about ten or eleven instead of only a year ago, because I think I would've appreciated the adventure element of it a lot more back then. It's fiction, but I just think to a younger audience it would seem more real and exciting. It's a great book about a huge journey of a man and his daughter. It's made me more interested in Australia as a country for some reason, despite the small description of the country being mostly revolved round the middle of nowhere rather than the urban areas that most people would visit. I think it's an amazingly well-written book, but I would recommend that people read it when they're just coming out of primary school, at sort of eleven/twelve years old; I feel like my age has caused me to kind of compare the whole thing to reality a bit too much, making it seem all the more fictitious; which is sad really, because usually I can believe a novel almost entirely when I'm reading it.

9. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love pretty much everything about the 1920s, so this book was a little heartbreaking for me at times. It kind of exposed the Jazz Age to be not as great as I had initially thought it to be. Obviously the novel still shows the lavish lifestyles and flapper culture, but it does seem more real than this era is often made out to be. I haven't actually seen the film version with Leonardo DiCaprio in, but I'm sure his performance as Gatsby would have been convincing. Leo would probably cut his arm off for a film if that would make it a great film. I think the novel is very focused on idealism and essentially allows the reader to see how someone with everything can actually have very little.

10. 1984 - George Orwell

Orwell has made it into the favourites twice ohhh riiiiight. I think, similarly to Animal Farm, again Orwell puts out a strong political message in 1984, with focus on both communism and totalitarianism. It's kind of scary to think that some people think this sort of world would be ideal. The lack of freedom literally terrifies me. The whole novel appears to be filled with false hope, which as a reader is never really what you want to see. I also found the ending SO disappointing; there were so many things that could have happened, but essentially I think Orwell was trying to show the full extent of the regime, and he did that very well. It's made me think about what would be in my room 101 but I genuinely have no idea. Like I don't really like bugs very much, but I'm more scared of like, the unknown and that kind of thing, but how would you put that in a room? Anyway, definitely worth reading. Probably a fourteen and above kind of book.

Sooooo there you have it. Those are currently my favourite books. As I said, once I finally get more time to read again, I'm sure it will change dramatically, but for now I like these ones best.
I love all the Harry Potter books as well but I felt like I wouldn't really be able to mention one without talking about them all (Prisoner of Azkaban is my faaaaavourite).
Let me know your favourite books and any you'd recommend, and equally if you've read any of these and hated them let me know why.

Until next time.

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