1. The Diary of a Nobody – George & Weedon Grossmith
First published in 1892 by the Grossmith brothers, I absolutely LOVE this book. It’s basically a diary written by protagonist Charles Pooter who is a middle class office clerk living a relatively quiet life with his wife Carrie, son Lupin and small group of friends. But the catch here is….he’s an idiot. He’s a nineteenth century David Brent who makes terrible pun jokes and desperately wants to be a member of high society. Fantastic and very, very funny.
2. In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and Its Consequences – Truman Capote
Truman Capote was most famous for penning Breakfast at Tiffany’s and hosting outrageous parties. In fact Marilyn Monroe – one of his close pals – infamously referred to Queen Elizabeth II as a cunt during one of his celeb gatherings – funny how you don’t see that quote written on her internet memes? Anyway, it is In Cold Blood that is Truman’s real masterpiece. It tells the true story of an entire Kansas farming family who were slain by two thieves in 1959. The book was actually a major breakthrough because it was the first ever non-fiction novel to be written – Truman was a true pioneer. And just as all of his work, Truman’s use of language, his description of people and surroundings is second-to-none. It’s such a vivid, enthralling story which is both spellbinding and heart breaking.
3. Animal Farm – George Orwell
Animal Farm is such a clever and easy to read book. Best of both worlds! Orwell based the story on the Russian Revolution but the core beliefs are relevant today and probably always will be. It’s a short read yet packs a very relevant punch. And I’ll leave you with Orwell’s incredibly clever words about – all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. Because depressing though it might be, how true it is!
4. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Harper Lee only wrote one novel in her lifetime (at the time of writing this post) and To Kill a Mockingbird was it. It’s a testament of how popular and well received it was that the film adaptation was made just two years after publication, as well as winning Lee literary awards such as the Pulitzer. It’s another easy to read, plus it’s warm and funny and the characters really come alive (probably because most of them were semi-autobiographical). It’s a Must Read and also introduces us to one of the loveliest, most level headed, polite and best thinkers in modern day fiction – Atticus Finch. Ahhhh.
5. The Catcher in the Rye – J.D. Salinger
I only read this book because I found it in a charity shop and I wanted to know what it was that made it so controversial. Truth be told I still don’t know and apart from the whole Mark Chapman thing I think people were just more easily shocked in 1951. And all old people get a little scared at the idea of a youth rebellion don’t they? Having said all that I loved this book. Well it was Holden Caulfield that I fell in love with. I don’t understand why people would call him arrogant or pretentious, I never once saw him like that. All I saw was a sensitive and hugely kind hearted teenager who couldn’t make sense of the shit rubbish that frequents the world; nastiness, greed, abuse and loneliness. It’s a strange fly-on-the-wall type book as Holden leaves his school to pretty much just walk around New York City. But the way it’s told in first person really gives you an image of Holden and his world and it’s his thoughts and opinions about the situations around him that make the story.
6. Starter for Ten – by David Nicholls
It was my love for BBC2 quiz show University Challenge that made me buy this book seven or eight years ago. And it is now almost in tatters from the amount of times I’ve read it. It’s the best coming-of-age novel I’ve ever read and it is probably the funniest book I’ve ever read too. Set in the 1980s we follow protagonist Brian Jackson who is a geeky, hapless but nice guy who goes off to university and joins the University Challenge quiz team – his dream come true. Brian also falls in love with an unattainable girl, makes terrible jokes and always says the wrong thing. The whole story is very funny but it’s his internal thoughts that are fucking hysterical – and unlike the aforementioned Charles Pooter, Brian knows exactly how he comes across.
7. Matilda – Roald Dahl
Pretty hard to choose a favourite Roald Dahl but if I had to, Matilda would be it. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the story so I won’t bore you too much. It’s classic Roald Dahl, once again showing kids as heroes and adults as often-can’t-be-trusted. I used to listen to this in my dad’s car on audio tape and I still have the same edition of the book I used to read then too.
“It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful.”
8. The Turn of the Screw – Henry James
The Turn of the Screw was published in 1898 and at this time spooky stories were a lot more obvious. A ghost wearing a white sheet and holding chains – that kind of obvious. What James did was scare his audience by writing about the supernatural in a more subtle, believable way that was far more frightening for readers. He was pretty pioneering. This story follows a governess who, having started a new job looking after two small children in an Essex manor house, starts seeing ghostly apparitions. Strange things going on, the governess becomes convinced the children are friendly with the ghosts and the real twist in this tale is that you never quite know what the truth is.
9. All Quiet on the Orient Express – Magnus Mills
I’ve never really found an author like Magnus Mills before. He writes the strangest stories and has the strangest style. I’ve read all of his novels but this is definitely my favourite. It’s seemingly a simple tale – an unnamed narrator is holidaying in a small English village and ends up friendly with a local farmer and staying longer than planned in his caravan. Not really that scandalous, no? Well if you add a gold crown, some cans of green paint, a precarious teenager and a lack of baked beans then you may well get to the more sinister undertones this book has to offer. A truly unique and memorable book that creeps up on you before you even realise is. A modern day classic.
10. Harry Potter – J.K. Rowling
This refers to all the HP books but my personal favourites are Prisoner of Azkaban and Order of the Phoenix. I don’t think they’re any better than the others, I just particularly liked the stories (and especially the characters). I didn’t read a Harry Potter book until four of them had been published (none of us like being pushed into stuff do we and I was determined to avoid the craze). But one chapter into Philosopher’s Stone and I was hooked. I’ve never been one to wear a wizard hat and queue outside WH Smith (though kudos to those who did) but I still remember each release date of the last three books and by gum was it exciting. Still love them now.
Thanks for this. I have just added a few titles to my ‘want to read’ list on Goodreads. I have to admit when I first watched the movie adaptation of ‘The Turn of the Screw’, ‘The Innocents’ (1961), it scared the freakin’ bejeezus out of me! And I was fully grown man at the time.
That’s brilliant, glad you enjoyed reading! Thank you for the comment.
I have never seen The Innocents, but I’d love to! I have been meaning to for years 🙂
South Park image on top of the post is brilliant! Have read #2, #4 and #5…suppose I still have time for the rest…!
I’m at 4 out of 10 – but considering 1 of them was All of the Harry Potters, that’s a start!
That’s a great start! What are the others?
Thanks for commenting 🙂
Catcher of the Rye, Turn of the screw and Animal Farm!
That is a bloody great selection!!! I plan on re-reading Catcher in the Rye soon 🙂
Personal favourite Holden quote: “He’s so good he’s almost corny, in fact. I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.”
Haha, that is excellent!!!!!!!!!! He was such a great creation wasn’t he, kind of sad and lovely at the same time. Phonies!!!
Awesome list. I’ve only read one of the books here,Harry Porter. Guess am not anywhere near the pearly gates yet! 😀
That’s great news! I don’t want you going anywhere!!!! You’re more awesome than this list.
Thanks Cici 🙂
Nice list – and something for me to explore, never having read any Magnus Mills.
I feel similarly about Catcher In The Rye, but JD Salinger is my favourite author. If you haven’t read Franny And Zoe and Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction – then do give them a go. I almost guarantee you will fall in love.
Thanks so much, really means a lot 🙂
I would highly recommend Magnus Mills, particularly All Quiet on the Orient Express 🙂 I’ve read it a few times and love it so much!
Thanks so much for the ‘Franny And Zoe and Raise High The Roof Beam Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction’ recommendation!! I’m going to look it up now 🙂
Lovely to hear that someone else feels the same way about Catcher in the Rye and Holden 🙂 I mean I know we’re not alone – far from it! But still, you’re the first real person who’s told me they feel similarly as I do. Yippee! Thank you 🙂
I will let you know how I get one with Franny and Zoe!!
Believe it or not, I have a actually read some of these books. You have chosen two of my all time favourites in, Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird. Your review of the Truman Capote book has really aroused my curiosity and I am going to read it. There is a film on Netflix called Capote, do you know if its based around this story? Great post :]
Thank you!!! I read recently that Harper Lee was publishing a second novel!! Based on Scout when she got older.
In Cold Blood is one of the best books I’ve ever read, I loved it sooo much. It made me a real fan of Truman Capote. YES the film Capote (Philip Seymour Hoffman?) is based on that exact story!!! Well it’s based on the true story of Capote and his friend – HARPER LEE!!! – travelling to that Kansas town to interview people and for Capote to write his novel. So the film Capote is a biopic but coincidentially to this conversation it is actualyly about him writing the book In Cold Blood. I have it on DVD, plus I have ‘In Cold Blood’ on DVD – which is baed on the novel. AND I have Infamous on DVD starring Toby Jones which is basically the original “Capote” movie made some years before. I can’t recommend the book and all three movies higher enough. Capote is really special though.
You know Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird? He was based on the young Truman Capote 🙂 him and Harper were friends for life.
Thanks so much! I got quite excited there haha, if you didn’t notice.
I noticed😄 thanks for answering my question and giving me a deeper insight into these connections. I was unaware of them. I will now watch the movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman, over the weekend, as it sounds fantastic. I will also, at some point, read his book. I wrote a post about the fact that I don’t read books (thank you for commenting), but I will now break that spell and read it. Thank you☺️
Haha sorry! I just got over excited. And when you mentioned Capote I just thought it was cool because weirdly that film is about him writing that very book. Well not “weirdly” but it just seemed a cool coincidence.
It’s a great film! Capote was quite a camp man, spoke in a very high pitched voice, was a bit of a ‘bitch’. Seymour Hoffman played him so well 🙂
You’re welcome 🙂 thank you so much for all your lovely comments and interest. It’s so nice discussing all this stuff!
No need to apologize. Your enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air. We should get excited by the things we like.
Very true 🙂 this is why I love WordPress!!!
Uh oh, I’ve read most of these and I’m not ready to die yet…oh wait I’ve misinterpreted your post…ahem.
But seriously, great picks. Good to see a good mix of old and new classics – so many people seem to just stick to one which I find very odd. Roald Dahl is one of the reasons why I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid, and Animal Farm may well be the best book I have ever taught (and to a class full of teenagers who hated reading normally – they came around as the story went on and they worked out the historical connections).
Haha! Excellent 🙂
I’m glad you enjoyed the list, means a lot! Which is your favourite?
I was brought up by my grandparents who really got me into reading in a big way. My grandad claims to have read ‘every’ book in his local library. Though I personally have discounted most of the chick lit….so I think ‘every book’ is stretching it a bit!!
So you’re a teacher I’m assuming? That’s great! An English teacher?
I wish we’d done some George Orwell at school!! I love a few of his books but I do think Animal Farm is so clever. It’s kind of depressing really, but it’s undoubtedly true about people being more equal than others.
Roald Dahl was just, incredible. I love his books as much now as I did as a child. Have you read his autobiographies Boy and Going Solo?
Lovely to meet you by the way!!!
Out of the books, Animal Farm is my favourite I’d say. But out of the authors, probably Roald Dahl. 🙂 Sadly though I have not yet read his autobiographies, though they are on my ever growing list of things to read.
Wow, that’s nice though that you have family who have gotten you into reading a lot. I think my parents got me into reading but I don’t know how – Dad doesn’t read and Mum didn’t for a long time (although these days she reads more than me, but I guess she has more spare time). I haven’t even read every book on my own shelves yet (because I have a bad habit of buying books faster than I read them).
Yep, I’m an English teacher. Although, after teaching for a few years in Australia I’m now living in Sweden, so suddenly I’m teaching English as a second language which is a very different game altogether. The focus is less on literature and more on literacy and grammar, though it’s nice to work with people who appreciate the language more (as a lot of Europeans seem to – Australia is too isolated to see what good could come from knowing several languages). But it’s a fun job, and I am very passionate about it all.
I don’t think I studied Orwell at school – I studied “1984” by him at university though. I did study some classic dystopian novels at school, but we went further back to Huxley and his “Brave New World” – a good read if you like Orwell’s stuff. But I do love Animal Farm – it’s funny when you line it up with the Russian Revolution how closely it’s tied, and I still remember when a student realised that Snowball is based on Trotsky and then worked out what was going to happen to Snowball.
Anyway wow this comment got long fast. But it is lovely to meet you too, you have a great little blog (and one that is far more organised than mine…I used to be organised on it years ago). 😀
I like long comments! Thank you 🙂
I only organised it SO recently, like – last week recently. When I started my blog last April I had a different theme and a very different look. I can be a bit of a perfectionist so now I feel I’m finally getting my blog the way I want it!! (thanks for noticing!!)
I didn’t realise for YEARS that Animal Farm was based on the Russian Revolution. I mean I knew it was political and everything but no more than that. My history is atrocious, I barely even know anything about the Russian revolution. That sounds awful doesn’t it.
I remember having this Eureka moment though, because I’ve always been such an advocate for equality and treating everyone fairly (from the chamber maid to the president – we’re all human beings) and I had read Animal Farm a few times but I never fully realised what he meant until a couple of years ago. We’re all born equally but nature of the beast and all that – others will always triumph over….others.
I guess it just made the world make more sense. The world is a horrible place sometimes but the hierarchy will always exist because of the nature of human beings. I felt like I never understood that for a long time!
Unless I’m wrong anyway haha.
Yes I read your About Me page shortly after our first ocmments and sawt hat you were living in Sweden and a teacher over there. VERY cool! (no pun intended on the weather!)
It’s a shame that literature is not studied as much as the spelling / grammar but I suppose in a studious way that works better. Not everyone enjoys reading.
I tried learning Italian a few years back, I’d been to Rome and Venice and literally just fell in love with the language and everything. I though, right! I’m going to learn and signed up with the Open Uni.
It didn’t work out too well….
I’d love to be bilingual but unfortunately I think I need a better grasp of the English language first 🙂
I prefer Roald Dahl too Orwell too 🙂 but Nineteen Eighty-Four is my favourite Orwell book.
I msut look up more on the Russian revolution!!!
And ditto on buying books faster than I can read them!!! In a weird synchronicity way, I actually have Brave New World yet to read in my bookshelf 🙂
(sorry for rambling, I have a bad habit for rambling)
Oh good haha, yeah I like long comments too. I think that has always been one of the nicest things about blogging, getting to know people through comment conversations and so on (heck, it’s how I met my partner hahaha).
That’s awesome that you got your blog organised the way you want it – I’ve never been fully happy with the way mine is organised. It needs a big, proper reorganisation. However, it also has nearly 400 posts on the main one (plus my other two blogs add a bit more to that total, but I try to see them as separate projects). But I do need to play around with my layout some more I think, I need to refresh it. I’m trying to get some routine back but my life is so all over the place it’s tricky haha.
Luckily for me I also teach history, so when my two subjects combine I get super excited. Which helps sometimes. I had this really naughty class of 14 year olds who took a lot of work, but when I taught about the Elizabethan Era as a context to Shakespeare they loved it and outright told me it was because I seemed so ridiculously excited to teach it, which I was. But there is definitely a lot of thoughts and ideas you can take from books like Animal Farm, and I think you’re right about the nature of human beings, at least for now sadly.
I think it would be really tough to learn a language without being surrounded by it all the time, so I can totally understanding you struggling to learn Italian. Even being surrounded by Swedish I still find it tough. Annoyingly, the Swedes are very good at English and like to practise it, which is good for me living here but doesn’t help me to learn their language haha! The grammar is so weird though, but quite similar to other European languages, especially the Scandinavian languages, German and so on. So I think once I grasp this language, several others will open up if I feel like the challenge. Would you ever move to Italy do you think? A friend of mine did for a year and it helped her language a lot.
I must read more of Orwell’s books. I have Burmese Days but I’ve never read it. Although I must admit, my favourite author for a long time has been Louis de Bernieres (who wrote Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – don’t trust the horrible movie, the book is just gorgeous). But my favourite book is actually Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (sadly, his other novels have not affected me the same way).
You’ve definitely got me wondering what I would put on a list like this! I’ve done lists of my favourite ever albums before, but I don’t know if I’ve ever done my top ten must-read books. I don’t even know if my top ten I’d consider must-read books – some I love for myself but know that they’re not for everyone. Does that make sense?
And that’s fine about the rambling…as you can see I am also skilled in this…skill.
Yes that makes total sense!! When I did the above list I tried to make it a healthy mix of books I do love but also that other people would get something from, be it that they’re a classic book or just something a bit special. But I definitely wanted it to be personal 🙂
Sorry I took a while to reply, I wanted to reply to your amazing ramble (a compliment!) properly. Hope you’re well. That’s so weird you said about the horrible movie of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as I did think it was pretty rubbish but I will check out the book!! I’ve never read Catch 22 either (I know I know!) but I will try to one day.
I will definitely read Down and Out in London and Paris by Orwell, I bought that recently and have heard it’s good. I’m very interested in ‘classes’ (middle class, lower class type of classes) and the way some people have a rough deal in life and some people have everything so great. I think this book will be a good representation of that.
Though they did say in The History Boys that Orwell would have been a member of the British National Party had he still been alive today ha ha!
I’m not sure whether I’d ever be too keen of moving abroad anywhere I know that must sound awful to you, from one hemisphere to another! But I just really like living in England and I like what I know. I always get homesick on holiday. I go away quite a bit as I love seeing new places but I am ALWAYS glad to get home. I’m a home bird I suppose.
I have heard that living in the country is the best way to learn the language though. Except those pesky Swedes who enjoy speaking English!!! Sounds like a great challenge though and if you learn one why not try the others that are similar? We were forced to learn German at school, I can pretty much only say “the cat is on the television” and even then I can’t spell it, so won’t embarrass myself! (further!!!)
Having 400 posts is far more impressive than a tidy theme! I try to remind myself when stressing out about ‘inconsistencies’ that people will only stay on my blog if the posts are good, not necessarily because the layout is! You obviously work very hard, yes it can be really hard fitting it all in sometimes.
The lovliest thing about being a teacher must be that appreciation especially when it’s from a bunch of naughty 14 year olds 🙂 it’s great to see how enthusiasm can brush off on even the most angst-ridden, moody teenagers!
So what are you top albums then? I think I’d struggle with that myself.
Sorry about the late reply here, I’ve only had small pockets of time for blogging and comment replying to etc. I hadn’t forgotten and I’ll get to the comments you’ve left me in a second too 🙂
But yes, to answer your question I am well. Very well actually, just booked tickets to go back to Australia for a couple of weeks in May, the sun is shining and it feels like winter is over here in Sweden…life is good! How about yourself?
I agree, the class structure thing is fascinating, and it’s interesting that a lot of the old dystopian novelists such as Orwell and Huxley focused on this. Though, in a lot of ways modern dystopian stories too – think about the Hunger Games series, for example, that is very class based. The saddest thing is the classes are based somewhat on current day America and are not far from the truth.
It’s funny, when you have a lot of posts, because you tend to experience so many ups and downs as a result. Sometimes I’ve written posts I thought were good that have sort of flunked views wise, and sometimes I quickly write one in a few minutes and it goes haywire. I do find certain topics do better overall – my book and food posts always do well while my music posts are slow burners and don’t get many hits at first but over time they build up. But I think the key is to make sure you enjoy what you’re writing – if you do, people will always be drawn to it anyway. My views always increase when I’m in the groove, so to speak! 😛
My top albums? Hmmm, tough one. I thought I’d done a blog post on this but I haven’t. I’ve done my top ten posts for each of the 3 years I’ve been blogging (as in, top ten albums that came out that year), and I did a top ten bands post a few years ago. I do know my favourite album ever is Abbey Road by The Beatles. Aside from that, I’d struggle. There’d be a few oldies on there, like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, maybe even Nick Drake. There’d be some newer artists like David Gray, Rufus Wainwright, Laura Marling, and probably some inbetween like Jeff Buckley. Really hard to say. I should write a post on this.
Great selection here. I have read a few of these but not all. I suppose I should stop procrastinating and get to them!
Thing is…..there’s so much on television nowadays, I must admit my reading has taken a big step down. Not that I’m proud of that…
Ah, not JUST television, but GREAT television. I do try to read as much as possible between it all, I enjoy reading too much to ever abandon it. Last week I bought myself a Kindle, and oh my goodness, it has rocked my world! ❤
I’ll have to invest in one soon I think 🙂
GREAT television indeed! (though I’m still guilty of watching loads of crap….!)
I find I’m fussier with books now, when I was younger I’d read pretty much anything whereas I find it harder sticking at books now.
Oh let me tell you, I was on the fence about it for like eighteen months… probably the best thing I ever bought for myself, hands down!
I think we all have a soft spot for crap from time to time…
I also used to read just about anything when I was younger. Now I am finicky, but when I start something, the chances of me not finishing it are minimal because I’m too OCD sometimes hahaha.
Whose work do you like reading?
I suppose it’s great to find a book instantly, I probably miss a lot of recommendations just through laziness of going to the library or ordering it.
I don’t have many favourite authors, except Truman Capote who I love and I’ve read all of his works – except Breakfast at Tiffany’s bizarrely!
I do really like Anthony Horowitz, he writes for children and adults and I enjoy all of his books (for children or adults!)
I’m not even sure what I go for, now you’ve made me think about it! I don’t like autobiographies or non-fiction that much, I prefer a good story. I’m not really into romantic stories or anything like that. I do read thrillers a lot, some of them are very basic and ‘easy read’ !!!
Oh and Stephen King, I loved him as a teenager, don’t read much by him now but still love the books I love!
How about yourself? And any recommendations?
Love the reply!
Never easy to start something new when you don’t have any idea where to start!
I absolutely adore King! I have been reading Joe Hill’s work (King’s son) and boy, can he write! I would highly recommend his stuff, he’s very good, I have fallen in love.
Hmmm, I read a lot of Karin Slaughter’s work, and I would recommend her. She has two series that eventually join up together to be a single series. She also has a few loose books, if you want me to be more specific? She is great, quite brutal.
Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch was also something I thoroughly enjoyed, and I liked John Green, too. I read a lot of Anne Rice when I was younger, and I am hoping to get to that soon too.
I am not a fan of romances either, not really my scene.
I loved the books on your list! My favorites though are the Harry Potter series (have you read Jo’s adult books?), and To Kill A Mockingbird.
Aww thanks!! 🙂
That is a really nice comment to read and made me smile!
Which is your favourite Harry P book? No I’ve not read any of them yet, but my friend’s mum is currently reading the one she wrote under a pseudonym? And says it’s brilliant and the characters are just as lovable as those from Hogwarts!
Have you read any? And any recommendations?
I love Atticus Finch!! Everyone should read it, it’s such a lovely book.
I love Magnus Mills’ writing. I came across your blog by experimenting with a Google search ‘Magnus Mills Roald Dahl’. I am trying to work out how to articulate the infantile element of Mills’ characters, and I suddenly was struck by the idea that Mills’ adults are a bit Dahlian… if that makes any sense, I’ll be relieved. I gave a friend All Quiet on the Orient Express to read on a train journey, but he said it was really boring. I continue in my attempt to change his mind.
Hi Simone, thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment I was delighted to read it. Really nice to meet a fellow fan of both Magnus Mills and Roald Dahl. Both writers appeal to me because that air of ‘oddness’! A different way of looking at life perhaps? Exactly the same things happen as they would to anyone, but it’s the way it’s described or understood? I probably don’t make any sense. I’m not very good at explaining things sometimes! I can certainly understand what you mean about infantile characters in Mills’ work, have you read the Cruel Bird Came to the Nest one? That story is full of them! Please believe me when I say I do know what you mean when you compare the characters in Mills work to Dahl’s work. Sometimes it’s hard finding the words why though! It’s more a ‘feeling’ 🙂 All Quiet on the Orient Express is not in the least boring!!!! But you won’t convert everyone I guess. Thanks again, it was really interesting to have this conversation!