9 Books That Stuck With Me

In my spare room I have a bookshelf. They're everywhere in my house, but this one is different. These shelves aren't quite like any of the others.

When I first go to bed in a new house I perch on the edge of the mattress and take in my surroundings. If you do that in my spare room you'll see a whole array of books staring straight up at you. To look at them you would say that they were put there for lack of another place to store them, but each of them is there for a reason, my reason.

Jokingly, I describe this bookshelf as the most intellectual in the whole house. That may or may not be true, but all I mean is that there's a story to almost every one of them. Those books have been smiled at, cried over and howled at with laughter. These are books that I love, and I would love you to love too.

Truth be told, I can't remember the whole story line to a couple of them. There are specific memories though that are just stuck in my brain from when I read them.

People frequently ask me what my favourite book is (Why do you do that to me? You know I can't make decisions.), but this is the nearest I'm going to get. I enjoy a great many books, but these ones are just stuck somewhere in the recesses of my mind.

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Latin terrorists storm an international gathering hosted by an underprivileged country to promote foreign interest and trade, only to find that their intended target, the President, has stayed home to watch his favourite soap opera on TV. Among the hostages are a world class opera singer and her biggest fan, a Japanese tycoon who has been persuaded to attend the party on the understanding that she will perform half a dozen arias after dinner.

The tycoon’s engaging and sympathetic translator plays a vital role in the subsequent relationships between so many different nationalities closeted together, interpreting not only the terrorists’ negotiations but also the language of love between lovers who cannot understand what the other is saying.

Ultimately, it is the terrorist strike that does more to promote foreign relations than anyone could have hoped to achieve with the party.

This is one of the ones I really can't remember, but I know I loved it. That feels a little sad to say out loud. How can I not remember one of my favourite books?

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

Nevin Nollop left the islanders of Nollop with the treasured legacy of his pangram the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. But as the letters begin to crumble on the monumental inscription, the island's council forbids the use of the lost letters and silence threatens Ella and her family.

I think about this book quite a lot. I just loved the way everything adapted to the new shorter alphabet. It's a great little idea, and it's told in such a fun way.

Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom

The novel's protagonist is an elderly amusement park maintenance worker named Eddie who, while operating a ride called the 'Free Fall', dies while trying to save a young girl who gets in the way of a falling cart that hurtles to earth. Eddie goes to heaven, where he meets five people who were unexpectedly instrumental in some way in his life.

While each guide takes him through heaven, Eddie learns a little bit more about what his time on earth meant, what he was supposed to have learned, and what his true purpose on earth was. Throughout there are dramatic flashbacks where we see scenes from his troubled childhood, his years in the army in the Philippines jungle, and with his first and only love, his wife Marguerite.

I remember reading this on holiday in Lymington, soaking in the bath trying to recover after slipping in a pool and bruising my coccyx. I sat in that bath until it was cold, making the water salty with my tears... I know, such a classy bird, right?

Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid. She may walk daily to the market and utter demure words to other Handmaid's, but her role is fixed, her freedom a forgotten concept.

The Republic of Gilead offers Offred only one function: to breed. If she deviates, she will, like dissenters, be hanged at the wall or sent out to die slowly of radiation sickness. But even a repressive state cannot obliterate desire - neither Offred's nor that of the two men on which her future hangs.

I always forget that I loved this so much. I read it after it was recommended to me by one of my colleagues. I'd honestly never read anything like it before, and it was just amazing. I've got the TV series recorded and I'm saving it for a rainy day. It's one of those things that I can't bear to have ruin my memory of the book, it makes me a little nervous to press play.

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith & Jane Austen

Features the text of Jane Austen's novel, "Pride and Prejudice" with scenes of bone crunching zombie action.

You guys know I love zombies, but I always hated mainstream classic novels. Those are two completely different wavelengths when it comes to books, or at least it was. Some people chastise it for butchering a classic, but if it hadn't been for this I honestly think that I'd never have wanted to read a classic novel ever again. It's funny, and a little bit delightful, and I don't think that Austen would have minded seeing her book brought to a wider audience, even in this slightly bizarre way.

Whizz over and see what I thought of the film HERE.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

There is another 1985, somewhere in the could-have-been, where the Crimean war still rages, dodos are regenerated in home-cloning kits and everyone is deeply disappointed by the ending of 'Jane Eyre'. In this world there are no jet-liners or computers, but there are policemen who can travel across time, a Welsh republic, a great interest in all things literary - and a woman called Thursday Next.

The main sell for this one is that Thursday Next, and others, can jump into books and interact with the characters within the story. So she jumps about trying to right disputes and glaring errors that appear in novels. Come on! Who wouldn't want to do that?! And who wouldn't want a dodo?

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love another. So, when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts (no survivors) her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have Buttercup. So starts a fairy tale like no other, of fencing, poison, true love, hate, revenge, giants, bad men, good men, snakes, spiders, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles, and a damn fine story.

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!" If you aren't saying it with the accent then you aren't doing it right. I watched the film, it was amazing so I read the book... even more amazing-er.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gillman

Tells the story of a nameless woman driven mad by enforced confinement after the birth of her child. Isolated in a colonial mansion in the middle of nowhere, forced to sleep in an attic nursery with barred windows and sickly yellow wallpaper, secretly she does what she has to do - she writes. She craves intellectual stimulation, activity, loving understanding, instead she is ordered to her bedroom to rest and 'pull herself together'. Here, slowly but surely, the tortuous pattern of the wallpaper winds its way into the recesses of her mind.

This is the only classic piece of writing that I came out of high school having actually enjoyed. I reread it recently from the original photocopied version I had from class. I still love it, and it gives me chills to read it.

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Clay Jensen comes home from school to find outside his front door a mysterious box with his name on it. Inside he discovers a series of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker - his classmate and crush. Only, she committed suicide two weeks earlier. On the first tape, Hannah explains that there are 13 reasons why she did what she did - and Clay is one of them. If he listens, Clay will find out how he got onto the list - what he hears will change his life forever.

So no doubt you'll know about this one because of the Netflix series. If you don't read the book you should watch the series because it was very enjoyable... but of course you should read the book. Also, because it is bugging me slightly, please only watch season one... why are they making a second? If we needed to know anymore of the tale the author would have written it. Anyway... *deep breath* It's a truly amazing story and I'm so glad I read it when it came out.


Of course those aren't the only books on the shelves, that would be a very sad looking bookcase otherwise. There's something for everyone in there.

You want funny? I've got Bunny Suicides, and Simon's Cat. Some celebrity biographies including Simon Pegg, and Whoopi Goldberg's book Book... yeah booksellers would have had a wonderful time trying to find that one by the title.

You want non-fiction? I've got the above mentioned biographies, plus a few more. Some travel writing, 1001 Natural Wonders, The Book Of Numbers if you fancy some facts, and various myths and legends books. You can also plan your trip if you're here for more than a flying visit with some quirky guides to Bristol and Bath.

You want crime? I've got some James Patterson which is always a nice easy read. That is in no way an insult, I love how easily I can get caught up in them. There's a Kathryn Fox back catalogue too, as well as a selection of various other authors. There's also a real favourite of mine, Think Of A Number by John Verdon up there.

You want a thriller? Maybe a bit of adventure? There's some Dan Brown there too, but only my favourites, Angels And Demons and Digital Fortress. Or maybe a little light-hearted zombie adventure in Night Of The Living Trekkies? It's amazing, read it straight away.

There's also something for those of you who like something a little more imaginative, and by that I mean those adults among you who aren't scared to read a children's or young adult book. Replica by Jack Heath, which had me on the edge of my seat, and The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman which will have you looking for the wondrous everywhere you go.

And if you're like me a lot of the time and have no idea what you want to read, then you can flick through one of the Passing Time In The Loo volumes... short versions of classic novels, classical works, biographies, speeches, there's tons of stuff in them. And all of it about the right length for you to... well, I think you get the idea from the title.

That's all just on a three shelf bookcase, just imagine what other wonders you might find on the other 40 (give or take) shelves!


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