I love books – a good book can transport you to a different place or teach you something you want to know. I used to be a book addict, I devoured them in their hundreds and always wanted more. Books help exercise the imagination and stimulate a hunger for knowledge. I could never get enough, but I guess that’s the thing with living with chronic illness and having an insatiable appetite for adventure – you have to live vicariously through the tales of others.
Something happened a few years ago and I stopped reading quite so much, almost stopped altogether actually. Life got in the way – study and work and those adult things that, along with the relentless fatigue, left no time or energy for books. I turned to movies instead, they were easier on the brain and didn’t involve me staying up ’till all hours because I couldn’t put them down and had to see what happened on the next page, and the next!
I’m in a bit of a reflective mood at the moment and thought I would put together a list, a bit of a challenge really, to see what books have made the most impact on my over the years and why. I’d love it if you would like to join me! The books can be fiction or non-fiction, whatever you like
1. A book that changed your life
The Year we Seized the Day – Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles. When I was first diagnosed with Dysautonomia I didn’t know what to do, I felt like my world had suddenly shrunk or fallen in on me. My Stepfather lent me this book to read, it’s about 2 people travelling to Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago. I read it and decided I would do that too, and I did.
2. A book you were proud to read
Matilda – Roald Dahl. In our grade 2 classroom there was a bookcase full of books with different colour stickers on the spine – the colours marked them from easy all the way to very difficult. The very difficult books had black stickers on their spines. I loved reading and wanted to challenge myself and prove to myself that I could so I picked up a book in the black section, it was Matilda, and I read it all by myself.
3. A book that inspired you to try something different or do something differently
Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing – Gretchen Hirsch. I’ve always been a, shall we say, creative sewer! I cut material out around pre-existing clothing, I skipped instructions on patterns, I made things up as I went along. After discovering Gertie’s books and blog I have turned a new leaf and vowed to do things properly. Her books are a wonderful source of sewing tips, tricks and inspiration.
4. A book that surprised you
Introductory Entomology – T. R. New. This one was a total surprise! I studies Entomology as part of my biology course at La Trobe University, it was a core subject and I thought it would be interesting but didn’t expect it to be up there with my favourites. I was completely wrong! The author of the book was our Entomology teacher and he was passionate about the subject – I really enjoyed it.
5. A book that made you cry
Sapphire Skies – Belinda Alexandra. One of my favourite authors, Belinda Alexandra writes historical and historical/contemporary fiction set during times of great conflict with strong, intelligent and independent female leads. I love her books because, not only are they filled with rich imagery and strong characters, you also learn different details and gain different perspectives about these times in history that you may not have learned otherwise. Her stories have a knack of drawing you in and holding you there as your turn each page with great expectation. They leave you hooked until the end and only when you read the final sentence do you realise you have been holding your breath. Sapphire Skies is her most recent novel and it’s a tough call but I think it has been the most emotive one so far – there were a few times I was bawling my eyes out!
6. A book/series you couldn’t live without
The Bitterbynde Trilogy – Cecilia Dart-Thornton. Given to me as a birthday book by a friend who is equally enamoured with fantasy and fairytales, this trilogy based around traditional faery mythology (with a few new ones thrown in for good measure) set in a stunning fantasy world instantly had me hooked. Then it had my mum hooked and then my brother! This series is one of my favourites of all time and I am so glad it found me – it seems the best stories find you when you’re not looking for them.
7. A book (or series) that required dedication
The Wheel of Time – Robert Jordan. According to the dragonmount publishing website: “The Wheel of Time is one of literature’s greatest achievments in epic fantasy. It was written by the late Robert Jordan, and completed posthumously by his successor, Brandon Sanderson.” I don’t know about being one of literatures greatest achievements in epic fantasy…
It was a fantastic story but my goodness what a difficult read! I don’t know who Robert Jordan’s English teacher was at school but they did him a bit of a disservice when it came to his grammar and sentence construction. I enjoyed the story immensely but think it could have been condensed to fewer books (14 was unnecessary) and a good proof-reader would have been an excellent idea. Then of course he passed away before the story finished so it was completed posthumously by Brandon Sanderson and to be completely honest, I haven’t read the final book because doing so would require my reading every other book to properly remember exactly what happened beforehand and I just can’t be bothered now!
8. A book you are grateful for
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling. I am grateful for Harry Potter because not only do I love the story (and the movies) but it was also the book that helped my brother find his love of reading. Before then he hated it and refused to. After Harry Potter he was hooked, he had discovered a world I had loved for so long and I was hugely happy for him. His discovery of the world of written imagination introduced me to some wonderful books that now feature on my favourites list that I otherwise may not have read, like A Song of Ice and Fire and The Way of the Shadows (by Brent Weeks)
9. A book or series you read when you were half your current age
Restoree – Anne McCaffrey. I think I was very lucky to discover Anne McCaffrey in the beginning of my exploration into Scifi novels – I found Restoree in my dad’s collection of Scifi novels and it along with ‘The Ship who Sang’ formed my introduction to her work. Her books contain strong, independent female leads and her storytelling ability was extraordinary. According to her Wikipedia entry she said of her creation of Restoree and its female protagonist: “I was so tired of all the weak women screaming in the corner while their boyfriends were beating off the aliens. I wouldn’t have been—I’d’ve been in there swinging with something or kicking them as hard as I could”. Anne McCaffrey was indicted to the Science Fiction hall of fame in 2006 and passed away in 2011. Her best-known series is The Dragonriders of Pern.
10. A favourite book from childhood
Edward the Emu – Sheena Knowles, illustrations by Rod Clement. “Edward the Emu was sick of the zoo, there was nowhere to go, there was nothing to do. And compared to the seals that lived right next door, well, being an Emu was frankly a bore”. A rollercoaster ride of emotion, a tale of discovery of self and the realisation that… Well I won’t spoil the ending, you’ll have to read it yourself! Let’s just say that Edward the Emu was one of my childhood heroes and I introduce him to small children whenever reading time comes along!
11. A book that will always have a special place in your heart
When We Were Very Young – A. A. Milne. And it’s follow-on book; Now We are Six. Delightful books of poetry written for children by the author of Winnie The Pooh. Published in 1924 it is a little dated but that hardly matters when you have a child’s imagination. These books sparked my interest in poetry and I go back every now and then to re-read my favourites. Like ‘Changing Guards at Buckingham Palace’.
12. Best movie or tv series made from a book you have read
A Song of Ice and Fire (AKA Game of Thrones) – George R. R. Martin. How could I not choose this one? The tv series is fabulous – the cast are superb, costumes are perfect the story is, well, as a purist I don’t like how they have changed parts of the story but it will apparently end at the same point so I guess that’s ok…
Hurry up and write George, we’re waiting!!
13. The worst movie or tv series made from a book you have read
Timeline – Book by Michael Crichton (author of Jurassic Park and other awesome Sci-fi novels). Timeline is one of my all-time favourite Sci-fi novels and I was so excited when the movie was announced. Sadly my excitement was in vain as the movie was a great big pile of appalling crap. So disappointing 🙁
I did a quick google search for the movie and discovered that Billy Connolly, Paul Walker and Gerard Butler were in it – wow, I don’t even remember that! So much potential, so much badness. I think I might watch it again 😀
14. A disappointing book
Lord Foul’s Bane, the first of the Thomas Covenant series – Stephen Donaldson. Yeah I read a lot of Scifi that was written in the 1970s, my dad’s collection was there for me to choose from so I did. I found some pretty great things in there, like Anne McCaffrey, some pretty odd things and then there was Thomas Covenant. A whiney Leper who thought his life was far worse than anyone else’s and wanted to inflict that on the rest of the world. I read a few of these books and a few other books by Stephen Donaldson, like Mordant’s need, and have nothing nice to say about them, or his portrayal of women in them…
15. A book that makes you smile every time you see it
The Fifth Elephant – Terry Pratchett. Our family had a tradition whenever we went on holiday that required a longer flight we would buy a book from an airport book store – as an unspoken rule one of those books was always a Terry Pratchet book because they are light hearted, easy to read and highly entertaining. The Fifth Elephant is my favourite of all those books.
16. A book that made you want to learn more
Adelie Penguin picture book (seems to have been misplaced so I can’t find the exact name or author). Another favourite book from when I was a child, about the life of an Adelie penguin, complete with pictures. It’s a beautiful book and made me want to go to Antarctica to study these gorgeous little marine birds. I was overjoyed when we had to study Antarctica for a school project in year 4, and even more excited when I learned that my uncle had worked and lived there for a while. I wanted to be a marine biologist and study penguins. Younger me would have been insanely jealous of my lovely friend Katrina who is head penguin over at Sea World on the Gold Coast in Australia and gets to spend every working day with the King and Gentoo penguins who live there. Actually, who am I kidding, current me is insanely jealous! I was very lucky to meet her feathered friends in person last year and saw King Penguin painting lessons in progress.
17. A book or series you will never forget
The way of the Shadows – Brent Weeks. This series was lent to me by my brother and at the time I hadn’t read much in a while. His taste is a little different to mine but it overlaps quite a bit and this was one of the best series I had read in a long time. Packed with assassins, intrigue, magic, deception, treachery, royalty and long lost love, it has all the things that make an excellent and epic tale.
18. A book you would prefer to forget
Sleeping Dogs – Sonya Hartnett. I’m not entirely sure why it seems to be a rule that books studied in English class at school have to be intensely depressing, disturbing and violent. Surely psychology and literature can be explored in less extreme ways. Pretty well all I remember of this book (that parts that are ingrained in my memory and I’d rather not remember) is that it’s about incest, sociopathy, abuse and murder. Yep, great reading…
19. A book or series you come back to read time and time again
This one is a toss-up between The Chronicles of Narnia – C. S. Lewis and the Tomorrow When the War Began series by John Marsden. I think all kids who grew up in Australia in the 90’s read John Marsden’s iconic series, or at least the first book – we studied that one at school. I couldn’t get enough of them! And of course the Chronicles of Narnia, a land filled with animals that could talk, witches, human children and all manner of mythical beings – just my kind of story! My favourite of all of them was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (ps, the BBC movies are far better than the Disney ones – even if the effects are a bit dated!)
20. What you are currently reading
The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost – Rachel Friedman. Left for me by a lovely Swedish friend when she returned from her Australian holiday. The book comes complete with her hand-written notes of Australian slang translations in the front page. The book is a nice, light, entertaining read and has recently accompanied me on several medical appointments and infusion dates.
Would you like to do your own book reflection list? Let me know how you go! Here are the questions – and you can substitute book for series wherever you like:
A book that changed your life
A book you were proud to read
A book that inspired you to try something different, or do something differently
A book that surprised you
A book that made you cry
A book you couldn’t live without
A book that required dedication
A book you are grateful for
A book you read when you were half your current age
A favourite book from childhood
A book that will always have a special place in your heart
The best movie or TV series adapted from a book you have read
The worst movie or TV adaptation of a book you have read
A disappointing book
A book that makes you smile every time you see it
A book that made you want to learn more
A book or series you will never forget
A book you would prefer to forget
A book you come back to read time and time again
What you are currently reading