- The Little House in the Big Woods
Please don’t judge but this is not the only children’s book on this list. I guess I will forever be a child at heart which I don’t really see anything wrong with. I studied this book in my first year at a university which specialises in children’s literature and it was during this period that my passion for the genre blossomed. The simplicity of a story which tells the lives of a humble yet strong family unit seemed really appealing to me. A nice and welcome break from the dreary likes of Great Expectations or Shakespeare, I must say. It was also a lot quicker to finish which was nice! The big font and spaced out words was visually a lot more inviting especially alongside the sweet little illustrations to accompany the idyllic storytelling of detailed descriptions of how the Ingalls family would survive the harsh habitat of the Canadian wilderness. I would highly recommend to anyone who fancies a humble and refreshing read.
- The Picture of Dorian Gray
A classic story by one of the most controversial authors in the history of literature, Oscar Wilde. A dark and mysterious tale following the handsome and wealthy Dorian who crosses paths with artist Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton who lead him down a dark path of vanity and pleasure. In his wild pursuit to remain as handsome as the moment that Hallward captured him in his portrait, Gray finds himself in a whirlwind of obsession, sex and murder. This thrilling tale taught me valuable lessons that money cannot buy happiness and that one should not prioritise appearances.
- Wuthering Heights
Another classic by one of the most celebrated authors in literature, Jane Austen. A romance novel unlike no other which tells the story of Cathy and Heathcliffe whom are both driven to madness by their passion for each other that developed in their isolated country home, Wuthering Heights, located in the unforgiving surroundings of the Yorkshire moors. The harsh weather and location are tools cleverly used by Austen to reflect the nature of Cathy and Heathcliff’s love which is raw, passionate and transcends the realm of the living. Their story is reflected in another generation which is told in the second half of the novel which follows the lives of their children who suffer a similar fate thanks to the cruelty of Heathcliff, his insatiable lust for revenge and his inability to let go of his beloved. In all honesty, this is a challenging read which many suffer at some point of their education but it is indeed a powerful tale that tells the power of desire and love and teaches to pursue such with caution and reverence in order to avoid the torturous madness experienced by the characters in the novel.
- The Lord of the Flies
This too is a story that many experience in their school lives for its use of symbolism and allegories which portray the darkness of man and the consequences of different styles of leadership. The Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of schoolboys who find themselves washed up on a desert island. Although they are but children, they naturally coordinate themselves into establishing some sort of order through the use of a conch shell which only he who holds may voice their opinion. Through this clever device, things on the island start off nice and peachy but as always in this style of equalitarian government, the greed of man can not be subdued and so the group of choirboys form a rivalry which values having a single strong leader rather than everyone being treated equally. The book shows the darkness and faults in each of the two groups and leaves the reader stunned at the capacity of children, reminding us that humans too are animals with raw and primal instincts.
- The Handmaid’s Tale
Finally at number 1, my favourite book is Margaret Atwood’s novel entitled The Handmaid’s Tale which was written in response to the right-wing style of government run by Ronald Reagan who was in office at the time of the novel’s publication. This is a dystopian novel set in the nation of Gilead which is run under a strict military regime. Religion is favoured highly in Gilead and the puritan way of life in which women must conceal the bodies as much as possible is enforced by the government as law. A woman caught up in this military take over is Offred, a name given to her when she was assigned to a military commander named Fred as a handmaid. There are several roles in this regime which include military roles such as commanders, there are then commander’s wives, aunts who act as strict teachers and aid in enforcing the laws of Gilead in to the citizens and there are also handmaids which is in my opinion the worse role that one could possibly be assigned as your only function in life now is to be raped repeatedly by a commander until you bear a child. We follow Offred’s experience fulfilling this role and the encounters of hypocrisy and corruption that she witnesses alongside brief flashbacks to the time before Gilead which include memories of her mother who was a radical feminist and stood for everything which this totalitarian government is against. An insightful and thrilling read which really opened my eyes and sparked in me an interest for politics which is particularly thought-provoking now that Trump is in power. It is no surprise to me that this novel appears on so many lists of top books to read and I recommend this to pretty much every person I meet as I can honestly say it changed me and made me question a lot of my political views. It’s message of ‘Nolite te bastardes carborondorum’ (Don’t let the bastards grind you down) shall be forever engraved on my mind.