Wednesday, 29 January 2014

My 2014 Reading List - 10 books that will change your life

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I love to read.  Escaping into the pages of a good book is one of life's greatest pleasures, taking you on an emotional journey, allowing you to step into the lives of countless others and experience things through their eyes.  There is something so organic about reading a book; the smell and feel of the paper and the sound of the pages turning. My favourite books end up dog eared, with creased spines from being re-read so often. Some pages become stained with fallen tears, a constant reminder of how the book made me cry. My reading list grows longer by the day as I discover new and exciting authors or books that come highly recommended from friends or family.  I cannot resist the power of a good book!

“Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”                                          — Joyce Carol Oates

A love of reading is one of the most wonderful gifts you can bestow upon your children, giving them a passport to magical places, wonderful times and unimaginable adventures.  My daughters have grown up to be book worms with a passion for reading.  I really enjoy sharing my favourite books with my girls, discovering great classics or contemporary works together, and nothing beats the moment of realisation when we discover a book that literally changes our lives, challenges a pre-conception or opens our eyes to something new.

reading, reading list

My 2014 Reading List features the books that are life changers.  These are the books I want to read or revisit, and the books I want my daughters to read, so they too can enjoy the power of the perfectly written word.

"Read, read, read." - William Faulkner

In compiling my reading list, we visited Waterstones in the Trafford Centre to purchase one of the books on my must-read list "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak.  We love browsing the store and flicking through books, reading the blurbs and mentally compiling future reading lists.  It is a veritable wonderland for book lovers!  Their 'Now Read This' displays provide a range of modern classics giving customers the chance to find some of their best loved titles such as Catch 22, Birdsong, A Clockwork Orange and Brave New World.  


As I knew exactly what I was looking for, we used the A-Z by author signage on the shelving to locate The Book Thief.  Given that it was written by Markus Zusak it was among the Z's on the very bottom of the shelf, but still clearly visible with its front cover turned to face out.  Having the shelves alphabetized makes it easy to find the authors you are looking for and see all the books they have written in one place.  

books, the book thief

So, here is my 2014 Reading List of the books that are real life changers, which I want my children to read and enjoy and share with me.  They do not conform to a single genre because reading gives you the freedom to step outside of your comfort zone and into new literary adventures.  I never discount Young Adult fiction when choosing a book to read and have discovered some wonderful authors through my children's bookshelves.

"Once you learn to read you will be forever free." - Frederick Douglass

reading, goodreads

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green  This book will see you shed floods of tears so have the tissues ready.  It is, at its simplest, a love story between Hazel and Augustus.  But it is so much more than that.  It is about life and death and the space inbetween.  It is about rewriting your life story and embracing each and every moment as if it was your last. It is tragic, raw and breathtaking.  Long after you have finished the book, the characters stay with you, inspiring you to live life to its fullest.

"I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once." - John Green
Just Don't Fall- Josh Sundquist  This autobiography proclaims itself to be: 'A Hilariously True Story of Childhood, Cancer, Amputation, Romantic Yearning, Truth, and Olympic Greatness'.  Written in the voice of the author it will have you laughing one minute and sobbing the next. It describes the cruelest of childhood events and shows us that misfortune does not need to define us.  It inspires us to be the best we can be, reach for the stars and chase our dreams.  If you ever feel like you can't do something, read this book and re-evaluate your situation.  An inspirational story of human triumph which puts things firmly into perspective. 

“People who stop laughing are always the ones who get hurt.” - Josh Sundquist

The Celestine Prophecy - James Redfield  This book is a spiritual classic which takes the reader on an adventure of self-discovery.  Drawing on the wisdom of an ancient Peruvian manuscript, this fictional story reveals nine key insights into life.  As each one is grasped, we are moved closer to spiritual enlightenment with a new found optimism and energy for tomorrow.  I am not a traditionally religious person, but this book really resonated with me on a spiritual level, shining a little light into my life.  It presents a series of tools that we can use to make sense of our life and our interactions, woven into a fictional tale.  It's an easy to read dose of enlightenment and a good starting point for further self-discovery.

“I don't think that anything happens by coincidence... No one is here by accident... Everyone who crosses our path has a message for us. Otherwise they would have taken another path, or left earlier or later. The fact that these people are here means that they are here for some reason...”
- James Redfield

The Stand - Stephen King A horror title had to find its way into my reading list, but The Stand transcends this genre and takes us to a post-apocalyptic world where the final showdown of good vs evil is played out.  This is an epic story filled with memorable and believable characters on a journey of self-discovery and survival.  It draws you in and makes you question your own morality and consider the biblical magnitude of the plot and the destructive nature of mankind. It makes you think about sacrifice and just how far you would go in the pursuit of 'good'.  An awesome read.

“The place where you made your stand never mattered. Only that you were there...and still on your feet.”- Stephen King

Noughts and Crosses - Malorie Blackman  Malorie Blackman writes thought provoking books which inspire debate.  This young adult title is a stunning read which follows a doomed love story in a racially divided society, blinded by colour.  Sephy is a 'Cross' from the dark skinned ruling class and Callum is a colourless 'Nought' and part of the underclass.  Turning the tables on equality, against a background of prejudice and distrust heightened by violent terrorism and hatred, Sephy and Callum's relationship leads them both into terrible danger.  It's a heartbreaking and disturbing read which challenges our preconceptions about society and prejudice.

“People are people. We'll always find a way to mess up, doesn't matter who's in charge.”
 - Malorie Blackman

The Kite Runner -  Khalid Hosseini This shattering and soul-searching novel about a childhood friendship destroyed by betrayal, jealousy and fear is set against the backdrop of Afghanistan and its fall from a secluded oasis to a war torn battlefield. It is beautifully written with such a powerful narrative.  The main character Amir escapes to a new life in America, but is shattered by an event from his childhood which continues to haunt him, causing him to return to the country of his birth in search of redemption.  The political upheaval of Afghanistan and its descent into terror and chaos is played out alongside Amir's own downfall.  It is a challenging read and a story that stays deep inside you, making you question the harrowing power of evil and all its faces.

“And that's the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.” - Khalid Hosseini

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger  Holden Caulfield is the classic cynical adolescent at the heart of this novel.  A high school drop out negotiating the perils of growing up in a world filled with 'phonies', adrift in an uncaring society.  The wry observations of teenage alienation create a feeling of empathy in the reader as we recall our own  teenage angst and insecurities. The question of whether Caulfield is actually an innocent trying to cope in a cynical world turns the theme on its head and makes you question the very essence of the book.  A true classic.

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though.”  J.D. Salinger

The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery  This short children's book is translated from French.  It takes a short time to read but stays in for heart for a lifetime.  A pilot is stranded in the desert with a limited supply of water and no way to fix his plane.  He is visited by a Little Prince who tells him stories about his home and about the planets he has visited on his way to Earth, each with their own unique beauty and problems. The beautifully enchanting story personifies childhood innocence and the worlds seen through the prince's eyes provide a greater metaphor for life.  You cannot fail to connect with the story and you will never see things the same way again.

“All grown-ups were once children... but only few of them remember it.” 
― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

The Field -  Lynne McTaggart This book made me re-assess my view on reality and provided me with a framework for my beliefs based on a core of Quantum Physics.  It is not a work of fiction as such, but is a very readable text, bringing the works of many research scientists and parapsychologists  together in a very accessible and conversational format.  Some of it is quite mind-blowing and makes you question conventional wisdom.  A great read that makes you think.

“The excitement that science possess is its ability to answer the big questions.”
― Lynne McTaggart

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time - Mark Haddon This exceptional murder-mystery story is narrated by the detective: Christopher, a fifteen year old, fact obsessed boy with Asperger's Syndrome.  When the neighbour's dog is found killed, he sets off to discover what happened and in doing so messily unravels a lot of secrets surrounding the incident, his family and the past.  Christopher's world and daily struggles are perfectly portrayed but we never feel pity for him, only deep respect and admiration.  It opens our eyes to the subject of disability and our own preconceived notions.  It is an excellent read.

“Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.” ― Mark Haddon

Number 11 on this list is the new book I bought from Waterstones, so am yet to read:, 

The Book Thief - Markus Zusak  I am assured that it is a life changer, and having seen a thread on a friend's Facebook wall where this book was discussed, I won't be disappointed.  Here is the blurb: 

"1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall."

Death itself is the narrator of this book, which sounds like a very interesting angle.  I'm looking forward to snuggling up on my sofa with a blanket over my knees for some wonderfully thought provoking reading!

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” — Neil Gaiman

There are so many books that could have made this list:  The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and George Orwell's 1984 to name a few.  It's impossible to pick a favourite because different books suit your individual needs at any one time.  To me, that is the true beauty of being a are never alone with a good book in your hand!

waterstones, reading

What books do you consider have been life changing for you?

What books do you want your children to read?

Are there any books on your 2014 Reading List that you'd like to share with me?

Please leave me a comment - I'm always on the look out for new must-read titles!


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