I’ve always been a reader, inhaling books faster than I could get my hands on them, and they have always shaped me in some way. Similarly to Rory Gilmore, I too carried a book everywhere, and I never cared much about whether it seemed rude to pull a book out at the dinner table. Growing up as a reader is something I will never take for granted; it gave me a thirst for words, an insatiable hunger to escape into fiction, into worlds both similar and different to my own. So, this is a list I’ve compiled of books that changed my life, books that shaped me, for you to experience.
These are in no particular order:
- The Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling
I know, I know, you’re shocked. A girl born in 1998 that loves reading and writing, loves Harry Potter. I’m a cliche. But I don’t even know how to say how much I love this series; yes I know it has flaws, yes there are things I might wish I could change about it, but I can’t point to a series that I feel shaped me more than this one. I will never, ever stop loving Harry Potter, even if people think I’m a massive nerd for it, or if people get genuinely concerned because I cry everytime I hear “Hedwig’s Theme” (and I do).
- Fangirl and Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell
Two more recent additions than Harry Potter to my reading library, but both that have stuck with me. In Fangirl, I relate so much to the main character, Cath; an anxious, avoidant teenage girl who fears going to university and meeting new people, and who loves to write and to escape into fiction (specifically fiction and fanfiction written about teenage boys who do magic), like, did Rainbow Rowell do a case study on me when writing this book? I can read it over and over endlessly. And Carry On, I mean it’s about flawed, gay magicians, with strong female characters, and struggling teens, humour and love; just go read it, like why are you reading this when that book exists? Go.
- Saving June by Hannah Harrington
An underrated novel about a girl struggling to understand and deal with her seemingly perfect older sister’s suicide, all about her going on a road trip with her sister ashes, her best friend and a mysterious guy who is connected to her sister who she meets at the funeral. This novel is set to a kickass soundtrack and is just a beautiful story about a three-dimensional main character, Harper. It’s held the spot of my favourite book for a long, long time, and at this point, I never want to push it aside. This is the novel that made me want to be a writer, and it doesn’t get the praise I think that it deserves.
- The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
While I don’t particularly enjoy this novel anymore; I can’t diminish the impact it had on my life and so many other lives. It is beautifully written, and it made me appreciate beautifully written fiction. I’ll never forget it, even if I have issues with it now.
- Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
To be completely honest, I could’ve put any novel by Jodi Picoult here, as I’ve read pretty much all of them. But this one, written about a school shooting, stuck with me in so many ways. Not only did it have a lasting effect, in it’s message about bullying and caring for people, Picoult write in such an entertaining way, that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading, it feels like you’ve just watched a scene in a movie, like you were so entranced you forgot you weren’t watching this story unfold before you. That’s writing.
- I’ll Give You The Sun and The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
Both of these novels deal with such hard topics, like loss and struggling families and relationships and understanding sexualities and just so many fascinating and real topics; in such a beautiful way. These books are practically dripping with imagery, it’s wonderful. 10/10 would recommend.
- 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
With the new Netflix series, this book is almost expected on any list at the moment, but I’ve loved it for a long time and it’s an important read. Anyone who reads this book and walks out unaffected is most likely a sociopath or a bad reader. Honestly, it doesn’t matter how it’s written, the subject matter is so overwhelming and real and heartbreaking, it’s a must-read. And it is well-written, so there’s that. You’ll finish it and be affected, you won’t be able to forget this book.
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Now this is not Young Adult fiction, and the sheer amount of content (a whopping 720 pages!) is daunting to a lot of people, and it was daunting to me. But I watched my mother read this novel, and visibly be so moved at times she would cry, other times she would laugh, literally out loud, and when she finished she just gave it to me, and said I had to read it. So I did, and I’ve never looked back, because yes it’s long, and yes it’s almost long-winded, but the characters, 2 specific characters, jump off the page at you, with their heartbreak and pain and humour and just, this novel will never leave you once you let it in. You’ll be affected, but it’s the most beautiful pain you’ll let into your life.
- Tomorrow When The War Began by John Marsden
I’ve rarely met a person that hasn’t read this series, and for good reason, because they’re freaking phenomenal. For a series about war and destruction, it’s shockingly easy to read. Of course, with the subject matter, it has its moments of devastation but it’s still just a great series. I was enrapt. I loved, and still, love it, and will always be able to go back and read it again.
- A Series Of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
A lighthearted 13-book series to end this list with and it’s so entertaining I can’t believe it. Lemony Snicket (the pen name of Daniel Handler) uses so many creative techniques to create a series that is so different to anything else. It has dark subject matter; we’re dealing with three young orphans being passed from home to home and being terrorized by a man who wants to take their fortune and who doesn’t care about their well-being at all. It’s sad when you dwell on it, but they’re so easy to read because they are so funny and self-deprecating. You don’t feel sad whilst you’re reading and the only event that isn’t unfortunate is the actual picking up and reading of each book – so read them.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: As I said, I’ve read a lot of books, gone through a lot of series, and each has shaped me, and I’ll never forget these books and series as well.
The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare, Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, The Host and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer, Danny: Champion of the World by Roald Dahl, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.
All of the books on this list, and in the honourable mentions, were exactly what I needed at the time I read them, and what I continue to need when I re-read or re-think about them. I know others who would feel similarly about these books and series, and some that would completely disagree with me, and that’s fine. Read whatever you want, be shaped in any way from the media you ingest, just be taking things in, and never forget the value of reading or the power of words.