Being a bibliophile by nature, I fall in love with most books I read, for some reason or other. There’s always at least something in the pages of a novel that I unintentionally seek out and come to love through the duration of the read. But it’s what happens after final page of a book that defines my favourites.
It’s easy to get lost in a book whilst you’re actually being transported into the world it provides. Once the book comes to an end and you move onto the next one, however, most books, (even if you enjoyed reading them at the time) sort of get lost and fall into a pile of books that you’ve read and mostly forgotten- even if you still think of them with fondness. For me, there’s only a very limited amount of books with which this hasn’t happened. I tally them up to about four in total. With time, this list will most likely grow along with the more books I read. But a book that really touches my soul is a book that stays with me for a very long time. And here, today, I intend to share those four special books that have really stayed with me (so far). Until very recently, this list was only three books long. But this morning, after finishing my most recent read, I confirmed to myself the hunch that I had felt from among the opening pages of the novel: it was to join the elite group of books that are labelled as my most treasured reads.
So here we go.
Treasure Number One: The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern
Main reason: the imagery
I came across this book for the first time in Waterstones, when the beautiful black and white cover design and striking red-bordered pages caught my eye. I read the blurb and fell in love with the book before even reading it. At the time, I couldn’t buy it as I was short on funds, so I later ordered it online.
I began reading it the moment it arrived in the post, and soon discovered that I struggled to exit the world created by Morgenstern to continue with my everyday life. Due to this reason, I got through the book in a matter of about two days. I had to force myself not to reread it straight away, because I wanted to ensure I gave myself time to bask in the magical warmth that the novel gifted me with.
Whilst reading The Night Circus, I discovered that this was exactly the sort of book that I endeavour to write. It has everything from interesting and lovable characters, a gripping story and truly beautiful settings. But what I loved, and still love, most about this book is the imagination with which everything is described. I found myself perfectly picturing every single element of the book, and my imagination went wild. I felt everything the characters felt. Every setting was a place I could picture so clearly in my mind that I felt as though I had been there a thousand times in person. The imagery is purely magical and I longed to be a character in Morgenstern’s book, if only to experience firsthand the wonderful world she had created- not least The Night Circus itself, which provided by far the most incredible collection of interesting settings and objects within its many mystical tents.
I’m not going to describe to you the plot, or even provide an overview of the book, as you can find it in a hundred places elsewhere on the internet. But I do urge you to seek the novel out and give it a try, because it’s inspiring and brilliantly written, and the imagery it will conjure up in your mind is truly beautiful.
Treasure Number Two: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green
Main reason: the emotion
I’m sure I’m not the first person to claim this book as one of their favourites, and I certainly won’t be the last. When it was first published, I hadn’t heard of John Green and I didn’t initially hear about the book either. It was only when a few unconnected friends of mine mentioned it to me and said how much they were enjoying it that I decided I wanted to see whether they were right. Then, last Summer, a friend kindly offered to lend me her copy, and once I got around to reading it, I could not stop. I read it in two days flat, and instantaneously wanted to read it again and again and again. It filled me to the brim with emotion and, though it may seem silly, it made me really think about how precious life is. I laughed and cried with the characters and really felt involved with the lives John Green had created.
Shortly after I finished it, I discovered that a film was scheduled and that they were in the process of casting it. As I’m sure many readers will understand, I felt slightly apprehensive at the thought of a bunch of strangers casting Hazel and Gus with people that may not fit in with the way I imagined them in my head. I enjoyed reading it so much, I felt it was a part of me and that a film adaptation, though exciting, could turn out to be awful and disappointing.
I saw the film twice in the cinema when it was released earlier this year, and I was overjoyed to see that they had done an incredible job of sticking closely to the book. It maintained the same feel, emotion and excitement as the pages I had read a year previously, which I was very happy to see. Though, for me, a book always trumps a film, it is incredibly rare that a film can proudly stand alongside the book on which it was based.
There are many books that hit a wave of high popularity, and much of the time I admittedly tend to steer clear of them. If you’re someone who feels the same way and therefore hasn’t yet read The Fault In Our Stars for that very reason, I urge you to go out and find yourself a copy and read it straight away. You won’t regret it; its an incredibly well-written book, based around a somewhat sensitive but increasingly relevant subject, and I assure you that you will fall in love with Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters just as much as I did.
Treasure Number Three: The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
Main reason: the characters
This is the only one of my treasured four that I saw a film adaptation of before I read the book. I have owned the DVD of The Time Traveler’s Wife for years, and it has become one of my favourite films of the genre. I knew it was based on a book, but for some reason never went out of my way looking for a copy of the novel to read it.
Then, early this year, I visited a local bluebell wood which has an accompanying café. Adjoined to the café is a little room with boxes upon boxes of secondhand books, which you can rifle through and, should you find any books you would like, you simply drop a donation of your choice into a little box and the books are yours. I was delighted to find The Time Traveler’s Wife in one of those boxes, and brought it home for as little as a pound, if I remember rightly.
A pound most certainly well spent. At 518 pages, this novel is fairly long. Rather than speeding through this one because I couldn’t put it down, I reveled in being able to read it and not knowing what was going to happen to the characters yet. I didn’t want to read it too quickly because I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want it to finish. Despite knowing the film very well, it didn’t at all taint my reading of the book. There were film moments that didn’t appear and there were new moments that I didn’t recognise, which was exciting. This is another example of a book where the film adaptation is on par. Whether or not this is down to having seen and loved the film before reading the book, I don’t know. But I simply adore the relationship between Henry and Claire, and the fact that he unintentionally time travels makes for a frustrating yet exciting read. I also love the concept that Claire knows Henry years before Henry knows Claire (without involving stalking). It may partly be down to the fact that I love the concept of time travel (Back to the Future is my favourite film of all time), but The Time Traveler’s Wife really was a great read for me. Henry and Claire’s relationship and the way Niffenegger portrays it is the main reason I love this novel so much, I think. I was left feeling emotional and mulling it over for days after finishing the book, which says to me that it’s a read thoroughly worth my while- and yours, too.
Treasure Number Four: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Main reason: the perfect balance
Prior to reading this novel, I read another by the same author- not yet owning the first of the series (this one) and not being entirely sure whether or not it mattered if I read them out of order. Though I enjoyed the other novel (The Prisoner Of Heaven), it admittedly became one of those books I mentioned, that ends up another book you’ve read and enjoyed but sort of forget about. However, I’ve been left wondering whether that would remain so now that I’ve read the first novel in the series, as this one, I really loved.
I finished reading this book this morning, and I didn’t want it to end. For this reason, I am immensely glad that I own three more books by Ruiz Zafón that I can now read and relish the same flavour as the first. However, I am doubtful that they will make it into my shortlist of favourites, because how could they possibly live up to The Shadow Of The Wind? I found this book perfect in every single way. The balance of everything was perfect, which I think is why I must have enjoyed it so much. There were elements of Gothic, romance, humour, darkness, adventure, thriller and fantasy, yet not one of them overshadowed the rest. As I got further through the text, I began to love Julián Carax (an author whose past the main character seeks to track down) and the unwinding plot. The descriptions of settings and characters and voices and emotions were written so well that I could imagine everything as if I could see it before my very eyes. It’s predominantly set in Barcelona in the early 1900’s, and the streets and buildings, and the old bookshop owned by Daniel (the narrator) and his father are all described in such a magical and vivid way that I felt as though I accompanied Daniel everywhere in person.
The balance in this novel is perfect, the characters unravel and are revealed bit by bit as the story furthers, there is an air of mystery and adventure, but also a sense of exploring areas that perhaps you ought not to be exploring. It keeps you guessing and maintained my involvement throughout. This book, like The Time Traveler’s Wife, was one of those that I took my time in reading because I didn’t want it to come to an end. And this time, I didn’t at all know the outcome, which made me want to relish it even more. I highly recommend reading this book, because I think that it’s a perfectly composed novel and one that I now feel I should cherish, just as Daniel cherishes his copy of The Shadow Of The Wind by Julián Carax.
So there you have my four most treasured reads. I implore you to read at least one of them- even if you begin reading it and stop part the way through due to lack of compatibility (are you mad!?). Books like these don’t come around every day, and I can see myself reading all four again and again and never tiring of any one of them.
What are your most treasured books and why?
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Until next time,
The Cosy Onion