Sunday, 23 March 2014

Listography - My Life in Books

I've never taken part in the listography side of blogging before so when I saw Kate Takes 5's post on 'My Life in Books' I thought I'd grasp the moment and link into her discussion of all things literary. If you're wondering what the link is between books and frugal living - the theme of this blog and one I like to adhere to fairly strictly - it's simply that there are few pleasures in life as cheap and satisfying as losing yourself in a book for an hour or two. Everything is (usually) fine in the world with me when I have my nose stuck in a novel and a cup of tea close to hand.

As prompted by Kate Takes 5's theme, here are the 5 books that have played a defining role in my life so far...

1. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume

My introduction to the world of the great Judy Blume. Her era-defining books tend to be remembered in the context of tackling 'difficult' subjects like sex and periods. But what I loved most about them was their 'American-ness', which growing up in dreary '80s Britain seemed so modern and exciting. Judy Blume had a way of vocalising anxieties about becoming a teenager with empathy and humour and I went on to devour all of her books after reading this novel. 

2. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This book was a first foray for me into the very dark places literature can take you. I read it alongside Susan Hill's equally unnerving novel 'I'm the King of the Castle' for English GCSE and was completely consumed by an unfolding drama that sees good children turn bad against the benign backdrop of a tropical island. Its terrifying examination of the dark side of human nature had a big effect on me.

3. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende

My first experience of literally not being able to put a book down. This book reminds me of my mid teens, and staying up way beyond lights out to eek out just one more chapter. I didn't know what 'magic realism' was at the time of reading but looking back I can see how this stylistic device, coupled with Isabel Allende's natural gift for storytelling, ensured this book held a special place in my teenage self's heart.  

4. The Prince by Niccolo Macchiavelli

It might seem a bit pretentious to include a treatise on good governance from a 16th century political theorist in this list but when I think of my university years I always come back to this book, studied during my Italian degree at London University. It sparked an enduring fascination with the Italian Renaissance and influenced my choice to spend the third year of my course in Florence, a city that I ended up falling madly in love with and which I've returned to many times since. Surprisingly, The Prince isn't at all boring and explains political concepts (concepts that remain hugely relevant today) in simple terms - a real political education for me. 


5. Captain Corelli's Mandolin

Just a lovely, lovely book, which I read, appropriately, on my first trip to Greece. Few books have made me cry actual tears, but this one did. I was lying on the beach at the time, the sea was lapping at my feet and the combination of a beautiful setting and lyrical, heart-rending prose got the better of me. The famous 'Love is a temporary madness...' passage might have become rather over quoted, popping up as it does at weddings up and down the land these days, but the sentiment within those few lines is so heart-felt we couldn't resist choosing it as a reading on our special day.

I've also got suggestions for books to read with boys on the blog here.

What are your life-defining books?



  1. Very impressed by your choices - I'd say that'll be the first and only mention of Machiavelli in this Listography!

  2. Thanks, Kate! Yeah, the Machiavelli is a bit 'out there' but actually really worth a read - and short too, thankfully! Your post brought back memories of reading Playing Beattie Bow. I loved that book too!

  3. Great list though I'm not familiar with all the books I have read some by the authors.

  4. Some classics there and a few I have not read! on to the wishlist they go....

  5. Yes, there's one here that's going on my wish-list too! Great list....


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