My Favourite Books of All Time

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I’ve always been a voracious reader and I think you can tell a lot about a person from their favourite books. With that in mind I thought it would be fun to bare the depths of my soul to you all and list my favourite reads that I go back to time and time again.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum – Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson has long been one of my favourite authors and her debut novel remains my favourite. This is a twist on the family saga novel, giving us a snapshot view into the lives of one family’s various different generations of women. The novel is narrated by Ruby Lennox and the story begins with her conception, and follows her through life, flitting effortlessly back in time along the way to visit four generations of family members. By looking at the past we begin to understand the characters in the present and this is something I’ve always found fascinating; how actions and decisions can have far reaching impacts. It’s a book about life, love, death, and family. I love Kate Atkinson’s sharp style of writing and dark humour, and although if I’m critical, I would say that she perfected the time-spanning writing in her more recent novel Life After Life, the story and the characters here always pull me back for a re-read.

Other recommended reads by this author:

Case Studies, When will there be good news?, Life After Life, One Good Turn

A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving

A Prayer for Owen Meany is a long one at 600-odd pages, so not one that I tend to re-read often, but is a book that I always find deeply moving and a fascinating read. Owen Meany is a strange boy – unusually small, with an odd voice and a religious fixation. The story is told from the point of view of Owen’s friend, Johnny Wheelwright, and follows the two through their childhood and into adulthood. A tragic incident at a softball game sees Owen strike a ball which hits Johnny’s mother and sadly kills her, leaving Johnny as an orphan, as his mother never revealed who his father was. Aged 10, Owen is told by his parents that he was immaculately conceived and he goes on to believe that he is an instrument of God with a particular destiny. The book explores the concept of family, friendship, religion, race, politics, and manages to do so while still maintaining moments of humour.

Other recommended reads by this author:

The Cider House Rules, The World According to Garp

After You’d Gone – Maggie O’Farrell

Alice Raikes is a 29 year old woman, living a lonely life in Camden, London. One day, on a visit to her sisters in Edinburgh she sees something that shakes her world upside down – she rushes back to London and, with her mind still whirring from the shock, she steps off a kerb and is hit by a car. As Alice lies in a coma in hospital, we see snippets from her life; her childhood in North Berwick, her time at university, her life in London and her romance with John, as well as brief snapshots from further back her family history, from her mother and grandmother.

Like Behind the Scenes at the Museum, this book is another family saga, that shows that we are all influenced by our family and by the events that have come before us. Maggie O’Farrell’s writing is really captivating – there is almost a detachment to it, and yet the characters are richly drawn, real, and with an emotional depth that draws you in as you put all the pieces of the story together.

Other recommended reads by this author:

The Hand that First Held Mine, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox

The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

I was late to the party on this one, only discovering The Time Traveler’s Wife around 5 years ago, but in that time I’ve read it so often that my copy is disintegrating! It centres on the romance between Henry and Clare and is at heart a love story, but one with a twist: Henry has a genetic condition which means that he inadvertently time travels to random points in his life, to both his past and his future. Clare first meets Henry when she is six and Henry in his thirties, and his time travelling jaunts mean that by the time Henry first meets Clare when she is 20 and he 28, Clare has met him many many times before. The time travelling aspect to the story is handled well, but it’s the relationship that is the focus of this book. As you can imagine, there is an intense sadness to the love story, but the strength of feeling between Clare and Henry is drawn really powerfully and I’m not going to deny that this novel always has me shedding more than a few tears.

Other recommended reads by this author:

Her Fearful Symmetry

 

As you can see, I love a book that concentrates on relationships, family, and preferably spans many decades. Are there any books that you’ve read that fit the bill? I really want 2016 to be the year that I get back into reading lots, so I’d love to hear your recommendations.