1. To Kill a Mockingbird
The first book on my list of books that have stayed with me has to be To Kill a Mockingbird.
I read To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time as a 15year old GCSE student way back in 1999. In Harper Lee’s classic tale, the author revisits her own childhood and loosely based the novel on a set of events that occurred when she was a 10-year-old child growing up in Alabama.
The novel is set in the 1930s and explores some of the issues of the day. A particular focus is placed upon racial inequality. Harper Lee’s father, Atticus Finch is for me, as for many others, a moral hero. The enduring tale of Atticus Finch has always remained with me throughout my adulthood and often enters my thoughts when I consider a moral dilemma.
2. A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities was the first Dickens novel I had properly read. I only picked up this book around a year or so ago. Initially, I found the novel a little tough to get into. In fact, I almost gave up in the first few chapters. But thankfully, I stuck with it and learned to love Dickens’ descriptive writing style.
The novel is set prior to, during and after the French Revolution. Dickens wrote his classic in 1859. Thus, for him the events of the French Revolution were within living memory. He would have been able to draw upon the experiences of those around him to recreate the event that to us is in the far distant past.
The story follows the trials and tribulations of the French Dr Manette and his daughter Lucie. As the title suggests, the novel switches between the two cities of London and Paris. I have always found the French Revolution incredibly fascinating. The reason this book has stayed with me since I read it is the ending, which is nail-bitingly incredible!
3. Chariots of the Gods?
I’ve always had an obsession with all things supernatural. Erich von Däniken’s groundbreaking book was the first book I ever read on this subject.
Initially published in 1968, Däniken explores the possibility that our ancient ancestors were visited by aliens. Furthermore, Däniken suggests that alien visitors gave our ancestors technology, religion and advanced scientific knowledge. The author then suggests that our ancestors then worshipped these ancient astronauts as gods.
Däniken fully explores all these possibilities and provides some compelling evidence to support his theories. I don’t subscribe to all his theories, however, I do find Däniken’s book incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.
I quite often see evidence of Däniken’s theories and my mind is drawn back to the book.
4. Jane Eyre
Charlotte Bronte published her classic, Jane Eyre in 1847. The novel follows the life of Jane, an orphan. The victim of a tyrannical aunt, she is sent away to a boarding school at an early age and then seeks to make her own way on life.
The novel features romance, tragedy and also explores the themes of class and gender. I can remember the story vividly as if I had just read the book a week ago. I adore the Bronte novels and can now add a few more to my ‘have read’ list!
5. Wuthering Heights
Another Bronte novel which is a favourite of mine is Wuthering Heights. Indeed, this Gothic novel is undoubtedly one of my favourite books of all time! Written by another Bronte sister, Emily, a strange orphan boy named Heathcliffe arrives at a family home. His actions will change the fortunes of this family forever!
As we follow the tale, Bronte really conjures up images of early 19th-century life. The descriptions are amazing. The character of Heathcliffe is utterly captivating and with every page, you will want to find out more! The characters and descriptions, as well as the storyline, have made this one of the books that has stayed with me throughout my adult life.
6. The Silmarilion
If you enjoyed The Lord of the Rings, then you really need to read The Silmarillion. In this beautifully written novel, Tolkien takes the reader on a journey from the start of the creation of Middle Earth to events that occurred after the Lord of the Rings trilogy had ended.
The reader learns more about why certain occurances happened in the Lord of the Rings and more is revealed about Gandalf and some of the other key characters.
I read this book as a teenager and I can still remember vividly Tolkien’s beautiful descriptions of his creation, Middle Earth.
7. The Hobbit
Another classic of Tolkien’s is The Hobbit. I read this book as a child and have enjoyed reading it to my own children. The Hobbit really stimulates the imagination.
The book is in essence the prequel to the Lord of the Rings and follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins and how he comes to find the ring. I fell in love with the characters as a child and loved them even more as I have read the tale as an adult. This is one of the books that has stayed with me throughout my life – I still have the same copy I read as a child!
I was rather reluctant to read George Orwell’s classic, 1984 for many years. It’s not the sort of book I would normally read, but my daughter convinced my last year to give this a read. I’m very glad I did!
Many compare today’s societies with 24-hour surveillance to the world created by George Orwell. And the premise that “Big Brother is watching you” makes many of us shudder. The comparisons we can make to our own world make Orwell’s classic one of those books that has stayed with me!
I recently read Emma prior to the release of the movie. It actually took me a while to get into the book, but once I did, I was really glad that I stuck with it. This is perhaps my favourite of Jane Austen’s novels. The novel follows the life of a young early nineteenth-century woman, Emma. Throughout the story, Austen explores love, romance, family, secrets and lies. As with all Austen’s novels, there is an element of humour as she explores social norms and etiquette.
I fell in love with a number of the characters within the book, some of them, such as Mr Woodhouse and George Knightley, are some of my favourite fictional characters.
Perhaps an unconventional choice which doesn’t seem to fit this list, but I am a historian after all! Homer’s epic poem, Odyssey is a book that has stayed with me throughout my adult life.
The poem follows the adventures of the Greek literary hero, Odysseus as he embarks on an epic quest following the Trojan Wars. The poem written in the 8th century BC, tells of Odysseus’ defeat of the Cyclopes, in which he famously claims his name is ‘nobody’ using his wits to defeat the monster. I adored this tale as a child I still enjoy reading these passages as an adult.
I’m sure I could have added many more this list of books that have stayed with me throughout my life, however, these are undoubtedly my favourite! I hope you enjoyed this list!
I often buy books from charity shops or second-hand book stores, but since lockdown, I’ve been making use of Amazon for all my book needs!
For similar posts, see my Reading the Classics category.