15 Books That Have Stuck

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto


This is a list of books that, while not neccessarily being my most favourite, have stuck with me through life for one reason or another. See what you think, and don’t forget to leave a comment or your own list below!

1. The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman 

I read this book aged 17, I think, and remember how utterly absorbed I was by its originality. There were no wizards, no barbarians, just a boy and a girl – and the ultimate evil was God! I loved the entire trilogy, but the reason the third book has stayed with me is that, when I finished reading it, I remember putting it down and feeling close to tears, moved by a genuine sense of loss. This is the only book where I’ve finished it and actually felt like my friends had walked out of my life, like a part of my own world had ended.
2. IT by Stephen King

As a child, I watched the film adaptation of this book and subsequently threw up out of pure terror. Imagine a film so scary it makes you vomit! Anyway, I was 16 or so when I bought this, and it marked the beginning of my love affair with books and writing. Stephen King may not be my biggest inspiration now, but I probably owe it to him that I started writing at all. That first chapter, and the image of little Georgie lying face-up in the rain with his arm torn off has never left me since.

 3.Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim

I saw the film of this before I read the book, and was captivated by the dreamy cinematography and soundtrack. I was delighted to discover that the book was written in equally dreamy prose, so that the whole thing feels like one big nostalgia trip. There is some shocking violence in the book, which sticks in the mind, but ultimately what I remember is the combination of warmth and sorrow twined together so expertly here by the author.

4.Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z Brite

Okay, I’m not about to try to convince anyone that Ms Brite’s books are anything other than trash, but trash has always held a special place in my heart, and this twisted tale of cannibals in love is about as sordid and trashy as they come. The term “gaudy prose” really applies here! I remember this book quite fondly because a friend of mine gave it to me one summer, and subsequently I spent my evenings reading it with a mixture of repulsion and arousal. It’s perfect teenage angst, full of pink neon, strip clubs, beautiful people and opulence.

5.Dracula by Bram Stoker

This was a present given to me by my brother one Christmas, and he had the good sense to buy the lovely orange and black Penguin edition! My love of Victoriana and horror came together in this luscious, beautiful classic, presented in the form of letters to and from the main characters, which generates a weird sense of intimacy between reader and author. There can’t be anybody out there who doesn’t know this story, but probably the part that sticks in my mind the most is the transformation of Lucy from genteel, innocent bride-to-be, to twisted child-snatching bride of Dracula.

6.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

This is a book that supposedly blazed a trail in terms of feminism, but I don’t suppose I really look at it like that. What I admired in the character of Jane was the fact she knew who she was, she knew what her limits were, and what she was prepared to accept. She never gave in to pressure of any sort, but was her own person right to the very end, and that’s something I treasure very highly.

7.The Tinder-Box by Hans Christian Andersen

If I think back to my early childhood, and the stories my mother would read my brother and I before we went to bed each night, this is the one that has stayed with me, and to be honest I don’t really know why. I suppose even as fairy stories go, it’s pretty unusual, and perhaps that’s what enchanted me about it as a child. For whatever reason, this is a story that has left a warm spot in my heart.

8.The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

For A-Level English Literature, the texts I had to study included 1984, Tess Of The d’Urbervilles, Dr Faustus, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Out of this selection, the one I enjoyed studying the most was the latter. Despite being so widely revered, I found 1984 an incredibly dry book in which I failed to see much of the threat Orwell wrote of, and the love interest between central characters Winston and Julia felt completely tacked-on. No, it was Atwood’s novel that had me hooked. The part that sticks in my mind to this day and sent shivers down my spine when I read it, was the mention of how one day, out of the blue, the women’s bank accounts were closed down, which started a domino effect that saw the rest of their human and civil rights collapse in a matter of months.

9.Public Dream by Frances Leviston

One of the first poetry books I purchased. I had that brilliant interval of excitement between ordering it from Amazon and waiting for it to arrive, and when the padded envelope popped through the letterbox, I sat down and read the whole book cover to cover, loving every moment of it. Leviston’s true talent lies in her technical mastery. Her poem “Gliss” is probably the most accurate summary of how it feels to be in a relationship I’ve read.

10.The Harbour Beyond The Movie by Luke Kennard

I’d always thought poetry to be this rigid thing that had to be either about love or death or something delicate and precious. Only when I read this book did I realize poetry could be funny, silly, experimental, weird, or just completely off the wall. So while I may not love all of the poems contained within this collection, I certainly admire its creative vision.

11.Naked Lunch by William Burroughs

To put things into context, I first read this book when I was sat up in a makeshift bed, recovering from an operation to have my appendix removed. Perhaps that feverish, clinical state of mind provided the perfect for reading this, because this book had a huge impact on me. It’s full of twisted, erotic and downright nightmarish passages. If there was anything that was going to turn me off the idea of drugs forever, this was it!

12.The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

If you imagine a David Lynch film in book form, you get a vague idea of what this is like – full of surreal imagery, larger than life characters, and some wonderfully poetic language. It can take a while to really get into this book, as the main character is so apathetic as to be bordering on comatose, and spends most of his time cooking spaghetti or ironing his clothes. But once things get going, you really appreciate that the subtle power of the book lies in its ability to blend mundane, everyday life with the extraordinary and dream-like.

13.Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien

Another book that was given to me as a Christmas present, and is therefore wrapped up in a warm, fuzzy sense of nostalgia. It’s not a book I’m ever going to read again, just because I feel I’ve grown out of it now, but much in the same way as Stephen King’s books, this tale of hobbits and dark wizards inspired me to start writing my own stories.

14.Crave by Sarah Kane

Deeply disturbing, dark and conflicted, this is a play that captures a disintegrating mind and haunts your thoughts for some time after reading. Again, it’s one of those books I’m probably not going to re-read, but something that helped me get through my own difficult times.

15.Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Saving the best till last, this is without a doubt my favourite ever book. The story is simple, charming, warm and bursting with hope. Yoshimoto’s lightness of touch imbues ordinary things like food and cooking and winter with their own special magic. I read this book every time I’m feeling down, and it never, ever fails to cheer me up. Perfect for reading in bed with a hot drink.


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