A while ago, I did a post about 10 books that influenced past me. I made that list when I was 18 and after four years and a literature degree, a few things have changed. Here are some of the books that have become important to me in the last few years.
1. The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer [fiction]
I’m still reading this, but so far I’m quite in awe. This book manages to incorporate elements of mystery and thriller with what seems like a coming-of-age narrative, complete with a bit of an experimental format that involves playing around with form and images. The timeline of events is a bit confusing with the back and forth, but the pacing is tightly controlled. Even though I haven’t finished yet, I’m sure it’ll be a memorable one.
2. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry [Historical fiction]
This book is set during a time of political upheaval in India, and is one of the books that encouraged me to read even more Indian authors. I loved the characterisation and use of language — especially the way Mistry manages to convey the tones and cadences of Indian languages through English. If you want to know about it in more detail, here is a longer review I’ve written.
3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman [fiction]
As I mentioned in my recent reading recap post, this book’s themes of loneliness and finding one’s footing in social situations hit me hard. The characters are human and I started caring about them without even realising. The narrative is so multifaceted that there should be something to appeal to a wide audience — including stories of friendship, love, and kindness.
4. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak [historical fiction/fantasy]
This choice might seem like a cliché, but how many books have you read that are narrated by death? The language is also evocative and the imagery striking. As the blurb will tell you, the story is of a girl, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. All of these combine to create a memorable read.
5. A Doll’s House/Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen [plays]
I couldn’t just pick one when it came to Ibsen. These plays feature complex characters looking to break out of their restrictive surroundings and find freedom. The symbolism is impactful and the characters engaging, frustrating and realistic. Both were quick, exhilarating reads. If they were this effective in text, I can only imagine how striking live performances would be.
6. Room by Emma Donoghue [fiction]
Telling a story from a child’s point of view can easily feel forced or overdone, but Room manages to convey the tone well. The reader discovers and is also encouraged to deduce information about the characters’ situation as the narrative unfurls, and Donoghue strikes the perfect balance between maintaining suspense and divulging important elements of the story.
7. We Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson [fiction/horror]
This story is perfect for those seeking a little thrill without any excessive horror. At first, most things seem in order, with a few elements amiss here and there. But as the plot progresses, it starts to become increasingly clear that things are not what they seem. And some things are very, very wrong. The suspense is drawn out and escalated to the very last moment possible before the explosive confrontation. And the ending will likely bring a chill to your spine, so maybe reserve this one for Halloween.
8. Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie [historical fiction]
This novel covers how some of the most monumental acts of terror in history impacted singular lives. The way the characters’ lives are intertwined is masterful, and the writing simply beautiful.
9. Hunger by Knut Hamsun [fiction]
The sheer desolation, hardship and self-destruction depicted in this book is powerful. As the title may indicate, the main character struggles with poverty throughout the novel. Whilst he has grit, he can also be so frustrating. I was tempted to throw the book out the window at times. Overall, however, this book makes my list because its simplicity only added to its impact.
10. Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El Saadawi [non-fiction]
This book. It’s painful, heartbreaking and so, so necessary in current times. Nawal El Saadawi tells the story of her meeting with a female prisoner, Firdaus, who was convicted for murder and was awaiting her execution. The story is about women in a patriarchal society — their trials with suppression, abuse and the struggle for freedom.
Whilst Harry Potter and Matilda will always have a special place on my bookshelf, these are the books that have impacted me the most in the last few years. What are some of the books that have influenced you? Have you read any of these, and if so, what did you think?
Thank you for reading. Until next time!