This week’s theme seems appropriate for my mood. I’m coming to the end of the little blog hiatus that I took while preparing to redecorate my bedroom for redecoration, and I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this blog in the future. Ideas include: inventing a meme of my own (it’s what Virginia Woolf would have wanted, am I right?), reviewing more obscure, forgotten, 90s and early 00s YA (I do love it so) and maybe making some videos! However, as well as planning ahead, I’m also taking the opportunity to look back at my reading history, as I prepare to read a lot more books than I have been for the past few months, and that’s where this theme comes in!
Top Ten Books I Read Before I Was A Blogger
1. Ghostwritten, by David Mitchell – This book blew my mind when I first read it. At first it seems like the chapters are short stories with tenuous connections, but the deeper you go, the more interwoven the lives of the characters become. I loved this book, and the slightly more straightforward follow-up, number9dream, but have I read any more of his work? NO. I need to do that.
2. The Forestwife, by Teresa Tomlinson – This book, and the rest of the Forestwife trilogy, is so much fun. I picked it up in my school library without knowing anything about it, and loved it so much that I bought the collected edition of the trilogy the instant that I saw it for sale in a shop several years later. It’s the story of Mary, a privileged young woman brought up by her uncle and milk-nurse and intended for marriage to a much older man. She decides yeah, that won’t be happening, and runs off into the forest, having no experience of life outside her wealthy uncle’s home. Happily, Agnes, her milk-nurse, who planned for them both to run off all along, comes after Mary, to teach her how to survive. They go to find the Forestwife, a witch feared by peasant and lord alike, in the hopes that she can provide them with shelter. If you further convincing to go read this now, the trilogy is a retelling of the Robin Hood legend from the point of view of the women involved, and features romance, witchcraft, awesome nuns, and rebellion! Seriously, the nuns are fabulous…
3. Ash: A Secret History, by Mary Gentle – Woman mercenary leader hears voices in her head telling her how to win battles. Mysteries, war, politics. Sex, violence, and lots of swearing. Vast quantities of swearing. If you don’t tolerate swear words well, it’s probably best that you don’t read this. If you love swear words, get it now.
4. Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh – This one I have actually reviewed, and it is one of my most popular reviews ever! Harriet is a girl with an unusual hobby – spying on her friends, family, and neighbours, and writing notes about them down in a notebook. This was one of my favourite books as a child simply because Harriet is such an unusual girl protagonist – belligerent and stubborn, loveable and easy to dislike at the same time.
5. The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron – I read this shortly before I started blogging properly, and it changed my life enormously. If you feel that you’ve never really managed to get your creative act together, I recommend that you give it a try. Don’t be put off by the word ‘spiritual’ in the description – although the author considers it vital, you can ignore all the god stuff if you want, or interpret it in your own way.
6. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, by Angela Carter – I always loved fairytales, so when, during a course about short stories at university, I discovered the world of retellings, I was thrilled. I’ve read many since but Angela Carter’s are among the best. I’m planning to write a proper review soon.
7. Let’s Get Lost, by Sarra Manning – Another unusual girl protagonist (I do love those) – Isabel is mean and bossy, ruling her friendship group with an iron fist, refusing to become sweet, even after her mother dies. You can read a mini-review in another Top Ten Tuesday list, Books I’d Recommend To Somebody Who Doesn’t Read British YA.
8. Dragonsong, by Anne McCaffrey – When I was a teenager I was obsessed with the Dragonriders of Pern series, set on a planet in which humans bond with dragons in order to fight Thread, spores which fall from the sky and eat their way through everything they touch. Except rock. I don’t think they go through rock. Anyway, it’s been a while since I read any of these books because as I got older I got a bit disenchanted with the series (why is the society so sexist despite the books being set in the future?) but I re-read the Harper Hall trilogy most recently. Dragonsong is mostly about a girl called Menolly who lives in a fishing Hold but wants to make music. Her family doesn’t understand her interest or talent and it made me cry!
9. Vile Bodies, by Evelyn Waugh – If you haven’t heard of this book, you might have heard of the film adaptation, Bright Young Things. It’s a satire about the fashionable teens and twentysomethings of 1920s London, the children of aristocrats or recently-wealthy businessmen, and all the fabulous parties they threw. Far too many parties. They were wonderful and irresponsible and the book takes an increasingly dark tone, which I love – the contrast between the glamour and the grim results.
10. Last Chance, by Sarah Dessen – I read this because it came free with J-17 magazine, a consolation prize as the Diary of a Crush column ended. Socially awkward and often bullied Colie, daughter of a fitness guru goes to stay with her eccentric aunt and gets a job in a cafe for the summer. As a teen I could relate to Colie’s journey towards confidence and I enjoyed it again when I re-read it a few years ago.