Whenever I used to hear the advice “If you want to be a writer, you have to read” I would think “Yeah, yeah. I read enough. Besides, how crucial is it really for you to be a good writer?”
And then I realized that I didn’t really read enough. It had been ages since I had picked up a book and read it back to front in one of those I cannot put this down kind of ways.
I used to read articles online, sure. But most of my very little free time was spent scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. I couldn’t remember the last time I just cuddled up in bed and read and read and read for the pure enjoyment of it.
So, I started reading again. And I realized that it really does help my writing. It gets my creativity flowing. It helps me see a lot of great examples of sentence structure and the flow of good writing. It helps me pinpoint what I like and don’t like in writing.
Reading—and reading a lot—can help every writer. You don’t have to be an aspiring novelist to get value out of reading.
So, this summer I’ve decided to make a list of my all-time most favourite books and revisit them. I want to explore what it was that I loved about them at different points in time in my life. I want to look at them with fresh eyes and see if they make me feel everything I once felt.
This is not only a great way to reignite your love of reading (if you lost the flame like I did), it’s fun to re-read books that really left an impact on you.
Here are my Top 5 All-Time Favourite Books and why I adored them so much. These are the ones I would bring to a desert island with me. I’d love to know what yours are, too.
Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
The first time I read this, I was so moved by the way Margaret Atwood depicted the complexities of female friendships (and young friendships in particular.) I found friendships with girls a bit tough growing up, and reading this book made me realize that maybe I wasn’t alone and there wasn’t something wrong with me because I didn’t have a BFF. I loved the way she wrote... her sentence structure and the way she would repeat words for emphasis. I remember thinking it was one of the most beautiful books I had ever read. It touched me when I was a teen. It would be interesting to see if I have the same response today.
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
This book helped me discover a few things about myself. One was that I love Arthurian legend, and I wanted to read every fictional retelling of it that I could find. Another was that I like fantasy—which surprised me. And finally, I absolutely love a story told from the female perspective. This is the story of King Arthur told from Morgaine’s (or Morgan Le Fay’s) point of view, with a focus on many other female characters. It’s a long, beautiful book that I’ve read many times—but again, haven’t picked up in at least 15 years.
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
If you know me, you know my love of Judy Blume. This book was so much a part of my life, that my husband picked it up and read it to see what all the fuss was about. (I guess it can’t hurt, now that we have three daughters.) I read this at the perfect time in my life and I’ve re-read it probably every year since. Judy is everything to me.
The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving
Full disclosure: John Irving is kind of weird. He explores some strange and not-so-lovely themes in his books. But I love his writing. I find he always takes a little bit of time to get into, but once I’m hooked, I can’t put his books down. For me, there doesn’t always have to be something happening or a crime to solve or a quest to go on. I love the character development you'll find in a good coming of age story like this one.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Again, fantasy was a surprise to me. But I read this for a class in university and I actually cried while reading it. Always a sign of a good book. (Also a nerd alert??) It’s a long, long book, and in one of the chapters it felt like they did nothing but walk, but I couldn’t put it down.
I’ve read many books of all different types—but these are 5 that stay with me throughout life. What about you? Which books would you bring with you to a desert island?