Today I want to talk about some literary works that have changed my life. That sounds dramatic, and I don’t mean they’ve completely changed me as a person overnight, but all of the works I want to talk about have had an impact on me in some way, whether that be by challenging views I hold, by educating me, or just because I loved the book so much. Read on for some absolute gems of literary works.
William Shakespeare’s King Lear
After reading this in sixth form my views on English Literature changed forever. It cemented in my brain that a Literature degree is something that I had to pursue. I had no idea what I wanted to do with it but I knew I NEEDED to study this beautiful subject. I genuinely cannot put into words how much I love this play. I know Shakespeare tends to be a bit of a marmite character, although I have no idea why, but I certainly love him. His words are something that cannot be rivalled in my opinion. The play has an extremely important message, and while I can appreciate that the majority cannot relate to a foolish, aging man who loses all he owns, the social messages contained in this play are something we can all take heed of. Look around you, stop thinking solely of yourself, and notice those who need help.
Toni Morrison’s Beloved
I read this last year and it was one of those books that had such a profound impact on me that I still think about it now. I had always been aware of the horrific ordeals of the African slaves in America, however, I feel that I had sort of glossed over it, just learning silly little basics and figures, without actually looking at the slaves themselves. This book, although essentially a piece of fiction, is based on true events, events that affected, and CONTINUE to affect a large majority of the world. We are not talking about an ethnic minority here. We are talking about the Black community, and you have only got to look at the events in America and the fact that #BlackLivesMatter has to exist, to see that really not much as changed. This book opened my eyes to this. The struggles of Baby Suggs, Denver and Sethe were horrific, even after the Emancipation Proclamation, Black slaves in America were still treated horrifically. This book really has been so influential on the way I view the world now, and I truly believe it is a novel that everyone should read.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
I hated this book at first. For some reason, on first reading I just could not get my head around it. However, after further reading and studying, I truly began to love it. It really touched me. Hester Prynne was treated appallingly by men and women in her town. She was cast out for having a child out of wedlock, made to live away from the rest of her town. She struggled with guilt, bringing up a young child, but she was brave. It touched me because in my eyes, the treatment of women has not changed to great extents. Women are often victims of this, and far worse all over the world, and it is amazing to me that something written so long ago, can still be so true of society today.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
One of everyone’s favourite childhood books I bet, but unlike the majority, it took me until recently to become truly obsessed. The book is a work of art, Carroll, whatever he is, cannot be denied as a pure creative genius. It takes you into a different world, both in the book and in your own imagination, and I can see why it is so popular as a children’s book. That being said, it is easy to see why it appeals to adults. To me it is a way to escape. I read this when I want to forget the shitty events going on in the world, or when I’ve had a bad day. It never fails to put on smile on my face because of the nonsense language, the poetry and songs and the characters, Alice in particular as I think all of us can relate to her and her daydreaming and curiosity. If you haven’t read this yet, you are seriously missing out.
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
“Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same”.
The pure poetic quality of Brontë’s writing in this gorgeous novel made me fall in love, not with Heathcliff like most readers might, but with the book itself. I fell in love with the location, with the way it made me feel, with Brontë herself for writing something so outstanding. It is not a love story as some might think, in fact I would call it more of a tragedy (don’t worry I won’t give any spoilers), and every time I read it I cry. Also, given that the Brontë’s were not known to have really travelled further than their homes in Yorkshire and led quite sheltered lives, I am even more in awe at the raw emotions, the passion and the description of location that features in this work. This book has stayed with me since my first read back when I was about 16, and like King Lear, helped cement my love for literature.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby
My favourite novel ever. Absolutely beautiful. I struggle to put into words exactly why I love it so much. I've read it so many times, and it is a novel I can come back to every year without getting bored. Out of all the books I have ever read, and there are many, this is the only to make me cry on the first page from the sheer beauty of the language.
There are so many more books that could have made the cut, but these are the six that stand out.
Love Rach xo