[Photo by Annie Spratt]
Tomorrow is the best day of the year: World Book Day! Maybe I'm a little biased because I once won a fancy dress competition on World Book Day when I was 8 for my Worst Witch costume, which is basically the pinnacle of my achievements so far, but either way, a day dedicated to books and reading is only going to be a good thing. Whilst I petition for book-themed fancy dress days in adult offices (last year my friends' toddler dressed as The Gruffalo for her nursery and I almost died of the cuteness - I want in!), I thought I'd share some of my all-time favourite books with you, in case you need a bit more inspiration. It's not an easy thing to do, picking a favourite book, but these are ones which have stuck with me for years so I think they're pretty strong contenders.
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
I picked this book at random from a 'suggested reading list' for English A Level and fell totally in love. It's a love affair that has lasted almost ten years, and shows no signs of wavering. This is, without a doubt, my favourite book of all time and I could wax lyrical about it for hours. The Color Purple tells the story of Celie, a young, poor, black girl in the American South. Have tissues on hand, because it's truly heart-breaking as Celie experiences rape, abuse and loneliness before finding strength in her relationships with other women - her absent sister Nettie, her daughter-in-law Sofia and, most importantly, the glamorous jazz singer Shug Avery, an ex-lover of Celie's husband who comes to visit them and changes Celie's life. Despite the awfulness depicted in the beginning of the novel, it's a surprisingly uplifting novel with moments of true beauty and joy.
The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
It will come as no surprise that the Harry Potter books make this list - I'm sure they're on almost everybody's. I'm not sure these books need any introduction, but maybe we should all reread them just in case? These books are so familiar and comforting, and yet I discover something new about them and myself every time I read them.
Yes Please by Amy Poehler
I read this book early last year, and it changed my life. I just love Amy Poehler - she's the lady I aspire to be when I grow up. Kind, thoughtful and feminist whilst still sassy and strong. Her stories move me to laughter and tears, and I hold her advice close to my heart. I downloaded the audiobook and listen to it any time I need a boost.
The Georgia Nicholson Series by Louise Rennison
I wrote this list before the news of Louise Rennison's death yesterday, but watching the tributes pour in for her on Twitter reminded me even more of why I love these books. No author has captured life at a girl's school in England so perfectly as Louise Rennison - these books were our Bibles when we were teenagers and there was so much truth behind the absurdity within the stories. I have never laughed out loud at a book as much as I have with this series, nor cheered a character on more than I have with Georgia Nicholson.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
When we had to study Jane Austen at school, I was staunchly against the idea. I thought she was out-dated, her books were boring and no match for modern literature. I was SO wrong. This book is maybe the most perfect example of a novel ever written, and every time I reread it, I love it more. It's so witty, and touching, and well-observed. It's astounding to me that a book written so many years ago can resound so well with modern life - thus proving that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Everyone is familiar with the love story of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy, but if you haven't read it (or reread it) then you really must. You'll be surprised at just how wonderful it is.
Love, Nina by Nina Stibbe
Oh, what a comforting book this is. It's like a cup of hot chocolate in front of the fire, whilst wearing slippers and a cosy jumper. And it's a true story! In the 1980s, Nina moved to London to be a nanny for a London family who just so happen to be a big part of the literary world. She wrote letters to her sister back in Leicester, describing her life with perfect observations of the cast of characters that come in and out of this unusual home. It's life-affirming and sweet, and Alan Bennett comes round for dinner. It's perfect.
How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran
After I finished this book, I went out and bought it for every woman that I know. I've read a lot of feminist books, but never one as full of joy as this one. It's loud, unapologetic and laugh-out-loud funny. Part memoir, part discussion on what it means to be a modern woman, Caitlin Moran is her usual honest, hilarious self. You'll find yourself nodding along in recognition, splitting your sides laughing, and wiping away more than one tear - sometimes all on the same page. It's not the definitive book on feminism, but it's definitely an important one.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
This book has the best ending of a book that I have ever read. I was finishing it on the plane back from Barcelona, scurrying through the last few pages as we landed because it was just. so. good. that I needed to get to the end before I had to get up. It blew my mind. During the Cold War, Serena is groomed for a job at MI5. She joins with high hopes, but it's not all it's cracked up to be - until she's sent on Operation Sweet Tooth, which brings her into contact with writer Tom Haley. A tale of love, intrigue and espionage that has you guessing until the final page. I love a lot of Ian McEwan's work - Atonement is arresting and brilliant, and worth a read if you want your insides chopped into tiny pieces from heartbreak - but this is softer and more fun than his other novels and totally compelling.
What are your all-time favourite books?