23 Apr 2010

World Book Day and Favourite Books

Back in the day (I don't remember when!), Rhonda from Shellbelle's Tikki Hut asked me what my favourite books were and suggested I write a post about them. Several months later, after jotting down the occasional title here and there, I figured the perfect time for me to answer her request would be on World Book Day!

If you don't know anything about World Book Day, then I'll send you back to my post from last year (or you can click on the wikipedia link above) where I went into its History with a bit more detail. In a few words, UNESCO selected this day to promote reading (which had been celebrated in Spain since 1923) as World Book Day in 1995 in honour of many authors who were born or died on this day, but particularly Cervantes and Shakespeare who both died on April 23rd 1616.

So on to my favourites! In no particular order, as they came to mind... I'm an avid bookworm and I'm sure I've left many out while some people might think I've included too many for a "favourites" list, but it's like asking me to choose a favourite child (or sister in my case)!

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien -> for several years I read this once a year (I've read it at least 5-6 times), trying to limit myself to one volume per weekend. I hate the end... because it finishes! Sometimes I just skip the end and pretend that the road just goes on and on... ;o)

Les Trois Mousquetaires by Alexandre Dumas -> my swashbuckling favourite which I fell in love with in high school! I'll always have a soft spot for d'Artagnan, but as I've grown older my preferences have leant more towards Athos. I don't know how many times I've read it, but the sequels 20 Ans Après at least 3 times and Le Vicomte de Bragelonne twice (they're much longer and the third is a bit sad because once again it's the end of an era, our musketeers are old and they all die!!!)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen -> while I love all the Austen novels (except perhaps Northanger Abbey which just doesn't fit with me, or Emma who annoys me) this would be my favourite. I read it once every year or so... although lately I've come to acquire a noted preference for Persuasion as well...

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett -> One of those magical childhood favourites that I return to regularly when I feel the need of a comfort zone. It's like re-visiting an old friend. And I've always dreamt of having such a place myself, where I can hide myself away from others whenever I want, to share with a select few...
The Chronicles of Narnia by CS Lewis, particularly the first: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. I like to take trips back to Narnia every so often...

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott -> Who can resist the March sisters? Not me!!! Another frequent re-read, and it never fails to bring me to tears at a certain someone's death... The first lines of the novel are right up there with those of Pride and Prejudice for "best beginnings ever"! ;o) And the story continues wonderfully on in Little Men and Jo's Boys.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott -> I think this was my first foray into books for "older" people as a child (probably before the Musketeers) since I had seen a movie on TV (the one with Sam Neil) and loved it and spent some time admiring the lovely leather-bound edition on my parents' bookshelf. Since then I don't think I've met a book by Scott that I didn't like!

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle -> my parents gave me the a complete edition recreating the Strand publications (with original illustrations) for my 10th birthday... and boy was that sucker heavy! Some of the tales scared me so much it took me a while to re-read them (The Speckled Band... *shivers*), but I have done so several times and always enjoy Holmes' analytical thought process.

The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart -> give me anything on the Arthurian Legend and I'll swallow it up! But of all those I've read this one is the best! It follows Merlin more than Arthur and takes us from a young boy who knows nothing of his parentage (son of the rightful king of England), who grows into an amazing and highly intelligent man dedicated to bringing about a golden age he foresees under his cousin Arthur's future reign. Britons, Romans, Saxons, Picts... this brings the dark ages to life and adds a magical touch to it all! :o)

The Wolfwalker series by Tara K Harper (whom seems to have fallen off the map... in the middle of a new trilogy in the series! Book 2 should have been out 2 years ago, and there's no sign! argh!!!), great story, characters, world-creating... where are the new books?!?!?!

Dune (etc.) by Frank Herbert (the series completed and extended not to badly by his son Brian Herbert and Kevin J Anderson), while at times hard to follow is so absorbing I can't help but wanting more!!!

A Tale of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin, my first introduction into more "fantastical" readings at the age of 13... I gain a better appreciation for it each time I read it!

I think that might it for favourites... I'm more familiar with 19th century literature than certain other ages and have greatly enjoyed books by Emile Zola (particularly Pot Bouille and Au Bonheur des Dames), Alexandre Dumas (duh!), Jules Verne, Victor Hugo and Balzac for France. From the US and UK those mentioned above (Burnett, Alcott, Scott) as well as the Bronte sisters.

I'm less well-versed with modern authors, but when I find one I like I tend to read everything by them! Currently these include Arturo Perez Reverte, Isabel Allende, PD James. I've also fallen head over heels for certain recent books (and given copies to many friends), such as La Sombra Del Viento by Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

What else? I'll read just about anything that tells a tale of Robin Hood or King Arthur (among others I've got Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur, The Once and Future King by TH White and Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle which fascinatingly mixes in the legend of Atlantis! I love the retelling from the female point of view in the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. And an interesting addendum to this category would be The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper). I'm fascinated with strong historical female figures, particularly Elisabeth 1st of England, Alienor of Aquitaine, Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sissi), Isabel of Castile... I love fantasy and historical fiction. I've got most of the Star Wars (expanded universe = telling more stories in the SW universe that Lucas created, but -some- much better!) novels which I either devour, or ignore for a couple of years (my favourites are those by Timothy Zahn). I got tired of crime novels at one point (but I always enjoyed Agatha Christie, my favourite characters of hers are Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, she also has two excellent and fascinating autobiographies, one centred on her archaeological work), but rediscovered it over the past couple of years through PD James' novels (who also has an excellent autobiography out!). I really enjoyed Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey westerns as a teenager (thx to a month-long camping vacation in the 4 Corners region: Rocky Mountains, and Canyons anyone?!). As a child I was all about Enid Blyton, the funny thing is I've read some of her books in English (fairy tales/adventures), others in French (Club des Cinq) and others in Spanish (Mellizas de Santa Clara)... and since these have all been re-written more than translated (to be more relatable to local readers), I can't bear reading them in any other language than those I read because the names change! I mean, who's George? There's no George, it's Claude!!! (a.k.a. Georgina vs Claudine). I just gave a couple of these books to my young cousins as First Communion presents last weekend, I hope they enjoy them as much as I did! Oh, and I mustn't forget A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l'Engle!

So, what about you? Can you name a couple (or just one) favourite books? Or like me do you it an impossibly limiting task?

Feliz Día del Libro!

now go read something!!! :p


  1. You have excellent taste! :)i

  2. I have read about half of these favorites, and although I am not someone who re-reads books over and over again, I've read the Lord of the Rings three times myself. The Dune series twice, but all the others just once. Thanks for the great list, now I've got some I missed that I'll have to read! Happy World Book Day!

  3. Thx Juliette!

    DJan, if I've included them here, then I highly recommend them! ;o)

  4. Oh my gosh - I've found tons of my favorites here - Merlin trilogy, King Arthur, Jane Austen, Little Women! Yes, we have books in common, dear Chris.

  5. I'm glad to hear that Nancy!

    Favourite books are like old friends, always there when you need them! :o)

  6. I don't think I have the patience to read the same book every year but I like how your tastes change with age (in terms of favourite character, story etc). I'm very upset to hear the musketeers die.. sometimes books should just be left open so we can imagine our own endings instead of forcing it to an end! I think as I've grown older, there's more space on my bookshelf taken up by autobiographies which I used to hate as a kid.

    Fiesta indeed - when I was in Andalucia over Easter, was mega shocked by your crazy party attitude. We met some locals at a club, stayed out til 6:30am and then they took us for churros! Definitely needed a siesta the following day!

  7. Hehehe! O, I only started taking "siestas" when my parents moved to Spain in my 3rd year of college and I moved back in to live with them. They couldn't very well ask me to come home "at a reasonable time" after several years of living apart, but my mom would come in to wake me up at 10am! ungodly hour when you hit the sack at 4, 5 or 6am! :p (her theory was "if you need more sleep, go to bed earlier!")
    So I just started doing what she did: crash for an hour or so after lunch! Worked like a charm!

    PS: now I just get up at 1 with time for a shower and then lunch if I'm out 'till 6. Which sadly doesn't happen as often as I'd like anymore! :p

    On the book side, I too have found myself more and more interested in autobiographies/biographies these past ten years or so! Ditto books that are more historically factual (as opposed to fiction, although that remains my favourite category).

  8. God, so many great books. I'm still laughing of your way of avoiding the end of LoTR. Love Pride & Prejudice, but it took me a number of readings to finally decide that Persuasion actually was good (but Sense & Sensibility = lovely).

    I've never liked The Secret Garden, but I did like Heidi...I don't know why I often think of the two films in tandem. Little Women is lovely, but I still get pissed when Jo and Laurie part. Books are so excellent!

    My favourite books? Tough choice...Shakespeare (Twelfth Night), Tennessee Williams (The Rose Tattoo) and Arthur Miller (A View from the Bridge) would probably end up somewhere there...prose? So tough, in addition to the ones above probably Alice in Wonderland, Wuthering Heights...and thousands more that I'm forgetting at the moment.

  9. Commenting late! That's quite a list, and I've read several of those. I love the Lord of the Rings books and I read The Hobbit (of my own free will!) in junior high. Also, I do love Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion. Little Women is also a good one. I got a copy of that when I was young and I loved it (though sadly I haven't re-read it at all). You make me want to read The Three Musketeers!! I've read The count of Monte Cristo, which is fantastic (though I'm tempted to call it The Count of Monte Crisco every time).
    My all time favorites are the three books of a trilogy by Anne Bishop. I came across her books right after I started high school...longer ago than I want it to be...and I read those about twice a year just to make myself happy.
    Now that I know there's a World Book Day I'll have to pay attention and make a special post next year!

  10. @Andrew: It took several readings for me as well to truly appreciate Persuasion, that and maturing myself. We don't always see books the same way as we grow older...
    Heidi? Haven't read it and vaguely remember a movie from childhood. But you shouldn't judge The Secret Garden based on the movie (even though I thought Alfonso Cuarón did a pretty good job), the book is much more magical!
    As for your favourites... I'm afraid my big gap in literary culture is precisely American and British (other than Austen and the Brontes) classics. Consequences of a French education I guess! When I asked my English teacher if we could study SHakespeare she just motioned towards the rest of the class. *sigh*

  11. @Nicky, better late than never! ;o)

    I didn't read any of Tolkien's books until well into high school... I was traumatised by a cartoon version I saw as a kid (I still don't know which one because I've only seen a beginning of one, but it doesn't show the seen that most freaked me out and I remember vividly: Gollum biting off Frodo's finger!). My Grandmother gave me The Hobbit as a birthday present one year and I was like "time to face your fears" (although to this day I have yet to read the "other movie" that terrified me: Watership Down). I LOVED it! My sister got the first volume of LOTR at a birthday party... and from then on it was a fight as to who could "own" the rest of the books! My dad settled the argument by getting us each our own copies... :p

    As for Little Women, my parents gave a copy when I was so young I can't remember, and it wasn't till many years later that I discovered it was only 1/2 the book!!! The first half I guess is considered to be more child-friendly. It was a beautiful edition too and I searched for the 2nd half in a similar edition but had to make do with a (now well-worn) paperback version.

    And you HAVE to read The Three Musketeers!!! I've loved everything I've read by Dumas (although it took me two tries to be able to fully engage with Monte Cristo, I was too young the first time to be able to fully get into the narrative), but the Musketeers will always be my first love and favourite! 20 Years Later is excellent as well, and the Vicomte de Bragelonne -although a bit long- is good in that it wraps up their story (old age, etc).

    Anne Bishop sounds familiar...

    Just remember: April 23 = World Book Day = Shakespeare + Cervantes deaths... BIG literary figures as YOU should know! ;o)

  12. You're awesome! Thanks for remembering my asking you for this list. I'm not surprised to find many of my favorites — Lord of the Rings, The Three Musketeers (In English, of course), Little Women, The Secret Garden and others. In high school, our class was known as The d'Artagnans.

    I would add Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I read it so many times, it was held together by a rubber band. My favorite series now is No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. I've only read five of the eleven in the series, but I'm looking forward to getting caught up in the coming year.

    Feels great to be back with my blogging friends Cris! I'm still going to do your photo challenge in the near future. Looks like fun!

  13. Hi,
    It has been awhile since I visited many blogs.
    Decided to do a quick visit to say hello to as many blogs as possible tonight..
    Nice to visit your blog its been ages, I am sure it will not be so long again especially now my life is getting better.
    I went out this afternoon for the first time since 19 August 2009 and it was brilliant.
    Lovely to feel my world getting bigger again after all this time in bed.
    Have a good evening and a pleasant day tomorrow.
    Please visit Steve @ The Wheel Of Fortuna


    Important we support him in the first weeks of his bereavement.

  14. Chris - there is a virtual award for you at my blog! :)


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