I've moved house five times in the last three years. When your stuff needs to fit in the back of a Peugeot 206 at a moment's notice, books are the the sacrifice. Heavy and bulky, they're the last thing you want to take with you when you move house by Megabus (four 26-hour round trips).
Some of the books are second or third generation; the originals given to work colleagues and college friends, never to be returned. Jack Kerouac's 'On the road' still hasn't made its way back into my collection. and it should be in this list.
These are the books that made it. The books that were worth dragging in a holdall from East Greenwich to Victoria Coach station at midnight. The ones with notes scribbled in the margin*. The ones worth reading more than once.
*My best friend hates me for this, but I like my books to look like they've lived and I hate not being able to find the passage or quote I want!
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
"How could they do it, how could they?"
"I don't know, but they did it. They've done it before and they did it tonight and they'll do it again and when they do it seems that only children weep."
I know, so predictable. I've read this every few years since I was 13 and I get something different from it each time, as I change and so does my view of the world. It's as much a staple in my life as Star Wars or cheese and I can't imagine not having read it.
- Just Kids by Patti Smith
"We went our separate ways, but within walking distance of one another."
Some people's real lives are better than any fiction and Patti Smith is one of those people. You don't have to be a huge Patti Smith fan to enjoy her autobiography - it's about her moving to New York in the 60s and it's THE COOLEST THING EVER. It makes you want to move there and, y'know, "work on your art" (whatever that means). Just writing this has made me excited to read it again. If you're in a creative slump, acquire a copy. Sometimes it's nice to hear someone talented feel like they did it all by accident.
- The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Ban
"I said, 'It's not like that.' I wanted to convince her. I said, 'We think alike.'
'Oh, my dear,' she said. 'A man thinks with his dick.'"
This is my favourite book, ever, to the extent the cover has fallen off. I think Melissa Bank's writing is so simple and clever, to the extent I don't understand how she does it. I've seen reviews where people say it's basic and chick lit and all it talks about is men. I don't think the topic of the book being relationships automatically makes it shallow or non-feminist. It deals with death a great deal too (as does her second book, 'The Wonder Spot'). I love this book and no Goodreads reviews will make me change my mind!
- The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
"I thought physics could be done to the glory of God, till I saw there wasn't any God at all and that physics was more interesting anyway. The Christian religion is a very powerful and convincing mistake, that's all."
I marvel at Philip Pullman and his brain and all the universes inside it. I could have chosen any of the 'His Dark Materials' trilogy but this is the wonderful, tragic, story end with angels and the land of the dead. I love the little quotes that open each chapter too.
- Not My Father's Son by Alan Cumming
"The scariest thing about abuse of any shape or form, is, in my opinion, not the abuse itself, but that if it continues it can begin to feel commonplace and eventually acceptable."
When I bought this in Waterstone's in Dundee, the manager saw me and came over to tell me it was the best book he'd read that year. It was a Christmas present for my mum, but luckily, she'd bought one for me too and we sat reading our identical books.
Alan Cumming is from the same area as me and was also an abuse victim and he made me feel less alone by writing this. After all the textbooks and online material, it was just nice to have a book that made me think, "I have felt this way."
- Things the Grandchildren Should Know by Mark Oliver Everett
"Kids know what's going on. They always respond to The Beatles, for instance. Doesn't matter when they were born, they always seem to respond. Show me a kid who innately doesn't like The Beatles and I'll show you a bad seed."
Mark Oliver Everett, otherwise known as 'E' from the band Eels, is the most interesting non-famous, famous person. You might think you don't know his band, but a quick listen to his Spotify playlist will prove you wrong. He's had an unbelievably tragic life - everything he touches dies, basically - and yet he still keeps plugging away. I saw him live at Glasgow Concert Hall almost 10 years ago and it's one of the only gigs I've ever cried at.
Please tell me about your books worth keeping in the comments!