In celebration of World Book Day we asked around the office for people’s favourite book of all time. Some may surprise you, some may not. We’ve everything from Roald Dahl to Virginia Woolf. Enjoy…
Emily, North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Because it’s a grittier version of Pride and Prejudice, about the culture clash that takes place when a family from the Southern countryside moves to the smog of Victorian Manchester. The love story of Margaret Hale and John Thornton is set against a backdrop of trade union action, riots and a Navy mutiny trial (much more fun than it sounds). It reminds me of what I love about my home town – and the fact that Richard Armitage was in the TV adaptation is no bad thing.
Phil, Wool by Hugh Howey
My favourite book of the past few years is Wool (download the trilogy; they’re only short books), by self-published author Hugh Howey. It’s a post-apocalyptic book that takes place inside an underground silo. Sound fun? It is, honest. In the first book you don’t know very much at all about the community’s plight; in the second it goes back and explains all in a clever way. And after reading it, you’ll never look at your all-powerful IT department in quite the same way.
Louie, Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
I love the absurdities in life and nothing sums that up better than Catch 22 – “He was going to live forever, or die in the attempt.”
Sarah W, The BFG by Roald Dahl
Ever since I was a child the BFG has been one of my favourite books and it still is to this day. I have special memories of my dad reading it to me and my brothers and sister when we were small, and even as an adult I pick it up from time to time. I love the imagination, sense of humour and profound Britishness about the story. I love the values and message of family, the sense of adventure and kindness behind the book. I truly believe it is one of the greats!
Sam, Heart of Darkness (1899) by Joseph Conrad
A wonderfully complex and thought-provoking exploration of the cruelty and hypocrisy of mankind’s flawed idealism. Conrad’s narrator grapples with the massive topics of purpose, morality and death, leading the reader to reflect on them in turn. It’s a short read (that can fit on a single poster) but a powerful one that rewards rereading and reflection.
Alix, We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
It’s so well written and exceptionally thought–provoking. Not many authors are brave enough to write stories about unwanted children and the ramifications on their psychological well-being. There’s also a great twist at the end which made me cry like a baby!
Fiona, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
What I love most about this book is how poetically it’s written. It very eloquently tells the story of a geisha who grew up in pre-World War II Japan and her quest for independence; it’s emotional, at times heart-breaking, and inspiring throughout. Although it’s fictional, the book gives a really interesting insight into a very complex and mysterious culture, with descriptions of Japanese culture, as it once was.
Plus, I found this in a bookshop when I was travelling, so I have happy memories of lazing in a hammock while I read it cover to cover.
Pete, Middlemarch by George Eliot
“The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” That’s the key line from Middlemarch – the story of ordinary lives and how they change the world. No other novel is as insightful and wise about human nature.
Lorna, Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Because it is a beautifully-written novel that manages to be a great period-piece looking at life between the wars, while also seeming modern, resonating with me as a woman living in 2016. The novel spans a day in the life of several people who don’t know each other but are in some way, that day, impacted by each other. Woolf chose to use a ‘steam of consciousness’ (where we basically read the confused thoughts and feelings that pass through the minds of the characters) to show how people can be impacted by others, even if they never meet or speak. There is very little dialogue – it’s all internal. Which just makes the whole thing all the more engaging and hypnotic. It’s a fantastic novel and 100% my favourite.
George, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
As a girl, what’s not to love about this book? With a cast of strong female characters, all of whom teach you something about how strong you reader are as a woman, the book is a rite of passage in your childhood. It taught me that it’s okay to be independent, it’s important to have spirit and that you should always strive to be the best you can be. I’ve read it an embarrassing amount of times over the years and it, once again, has pride of place (alongside My Little Princess, but that’s another story) on my bookcase and it will for a long time to come.