My love for books has been with me since I was a child; a tradition passed down to me from my mum, one that I received with open arms. I’d read in the bath, I’d read in bed, I would read even when I wasn’t supposed to be reading. But even I know it can be hard to escape the pressure of having to read, with teachers encouraging you to dust off the classics: stern, severe and often ominous looking volumes that you would rather use as a door stop, but forget them. Turn your attention to the gentle, witty and amusing volumes that your teachers may have forgotten or may not even know of their existence. Books that helped me overcome the struggles of growing up and ease the transition of entering the scary world of adulthood.
1. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky (1999)
The Perks of being a Wallflower is a little gem of a book, a minute treasure that I would have been deeply saddened to have missed out on. Charlie is a freshman; shy, introspective and he is caught by the dilemma of desperately trying to live his life, while simultaneously attempting to run away from it. Charlie is a boy urgently trying to navigate his way through the dark and thorny paths of first dates, sex, drugs and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. It is a book of innocently poignant reflections on love, life and friendship which still remains deeply affecting and completely memorable.
2. Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988)
Each of Roald Dahl’s books are stuffed to the brim with humour, warmth and insight and his imagination cannot be matched; his ability to captivate his readers is second-to-none. And that is why Matilda has found her way onto this list. Matilda is the tale of a child prodigy, whose mind is desperately perturbed by her dysfunctional family, so much so that she develops magical powers. The novel illustrates the life-changing power and inspiration that a good teacher can have on a child. It may seem like a childish book, but its heart-warming gentleness is enough to melt away the tears of teenage angst.
3. Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen (1993)
After a session with her therapist, Susanna Kaysen was put into a taxi by a family friend and sent off to Mclean Hospital to be treated for depression. Girl, Interrupted charts the two years Kaysen spent in the renowned psychiatric hospital in a poignant, honest and heartbreaking memoir. It is a memorable tale of self-awareness, insight and vulnerability in the light of an insane and ominous world, but at the same time remains weirdly optimistic. Girl, Interrupted is an extraordinary memoir, whose eloquence still speaks today.
4. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote (1958)
It is New York in the 1940’s; cocktails are flowing until breakfast at Tiffany’s, glamorous socialites are pursued by playboy millionaires and the name on everyone’s lips is Holly Golightly. She knows that nothing bad can happen to you in Tiffany’s; her gentle poignancy, dazzling wit, and vulnerable naivety seduces you from the opening page and makes you question, who is Holly Golightly? A tale of establishing your identity, losing the one you love and deciding what you want: Breakfast at Tiffany’s remains – in my eyes – the most luminous flower of American fiction.
5. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (1985)
Oranges are not the Only Fruit is the story of Jeanette, who is adopted and brought up by her fanatically religious mother. Zealous, passionate and confused; it seems certain she is being raised for life as a missionary, but she unexpectedly falls deeply and irrevocably in love. Denouncing her mother, her church and leaving the life she has set up, to begin afresh with the young woman she loves. Oranges are not the Only Fruit is the ultimate tale of teenage confusion, rebellion and reconciliation, but at the same time manages to remain tender, punchy and heart warming.
6. Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? by Claire Dowie (1990)
She hated being a girl, but what was the alternative? Why is John Lennon Wearing a Skirt? is an intriguing examination into the depths of the teenage mind at its most putrid, hateful and dissatisfied. It is strikingly open. Dowie pierces with wit and intelligence that is unlikely to find its match anywhere.