The books that changed my life

I think books are my favourite thing in the entire world. To the point where last week I went into a brand new Waterstones (opened up just across the street from my office and has a bar downstairs omg) and was so happy but also so sad because I had this profound thought that there are just so many books in the world that I won’t be able to read in my lifetime. But I’m gonna give it my best shot!

So I thought it might be cool to share some books that I have read, and that have changed my life in some way or another.

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To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee
My dad gave me his copy of this book when I was in my teens. And it quickly became something I couldn’t put down. I loved Atticus. Atticus made me feel brave and strong. And he reminded me a lot of my Dad. (Also, in the film version he’s played by Gregory Peck and lawwwwwd what a fine man he was.) The story was powerful. The descriptions divine. I was so frustrated and also so happy that Harper Lee had only written this one book. I wanted more but I wanted only this treasure.

When Go Set A Watchmen came out I was really excited, until all the controversy arose. Apparently the book shows Atticus in not such a great light. I know I should form my own opinion, but I still haven’t been ready enough to pick it up and read it properly. I can’t bare the thought of losing a character I love so deeply.

Bonus Harper Lee – The Guardian recently published My Christmas In New York and it is beautiful.

[Buy it here]

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A Million Little Pieces – James Frey
This book left me with a pounding heart and a feeling of not quite knowing what the hell to do with myself. Released in 2003, it was promoted as an autobiographical look at Frey’s life as a drug addict, alcoholic and criminal. It was even the first autobiography to be in Oprah’s book club. Big deal.

He’s in and out of prison and rehab where he forms friendships, loves and goes through incredible hardships (there’s a bit about having to get a root canal filling but because he’s a drug addict he’s not allowed the anaesthetic…so gruesome!). There is a strange lack of punctuation, which seemed frustrating at first but soon became really easy to read and really helped to show the mess of his mind. It totally sucked me in and I read the book (and the two next books) in less than a month. I felt so connected to him, even though his situations were the furthest away from my own. I cried real, sobbing, can’t breath tears throughout. Like I said, I was left feeling like I had no clue what to do.

I started to read up a bit more on Frey and found something out. Turns out that even though it was pegged as an autobiography, Frey made the majority of the story up! People were outraged. Like seriously. Oprah made him apologise on his show for “lying to me, but also lying to the world” LOL.

For me, it didn’t matter if it was real or not. Frey knows how to write. It doesn’t matter if it was real or not. The story was so gripping. He could have said he got swallowed by a whale and I would have been in awe. The book is incredible, powerful. I’m gonna read it again right now.

[Buy it here]

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The Social Animal – David Brooks
When I first moved to London at the start of 2013, I had a really hard time adjusting. I had just come back from studying in NYC, which changed my life in itself, and I just didn’t want to be anywhere else. I worked in a cinema that was completely underground and I was doing 12 hour shifts repeatedly. Safe to say I was not the happy Grey I usually am. And then something happened. One shift, I was alone in the bar, both films had just gone in and I had two hours to kill. Enter The Lady (I can’t believe I don’t remember her name). She came in, asked for a cup of tea and sat on a sofa. I took it over to her, she looked at me and said “you’re not happy are you?”

And for some reason, something took over me and I felt overcome to immediately sit with her and spill my heart. To a complete stranger. We ended up having a two hour long conversation. She was telling me things about my life. What kind of person I was. What I deserved. And she’d never met me. She then recommended this book. She said it would help me.

And then she left. And I never saw her again. I’m not even sure if she really was real. It blew my mind. And the book? Yeah, that blew my mind too. It’s all about human behaviour and interactivity. About how success is something you make for yourself. It changed my perspective on a lot of things.  And got my bum into gear. I still get chills thinking about it.

[Buy it here]

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The Heart and the Bottle – Oliver Jeffers
The opening line of this wonderful picture book is “Once there was a girl, much like any other, whose head was filled with all the curiosities of the world.”

This was enough to make every fibre of my being collapse in an oh-my-god-this-book-was-made-for-me moment. Even at 27 years old.

This is also the book, and author, who really made me believe in the children’s book project that I am working on. Jeffer’s has such a beautiful writing and illustration style. It screams nostalgia and imagination. I also had the pleasure of meeting him in the summer and legit swooned at his feet and got him to sign my book. I told him I was currently writing a book myself and how much he had inspired me. He was very lovely, gave me some great advice and told me never to give up. And I won’t!

[Buy it here]

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The Wind Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami
I got recommended Murakami back when I was about 19. I should have done a little research because as it turns out, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle isn’t really the book you should read to initiate yourself in his writing – you probably want to go for something like Norwegian Wood.

Murakami is a master of fantasy. He whips up twists, turns and tangents as easily as he breathes. And this book is heavy on them! It took me seven months to read this book the first time. Which is the longest it’s ever taken me to read anything. But as much as Murakami messed with my brain, he created a very strong connection and I developed a fast love for his style and technique of telling stories.

[Buy it here]

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On Chesil Beach – Ian McEwan
This is the kind of story that made me feel better about growing up. Its focus is a young newly married couple, Florence and Edward, and their first night together. It’s brilliantly honest, intimate and awkward. It’s real to the way two people so filled with love and absolute terror at spending the rest of their lives together as adults would be. McEwan has such a way with words, he’s very romantic in a classic way and is all about the small details, which is something I adore. I think this book gave me courage not only in myself, but in the way I write.

[Buy it here]

What books changed your lives? I want to know…and add them to my reading list too!

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One Comment

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  1. I agree, you can’t beat what you can get from a book. For me, they were Siddhartha, Fountainhead, The Giver, and Journey to America in my youth. In adulthood, Dry, Random Family, Spirit Junkie,..and the list goes on and on 🙂

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