Top 10 “Classics”

I am somewhat ashamed to say as a book blogger, avid reader and Library studies student/library staff member that I have not read that many Classics in my 25 years. This is partly because my last few years of high school were pretty traumatic and unconventional (I caught Glandular fever in year nine which made me very ill leading many absences and transferring to an alternative school) so I “missed out” on all the enforced Classical Literature; partly because I have always found something new to read and so have neglected the Classics; and partly because I didn’t enjoy the Classics I was made to read (such as Pride and Prejudice) so was hesitant to seek out other books in the genre.

However, even with my limited experience with Classical Literature I have read a few wonderful books that I think of as classics. The Classics genre is a tricky one to define as it is changing all the time. Books that are widely regarded as Classics today, 100 years ago were comparatively modern and new, and books we now consider Modern Classics will one day be a new generation of Classical Literature. Dictionary.com defines a Classic as “an author or a literary work of the first rank, especially one of demonstrably enduring quality.” This is a pretty fitting definition in my mind, but for the purposes of this list (and the reason why it is Top 10 “Classics”) the Classics will be defined by my own criteria:

  1. They have to be reasonably old – not necessarily works from the 1800s or early 1900s but at least novels that are older than I am!;
  2. They have to be works that made an impact on me; and
  3. They have to be works that have stood the test of time and will be influential for generations to come.

I hope you enjoy my list and feel free to list your own Classic favourites in the comments 🙂

1. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell

This is the first book that came to mind when I was compiling this list, because when I read it (at around age 18) It shook me to my core. The Australian version of Big Brother had already been running for a few years and I was curious to see where the idea originally came from so borrowed a battered old copy from a friend of my mum’s. Firstly I was amazed at George Orwell’s vision of the future, writing in 1948 and prophesying what 1984 (a far off future at the time) would be like if the politics and totalitarianism he saw around him was to continue and worsen. The fact that 1984 was two years before I was born but was a futuristic far-off year to Orwell was amazing to my young self and drew me right into the bleak and frightening story. Orwell’s writing is very readable and the plot and character structure is timeless enough to intrigue generations of readers, and especially in this time of reality television, and free-speech being a luxury that Western cultures take for granted it is a Classic that is gaining potency with every passing year.

I am thankful 1984 did not end up like this as I was born two years later and that would've been a sucky world to be born into!

2. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

I saw the movie adaptation (the 1990 version) well before I read the book because we watched it in my Government and Law class in year 9 and I picked up a second-hand copy of the novel when I was about 19, so I was somewhat prepared for a troubling read, but it was still sickening, distressing and very memorable. I know that this has been required reading in schools for a while and I am in two minds about that. On one hand It is a pretty intense and frightening book for children to read and could be a bit traumatizing (hell, I was traumatized at 19!) but on the other hand it is a cautionary tale for children (especially boys) that illuminated humankind’s primal instincts and how quickly we can revert back to them. Golding’s tale was first published in 1954 and has been a cult favourite ever since, and I think it will continue to have an impact for many years to come.

Bunch of pubescent boys left to turn wild = disturbing

3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I found All Quiet on the Western Front at the same school fête as Lord of the Flies and read it the same year, but I had been meaning to read it ever since my mum told me it was a must read (it was required reading when she was in high school). At school we had studied the first and second World War in some form every year since about year 4 or 5 and in year 9 English we read excerpts of different novels that explored war, but I had never read a wartime novel with the unique point of view that All Quiet on the Western Front has. It broke my heart to read the day-to-day trials of the young soldiers – boys who were my age or younger living through a time that could cripple the bodies and minds of men many years their senior. I think it is a novel that should be read by teens of this generation and ones to come because as we move further away from the time of WWI, it’s tragedies and horrors could be forgotten by people too young to even fathom that far in the past and knowing what boys just like them once went through would cast a light of perspective on the privilege they now have.

A beautiful but incredibly sad war novel

4. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll

This one wouldn’t be a surprise at all to regular readers as I have flown my Alice fan-flag high many a time 🙂 From the first time I read Alice in Wonderland (around 7 years old I think) I have been enraptured by the crazy, bizarre and awesome world of Wonderland and all the unique and quirky characters that dwell there. Lewis Carroll wrote his masterpiece of absurdist Children’s Literature way back in 1865, followed by Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There in 1871, and after almost 150 years the story he created is still being recreated and beloved the world over. I know I will always be an Alice fan and I always like to see how it is being reimagined and how it has affected modern literature and cinema. Long live Alice! 😀

Curiouser and curiouser...

5. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

As I’ve stated before The Wind in the Willows is the first chapter book I remember being read as a child and I still have fond memories of snuggling up while mum read me the antics of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad of Toadhall. Kenneth Grahame wrote the classic children’s story in 1908, and the characters were so beloved that they were revisited by William Horwood when he wrote a series of sequels from 1993 to 1998 (The Willows in WinterToad Triumphant;  The Willows and Beyond; and The Willows at Christmas) as well as a spin-off Willows in Winter series. Even ‘tho the book is set in the early 20th Century, complete with well-dressed gentlemen (albeit gentlemen that are actually woodland creatures) steamboats and early motor cars, its appeal is timeless and I hope that children will continue to treasure it for centuries.

My first "Classic" 🙂

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

I was lucky enough to be given a huge volume of Children’s Classics when I was very young, contained Alice in Wonderland, The Wind in the Willows and Oliver Twist, otherwise I may never have read this great, if quite bleak little tale by Charles Dickens. The first time I remember reading it all the way through, I was 10 and at a Christmas family gathering down south. I had been a fan of the musical Oliver! a couple of years already and was quite eager to read the original story (even if it was devoid of songs and dance numbers!). While the story was a bit heavier and more depressing than the musical (surprise, surprise) I loved how it showed the dark underbelly of London in the early 19th Century which I knew little about at that age. Oliver Twist was originally published under the title Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress in 1838 and was Dickens second novel (following The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club aka The Pickwick Papers).

7. Animal Farm by George Orwell

In hindsight I was probably too young to read this book when I did (around age 12 I think), and I was also probably too young to watch the movie adaptation which led me to the book in the first place, but in my Nana’s defence (as she borrowed the video from the library or video store while I was visiting) the film looked like a harmless children’s cartoon and not a retelling of Orwell’s tale of fascism in a farmyard. Even ‘tho seeing the movie and reading the book at a tender age may have been a tad inappropriate at the time, I don’t regret it because it led me to a great Classic. Written a few years before Nineteen Eighty-Four (in 1945) Animal Farm explores a similar theme – totalitarianism – but was specifically a satire on the dangers of Stalinism with common farm animals overthrowing the farmer and creating their own societal structure. While I wouldn’t recommend the book or movie to kids, as images of happy little pigs revolting against people and then lording over the other animals may be a bit upsetting, but once they reach an appropriate age I think it is a great way to explain other forms of government that make democracy seem like a walk in the park!

8. Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

This is one of the few books (or play really in this case) on this list which actually was required reading when I was in high school. We had to read in for English Literature in year 12 and I was actually pretty pleased because we also got to watch the musical based on the play, My Fair Lady which I have loved since I was a child. It was great to read the story as it originally was meant to be enjoyed  when George Bernard Shaw wrote it in 1913 (as a humorous drama) and I would urge any fans of  My Fair Lady to find a copy, and if you’re dramatically inclined read it aloud with some friends 🙂

9. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have discussed this fantastic book before in Top 10 lists, and at first I wasn’t certain whether to include it or not as I wasn’t sure if it was a true Classic. Written in 1966 this is the newest book on the list, but even if it hasn’t been beloved for 100 plus years It fits my criteria in that it is older than I am; made a big impact on me; and is timeless. While Flowers for Algernon is not as widely read as most of the other books on this list, it should be as it is a touching and unique story with an evocative writing style. This is the other book which was required reading while I was at school, but unlike Pygmalion it was read to us (us being all senior students, from year 8 or 9 to year 12). This detracted from the impact of the book a little as we couldn’t see how the writing style, spelling and grammar evolved throughout, but I was able to appreciate this technique when I read it a second time a few years ago.

10. Rewards and Fairies by Rudyard Kipling

Many years ago my Poppy lent me a beautiful leather-bound first pocket edition of this collection of stories published in 1910, along with an old book of Victorian poetry because I had shown interest in the two little books out of his collection of fat novels. I had never read Kipling before and instantly fell in love with his funny little fantasy tales and witty narrative voice. I loved it so much that Poppy let me keep it, saying that he was going to leave most of his old books to me anyway. While some of Kipling’s works are much more famous (The Jungle Book; Kim; Just So Stories) this was my first pass into the world of Kipling and so will always have a place in my heart 🙂

A fine likeness of my copy 🙂

Top 10 Books I Think Everyone Should Read

This was on one hand a really fun list to make as I had to think of the books that I thought were must-read material and on the other hand a really hard one to compile as I have read a lot of really great books!

Eventually I went with ones that I felt added to the reading experience in some way or were important life experiences for me.

Hopefully you guys will enjoy my choices and feel free to share your own must-reads in the comments 🙂

1. Watership Down by Richard Adams 

It won’t be a surprise to regular readers that I think everyone should read this book, because I’ve certainly raved about it enough! The reason this is the first book I think everyone should read at least once isn’t just because Its one of my favourites, the story is classic or I have read it 4 or 5 times already (although those are all good reasons to recommend it!). The reason its a must-read is that although it is a seemingly simple children’s tale about rabbits, it actually is quite a complex examination of society in general. It explores family and community bonds; societal structure from its starting point to more complex societies and even fascism; and important issues that arise in society such as power, security, organisation of a vast number of individuals, governing, language and even war. It even introduces such concepts as immigration, mental illness and the cycle of life and death to children. And since I have read it as an adult and as a child I can vouch for it as a satisfying read at any age 🙂

More than just fluffy bunnies

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry 

This is another one I read as a child and then again as an adult (there is a few of those on this list!) and although I did understand some of its significant themes as a 12 year-old I understood the deeper layers of meaning when I was older. The Giver is a classic children’s book that I think should still be in primary school curriculum as it gives kids some real perspective on the freedom they take for granted. Especially in this age of technology where it is so easy for kids to find out info on almost any subject at the strike of a keyboard, the press of a button and the swipe of a finger, a book like this where the characters are so sheltered and controlled and one boy learns all the world have to offer, is such a gift. When I reread this book not that long ago the themes hit me a lot harder and I felt quite ill in certain parts. It really is like 1984 for kids and just like 1984 it is a chilling look at what society could become and so in my opinion is a must-read.

A touching little book that stays with you long after the last page

3. Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell 

This wonderful book was the inspiration for reality TV, in particular the Big Brother concept that has incarnations all over the globe, but in this case the imitation doesn’t do the original justice. If Big Brother had been true to Orwell’s bleak and claustrophobic vision of the future it would not have been legal or ethical for it to be televised – I’m shocked at what they get away with on reality TV as it is! Even ‘tho Orwell wrote Nineteen Eighty Four over sixty years ago (in 1948) and the year it was meant to be set in is now over twenty years past, it is still a scary glimpse into where society is heading, and to some extent where we are now. The world has become a much more monitored place in those sixty odd years, what with CCTV in virtually all public places; telephones being taped for illegal activity; and personal details being freely accessible online. This book is a huge eye-opener, especially to young-adults and is a fantastically gripping read.

Big Brother IS watching

4. Mister God This is Anna by Fynn

This will not come as a surprise to regular readers as I’m a bit of a cheerleader for this beautiful little novel (as seen in ALL these posts :P) The reason this is a must-read in my opinion is it is filled to the brim with philosophical tidbits that will really exercise your mind and make you think beyond your sphere of understanding. And the philosophies aren’t purely religious or spiritual but are a blend of religion/spirituality and science/mathematics which examine huge ideas such as the meaning of life; why the world works like it does and other mysteries that only a child would question. But the main reason I would recommend it is that it ignites that childlike curiosity in you and makes you ask that big question: why? Which I think people are afraid to do after a certain age.

Why? Because. But why? Because I say so 😛

5. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is a book I would mainly recommend to women, or men who aren’t too squeamish about menstruation (Period/”That time of the month”/Aunt Irma :P) as with a title like The Red Tent you can probably gather that it will be mentioned a fair bit. For those that can get beyond the fact of biblical age women congregating in a tent for a few days every month, as well as some fairly graphic ancient midwifery, this book is a really interesting look at the background of key bible characters such as Jacob, but also highlights lesser characters such as his daughter Dinah and the traditions of the time. It is also a fine example of possible alternative endings to bible stories, which pop up in literature a lot. While having a knowledge of bible stories or actually reading the Bible would help with understanding what is behind this story and many other allusions in literature I personally can’t tell you all to read The Bible as I have never gotten through the whole thing, and I’m Pagan so quite a bit of it makes me uncomfortable, but as a book it is the biggest influence to modern literature (followed closely by the works of Shakespeare, which I have also left out as I haven’t read all of his plays, just a selection of ones that I came across :)).

Don’t let the image deter you – its worth it!

6. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr Seuss 

This one may be a surprise to you all as it is not a grand piece of literature, but it is one of the most inspirational books that I’ve ever read and a perfect send-off gift to kids/young adults/adults entering a new phase of their lives such as a graduation. It promotes a “The World is Your Oyster!” mentality for any individual who has started a new path in life with Dr Seuss’ catchy whimsical rhymes enthusiastically announcing all the wonders the world can offer while not hiding the darker times in life.

And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

7. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield

I was given this by a friend of the family who insisted I had to read it and without her and this book (as well as other contributing factors) I wouldn’t have struggled through a difficult time in my life as quickly as I did. The book explores a few key spiritual and philosophical ideas that have been ingrained in the religious and mythological ideals of many civilisations for generations. While it is obvious that the book was written to illustrate these key ideals and so the plot isn’t that strong on its own (kind of like Dan Browns books but in a different way) It is a much more palatable format to learn about these ideas then in a classic New Age or Self Help book. While I didn’t agree with every aspect of the ideals, there is some sound concepts there that make a lot of philosophical, spiritual, psychological and even scientific sense. I wouldn’t recommend it to strict sceptics (except those rare ones that really want to open their minds to new things) but I would to anyone that has even the slightest interest in ancient beliefs and self-improvement. The book has been expanded into a series with two sequels published a while back ( The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision (1996) and The Secret of Shambhala: In Search of the Eleventh Insight (1999)) and a third (The Twelfth Insight: The Hour of Decision) released this year, but I haven’t read any of those as I was quite content with the general idea I received in the original (especially as I was already somewhat aware of the ideas from my love of mythology and world religions).

Not gospel but definitely worth a look-see

8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

I have talked about this wonderful book in the past and I will probably talk about it again in the future as It has made an impact on me both times I’ve read it (at school and a couple of years ago). I think this is a must-read especially for intelligent literary types who may take basic abilities such as being able to read, write and understand the world around them for granted, or may act superior because of their intelligence. The protagonist of Flowers for Algernon, Charlie Gorden puts a lot of this in perspective as we follow him from blissful ignorance through frustration, elation and finally depression at the world at large and helplessness as he reverts back to his original IQ. It is a heartbreaking and insightful book that is timeless and also warns us against the ramifications of “playing God” with scientific developments. Overall a pivotal read that I would recommend to anyone.

9. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

This is another influential childhood read of mine that won’t come as a surprise to regular readers (past posts mentioning it can be found here). This is a great little book that makes you think about what you would do in survival situation, no matter what your age, but I think it’s a must-read especially for pre-teens that are wrapped up in all the conveniences of the modern world. Theres no use for an iPod, a Smartphone, Facebook or video games when you’re stuck in the Canadian wilderness with no food or shelter and I think kids these days need to get some perspective on what life use to be like before technology and learn about the basic skills people need to survive. I know that makes me sound like a nana (kids these days with their rock and roll music!) but it is important and in this book (and the sequels to a lesser extent) the message is hidden in a really entertaining adventure story so kids won’t feel like its being forced down their throats. I’ve read it at several points over my 25 years and I can say it still is the same great read (if a little quicker :P) at 20-odd as it was at 12 🙂

10. Mythology/Fables/Fairy Tales by Various

(namely Greek Mythology, Aesop’s Fables, Brothers Grimm)

This is not so much a book as a general recommendation of mine to read mythology, fables and fairy tales from all over the world as they are the basis of so many literary ideas. Every story is a retelling of an old one (at least in part) and the oldest archetypal stories and plot devices come from ancient Mythology, fables and fairy stories from the basics of good vs evil to ideas on creation and the underworld to morals and thinly veiled life lessons. I have loved Mythology, fables and fairy tales as long as I can remember and I am instantly drawn to any book that is a re-imagining of a classic tale. To narrow it down I have highlighted Greek Mythology, Aesop’s Fables and fairy tales by the Brother’s Grimm as these are the ones I have seen referenced the most.

Greek Mythology has always fascinated me because the Gods were described as flawed and often cruel characters with a complicated and convoluted family hierarchy and an endless stream of fantastical beasts and events. Other Mythology that I think is really interesting and has been referenced in literature is Norse, Celtic, Native American, Eastern (especially from Japan and India) and Eastern European but I would encourage anyone to look into Mythology from all over the world as it is an insight into another culture and the similarities between different Gods and creation myths really shows how a culture is affected by many others and the parallels that occur between very different races.

One example of the plethora of books on Greek Mythology in print

I love a good fable because they are the essence of a good story: clear, simple characters and settings that are usually symbols for more thorough concepts; a clear beginning, middle and end; and a moral to tie it all together. My mum introduced me to Aesop’s fables and other fables from the Middle Ages very early on, integrated with classic fairy tales and I loved them so much that I use to come up with my own that mum dutifully transcribed while I provided the scribbled illustrations. Fables along with mythological stories perfectly illustrate how storytelling began: simple tales that people used to explain the world around them and why things were they way they were, that could easily be passed down from generation to generation and I think us modern readers need to be reminded of the origins of stories sometimes.

A beautiful old volume of Aesop’s Fables

Fairy tales are the next progression of Mythology and fables, and in turn they have created some of the most recognizable archetypal characters and plot devices in the literary landscape. The Grimm Brothers (Jacob and Wilheim) were the creative minds behind classic fairy tales such as Cinderella, The Frog Prince, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and Rumpelstiltskin (one of my personal favourites) and were responsible for taking them from folklore and popularising them all over the world. There is a immense collection of other fantastic fairy tales out there, but the Brother’s Grimm collected some of the greatest (and often the scariest and downright distressing) folklore stories out there that are now a huge part of popular culture.

One of countless Grimm’s Fairy Tales books out there in Bookworld 🙂

So there you go Bookbaggers – a nice full list of recommendations from me to you 🙂 Hopefully there’s something in there for everyone for a bit of holiday reading.

In the new year I will take a break from themed Top 10s to do my top reads of 2011 as well as some book awards that I always do so that should be fun, and then the next one will be Top 10 “Classics” and Top 10 Classics I Want to Read as that received the next highest number of votes 🙂

Happy Reading and I hope you all had a wonderful festive season and have an excellent 2012 to come!

Top 10 Male Characters

1. Jeffrey Lu

Jasper Jones  by Craig Silvey

Jeffrey Lu was the first character that came to mind when I started to compile this list because despite not being the main character of Jasper Jones (Which is Charlie Bucktin) or the character that the book is named after, he is the character that stuck in my mind the most. Jeffrey Lu is Charlie’s best friend and neighbour, he’s Vietnamese and obsessed with cricket. The reason why he’s so memorable is he is so funny, goofy and resilient and I cheered him on throughout the book when I wasn’t wishing that he was my best friend when I was that age (13)! Because of when and where Jasper Jones is set – rural Western Australia in the ’60s – Jeffrey has to face a lot of racism, and this prevents him from enjoying his one true love, cricket, as the other boys won’t alow a “gook” to play. The scene when he is finally allowed to play a game (because they lost a player and he’s the only one there) and absolutely saves the team is one of the highlights of the book and had me cheering out loud (which says a lot as cricket is like a foreign language to me :P)

unfortunately there has not been a movie or tv adaptation of Jasper Jones (yet!) so no pic of Jeffrey. I imagine him as a short Vietnamese boy with a giant grin 😀

2. Andrew “Ender” Wiggin

Ender’s Game  by Orson Scott Card

I read this book late last year and was instantly intrigued by the protagonist, Ender. Ender is the “third” in his family in a futuristic Earth society that only allows two children per household. Ender was allowed to be born because his two older siblings, Peter and Valentine were incredibly intelligent but not suitable for military training. Ender however is chosen and is shipped off to a space station to begin extensive war “games” in preparation for fighting the “buggers” an insect-like alien race. Ender is a very complex character – at first he seems quiet and somewhat sinister, and he is undoubtably highly intelligent. As the book goes on you discover so many layers of his character and reasons behind his actions. I don’t think I’d want to be best friends with Ender like I do with Jeffrey Lu, but he would be interesting to talk to 🙂

Ender in the Battleroom (picture from a video game based on the book that has been put on hold indefinitely)

3. Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer

A love the sometimes anti-hero of this series – the teenage criminal mastermind, Artemis Fowl the second. From the first book I couldn’t get enough of his fiendish money-making/blackmail schemes, his posh irish schoolboy demeanor and his softer side that appears when people he loves (such as his family or bodyguard Butler) are in trouble. The witty back-and-forth between himself and various other characters is classic, whether he’s the bad guy or the good guy. I’m only up to the 5th book (out of 7) and I’m loving how his character is changing and maturing, because of age and his gradual shift to the good side.

Gotta love a criminal mastermind that hasn’t left school yet!

4. Arthur Dent

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams

Ah Arthur Dent – possibly the most unfortunate Englishman in the Universe. I can’t help but love his bumbling helplessness and constant longing for tea, whether it’s in the book series, the BBC tv series (1981) or the movie (2005). I’ve read all the original Hitchhiker’s books (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe; Life, the Universe and Everything; So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish; and Mostly Harmless) as well as the last book that was written by Eoin Colfer (And Another Thing…) and through them all the character that really made me laugh was Arthur. I don’t know what it is about him – maybe it’s the fact that he’s a human surrounded by a cast of bizarre aliens, or the fact that absolutely anything bad that could happen to him does, or that he does all his adventuring in an old bathrobe – but most likely it’s that the poor bugger never gets a proper cuppa!

“I just want a bloody cup of tea!”

5. Rubeus Hagrid

Harry Potter  series by J.K. Rowling

From the onset of the Harry Potter series Hagrid has been one of my favourite characters and I think he’s one of the only characters that was cast perfectly in the movies (go Robbie Coltrane!). I love everything about him – his giantness, his crazy hair and beard, his flying motorcycle, the pink umbrella that he hides his wand in because he’s not meant to do magic, his love/blind-spot for dangerous beasts, and how he will do anything for Harry, Hermione and Ron. I was sad when several of the HP characters died *SPOILER ALERT!* like Sirius, Dumbledore, Hedwig, Dobby, Lupin, Tonks and Fred, but if Hagrid had died I don’t know if I would’ve kept reading. I want my very own Hagrid!!!

Awww look at his giant button-hole flower! ^-^

6. Adrian Mole

Adrian Mole  series by Sue Townsend

The Adrian Mole diaries (namely The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 ¾ and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole) were a guilty little pleasure of many kids my age (when I was about 11) because they really did bare all! Adrian wrote about pimples, his parents failing marriage, his love for Pandora and even the changing size of his penis! His slightly pathetic, nerdy, sentimental character was always endearing to me which is why I bought Adrian Mole : the Cappuccino Years when I saw it years later. Even at 30 Adrian’s diary is still very personal and filled with hilarious misfortune. The series has 7 books in all, taking Adrian from 13 and ¾ to 39 and ¼ (Adrian Mole : the Prostrate Years which was published in 2009) but I’ve only read about half of them.

Gian Sammarco as Adrian in the tv adaptation

7. Roux

Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes by Joanne Harris

If any of you have seen the movie Chocolat (2000) you will probably remember the handsome gypsy nicknamed Roux, played by Johnny Depp. The character is slightly different in the book, but I love how Johnny Depp played the mysterious playful wanderer that is cautious of sympathy and “handouts”. I can’t resist a gypsy – I love the folklore, the camaraderie, the music, the magic and the romance of them – and the gypsy troupe that Roux is a part of are river gypsies which I thought was even more romantic. I thought his untamed passion and mystery was a perfect match for Vianne, the main character of Chocolat, so I was pleased when he reappeared in The Lollipop Shoes. If I were to turn straight I would run off to live with Roux on his travelling riverboat 🙂

Johnny Depp makes a good gypsy 🙂

8. Christopher John Francis Boone

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon

Christopher is a very unique character. Firstly he has Asperger’s Syndrome which is a type of Autism, and with this comes an incredible intellect and attention to detail hand in hand with a misunderstanding of people and emotions. The book is narrated by Christopher and in it he tells us about himself while trying to unravel the mystery of his neighbours dead dog. Christopher knows all the countries of the world and their capitals and every prime number up to 7,057. He likes animals but doesn’t understand people, especially the faces they make, and he hates to be touched. He likes red but can’t stand yellow and brown. The book is really an exploration of Christopher’s character and his growth throughout. I was intrigued with him from the start and loved how the book was set out as if it really was written by him, with writing being interspersed with diagrams and mathematical equations.

A great book – worth a looksie

9. Brian Robeson

Brian’s Saga by Gary Paulsen 

I was amazed and inspired by the survival instincts of 13-year-old Brian in Hatchet, because I was almost 13 at the time and couldn’t imagine going through what he did! In case you haven’t heard of Hatchet or haven’t read my Top 10 books from childhood post, the book tells the tale of 13-year-old Brian Robeson, who while on the way to visit his dad the pilot of his light plane has a heart attack and the plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness. Brian then has to learn how to survive with only the clothes on his back and a small hatchet that his mother gave him. Brian’s character grows tremendously throughout the book as he has to face some harsh truths, and then is explored more in the 4 sequels – Hatchet: the Return (also called The River); Hatchet: Winter (also called Brian’s Winter); Hatchet: the Call (also called Brian’s Return); and Brian’s Hunt (the only one I haven’t read).

Brian kicks Canadian wilderness ass!

10. Charlie Gordon

Flowers for Algernon by  Daniel Keyes

Flowers for Algernon is a beautiful book and you would have to be heartless not to feel for the book’s main character Charlie Gordon. Charlie is a intellectually disabled man who undertakes a procedure to increase his IQ. The procedure had previously been done on a lab mouse called Algernon, that at the start Charlie resents as he sees him as a smarter rival, but learns to love. The book is written as a series of progress reports written by Charlie as he is getting treated and you can physically see his progress as his spelling and sentence structure improves. In the beginning Charlie is blissfully ignorant of how others treat him but as he gains intelligence he slowly realises that his work-mates, which he considered friends have been ridiculing him and leading him into situations that would result in him making a fool of himself. He also starts to develop feelings for his adult literacy teacher, Miss Kinnian and discovers that the adult world and intelligence is more complicated and harmful then he thought. I’ve read Flowers for Algernon a couple of times and have seen a performance based on the book, and Charlie’s various struggles always make me cry.

Cliff Robertson as Charlie Gordon in the 1968 adaptation, Charly