Happy World Book Day! As an avid reader, I have to say that I absolutely adore this day. I don’t need an excuse to celebrate books, but it’s great that there is one! It doesn’t matter how young or old you are. World Book Day should be an excuse to read some of those books you’ve added to your growing reading list. You have to start somewhere! So take a few minutes out of your busy lives today. Pop down to your local bookshop or browse Amazon’s incredible library. Or maybe you can crack open one of those novels you’ve had sitting, unopened, on your shelf for years. Whether you have an e-reader or you’re going to check out some books from your local library, today is the day.
But many of us face a dilemma: we do want to read, but we have no clue where to start! Believe me, I know that feeling. There are so many books to read and so little time! Or you signed up for an email newsletter years ago and now you’re swamped with endless suggestions. Maybe you just need a little more info on the book before you commit to it. Whatever your reason, it can be nice to get some ideas from real people instead of machines pumping out promotion emails. That’s where I come in. I’ve read thousands of books over my short life. Some of them were very good and some of them were very bad. Most of them were somewhere in the middle.
Here are some of my favourite books and why I think you should read them this World Book Day.
If you’ve heard of the name Ursula Le Guin before, it’s because she also wrote the fantasy book series known as the Earthsea chronicles. That’s worth a read, too, but I thought I’d shed some light on one of her less-known books.
The Dispossessed is a sci-fi story about a scientist, Shevek, who is close to making a breakthrough in the physics world. Born in a communist moon colony, Shevek finds that he can’t finish his research at home. Instead, he takes to the capitalist, patriarchal world that his moon is orbiting in hopes that they’ll help him. But they aren’t doing this for the good of humanity like the people back at home. They want to buy his work from him and keep it from the rest of the humans. Sure, they treat him well, but he knows just as well as anyone that he’s just a source of money to them. It’s hard to get used to capitalism when you’ve been brought up in a world of forced selflessness.
Why You Should Read This Book
To be honest, not much happens in the story. That is a good thing, though! Of course, our main character does go to the planet and he does do lots of research, but it’s not really about that. This isn’t your typical hero’s journey. He might go to a faraway land on some kind of quest, and he might learn some lessons along the way, but he’s no the hero you’d expect. This book is a lot more about politics and ideology than it is about
That’s the beauty of a lot of sci-fi works, in my opinion! They take made-up worlds and use them to comment on the issues in real life. Le Guin doesn’t shy away from the problems that both capitalism and communism pose. The moon colony is selfless and women and men are equal, but they take it too far. The children don’t spend much time with their parents and their names are made up by a computer. They have nothing and they suffer, but they suffer together. The capitalist world has plenty, but there is a huge divide between rich and poor. The women are treated like objects and the poor aren’t happy.
But that doesn’t mean it has no plot either! It’s not like reading the Communist Manifesto. First and foremost, this is a story. It’s not preachy and Le Guin makes it clear what side she wants us to take. In fact, there is no taking sides. Both systems fail. Maybe it’s time to find something better.
What You Can Learn
Le Guin started this book as a short story — and not one that she liked! But instead of abandoning it like so many other writers do, she didn’t give up on her idea. Now it’s one of the most acclaimed sci-fi classics! There’s something we can learn from that kind of attitude, since it can be so easy to give up on a story we don’t like.
But more than that, we can learn about themes and messages when reading this book. We all have our own opinions and points of view, but it can be quite hard to add those into the story without seeming preachy. The beauty of this story is that Le Guin never tells us what we’re supposed to think. She just gives us the plot and writes it in a way that we come to the same conclusion she does. That’s something we can all learn from as writers, to be honest. Most of us aren’t writing fables for kids! So we don’t need to make it so obvious that our stories have a point. We should trust our teenage and adult readers to come to the conclusion all on their own.
This is the kind of book that starts in the middle and flashes back, so don’t feel bad if you’re confused when reading! That’s kinda the point. You’re supposed to feel a little bit out of your depth. Shevek does! He’s in a new planet! The story wouldn’t be as interesting if he adapted very well straight away. Just stick with it and you won’t be let down. It’s quite a short book and worth a read, even if just so you know what was popular back in the 70s. But it is a great book and pretty easy to read, despite the confusing timeline. Don’t worry too much about the physics talk. I didn’t get it either!
The Lord of the Rings
Yes, yes! This is very popular! You’ve probably seen the film before. But have you read the book? The chances are that you haven’t. They’re very different. If you’re going to read anything this World Book Day, why not choose a book that will give you loads to speak about later on? You’re going to find Lord of the Rings fans wherever you go, so why not join in on the conversation? But even more than that, Tolkien’s work helped to define the fantasy genre. Doesn’t being one of the first of its kind make it more than worthy of a read?
The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy story about sin, temptation, war and friendship. I’m really narrowing those themes down! I mean, we could talk about so, so many other themes in the book, but those are my favourite. The main character of the story is Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who goes on a quest to destroy the One Ring — an evil ring with magic powers and a mind of its own. Though he gains a fellowship of people willing to help him along the way, the journey is not easy. The great evil who created the ring has woken, and he wants his ring back.
Why You Should Read This Book
It is just amazing! I spent ages writing that summary and it still doesn’t sum up how good the story is. The Lord of the Rings is truly a masterpiece and should be on every single list of books you should read in your life. As I’ve mentioned before, there are so many themes that we could look at! Tolkien was a Catholic, so the story is very heavily about Christianity. That being said, it doesn’t matter if you’re Christian or not. There’s going to be something in it for everyone.
This book is an important classic. It is a huge part of English literature and so, so much fun to read. Sure, they do stay in the Shire for ages at the beginning. It’s not like a few months pass, as it is in the first film. Frodo has the Ring for years before it becomes a problem to him. So that will take a lot of getting used to. But once you get to the Prancing Pony, it’s just a pleasure to read. Just hang in there!
It’s a lot more mature than you’d think. I know a lot of people think of kids and fairy tales when anyone brings up the word “fantasy”, but it doesn’t have to be like that. The Lord of the Rings isn’t for kids. I mean, sure! You can read this story to your kids. I’m not going to stop you. It does get very dark, though. Tolkien is an adult writing for adults, so you’re not going to feel patronised in a hurry.
What You Can Learn
I think this is an important book to read if you’re going to write YA fantasy. It’s very easy to get caught up in the YA novels that are out at the moment: romance and vampires and love triangles. However, going back to the roots of fantasy can help you make a story that says a lot more and seems a lot more mature. Get rid of those toxic cliches! Try something else out for size! There’s no reason why YA books can’t talk about more than boys and feelings.
In fact, in our day and age, more young girls are reading stories about dragons and wizards and dark lords. That’s probably because lots of us grew up with Harry Potter. So if the YA genre is aimed at young girls, there’s no reason why you can’t learn a lesson or two from The Lord of the Rings. You don’t need a love triangle in every story to make it interesting.
There is just so much thought put into Tolkien’s world! He’s made languages, maps, history, family trees… anything you can think of! It probably exists somewhere. When you read The Lord of the Rings, you aren’t just reading a book. You’re also joining a whole new universe! If you’re going to read one book this World Book Day, please make it The Lord of the Rings!
The Diary of Anne Frank
This is one that I think everyone should read if they’re interested in history. You’ve most likely heard a lot about it before. The Diary of Anne Frank (otherwise known as The Diary of a Young Girl) is hard to read when you know about Anne Frank’s fate, but it is also an important book. It can be quite easy for us to act like the older generations are so different. It can be a real surprise to a lot of young people that they can relate to Anne so much. I mean, as much as you can relate to a girl when she spent most of her teenage life hiding away from Nazis in an annexe.
There isn’t really much of a plot to the diary itself, but the story of Anne Frank is harrowing. She was a Jewish girl who was born in Germany. Her family moved to Amsterdam when she was very young because the Nazis had gained power in Germany and things were getting harder for the Jews. Then, the Nazis took over the Netherlands and she was forced to go into hiding. Her family lived in an annexe along with another family and Jewish dentist. Her diary is mainly about her struggles in the annexe and her own thoughts for the future.
Why You Should Read This Book
This book is a great recommendation because of how humbling it is. Anne Frank so much like every other girl I know! She falls out with her mum and has a crush on the boy next door. She has hopes and dreams. We share a love of writing. There is so much that you can relate to her about! And to be with her in those cramped, quiet and scary conditions in the annexe… well, it hits a lot harder when you realise how much she’s just a normal girl.
She puts a face to the Holocaust. And not just a face, either: a personality, a name, a life. You grow to love her and care about her in the book, and so you really root for her safety. You want her to live on to see the end of the war. The book isn’t all sadness, though. To be honest, Anne Frank is such a lovely, optimistic girl that it isn’t really that sad at all. Yes, there are moments when she feels angry or alone, and there are times when she fights with her
What You Can Learn
As a writer, one of the main things you can learn from Anne Frank is how to put a face on sadness. It can be so easy to write about a sad event or an awful one and forget to make it personal. Anne Frank’s diary shows us how hard-hitting it is when we know a person and like them, only to find out that they’re caught up in an awful event.
As a person, there is something more important: she teaches us empathy and optimism. Anne stays positive even when she’s cooped up in that annexe. She’s happy even though she’s not allowed to even flush the toilet. There’s something you can learn from that. Empathy is an important skill as both a writer and a person. When you learn about Anne’s plight, it can be hard to process it. You might be angry or confused. You might question why. These are all important things to do. Empathy is an important thing to understand, and so reading books that trigger that empathy is always good, no matter how sad.
It might be a hard one to get through if you know how it ends, but I strongly recommend reading Anne Frank’s diary. She writes so well and is so self-aware for a teenager. Anne is someone to admire. So if you can become friends with her through her diary, why wouldn’t you? She has a lot to say, if you just open your eyes.
So this World Book Day, take some time to read some of the things you never got around to reading. Take some time out of your day to open your eyes to someone else’s story. It will make you a better writer and person!
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes about reading:
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only oneGeorge R.R. Martin
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