People enter your life when you need them, and I think the same can be said for books. There are certain books that find their way into your hands just at the right moment.
I read ‘Careering’ when I had just left my stable job and entered the terrifying world of freelance writing. I read ‘Normal People’ when I felt isolated in my depression, like no one would ever understand. I read ‘Throne of Glass’ when I was deep into a reading slump, fuelled by my worsening mental health.
And while we can always reread books, and I definitely do, I must admit I yearn for the chance to do those books all over again. To enter with naivety, unaware of the pain to come. To get the chance to gasp at a character’s choices. To feel like this book was written only for me, a direct message from the author.
Here are the 7 books that I would sell my soul to read for the first time again.
A bit of a cliche choice, but I’m a Sally Rooney girl at heart. I really like her books, and I even wrote an article about books similar to hers.
I struggle to return to this book because I know how much it breaks my heart. I know that I’ll enjoy reading it, but I just don’t know if I have it in me to revisit that sadness.
Because this book is so beautifully written. This book captures the pain of loving someone as damaged as you, but broken in different ways. How you can see their damage and pain, you recognise it as clearly as your own, and yet you’re powerless to save them.
I would love to go back and read this book for the first time again, because I’m too scared now. This was the first book that made me feel understood in my depression.
“Connell and Marianne grew up in the same small town, but the similarities end there. At school, Connell is popular and well liked, while Marianne is a loner. But when the two strike up a conversation—awkward but electrifying—something life changing begins.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years at university, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. And as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.” - Normal People, Sally Rooney
Did you catch the recent Amazon adaptation of this book? While I enjoyed the show, the book was so much better!
I discovered this book through a post on Penguin’s Instagram - I really recommend checking it out, it’s a great way to get recommendations! But somehow, I missed the fact that this was a fiction book. I clearly didn’t read it correctly, as I bought the book on my Kindle fully believing it was a biography.
I read this novel entirely on a flight between the Netherlands and Australia. As soon as we landed, I tried to find the band’s songs on Spotify.
Hmmmm… strange… I can’t seem to find Daisy Jones and the Six.
So I googled them, thinking perhaps they were doing a Taylor Swift-style protest against Spotify. I was mainly eager to see the dramatic album cover mentioned in the book. I quickly discovered that they never existed. While loosely based on Fleetwood Mac, Daisy Jones and the Six are the product of the talented Taylor Jenkin Reid’s imagination.
I’d love to go back and read this book in that blissful ignorance, as it made it so enjoyable!
“Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.
Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.
Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.” - Daisy Jones and the Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid
The most recent read on this list, but I’m already wishing I could do it all over again!
I read this book the week after I left my job and started as a full-time freelance writer, and this book was exactly what I needed. It’s a reminder that no one has the answers, we’re all trying and failing, and the writing industry is a bloody mess.
It felt so easy to love Imogen and Harri, like they were your best friends sitting right next to you on the couch.
This book gave me hope, made me feel comforted, and had me giggling throughout! I also loved the extracts of Imogen’s spicy articles. I’d love to read it with fresh eyes and get to experience all of those emotions all over again!
“Imogen has always dreamed of writing for a magazine. Infinite internships later, Imogen dreams of any job. Writing her blog around double shifts at the pub is neither fulfilling her creatively nor paying the bills.
Harri might just be Imogen's fairy godmother. She's moving from the glossy pages of Panache magazine to launch a fierce feminist site, The Know. And she thinks Imogen's most outrageous sexual content will help generate the clicks she needs.
But neither woman is aware of the crucial thing they have in common. Harri, at the other end of her career, has also been bitten and betrayed by the industry she has given herself to. Will she wake up to the way she's being exploited before her protégé realises that not everything is copy? Can either woman reconcile their love for work with the fact that work will never love them back? Or is a chaotic rebellion calling…” - Careering, Daisy Buchanan
There is a unique sadness to finishing a series, and wondering if you will find anything that good again. You’ll find good books, of course you will, but will you find a series that feels intertwined with your soul? Will you find characters that you literally cry for, until your tears are smudging the pages? Will you stay up reading for endless hours for just “one more chapter”?
I don’t know if you will, I’ll be honest. If you’re like me, and fall into a depressed slump after reading such a good series, then do not read ‘Throne of Glass’. I convinced one friend to try it, and I’m already dreading when she reaches ‘Kingdom of Ash’ and turns on me. I’ll feel responsible for her emotional turmoil.
That being said, I would give my soul to read this series again for the first time. I am so jealous of my friend who gets to enjoy it naively now. She has no idea what pain is to come.
If you ignore my warnings and go ahead anyway, then be patient as the third book is when things really start to pick up. And by book four, you’ll be sleep-deprived and loving it.
“In a land without magic, where the king rules with an iron hand, an assassin is summoned to the castle. She comes not to kill the king, but to win her freedom. If she defeats twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition, she is released from prison to serve as the king's champion. Her name is Celaena Sardothien.
The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. But something evil dwells in the castle of glass--and it's there to kill. When her competitors start dying one by one, Celaena's fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival, and a desperate quest to root out the evil before it destroys her world.” - Throne of Glass, Sarah J. Maas
I have reread books by Marian Keyes more than any other author on my shelf. It helps that she has about a dozen incredible books to choose from. But none of her books have stayed with me in the way that ‘Grown Ups’ has.
The first time I read this book, I was a little confused by all the different characters and how they related to one another, and I think this distracted me. I should’ve just allowed the story to work itself out, and not continuously flicked back to the family tree.
Because it all makes sense in time, and this is truly one of the best novels I have ever read. It takes a phenomenal writer to make you sympathise with about half a dozen characters, particularly when they’re all at odds with one another. This book is funny, heartbreaking, hopeful and everything in-between.
I want to read this book every year for the rest of my life, and I likely will.
“They're a glamorous family, the Caseys. Johnny Casey, his two brothers Ed and Liam, their beautiful, talented wives and all their kids spend a lot of time together--birthday parties, anniversary celebrations, weekends away. And they're a happy family. Johnny's wife, Jessie--who has the most money--insists on it.
Under the surface, though, conditions are murkier. While some people clash, other people like each other far too much . . .
Still, everything manages to stay under control--that is, until Ed's wife, Cara, gets a concussion and can't keep her thoughts or opinions to herself. One careless remark at Johnny's birthday party, with the entire family present, and Cara starts spilling all their secrets.
As everything unravels, each of the adults finds themselves wondering if it's--finally--the time to grow up.” - Grown Ups, Marian Keyes
I’ll try to keep it brief, as I have a tendency to ramble when it comes to Dolly Alderton.
Let’s just say, I’m a big fan. The biggest fan. I am obsessed with every book she has released. I’ve reread ‘Everything I Know About Love’ so many times that the pages are slipping out. That may also be due to a tendency to read in the bath.
I’ll leave it there, as otherwise I’ll never stop.
Despite all my rereads, I can never quite capture the sensation I had when reading this book for the first time all those years ago. I describe this book as “the memoir of a real girl”, and even though Dolly is a few years older than me, I could relate to so much of it. I reread this book after my breakup, and found even more solace in it. This is a book about loving yourself, loving your friends, loving where life is going.
“When it comes to the trials and triumphs of becoming an adult, journalist and former Sunday Times columnist Dolly Alderton has seen and tried it all. In her memoir, she vividly recounts falling in love, finding a job, getting drunk, getting dumped, realizing that Ivan from the corner shop might just be the only reliable man in her life, and that absolutely no one can ever compare to her best girlfriends. Everything I Know About Love is about bad dates, good friends and—above all else— realizing that you are enough.” - Everything I Know About Love, Dolly Alderton
I’m a total Greek mythology nerd. I’ve listed my favourite Greek mythology retellings, and I’m going to Greece in May to gawk over the Acropolis in person.
But there is one book out of them all that stands out the most. It isn’t necessarily my favourite myth, or even my favourite Greek fiction novel. But there is something about ‘The Song of Achilles’ which has earned it a permanent spot beside my aching heart.
I would give anything to read this book again for the first time, particularly those final chapters. I ugly cried at this novel, huge, overhwelming sobs that made my roommate knock on my bedroom door out of concern. I want to feel all of that again, and have my breath taken away by the poetic prose Madeline Miller weaves into a story.
Grab a box of tissues and cancel all plans if you’re going to read this one.
“A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, The Song of Achilles is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer’s enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously conceived and executed page-turner, Miller’s monumental debut novel has already earned resounding acclaim from some of contemporary fiction’s brightest lights—and fans of Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwell, Steven Pressfield, and Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series will delight in this unforgettable journey back to ancient Greece in the Age of Heroes.” - The Song of Achilles - Madeline Miller
While I’ll definitely reread all of these incredible books, I can’t help but wish that I could go back to that very first time. There’s something magical about the moment you meet a novel, and really get to see it. That verse that proves a protagonist is just like you, that prose you have to go back and read again just to believe it. Whether it’s unexpected twists and turns, or the comfort of a happy ending, some novels make you wish it was the first time all over again.
Need more book recommendations? Check out the 55 books I read in 2022.
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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