Top 15 Books I’ve Studied

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I’ve been in education for more years than I’ve been out of it, and with a love of books as passionate as mine, I’ve spent a lot of time studying them. Some I’ve grown to love, some I’ve grown to hate, so here are the top 15 books I’ve studied over my time in school.

15

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

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Cider with Rosie is a wonderfully vivid memoir of childhood in a remote Cotswold village, a village before electricity or cars, a timeless place on the verge of change. Growing up amongst the fields and woods and characters of the place, Laurie Lee depicts a world that is both immediate and real and belongs to a now-distant past. – from Goodreads.com

My Dad always carried around a copy of Cider with Rosie, and when he passed away it was bequeathed to me. I took ownership of his battered, well-read, well-loved copy and actually chose to study this book in A-Level Literature.

14

The Go-Between by LP Hartly

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Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. – from Goodreads.com

I studied The Go-Between alongside Cider with Rosie, and wrote an essay on childhood innocence using both these books. I thoroughly enjoyed the BBC adaptation that was released this year, and it brought back so many wonderful memories for me.

13

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

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The greatest love story in English, William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a play of star-crossed lovers who take a valiant stand against social convention, with tragic consequences. – from Goodreads.com

Although this is probably the most famous love story of all time, I actually struggled to get on with this play originally when I studied it at GCSE. However when my teacher showed us Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of the film, where he put such a unique spin on the tale, I really grew to love it, and to this day his adaptation is one of my favourite films.

12

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

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The compelling story of two outsiders striving to find their place in an unforgiving world. Drifters in search of work, George and his simple-minded friend Lennie have nothing in the world except each other and a dream–a dream that one day they will have some land of their own. – from Goodreads.com

One of my old favourites from GCSE English. I was completely swept up in the tale of George and Lennie, and once again, watching the film cemented my love for the story.

11

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen’s witty comedy of manners–one of the most popular novels of all time–that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues. – from Goodreads.com

Similarly to Romeo and Juliet, the story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy has become somewhat clichéd. When I studied this book at A-Level Literature, I was reminded just how quick we are to judge others, especially romantically, and how Elizabeth is the perfect, head-strong heroine who we could all learn from. Also, to start as we mean to go on, I watched both adaptations by Joe Wright and also the BBC, both of which are favourites.

10

A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller

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In A View from the Bridge Arthur Miller explores the intersection between one man’s self-delusion and the brutal trajectory of fate. Eddie Carbone is a Brooklyn longshoreman, a hard-working man whose life has been soothingly predictable. He hasn’t counted on the arrival of two of his wife’s relatives, illegal immigrants from Italy; nor has he recognized his true feelings for his beautiful niece, Catherine. – from Goodreads.com

Another favourite of mine from GCSE English. A wonderful commentary on immigration that is still relevant in today’s world.

  An Inspector Calls by JB Priestley

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The action of the play occurs in an English industrial city, where a young girl commits suicide and an eminently respectable British family is subject to a routine inquiry in connection with the death. An inspector calls to interrogate the family, and during the course of his questioning, all members of the group are implicated lightly or deeply in the girl’s undoing. – from Goodreads.com

Probably the first “mystery” that I ever read in GCSE English, and ignited my love for the genre. Seeing how every member of the family tied into the story of the dead girl was literary craftsmanship at it’s best. Another honourable mention to the BBC adaptation released earlier this year.

8

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

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Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. – from Goodreads.com

Another one from GCSE English with a fantastic movie to go along with it. Many people refer to Frankenstein as the monster, not the man who created him, and I think that says a lot about our morbid curiosity and just how momentous Frankenstein’s creation was.

7

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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Perhaps the single most influential work of English drama, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a timeless tragedy of the conflicted loyalties, madness, betrayal and terrible revenge. – from Goodreads.com

Along with another awesome adaptation from Mr Branagh himself, Hamlet, which I studied at Literature A-Level is my second favourite Shakespeare play. Which brings me nicely onto…

6

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

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Promised a golden future as ruler of Scotland by three sinister witches, Macbeth murders the king to ensure his ambitions come true. But he soon learns the meaning of terror – killing once, he must kill again and again, and the dead return to haunt him. – from Goodreads.com

My favourite Shakespeare play! Witches, prophecies, killing, war, all the things that make a tragedy a tragedy in my eyes. With, surprise surprise, an awesome adaptation to go along with it.

Which brings me into my top five:

5

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

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The story of the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby and his love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, of lavish parties on Long Island at a time when The New York Times noted “gin was the national drink and sex the national obsession,” it is an exquisitely crafted tale of America in the 1920s. – from Goodreads.com

My Gramps once said that education really begins after you leave school, and he was so right. I didn’t actually study The Great Gatsby whilst I was at school. My A-Level Literature teacher, Robert Hastie, gave me his copy of The Great Gatsby that he used to study with whilst at university. I’ve cherished his copy ever since, as it has his own notes and comments in. I recently read and studied this book by myself, and added in my own notes and comments along with his. It’s one of my most treasured possessions. Also, note the awesome film.

4

The Crucible by Arthur Miller

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Based on historical people and real events, Miller’s drama is a searing portrait of a community engulfed by hysteria. In the rigid theocracy of Salem, rumors that women are practicing witchcraft galvanize the town’s most basic fears and suspicions; and when a young girl accuses Elizabeth Proctor of being a witch, self-righteous church leaders and townspeople insist that Elizabeth be brought to trial. – from Goodreads.com

This play/film is pretty much the reason why I’m so fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials, and charts once again the morally complex tale of John Proctor, knowing he will be sentenced to death if he denies his involvement with the devil, or live a life of damnation if he admits.

3

The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

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Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. – from Goodreads.com

This was another book that I didn’t study whilst in education. JD Salinger’s novel is considered to be the corner-stone of YA literature and one of the first young adult books to be recognised in the genre. I love a good unreliable narrator as much as the next person, and listening to Holden narrate his experiences was so entertaining. Salinger captures the no man’s land between childhood and adulthood, and everything in between.

2

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

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The Bloody Chamber is an anthology of short fiction by Angela Carter. All of the stories share a common theme of being closely based upon fairy tales or folk tales. – from Goodreads.com

This anthology couldn’t be more up my alley. I first read this collection of works at university when doing a module on Fairy Tales. Carter poetically and vividly re-tells some of our best-loved folk and fairy tales, with a dark and sexy twist.

Which leaves my number one choice:

1

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

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Wuthering Heights is a wild, passionate story of the intense and almost demonic love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, a foundling adopted by Catherine’s father. After Mr Earnshaw’s death, Heathcliff is bullied and humiliated by Catherine’s brother Hindley and wrongly believing that his love for Catherine is not reciprocated, leaves Wuthering Heights, only to return years later as a wealthy and polished man. He proceeds to exact a terrible revenge for his former miseries. The action of the story is chaotic and unremittingly violent, but the accomplished handling of a complex structure, the evocative descriptions of the lonely moorland setting and the poetic grandeur of vision combine to make this unique novel a masterpiece of English literature. – from Goodreads.com

This choice may be somewhat cliché, but for me, the themes and symbols of the novel are what makes this book stand out for me. The moors, the ghosts, the appearance of the double, repetition, nature vs culture, social class and, above all, love. When I first read Wuthering Heights, I found it to be really dense and difficult to get into. But after I watched the ITV series, and once I understood the story, I found I could really unearth the layers of the novel. And that is why this fantastically gothic novel is my number one.

So there we have it. Do you agree with my top fifteen, or would you like to have seen some other books make an appearance? What would be your top fifteen? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Which Harry Potter film is my favourite?

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Picking your favourite Harry Potter movie (or book) is like trying to pick your favourite child. I don’t take the decision lightly, hence why it has taken me SO LONG to write this post. Whichever film is left last, I immediately feel guilty for, and to be honest, each film has their strengths and weaknesses, which makes the decision even harder. Nevertheless, I’ve managed to rank them. Finally.

I would just like to take a moment to say that just because your favourite doesn’t come near the top, doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the film or think it’s good. I love all of the Harry Potter films dearly, but my reasons for ranking them in this order is down to my own personal taste. With that in mind, let’s get underway.

8

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Order of the Phoenix marks David Yates’ debut on the Harry Potter franchise, and unfortunately he was met with a difficult task. Order of the Phoenix is the largest book in the series, and so trying to condense the plot into a streamline film was going to be challenging for any director. Couple that with the fact that this was David Yates’ first Harry Potter film, I find Order of the Phoenix to be the weakest.

Scenes I Love: Dumbledore’s Army practicing in the room of requirement, watching their friendship develop and grow stronger. The Order at Grimmauld Place, especially Christmas with the Weasleys.

7

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

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I know, I know. The climax of the Harry Potter franchise charts so low on the list? Yes, but only because I cannot bear to watch my beloved characters die in the final battle. It is an amazing action film, with incredible special effects, moments of humour, and it completely charming – but I have to mentally prepare myself before I put the DVD on!

Scenes I Love: Dumbledore’s Army camping out in the room of requirement, led by the silver trio Neville, Ginny and Luna. Neville generally being a bad-ass beauty in his cardigan. Ron and Hermione FINALLY getting together. Lupin, Sirius, James and Lily walking with Harry into the Forbidden Forest. Narcissa betraying Voldemort!

6

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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The film that kick-started it all. Watching the young golden trio is just a delight, and it’s so comforting to revel in the pure innocence of the Wizarding World before Voldemort’s return. Christopher Columbus managed to make the first film timeless, and no Christmas is complete without watching this film by a roaring fire and wearing a Weasley jumper.

Scenes I Love: Hagrid putting the Dursleys in their place. Harry’s first experience of Diagon Alley. Harry meeting Ron and Hermione on the train. Harry standing up to Draco (multiple times). The gold trio sleuthing around the castle figuring out the mystery.

5

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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Prisoner of Azkaban stands out, not just visually, but as the turning point of the Harry Potter franchise. Alfonso Cuarón creates a stunning film, that sees the trio not only come into their adolescence but also gives the collection a mature tone. It’s a shame that Alfonso Cuarón didn’t stay on for more Harry Potter films, as his vision was something that was universally loved by all of the fans. 

Scenes I Love: Hermione being rubbish at Divination, yet mastering all of her classes by using a time turner. The introduction of the Mauraders, and seeing Remus and Sirius come to life. Ron and Hermione going on “dates” in Hogsmede as Harry can’t visit without permission.

4

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

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The second film, also directed by Chris Columbus, steps up a gear with the Chamber of Secrets. Harry, Ron and Hermione return to Hogwarts with more knowledge of Voldemort, the Wizarding World and the dangers that surround Hogwarts. With Hermione being petrified for a portion of the film, we see Harry and Ron haphazardly try and navigate their way through the next mystery, and ultimately (without realising it) destroying a Horcrux.

Scenes I Love: The introduction of Dobby. Dobby is free! The Weasleys rescuing Harry from the Dursleys. Spending time at the Burrow. The Weasley’s in general. Harry’s derp moment trying to get to Diagon Alley. Lockhart being inept throughout the whole film.

3

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

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A lot of people were opposed to splitting up the Deathly Hallows book into two films, and I can understand why. From a business perspective, it would seem as though Warner Brothers wanted to make more money by issuing two separate films, but had they not made that decision, we would not have had Part 1 in all it’s glory. I know lots of people think that the “calm before the storm” films are boring, as I heard lots of complains about Mockingjay Part 1 as well as the first Deathly Hallows film. Personally, I absolutely adore this installment. There are so many moments of light and shade, and comedy mixed with fear as the final battle looms ever closer. The dynamic between the trio strengthens as their friendship is put to the test, and even though we’re out of our usual Hogwarts setting, we’re still left with the amateur sleuthing that the trio partake in throughout all the books and films.

Scenes I Love: The flight of the seven Harrys. Preparing for the Wedding at the Burrow. The return of Dobby and Kreacher. Camping in the Forest. Harry and Hermione dancing together. The silver doe. Ron returning, destroying the Horcrux, admitting his deepest fears and feelings, and Hermione giving him hell. Ron and Harry making up and talking in the tent. The tale of the three brothers. Basically any romantic Ron/Hermione moments.

2

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

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Trying to decide between my number two and number one was THE MOST difficult decision ever and to be honest I switched these around a number of times. Probably by the time this post goes live I will have changed my mind again. When the Goblet of Fire DVD first came out, I watched it over and over again, so I probably know the film inside out. Mike Newell created a fantastic film, and I’m sad he didn’t stay on for more films after Goblet of Fire.

Scenes I Love: The entire Quidditch world cup sequence. Harry falling for Cho Chang and Cedric and Harry looking out for each other, despite the fact that Cedric is dating Cho. The Yule Ball sequence. Ron and Hermione arguing. Cedric’s funeral and Dumbledore’s speech. The ending with the golden trio watching Durmstrang and Bauxbatons leaving Hogwarts.

1

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Half-Blood Prince is my favourite Harry Potter film, (although closely followed by Goblet of Fire). David Yates, who tackled the task of adapting the remaining Harry Potter movies, really hit his stride with this film. Once again, this film is the calm before the storm, as we see Harry and the gang return to Hogwarts after the events of Order of the Phoenix. This also marks the last time Harry is at Hogwarts before the Final Battle.

Scenes I Love: Harry and Dumbledore out on their adventures. Harry trying to flirt with the waitress. Harry returning to the Burrow and flirting with Ginny. The trio taking potions classes and Hermione getting frustrated at Harry because he is better than her (thanks to the Half-Blood Prince). Ron being rubbish and then awesome at Quidditch. Hermione and Ron fighting, flirting, trying to get back at each other. Ron being under the influence of a love potion. Harry being under the influence of Felix Felicis. And so many more!

That concludes my ranking of the Harry Potter films. Do you disagree with my choices, and think a different film should be number one? Or do you agree with me? Let me know in the comments.