I’ve always loved reading books. As soon as I learned to read, I fell in love with them. I remember that when I was a child, my parents would come into my bedroom and tell me I had to stop reading and go to bed. As reading is a great passion of mine, I’ve decided to tell you about my favourite books of all time, the ones I’d take with me on a desert island without a second thought.
1. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
If you’re familiar with my articles, you probably already know that Virginia Woolf is someone I greatly admire. I’ve read many of her books, I’ve visited her house in the south of England, I often talk about her… in short, she’s one of my idols.
It all started when I was an art student. While I was working on the notion of intimacy, one of my teachers suggested that I read “A Room of One’s Own”. At first, I was quite reluctant. I thought it would be a rather boring read, but I bought it anyway. I started reading it, and surprisingly devoured it.
In this book, the author talks about the inequities between men and women, in particular how women are expected to concentrate solely on their families and are therefore unable to study, improve their creative skills and create things. According to Virginia Woolf, a woman needs money and a room of her own to write fiction (the same can be said for every medium). She sets the story in fictional places and invents a fictional character (Judith Shakespeare, the sister’s famous playwright). Through a very interesting story, Virginia Woolf shows that women need to emancipate themselves. Although she mixes fact and fiction, the problem she tackles is very real.
As a feminist, I like the way everything is told in this book.
It’s intelligent, powerful without being aggressive, and resolutely modern. She doesn’t women to be considered more than men, she wants them to be equal. This book was published in 1929, but we can all relate to it in one way or another, because, as you already know, in many countries women still have to fight for their freedom and emancipation.
2. Based on a True Story, by Delphine de Vigan
It’s one of the books I’ve read many, many times. I remember buying it at a train station without really knowing whether I was going to like it.
And the result is that I didn’t like it, I adored it.
It’s the story of an author who suffers from a creative block after publishing a successful book, and who meets a woman that will gradually interfere in her life.
It’s a story that straddles the line between fiction and reality. In fact, you never know what belongs to real life. It’s so captivating that you can feel the tension building. I remember I couldn’t help but continue reading it, as I always wanted to know what was going to happen next. After that, I read other books by Delphine De Vigan (“Nothing Holds Back the Night”, “”No and Me”, “Loyalties”), they were good but I didn’t enjoy them as much as “Based on a True Story”.
In France, some people tend to think that a book sold in a train station isn’t a good book, that it’s just meant to be read quickly. What a misconception!
I wouldn’t say that you should read every book you find in a station, but in my experience, you can find real nuggets if you look hard enough. “Based on a True Story” is one of them. It’s a must-read if you like simple but intriguing stories. The book has also been adapted into a film by Roman Polanski, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
3. Address Unknown, by Kathrine Kressman Taylor
When I was in middle school, one of my French teachers made us read a book called “Address Unknown”. It left such an indelible impression on me that I bought it and re-read it many years later.
The story takes place before the Second World War.
Two friends, Martin and Max, write letters to each other (the book is made up entirely of these letters). Martin has moved to Munich and Max lives in the United States. At the time, fascism is gaining ground and Jews are being killed by the Nazis. Martin supports Hitler’s ideas, while Max, a Jew, fears what is happening.
The story is much more detailed and elaborate than my brief summary, and there’s a huge plot twist at the end, so you really should read this book. It’s really great, not only for its story, but also for what it says about human nature… and it can certainly resonate with what the world is currently going through.
4. To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life, by Hervé Guibert
I discovered Hervé Guibert’s photographs and books when I was an art student. Among his books, there’s one that made a strong impression on me: “To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life”.
Hervé Guibert suffered from AIDS and many of his books deal with this disease. In “To the friend who did not save my life”, he imagined a text in which one of his friends tells him that a cure has been found, and that he’ll be helped and cured. He also talks about his daily life as a patient, such as the medical appointments he has to attend, the good and bad news he receives, the progress of the disease.
I won’t say any more so that you can discover the rest of the book. But believe me, like the main character, you’ll go through a wide range of emotions. Hervé Guibert has used his disease to write something that is both raw and terribly poignant. You won’t feel the same once you’ve closed the book.
5. Virginia Woolf’s diary
I’ve already devoted one of my articles to this book, so I won’t say more about it, but Virginia Woolf’s diary definitely belongs on this list. I read it a couple of years ago, it took me a while because it contains so many pages (it goes from 1915 to 1941) but boy, did I love it!
I think it’s always great to discover an artist through their diary, as it allows us to discover their thoughts, life and potentially the different facets that make up their personality. That’s exactly what happened with Virginia Woolf’s diary.
It made me appreciate her even more, even if she sometimes seems rude. This book is a testimonial — it gives us an insight into what she went through, what she experienced, how she felt about herself and others, how her work evolved and so on. I believe we can read a paragraph from time to time, or read the whole thing in one go. Either way, it’s always interesting and as good as many of her books.
I constantly read books, but it wasn’t difficult to choose my all-time favourite books. In fact, the five I‘ve mentioned are the ones that moved me so much that I probably wouldn’t be the same if I hadn’t read them. To me, they’re masterpieces.
I hope you enjoyed this article. Feel free to share your favourite books of all time.