There are some books that stay with you well beyond the last page and the final words. Sometimes, you don’t even remember the ending, you just remember the feeling the book gave you.
Certain images stay ingrained in the imagination like precious stones you keep in your pocket. Stones you can bring out and hold in your hand when a little bit of love, or heartbreak or sentimentality is required.
The first book to make you cry. The first book to trigger an emotion you’ve never felt before. The first book in which you understood love. The first book in which you could recognise grief. These are the books that last a lifetime. These are the books that make reading worth it.
Both old and new, these are our ‘classics that will last a lifetime’.
The best reads of the year. Post continues below…
Bridge to Terabithia
Author: Katherine Paterson
Where: United States
This is a young adult book but it made my mum cry, as well as me, when I was reading it for English class at school.
The feelings it evokes – the loss of innocence; the thrill of imagination; the tear of grief – will stay with you and reemerge as you think of young people facing tragedy and the childhood games every kid should be free to experience.
It tells the story of Jesse and Leslie, two students who create an imaginary world called Terabithia. They share rule as king and queen over a wonderful kingdom, set in the woods. But, as tragedy strikes, the strengths they called upon in ruling that fantasy land must be employed again, this time in real life.
Author: Charlotte Brontë
Where: United Kingdom
It's a novel about the power of love, and the many transformations within a woman's life. From a young girl indebted to her abusive aunt and cousins, to a woman in charge of her own life - yet understanding her place in the world.
When 'plain' Jane Eyre falls in love with Edward Rochester she goes through the phases so many of us have also experienced: daydreaming in secret; jealousy; bravery in revealing her feelings; skepticism that he feels the same in return; heartbreak; loss; and deep, deep love that remains, despite all odds.
To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Where: United States
This list wouldn't be complete without this read-in-highschools-everywhere classic. With the moral compass that is Atticus Finch, it's the first look for a lot of young people into the history of racism in America's south, as told from the perspective of Atticus' children Jem and Scout.
Atticus is a lawyer in an Alabama town in the 1920s, and takes on the difficult case defending a black man, Tom Robinson, accused of raping a white woman. Though Atticus proves his innocence, Robinson is still convicted and the children face scorn and violence because of their father's controversial stance. It's a book about right and wrong; standing up for what you believe; and the generosity of people that is there when you least expect it.
Under the Influence
Author: Jacqueline Lunn
Date published: 2011
It's a novel that feels like home. It follows the story of Eve, an Australian cellist living in London, who's called back to Sydney after the death of her best friend from high school, Meg. The stories - the secrets - that Eve and fellow schoolfriend Sarah uncover in the aftermath of Meg's death will feel eye-wateringly close to home for any woman who's grown up in Australia.
You recognise yourself in every turn of the page. You will flinch at the honesty of it; but the beauty is breathtaking. It's a book that shows the deep, deep reality of female friendships and make you realise: for better or for worse, they really are irreplaceable.
All the Light we Cannot See
Author: Anthony Doerr
Where: United States
Date Published: 2014
The colours in this book are extraordinary. One of the main characters is a blind girl in France as World War II is unfolding. The way the scene is set by her doting father so she (and the reader) can see what's happening leaves you breathless. As well as Marie-Laure, the reader follows the journey of Werner Pfennig, who is recruited to work for the Nazis.
They are two young, innocent souls trapped on different sides of history. Marie's father is taken into a concentration camp; Werner watches his best friend beaten and bludgeoned into oblivioun by fellow Nazi trainees. He continues training, fearing for his own safety. The two connect in 1944 and their story, their brief encounter, is everything the reader hopes it might be.
True History of the Kelly Gang
Author: Peter Carey
Date Published: 2001
An Australian legend comes to life in this novel, written as a letter from notorious bushranger Ned Kelly to his daughter. Set in the 1800s in outback Victoria, the True History of the Kelly Gang offers a raw and challenging insight into the hardships faced by settlers living off a land that was as unforgiving as the people ruling it. Adventurous, cheeky, and you can't help but fall in love with the bush-gangsta himself, it's a classic that every Australian should read.
What is your favourite classic book?