Gifted Books That We Are Grateful We Read
By Zoe Doyle, Lauren Jones, Amy Wright, Rowan Jackson and Ana Matute
With Thanksgiving and Christmas time approaching, we have decided to make a list of books that we received as gifts, that had an impact on our reading and that we would recommend to others. We hope these inspire your own gift ideas this winter and bring back fond memories of stories you loved many years ago.
The Silver Brumby by Elyne Mitchell
A book featuring a special silver horse was the perfect gift for my horse-obsessed seven-year-old former self to read. On a dark and stormy night in the Australian Snowy Mountains, a foal is born with a rare, creamy coat known as a silver brumby. This sets him apart from the other horses and makes him a target amongst his peers, hunters and men. As the horse grows from a mischievous foal to a stallion, he learns to use his speed and cunning to evade these threats. It is clear from this series of books that Elyne Mitchell had a passion and love for wildlife, as the novels are highly evocative of the Australian bush. Although it is classified as a children’s series, Mitchell’s tone is mature and readers of all ages would appreciate this story. Not only did this fuel and deepen my childhood love for horses, it was a contributing factor to my love of reading.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Translated by Alan R. Clarke
The Alchemist tells the story of an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago as he decides to leave Spain and travel in search of a great treasure. But Santiago’s quest isn’t simple, and he finds himself having more of an adventure than he bargained for when he realises that the odds are stacked against him.
Coelho’s book is brilliant because it offers so much to its readers. Not only can The Alchemist be taken at face value as an interesting story about a boy who wants to find treasure, but it can also be taken as a manual offering wisdom about the workings of fate and the universe and what it means to fulfil your destiny. Reading The Alchemist is incredibly rewarding and a great way to begin engaging with foreign-language and translated texts.
Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading by Lucy Mangan
As someone whose love of reading began in early childhood, I couldn’t wait to start reading Bookworm when I was given this book a few years ago. A memoir full of nostalgia, Mangan takes the reader on a journey as she goes through the books she read as a child, perhaps even reminding you of some of the books that you have read but have forgotten about until now. While taking you on this trip down memory lane, the memoir also explores the personal impact that the various books had on Mangan’s reading at the time. She also includes a bit of history behind some of the authors mentioned. Anyone who is passionate about reading will enjoy Bookworm and if you, like me, are inspired by Mangan’s recommendations, there are book lists included that you can refer back to.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
I first read Dracula during secondary school when I was an impressionable teenager. I enjoyed reading teenage vampire fiction books at the time, and I was interested to learn more about the origins of the genre, rooted in 18th century gothic fiction.
Dracula is a classic work of Victorian gothic literature about a young English lawyer who visits a castle in the Transylvanian hills inhabited by a sinister count. A subsequent series of unsettling events ensue. Based on the legends of vampires, Stoker explores themes of modernity, religion, madness and love, among others, through a series of journal entries and correspondence between characters. Since reading Dracula, gothic fiction has become one of my favourite genres to read.
Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel García Márquez
I knew I wanted to study literature when one of my friends gave me Chronicle of a Death Foretold as a present. Even if I had read other stories by García Márquez, this one was special to me because it showed me for the first time how fiction and non-fiction could merge. The novel tells the story of a young man who will be killed. It is based on a true story that showcases the marvellous reality of life within Latin American countries. I thought the language and the structure of the book were magnificent, combining highly detailed prose with a seemingly fast pace.