Before I begin the countdown of my top five books of all time, I must tell you how hard it was for me to compile this list. Being an avid reader, there are so many books that I absolutely adore - many of which aren't included in the list because they were pipped to the post by the five that I have chosen. So, without further ado, here are my top five books of all time - in other words, the five that I would recommend more than any others.
5. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - John le Carre
I would say that this novel is very much a niche one - if espionage in the Cold War era isn't something you'd like to read about, I'd give this one a miss. The plot of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy follows retired agent George Smiley as he attempts to find a traitor who has hidden in amongst the British secret service. Although the premise sounds a bit like James Bond, the two depictions of spies couldn't be more different. In this novel, there aren't any wacky gadgets or action-packed gunfights. Instead, there are mind-games and almost Sherlock Holmes-esque deductions about when, where, why, and how crimes are committed. The style of writing is very detailed and heavy on espionage jargon, which some people may find a bit heavy - personally, I like very detailed narratives and enjoyed both the plot and style of writing.
4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Apologies for the quality of the photo above - the holographic title didn't like the flash on my camera. I felt somewhat obligated to include at least one Harry Potter book in this list - I am, after all, a self confessed superfan. The reason that I picked this book over others in the series and other book series (including The Lord of the Rings and Sherlock Holmes) is simply because it has been a favourite of mine for a very long time. Back when I was much younger, this was one of my favourite books, and is still a favourite today - although, sadly, I no longer have the cassette audiobook that I used to have in my childhood. I'm sure most people will already know the plot, but for those who don't, here's a brief synopsis (taken from the back of the book); Harry Potter is about to start his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry - however, when he arrives, the atmosphere is tense. There's an escaped mass murderer on the loose, and the sinister prison guards of Azkaban have been called in to guard the school...
3. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
Unlike Harry Potter, this favourite is more of a recent read. When I was on holiday over the summer, I bought this to read because I thought that it sounded quite interesting and I'd heard that the film was very good - and I always like to read the book before I watch the film. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest follows the shenanigans of R.P. McMurphy as he is committed to a mental institution in Oregon. Upon his arrival at the hospital, McMurphy wages a war against the tyrannical Nurse Ratched, who is determined to stamp out any free spirit and fun in the asylum. This book reminds me of George Orwell's 1984, as it raises questions about oppression and whether or not madness is simply a label for those who don't fit in with society. Overall, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is both a saddening and uplifting novel that celebrates individuality.
2. Atonement - Ian McEwan
I will admit, I my love for this novel is probably on par with One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. However, the superior element of Atonement for me is the ending. How OFOTCN ends isn't inherently predictable, but the tone of the novel throughout made me realise that the ending events were inevitable. Atonement, on the other hand, had a completely surprising ending to me, and left me stunned for quite a while afterwards. The plot of Atonement follows thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis, an aspiring writer living at her family's estate in 1930s Britain. Over the course of one summer's day, she witnesses several moments of intimacy between her sister, Cecelia Tallis, and the son of a family servant, Robbie Turner. However, Briony's imagination skews these events, meaning that she commits a crime that she spends the rest of her life trying to atone for. The narrative is hugely detailed and the characters have a lot of depth to them - however, it's the way that Briony's actions manipulate the entire plot that I find most interesting - and ultimately devastating.
1. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Where do I even begin with Gatsby? For me, this novel is as close to perfection as it gets. Fitzgerald's writing style is beautifully descriptive but ultimately tragic. The Great Gatsby follows wannabe bond salesman Nick Carraway, who moves to the New York coastal town of West Egg. An unlikely friendship between him and his millionaire neighbour, Jay Gatsby, begins after Gatsby enlists Nick to help him win back the latter's cousin, Daisy. The corruption and immoral society of 1920s America is fully exposed in this novel as well as consumerism and parties galore. What I find most interesting about this book is how each reader reacts to different characters - I love Gatsby as a character and feel immense sympathy for him, however, some of my friends disagree and find him hugely immoral. Overall, Fitzgerald creates an absorbing plot with dynamic and unique characters that keep you engaged until the very end.
So there you have it - the top five novels that I've read so far (despite some of my other much loved favourites missing out on the list). If you have any recommendations of other novels that I should read, please comment below!