Books That You Live…
Books That You Live…
Some books are entertaining, fast-paced and have gripping plots and solid characters. You read them and you enjoy them. You might forget what happened in them after a couple weeks, or even a couple of days. People might ask you if you’d recommend them, and you’d tell them, sure, it was a good, entertaining book, check it out. But you wouldn’t urge them to read it.
Then there are books that are entertaining, fast-paced, have gripping plots and solid characters, that you read and enjoy and that you do remember for years, and that you do urge your mates to read. But it’s more than that. These books stick with you long after you’ve finished them. And while you’re reading them you live them—you’re there with the characters in the world, getting beaten up or shot at, or charging into battle.
Some of the books I’ve ‘lived’ are below.
The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling
There’s no doubt Potter makes the list of books you live. I grew up with these books, looked forward to buying the latest one every year, seeing the movies every year. I think it’s Rowling’s world-building and characters that pull you into these books more than the writing does. The Wizarding World is believable despite its un-believability. Who didn’t want to go to Hogwarts or be mates with Harry, Ron and Hermione—maybe not Harry, seen as a lot of his mates (spoiler if you’re one of the few who haven’t read the series) fall victim to Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Each book, Rowling manages to put you in the halls of Hogwarts, in Gryffindor common room or the Great Hall. You’re there, with the characters. It’s crazy how easy Rowling pulls you into the Wizarding World.
The Shattered Sea trilogy by Joe Abercrombie
This series is the best high fantasy I’ve ever read, and probably always will be. Abercrombie manages to grip from the first couple pages and pull you into his gritty world. It’s exactly the kind of world I like to read about in a book. Cold, harsh, brutal. There’s no room for the squeamish here. And the characters are just like the world, cold, harsh and brutal for the most part. Yet somehow they’re likeable and finishing the book feels like you’re leaving mates behind. The second instalment, Half a War, pulled me in to the point that I forgot I was actually reading. You’re there, in the mud and the fire, hearing swords clang and blood splatter.
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
This trilogy defines intense and gripping. I wasn’t keen on the descriptions and pages of clothing and makeovers that Katniss goes through in the first book, but once the Games kicked in it’s easy to forget this is fiction, too. Collins is one of the few writers who manage to paint a scene or sequence without endless description.
She uses a few words and somehow manages to make everything clear. These books are brutal and action-packed, and the world-building is solid. There’s no heavy exposition or info-dumping, but Panem feels real. And the first person, present tense narrative makes sure you’re living the Games alongside Katniss.
The Jack Reacher series by Lee Child
Anyone who has read several blog posts here will know I’m a big Lee Child fan. His writing style is sharp and addictive. Reacher is a great protagonist who you can look up to, and his adventures are always gripping. It may be unbelievable how much bad look Reacher has, but he’s a believable character and Child knows how to write fight and action sequences like nobody else. You finish a Reacher book with white knuckles, and I’m always eager to reach for the next one—despite the fact that there are twenty so far, with no signs of waning quality.
Watership Down by Richard Adams
This book is pretty different to all the others on this list, but Watership Down is a crazy-gripping read, despite the fact that it’s about rabbits. I went in expecting a book for young children, but a chapter in and I knew I was wrong. This book is brutal and action-packed, as fast paced as a thriller, with a surprising amount of tension. It’s easy to forget the characters are rabbits. Richard Adams makes each one distinct and getting caught up in their adventure is easy.
His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Until Pullman went off on a bit of a religious tangent with the third book, this series had some solid, epic world building and some great characters. Lyra is a tough protagonist for the most part and there are plenty of thrilling adventures and gripping set pieces to be had. The world is cold and rich and vast—clearly Pullman spent a lot of time coming up with the various people and places because the world-building is almost as detailed as Rowling’s.
Stephen King (Every book of his I’ve read)
Stephen King is a master storyteller and writer. No question. Most of his books take place in the real world, but he makes it just crazy enough that it could be a whole different world. Despite their most-often vast lengths, King’s books are always gripping to the end. His characters are some of the strongest, if not the strongest, I’ve ever read, and are never anything less than completely believable. By the time I finished Under the Dome, the real world seemed the fictional place. King draws you into his books, makes you live through them alongside the characters.
The John Cleaver series by Dan Wells
It’s the suspense and characters that pull you into this series. Both are solidly developed. Wells is a great tension writer and it builds rapidly, making each book more gripping than the last.
There are a dozen or more other books that make this list. The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig, The Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes, The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey… But which books have you lived? Feel free to drop a comment below.