Books are timelessly powerful. Having the ability to capture the reader’s attention, completely submerge them into a new world, and influence their thinking, is perhaps something far more incredible than most people give them credit for. A single book can change the way we see our present situations whether bad or good, it can make us reminisce, and even make us question our aspirations. It was therefore a challenging process to decide which books had influenced me, as I would essentially have to expose the moments in which I was vulnerable enough to be consumed by someone else’s imagination. I can only guess as to whether books have shaped me in some way or another, as the most powerful books, are often the ones that change our lives without us even realising.
Khaled Hosseini - A Thousand Splendid Suns
An all-time classic and one which left me thinking about it even months after I had finished the book. The combination of Hosseini’s female characters and his ability to fully emerge his readers into their lives, allows him to aptly portray women as an extremely powerful and diligent group of people. His vivid depictions of what life was like for women in Afghanistan, during the latter half of the 20th century, constantly leaves its readers raging from within and screaming ‘why, why, why?’. As a young, British-Asian woman, some aspects of the novel still surprisingly reminded me of the social barriers and taboos that are embedded so deeply within my own culture. It left me comparing my version of ‘struggling’ with the characters’, Mariam’s and Leila’s, versions of ‘struggling’, gave me a new perspective. The female protagonists demonstrate acts of self-sacrifice, self-survival, and self-belief, all of which show how strong of a force women can be.
Sylvia Plath - The Bell Jar
It is uncanny how much this book still resonates with so many people 50 years after its publication. I became unhealthily obsessed with Plath’s novel and her semi-autobiographical protagonist, Esther Greenwood, a character I held close to my heart, and deeply sympathised. Esther’s complete rawness and realism reminded me of another doomed heroine, Marilyn Monroe. Both women were severely victimised by men and their public personas contradicted their internal mindsets. It highlighted the fact that women are constantly battling with the many constraints of society. The same society which claims to encourage individuality but also ironically encourages people to be ‘easily categorical’ people. By classifying myself as a woman of colour, a British citizen, and a young Muslim, I put a million constrictions around myself as an individual and prevents me and those around me from being able to see me outside of these social constructed boxes. The Bell Jar is a coming-of-age novel but also a symbolic scream for change.
Angela Carter - The Bloody Chamber
Not a ‘feminist-take on fairy tales’, but, a ‘new beginning of new stories.’ I was intrigued to see how she would turn the stories—we all knew so well—on their heads, and whether I was able to look past through the storylines that have been so heavily engraved into our minds. She is writer who does not shy away from acknowledging the transformative power of sexual passion, even if the object of that passion is dark and corrupt. Her dark reworking of Bluebird’s Castle, Puss in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood, (and many more), demonstrate the frankness and clarity of her creativeness, making these tales so powerful and liberating.