Library Blog

Kendriya Vidyalaya Port Trust, Kochi

Some Poems On Books And Reading

Author Unknown

I like books
I really do.
Books with stories
And pictures, too.

Books of birds
And things that grow.
Books of people
We should know.

Books of animals
And places, too.
I like books
I really do!


I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Dr. Seuss

I can read in red. I can read in blue.
I can read in pickle color too.
I can read in bed, and in purple. and in brown.
I can read in a circle and upside down!
I can read with my left eye. I can read with my right.
I can read Mississippi with my eyes shut tight!

There are so many things you can learn about.
But…you’ll miss the best things
If you keep your eyes shut.
The more that you read, the more things you will know
The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.

If you read with your eyes shut you’re likely to find
That the place where you’re going is far, far behind
SO…that’s why I tell you to keep your eyes wide.
Keep them wide open…at least on one side.


My Name
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

I wrote my name on the sidewalk
But the rain washed it away.
I wrote my name on my hand
But the soap washed it away.
I wrote my name on the birthday card
I gave to Mother today
And there it will stay
For Mother never throws
Of mine away!

This is a good poem to share when your are reading The Day of Ahmed’s Secret.
A book about a young boy in Cairo who has learned how to write his name.


I like books
Big books
Little books
Happy books
Sad books
Books with pictures
Books with words
I like books


-Grandpa Tucker

There are some words so hard to read.
Some confuse like bead and seed.
Do you know of go and dough?
There’s sew and sow, then there’s so!

Sometimes a word is hard to spell.
But it’s important for show and tell.
So work real hard to spell and read ’em.
‘Cause all your life you’ll really need ’em.

A mother’s love, a sunny day,
A frisky puppy hard at play.
Words can chase the clouds away.
Without our words, what would we say?


Hello Book!
by N.M. Bodecker

Hello book!
What are you up to?
Keeping yourself to yourself,
shut in between your covers,
a prisoner high on a shelf.
come in book!
What is your story?
Haven’t you ever been read?
Did you think
I would just pass by you
And pick me a comic instead?
No way book!
I’m your reader
I open you up.
Set you free.
Listen, I know a secret!
Will you share your secrets with me?


Pass The Poems, Please
by Jane Baskwill

Pass the poems please
Pile them on my plate
Put them right in front of me
For I can hardly wait
To take each tangy word
To try each tasty rhyme
And when I’ve tried them once or twice
I’ll try them one more time:
So pass the poems please
They just won’t leave my head
I have to have more poems
Before I go to bed.


by Ann Turner

Do you remember
learning to read?
That book full of squiggles
like ants, escaped.
the teacher’s big thumb
on the page,
your heart beating inside
afraid that all you’d ever see
was ants—
Then a word popped out.
“See,” and another, “cat,”
and my finger on teacher’s
we read “I see cat.”
I ran around the room
so happy I saw words
instead of ants.


School time, learning time,
For you and me.
H I J K L M N O P,
Recess time, book time,
For you and me.
Q R S T U V,
Gym time, sing time,
For you and me.
W, X and Y and Z(Canadian Z)
I’ll really be tired
When I go to bed.


Independent Strategies
by Jill Marie Warner

When I get stuck on a word in a book,
There are lots of things I can do.
I can do them all, please, by myself;
I don’t need help from you.
I can look at the picture to get a hint.
Or think what the story’s about.
I can “get my mouth ready” to say the first letter.
A kind of “sounding out”.
I can chop up the words into smaller parts,
Like on or ing or ly,
Or find smaller words in compound words
Like raincoat and bumblebee.
I can think of a word that makes sense in that place,
Guess or say “blank” and read on
Until the sentence has reached its end,
Then go back and try these on:
“Does it make sense?”
“Can we say it that way?”
“Does it look right to me?”
Chances are the right word will pop out like the sun
In my own mind, can’t you see?
If I’ve thought of and tried out most of these things
And I still do not know what to do,
Then I may turn around and ask
For some help to get me through.


Reading Strategies Song
(to the tune of “I’m a Little Tea Pot)

Look at the pictures, still no clue?
Read it again all the way through.
When you get to the place where you are stuck,
Get your mouth ready and the word pops up!
(AND NOW… let’s check it)
Think about the word you’re trying to say.
Does it make good sense? Does it sound okay?
Do all the letters look right to you?
These are the things good readers do!
Read it again all the way through.
When you come to the tricky part, don’t get blue.
Get your mouth ready but go on by.
Read to the end then give it a try.
(AND NOW…let’s check it again)
Think about the word you’re trying to say
Does it make good sense? Does it sound okay?
Do all the letters look right to you?
These are the things good readers do!


Now That I Can Read
I used to need somebody
To sit and read to me.
I’d look at every page they read
And listen carefully.
But now that I am in first grade,
I’m filling up a shelf
With stories, poems, and other books
That I can read myself.


Emergent Reader Poem
I’m trying hard to learn to read
But what’s a kid to do
When there’s a NO and a GO
and a SO and a HO,
And then there’s a word like TO?
Reading BONE and CONE and
Can almost be kind of fun,
But I get upset when I have to believe
That D-O-N-E spells DONE!
It’s plain to see a kid like me
Sure needs a helping hand.
No matter how much I really try
I just don’t understand.
I’m trying hard to learn to read.
Somehow that’s what I’ll do,
But for now if you’ll just read to me
Someday I’ll read to you!


Funny Words

English has some funny words
They give my mind the jitters
They sound the same to you and me,
But are spelled with different letters.
There’s see and sea
Ans be and bee
It’s terrible confusing!
There’s new and knew
And through and threw.
It’s really not amusing!
There’s deer and dear
And here and hear.
It’s horribly disturbing!
There’s there and their
And bare and bear.
It’s really most perturbing!

English is a Pain (Pane)
Rain, reign, rein
English is a pain.
Although the words
Sound just alike,
The spelling’s not the same.

Bee, be, b
I’d rather climb a tree
Than learn to spell
The same old word,
Not just one way, but three!

Sight, site, cite,
I try with all my might.
No matter which
I finally choose,
It’s not the one that’s right!

There, their, they’re,
Enough to mak you swear.
Too many ways
To write the one sound,
I just don’t think it’s fair!

To, two, too
So what’s a kid to do!
I think I’ll go
To live on Mars
And leave this mess with ewe!


Read to me
by Jane Yolen

Read to me riddles and read to me rhymes
Read to me stories of magical times
Read to me tales about castles and kings
Read to me stories of fabulous things
Read to me pirates and read to me knights
Read to me dragons and dragon-book fights
Read to me spaceships and cowboys and then
When you are finished- please read them again.


A Book Speaks
When you drop me on the floor
I get stepped on – my sides are sore;
Torn-out pages make me groan;
I feel dizzy if I’m thrown;
Every mark and every stain
On my covers gives me pain;
Please don’t bend me, if you do
I don’t want to talk to you;
But we will both be friends together,
If you protect me from the weather
And keep me clean so that I look
A tidy, neat and happy book.


Look in a Book
by Ivy O. Eastwick

in a book
and you will see
and magic
and mystery.

in a book
and you will find
and nonsense
of every kind.

in a book
and you will know
the things
that can help you grow.


In a Story Book
At night when sunshine goes away,
And it’s too dark for me to play,
I like to come inside, and look
For new friends in a story book.


A story is a special thing
The ones that I have read
They do not stay inside the books
They stay inside my head.

Welcome to school!
May this school year bring
You happiness galore,
And may you enjoy it-
Right to the core!

by Eileen Buckard Norris

Books lead folks
To other lands
Bind folks
With friendship bands
Tell folds of bygone days
Bring folks Tomorrow’s way.


How To Eat A Poem
by Eve Merriam

Don’t be polite.
Bite in.
Pick it up and eat the juice that may run down your chin.
It is ready and ripe now whenever you are.
You do not need a knife or fork or spoon
or plate or napkin or tablecloth
For there is no core
or stem
or rind
or pit
or seed
to throw away.


Good Books, Good Times
by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Good books, good times
Good stories
Good rhymes
Good beginnings
Good ends
Good people
Good friends
Good fiction
Good facts
Good adventures
Good acts
Good stories
Good rhymes
GOOD books
GOOD times


What is a Book?
by Lora Duneta

A book is pages, pictures and words
A book is animals, people and birds
A book is stories of queens and kings
Poems and songs- so many things!
Curled in a corner where I can hide
With a book I can journey far and wide
Though it’s only paper from end to end
A book is a very special friend.


Adventures with Books
Author Unknown

Books are ships that sail the seas
To lands of snow or jungle trees
And I’m the captain bold and free
Who will decide which place we’ll see
Come let us sail the magic ship
Books are trains in many lands
Crossing hills or desert sands
And I’m the engineer who guides
The train on its exciting rides. Come, let us ride the magic train
Books are zoos that make a home
For birds and beasts not free to roam
And I’m the keeper of the zoo
I choose the things to show to you
Come, let us visit in a zoo
Books are gardens, fairies, elves
Cowboys and people like ourselves
And I can find with one good look
Just what I want inside a book
Come, let us read! For reading’s fun


Books To the Ceiling
by Arnold Lobel

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky
My piles of books are a mile high
How I love them
How I need them
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them


Once Upon a Time
by Bill Martin. Jr.
Once upon a, once upon a
Once upon a time
Tell it again, Storyteller
Tell it again
The Storyteller came to town
To share his gifts sublime
Tell it again, Storyteller
Tell it again
Doors flew open to him
Kings begged him not depart
And children tucked his stories
In the pockets of their heart
Once upon a
Once upon a
Once upon a time
Tell it again, Storyteller
Tell it again.


by Beverly McLoughland

The biggest
On the library shelf
is when you suddenly
Find yourself
Inside a book-
(the HIDDEN you)
You wonder how
The author knew.


The Poet Says
by Babs Bell Hajdusiewicz

A poem is a part of me-
A part of me you do not see
You see my head
You see my hind
But you can’t see what’s in my mind
So I must write that part of me
The part of me you cannot see
I take some paper,
A pencil, or pen
To write what’s in my mind and then…
You have a poem
To read and…see!
I’ve given you
A part of me


Open A Book
by Jane Baskwill

Open a book
And you will find
People and places of every kind
Open a book
And you can be
Anything that you want to be:
Open a book
And you can share
Wondrous worlds you find in there
Open a book
And I will too
You read to me
And I’ll read to you.


What Is A Book?
by Lora Dunetz

A book is pages, pictures, and words;
A book is animals, people, and birds.

A book is stories of queens and kings,
Poems and songs – so many things!

Curled in a corner where I can hide,
With a book I can journey far and wide.

Though it’s only paper from end to end,
A book is a very special friend.

[I found all these lovely poems at and just had to share them with you – Librarian]

Filed under: Poetry, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Pleasures Of Reading

Reading is to mind while exercise is to the body. “A man may as well expect to grow stronger by always eating as wiser by always reading.”

But why do we really need to read? “Reading sweeps the cobwebs away.” What does this means? “Reading enhances thinking. It stretches and strains our mental muscles. It hits our narrow, delicate, intolerant views with new ideas and strong facts. It stimulates growing up instead of growing old.

In other words, reading develops us. It scratches those itches down deep inside. It takes us through virgin territory we would not otherwise discover.

There are three classifications of reader: simple reader, gentle reader and intelligent reader.

The Simple reader is an ordinary book consumer who read to make use of his spare time. Without any definite purpose, more often than not he does not read a book the second time.

The Gentle reader, who wants to grow and who turns to books as a means of purifying his tastes depends his feelings, broadening his sympathies and enhancing his joy in life. He reads not from a constraint of fashion of learning, but from a thirst of pleasure. Such enjoyment re-establish the heart and quickens it, makes it stronger to endure the ills of life and more fertile in all good fruits of courage, love and cheerfulness.

The Intelligent reader is the particular type of reader whose aim in reading is to obtain better acquaintance with facts. His greatest desire is to learn about things and he treasures books because of the accuracy of information they contain.

To become a good reader, here are some pointers.

– Maintain a healthful routine. This means that to read at your best, you must be in good physical condition. Most of us read only when we are stranded in an island or when we. are confined in the hospital.

– When reading avoid unnecessary distractions. Some people we know have trained themselves to read in noisy surroundings. Most persons, however, find it easier to read in a disturbing sights and sounds.

– Have a clear objective for your reading. Why do you read? And why do you read that kind of book? When you turn the printed page, you should have a clear purpose for reading in mind. Just saying the word’s silently while your mind is elsewhere, or when you have no goal for your reading, is a waste of time.

– Get into the habit of reading widely. You can improve your reading ability only by reading abundantly. Get into the habit of reading a great deal. You may start with light materials – with a popular magazine, a daily newspaper, or a book of easy short stories.

Find time to discover the richness of reading. Reading can make you rich in mind and soul. Try reading, you’ll enjoy it!


Filed under: Career and self-development, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

50 Books You Must Read

Isn’t it a wonder that even in these hectic times when channel surfing is almost second nature to most children, books still endure! No wonder book exhibitions are such a crowd puller. Books have been with us for thousands of years and will remain with us (in any format) as long as one happily welcomes a cuddle down with a favourite engrosser.

Here is a list of 50 books you ought to read in your lifetime.

1984: George Orwell (Penguin)

The book that gave us Big Brother and Room 101 provides a compelling and chilling view of a totalitarian state. Even more horrifying than the loss of freedom is the constant rewriting of history which effectively removes the past. Although Winston and Julia’s love affair provides a temporary haven, their fate is inescapable. JH

A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess (Penguin)

Burgess invented a whole new language, a kind of Russian cockney called Nadset, for his unnerving dystopian fantasy. Alex and his gang of teenage “droogs” pillage in a fragmented urban landscape, raping and robbing at will, until police try to recondition his mind through nauseating aversion therapy. Think ID cards, Asbos and hoodies. JR

A Kestrel for a Knave: Barry Hines (Penguin)

A favourite school text in the 60s and 70s. Many children at the time will have identified greatly with this gritty portrayal of northern life and schooling. The swearing was an added bonus for any 13-year-old and the contemporary jacket – featuring a film still of hero Billy Casper flicking a V-sign – sums up this rebellious, rough and rude classic of 60s social realism. KN

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll (Penguin)

Lewis Carroll’s weird and wonderful tale of what happened when Alice fell down the rabbit hole. Peopled by fantastic characters like Old Father William and the Cheshire Cat, readers of all ages will cheer Alice on as she organises the prizes for the Dodo race and reproves the jurors at the Knave of Hearts’ trial. JH

American Psycho: Brett Easton Ellis (Macmillan)

Patrick Batemen swims through the status-conscious shark pool of 1980s New York, where the Wall Street dealers enjoy coke-fuelled sneering, preening and sexual conquests. Patrick has even less regard for others than his peers, and unwinds by killing them. The satire is as sharp as the tailoring in this horrific, hilarious novel. MW

Breakfast at Tiffany’s: Truman Capote (Penguin)

The story of beautiful, glamorous, impossibly remote Holly Golightly. Her apartment rings to the sound of her cocktail parties, at which millionaires and gangsters are equally at home, but her past is shrouded in mystery. Capote’s novella charts her quest to find a place where she feels she can belong. SC

Brighton Rock: Graham Greene (Random House)

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.” So Greene opens his rollercoaster ride through the gang underworld of the seaside town. The lead characters, nihilistic thug Pinkie and happy-go-luck hooker Ida, can feel more like archetypes used to explore the nature of sin and morality. But a breathless thriller-style plot carries the day. JR

Catch-22: Joseph Heller (Random House)

It is remarkable that Catch-22, a hilarious but savage indictment of the military system, was published a mere 16 years after the end of the second world war. Yossarian struggles to remain sane amid an onslaught of absurdities and a cast of cranks. Today Heller’s dazzling, surreal achievement is undimmed. JR

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Roald Dahl (Penguin)

Dahl knew exactly what excites children: chocolate. Read Charlie’s uplifting tale to any primary school class today, and they’ll be wide-eyed, hungry for the next chapter. Uproarous, surreal, and sprinkled with wry asides, the story features a cavalcade of unforgettable characters, from sickly Augustus Gloop to spoilt Veruca Salt and the Oompaloompas. JR

Close Range: Brokeback Mountain and other stories: Annie Proulx (HarperCollins)

It would be hard to imagine a finer short story writer and pretty nigh impossible to recall a better collection. Any one of the 11 tales of hardship and endurance set within the communities of ranchers, cowpokes and country wives in the unforgiving Wyoming landscape would make a fine film. In the event, one made a great one. AG

Devil in a Blue Dress: Walter Mosley (Serpent’s Tail)

Walter Mosley’s first published novel (he was working as a computer programmer at the time) was an instant hit in 1990. With the central character, Easy Rawlins, Mosley gave an African-American twist to the gumshoe tradition, and Rawlins’ search for a missing girl in the immediate postwar period allowed Mosley to address race issues generally ignored in the annals of classic private-eye literature. AP

Different Seasons (includes The Shawshank Redemption): Stephen King (Hodder)

Perhaps, like many, you thought King only wrote horror and wasn’t for you. Perhaps, like many, you don’t like short stories and look for a bigger, more satisfying novel. I bet you live on your own and like staying in a lot too. Different Seasons is a triumph unequalled in that it contains four totally gripping and unique novellas in one volume that has inspired not one but three great films: The Shawshank Redemption, Stand By Me, and Apt Pupil. Live a little – just read it. AG

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Philip K Dick (Orion)

Earth has been devastated by war, and through its ruins stalks bounty hunter Rick Deckard, seeking renegade replicants. With his bounty money he dreams of buying a live animal, the ultimate status symbol in a world almost bereft of animal life. And then he falls for a replicant and his life becomes a nightmare of subterfuge and deceit. JH

Doctor Zhivago: Boris Pasternak (Random House)

An intense and memorable love story set during the Russian revolution. Caught in the tide of events that swept Moscow during the early 20th century, physician and poet Yuri Zhivago wrestles with the politics of the new order and the anguish of loving a woman who is not his wife. SC

Empire of the Sun: JG Ballard (HarperCollins)

Many of Ballard’s earlier great novels borrowed from his childhood experiences in 1940s Shanghai, but when he finally came to record his own early years, albeit disguised as another novel, a true masterpiece was unveiled. Written over 20 years ago, Empire is a literary jewel that towers over many of the lesser novels that somehow managed to beat it to the Booker in the 80s. AG

Fight Club: Chuck Pahluniak (Random House)

The archetypal fable of anti-corporate discontent, Fight Club was apparently inspired after a holiday beating administered to author Chuck Pahluniak. The central character, never named, encounters charismatic anarchist Tyler Durden, and is drawn into a world of violence, subversion and “space monkeys”, wreaking terror on society at large via a campaign called Project Mayhem. AP

Get Shorty: Elmore Leonard (Penguin)

If you claim a passing interest in crime fiction, or boast a film buff’s knowledge of Hollywood and its workings, or possess a thorough understanding of modern meaning for the word “cool”, you’re a fraud unless you’ve read this book. The film was MDF covered with polished veneer; the novel, solid gleaming oak. AG

Goldfinger: Ian Fleming (Penguin)

In this chilled cocktail of espionage and existentialism, the calculating, cold war lady-killer pits his wits against the notorious Auric Goldfinger. A world away from the martini-quaffing , clowning lothario of the movies, Fleming’s Bond is colder, crueller and more brilliant. Whether writing about girls, guns or golf, nobody does it better. MW

Goodfellas: Nicholas Pileggi (Bloomsbury)

An account of a real-life mobster’s criminal career before he turned himself in as a federal witness. Originally published under the title Wiseguy, the book tells the true story of Henry Hill: “At the age of 12 my ambition was to be a gangster … To be a wiseguy was to own the world.” KN

Heart of Darkness: Joseph Conrad (OUP)

Still the debate rages: is Conrad’s novella an incisive critique of colonialism, or does it reinforce the very racist values it claims to unmask? Either way, his shrouded account of Marlow’s journey into the “god-forsaken wilderness” of the Congo demands to be read. At its core lies the enigmatic, awesome Kurtz, and civilisation itself. “And this also,’ said Marlow suddenly, ‘has been one of the dark places of the earth.'” JR

Jaws: Peter Benchley (Macmillan)

This is pulp fiction of the very best kind. Jaws was a monster of a bestseller long before that much-imitated soundtrack achieved ubiquity. A great book to get teenage boys interested in reading: big sharks, stacks of action, a bit of science and, as I remember, it even gets a bit steamy once or twice! KN

LA Confidential: James Ellroy (Random House)

Ellroy is not for lovers of cappuccino, latte, decaf or any of that nonsense. His novels represent the deadly rich aroma and slimy strength of a double espresso. Each sentence of this, his most essential novel set among corrupt policemen in 50s LA, has been lovingly prepared and should be sipped over a long period to fully appreciate its power and brilliance. AG

Les Liaisons Dangereuses: Choderlos de Laclos (OUP)

A breathtakingly amoral celebration of libertinism, presented as a series of letters between the calculating central characters and their victims, first published in 1782. The damned, devastating charmer Valmont determines to seduce the virtuous, retiring wife of Monsieur de Tourvel, and win a wager with his conspirator the Marquise de Merteuil. MW

Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov (Penguin)

With its unreliable narrator and ambiguous tone, Lolita avoids drawing any definite moral conclusions from this notorious story of ageing academic Humbert Humbert and his obsessive confusion of lust and love for a 12-year-old girl. It is Nabokov’s playful prose, however, that is the most bewitching aspect of this novel. MW

Lord of the Flies: William Golding (Faber)

“‘I ought to be chief,’ said Jack with simple arrogance, ‘because I’m chapter chorister and head boy. I can sing C sharp’.” The other boys disagree, and Ralph is elected leader thanks to his skills with a conch. That’s the end of democracy on the island, as the plane-wrecked group descend into savagery. Golding’s fable retains its full moral force. JR

Oliver Twist: Charles Dickens (OUP)

Orphan Oliver flees his cruel apprentice-master for London, where he falls in with a group of thieves, headed by Fagin and the brutal Bill Sykes. Rescued by philanthropic Mr Brownlow, he is recaptured by the gang, who have fallen in with his grasping half-brother. Good eventually triumphs when Oliver is saved again and the gang leaders brought to justice. SC

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Ken Kesey (Penguin)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was a direct attack on the abusive and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in the middle of the 20th century. It should also be read as an attack on all forms of authority and a celebration of the free spirit. Fast-living anti-hero Randall P McMurphy has a literary ancestor in Mark Twain’s freewheeling and rebellious Huckleberry Finn. KN

Orlando: Virgina Woolf (Penguin)

Orlando is a young Englishman who lives during Elizabeth I’s reign and for centuries afterwards, refuses to grow old and metamorphoses into a woman. This extraordinary novel is a rich celebration of literature, from Elizabethan heroic verse to Woolf’s modernist contemporaries, and has also been read as a love letter to Vita Sackville-West. MW

Pride and Prejudice: Jane Austen (OUP)

Love conquers all in Georgian England. In her quintessential comedy of manners, Austen charts the five Bennet daughters’ adventures on the marriage market with insight, wit and a keen eye for the ridiculous. The central love story between impetuous Elizabeth and dashing-but-aloof Mr Darcy has captivated successive generations of readers. SC

Rebecca: Daphne du Maurier (Time Warner)

On holiday in Monte Carlo, the nameless heroine of Daphne du Maurier’s darkly gothic romance meets and marries the handsome Maxim de Winter and returns with him to his brooding mansion, Manderley. But the lengthy shadow cast by his late first wife, Rebecca, proves impossible to escape. SC

Schindler’s Ark: Thomas Keneally (Hodder)

The story of Oscar Schindler, self-made entrepreneur and bon viveur who almost by default found himself saving Polish Jews from the Nazi death machine. Based on numerous eyewitness accounts, Keneally’s story is unbearably moving but never melodramatic, a testament to the almost unimaginable horrors of Hitler’s attempts to make Europe judenfrei. JH

Sin City: Frank Miller (Dark Horse Comics)

Dark, cynical tales from the mean streets of Miller’s beautifully drawn but desperate and doom-laden city. A collection of curvy dames, haunted thugs and screwed-up villains struggle to survive in a vipers’ nest of treachery and stylish immorality. The monochrome artwork is unique, dramatic and filled with long shadows that ooze noirish cool. MW

Tess of the D’Urbevilles: Thomas Hardy (OUP)

Readers still weep for Tess. She starts out as a delicate girl, a “mere vessel of emotion untinctured by experience,” but is inexorably corrupted by a cruel world. Hardy poured all his heart into her, interweaving her tragedy with Wessex’s hallucinatory landscape and ballad traditions. JR

The Day of the Triffids: John Wyndham (Penguin)

Forget the dodgy special effects of the filmed version; Wyndham’s writing lies very much at the sophisticated end of the sci-fi spectrum and 55 years after publication, The Day of the Triffids still has interesting things to say about catastrophic environmental change and societal breakdown. A fantastic, frightening, high-concept page-turner. KN

The English Patient: Michael Ondaatjee (Bloomsbury)

Ondaatje’s Booker prize-winning novel is set in the ruins of a palatial Italian villa, amid the dying embers of the second world war. Nurse Hana and sapper Kip care for a badly burned Englishman, who reveals his haunting story in fragments. A spellbinding thriller of lost love, told in luminous, poetic prose. JR

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: John Fowles (Random House)

In his most acclaimed novel, Fowles marries a timeless love-triangle story with a pitch-perfect description of the crisis of Darwinism in late-Victorian England. The book is afforded classic status by Fowles’ subtle postmodern dissection of the art of the novelist (he memorably offers the reader a choice of three endings). SC

The Godfather: Mario Puzo (Random House)

A gripping narrative that takes you into the heart of the murky world of the mafia, where the all-powerful Corleones are under threat from new ways and new men. Brilliantly realised, Puzo reveals a world where the lawmen are morally more corrupt than the mobsters who operate under an inviolable law of loyalty to family and friends. JH

The Hound of the Baskervilles: Arthur Conan Doyle (OUP)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous story is this sinister, gothic tale of the glowing canine terrorising Baskerville Hall. Although the uneasy atmosphere of the supernatural circles this story like mist on Grimpen Moor, Sherlock Holmes brings his brilliant logical mind to bear on the mystery of the “bogie hound”. MW

The Jungle Book: Rudyard Kipling (OUP)

The books (there was a second) were written over 110 years ago and represent much more than just a children’s classic. They represent Kipling’s entire philosophy of life in a complex literary work of art. For 30 years, he was perhaps the most popular writer and poet in English. Underpinned by his abiding theme of self-discovery, these books are an incredible revelation. AG

The Maltese Falcon: Dashiell Hammett (Orion)

A former Pinkerton’s agent, Dashiell Hammett virtually invented the hardboiled private-eye genre with this 1930 novel. Introducing Sam Spade, “a blond satan”, Hammett set up a convoluted mystery larded with snappy dialogue, brooding tension, grotesque characters, and a louche-but-tough morality. Its success saw Hammett courted by Paramount studios and an extended, erratic stay in Hollywood. AP

The Outsiders: SE Hinton (Puffin)

A first-person account of tribal divisions at a US high school by Ponyboy Curtis, a “greaser” whose life is dominated by strife with the better-off “socs”, or “socials”. Written in her teens by Susie “SE” Hinton as a conscious rebellion against the way teenagers were generally portrayed in American fiction, The Outsiders fitted perfectly with the chaos-riven late-60s world in which it was published. AP

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: Muriel Spark (Penguin)

Muriel Spark’s sixth novel, published in 1961, remains by far her best-loved, and the one for which she will always be remembered. The eponymous Brodie is a teacher in an Edinburgh girls’ school, intent on instilling her own high, if dubious, ideals into her charges. It has literary audacity – a dizzying cocktail of time shifts, irony, and character manipulation – but no one can miss its rich, sharp humour. AP

The Railway Children: Edith Nesbitt (Penguin)

When their father is arrested, Roberta, Peter, Phyllis and their mother must leave comfortable London for the country. The children become fascinated by the railway at the bottom of the garden, and wave everyday to a kindly passenger on the London train, who ultimately holds the key to their father’s freedom. SC

The Remains of the Day: Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber)

Ishiguro’s Booker prize-winning novel is narrated by Stevens, a butler whose profession has subsumed his emotional life. On a motoring tour on the way to meet his former housekeeper, Stevens relates the events of his career and the reader discovers through the chinks in the narrative the heartbreak that lies behind his painfully reserved facade. SC

The Spy Who Came in From the Cold: John Le Carré (Hodder)

The classic Cold War espionage novel exposes the lengths to which governments will go in the name of national security – and the paranoia that affected everybody after the second world war. Tightly plotted and truly gripping, Le Carre’s byzantine plot is slowly revealed layer after layer until the shocking end. JH

The Talented Mr Ripley: Patricia Highsmith (Random House)

The first of Patricia Highsmith’s five novels about the amoral Tom Ripley, this 1955 masterpiece is the ultimate identity-theft thriller. Ripley stalks and then kills his well-off friend Dickie Greenleaf, assumes his name and lifestyle, and finally steals his inheritance money after forging Greenleaf’s will. AP

The Vanishing: Tim Krabbé (Bloomsbury)

Originally titled The Golden Egg, this Dutch novel by Tim Krabbé (brother of film actor Jeroen) is a simply written but thoroughly chilling account of an abduction and murder from two different points of view: the left-behind partner, and the killer himself. The final sequence, of their encounter and what transpires, is arguably the most quietly horrific in any literature. AP

To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee (Random House)

Set in 1930s Alabama, eight-year-old Scout Finch can’t understand why people are so upset when her father, the town attorney, takes his role of defending a black man accused of raping a white woman seriously. The events surrounding the trial change the town, its inhabitants and the Finch family profoundly: a book that everyone should read. JH

Trainspotting: Irvine Walsh (Random House)

Trainspotting is a foul-mouthed, grotesque and hysterical depiction of the drug-fuelled underbelly of Britain in the 90s. Irvine Welsh’s first novel is not simply a gratuitous tour of the Edinburgh slums, though; it takes on issues of cultural divide, violence and male relationships in an uncomfortable, difficult, but often hilarious, street argot. KN

Watership Down: Richard Adams (Penguin)

The adventures of Fiver, his brother Hazel, and a cast of other talking rabbits will live long in the memory of many a child of the 70s. Worth re-reading as an adult to fully appreciate Richard Adams’ rendering of the rabbit world and what he was actually trying to say about the environment and even human relationships. KN


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Book Highlight

Told in diary form by an irresistible heroine, this playful and perceptive novel from the New York Times bestselling author of the May Bird trilogy sparkles with science, myth, magic, and the strange beauty of the everyday marvels we sometimes forget to notice.

Spirited, restless Gracie Lockwood has lived in Cliffden, Maine, her whole life. She’s a typical girl in an atypical world: one where sasquatches helped to win the Civil War, where dragons glide over Route 1 on their way south for the winter (sometimes burning down a T.J. Maxx or an Applebee’s along the way), where giants hide in caves near LA and mermaids hunt along the beaches, and where Dark Clouds come for people when they die.

To Gracie it’s all pretty ho-hum…until a Cloud comes looking for her little brother Sam, turning her small-town life upside down. Determined to protect Sam against all odds, her parents pack the family into a used Winnebago and set out on an epic search for a safe place that most people say doesn’t exist: The Extraordinary World. It’s rumored to lie at the ends of the earth, and no one has ever made it there and lived to tell the tale. To reach it, the Lockwoods will have to learn to believe in each other—and to trust that the world holds more possibilities than they’ve ever imagined.

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