The Thirty Book Challenge


The thirty book challenge is inspired by Marie Kondo’s quote that people should own around thirty books. For some of us, that number is scarily small, and whilst no one is forcing anyone to throw out their precious books, it has sparked a question. If you could only keep thirty books, which thirty would you choose.  

I did a big clear out of my books the other weekend. I did it the Kondo way; piling all the books that we have in the front room, then picking them up one at a time and deciding whether I wanted them or not. It took a long time, and my arms were aching by the evening but it was a successful day. I ended up with three bags of books ready to donate to the charity shop and all the book shelves are much better organised now. 

After going through this process; holding and considering every book I own I think I am ready to indulge in a hypothetical thirty book challenge. If I could only keep thirty books in the house these are the thirty I would keep.

  1. The Bible – Top of the list and my easiest choice. I wouldn’t ever choose to be without this life-giving, hope-lifting, heart pounding book. It’s though this book that I hear the voice of God.

2. Wuthering Heights – The book that inspired my mum to name me Cathy. Having Haworth and the moors on our doorsteps, I always feel a strong connection to Wuthering Heights, even though my own love story is as happy and simple, as Cathy and Heathcliffe’s is dark and twisted! 

3. The Moth Diaries – I think it is criminal that the Moth Diaries isn’t more well known. It’s perfect gothic teenage angst drama. A boarding school, a new girl, a troubled narrator. Are the forces of evil at work or is this the story of a young girl whose mind is unraveling after the death of her father?

4-6. The Lord of the Ring’s Trilogy – I happily give three precious spaces to J R R Tolkien’s masterpiece. I re-read the Return of the King over Christmas and even through I know exactly what is going to happen it still broke me!

7. Watership Down – I like Hobbits in my epics, and I like rabbits in my epics too! I maybe read Watership Down once every two – three years and it still makes me cry. 

8. The Little Lady Agency – This always puts me in a good mood, chick lit at it’s best. Melissa is a dowdy, respectable door-mat but her as her alter ego – blond bombshell Honey she runs around London as a Mary Poppins type figure, bossily transforming the lives of hopeless men. The Little Lady Agency is funny, charming and heartwarming. My copy is a bit battered now but I still love it. 

9 -15 The Harry Potter Series – Seven places gone to one series, but what a series! The build up, the magic, the themes of good v evil and how to stand up to tyranny. Neville Longbottom’s character development alone makes this series worthy of precious bookshelf space. 

16. Peter Pan – I remember as a child half-believing that if I could make myself stay up till midnight then Peter Pan would appear at my window and lead me off to Neverland for my own adventure. I love this story of childhood magic. I can’t wait to read it with Orla one day.

17. Jane Eyre – Another Bronte classic. I admire the character of Jane so much; she stays true to her own beliefs and sense of self. Jane Eyre is what I read when I need inspiration to stand my ground.

18. To Kill a Mocking Bird – I read this book in High School and loved studying it. The best time to read this book is over a hot summer, so that you can truly appreciate the feeling of rising temperatures and tensions.  Modern TV and films revel in anti-heroes but I think I am more inspired and interested in the straight-forward heros; like the wonderful Atticus Finch.

19. The Stand – I do like my epic tales of good versus evil and long journeys. I also greatly enjoy Stephen King’s writing so The Stand has to have a place on my list. The opening chapters give me shivers as society collapses under the lethal virus, and I think out of all the epics that I love, The Stand has the best fleshed out characters. Stu, Larry, Fran, Tom Moon… their journeys as characters are breathtaking. 

20. The Ladies Handbook of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness – Oh this book makes me smile. Perhaps the most obscure book that I own.  It is an etiquette guide written in 1860 for American ladies. The advice is a mixture of  wisdom on kindness and consideration, which is actually still relevant to most of us today, and then it includes some rather strange and hilarious advice; such as the recommendation for ladies not to travel alone on a train without a small bottle of brandy to settle her stomach on the journey. Fabulous! 

21. Gormenghast Trilogy – I have all the three Gormenghast books in one volume so this a bit of a cheat but it is technically one book on my shelf, so I am having it. I turn to this one when I want to lose myself in another world with the most odd and eccentric of people.

22. Rebecca – A good mystery novel with a plot twist is only good for re-reads if the solution to the mystery is present on every page once you know the answer. Rebecca does this perfectly. And even if it didn’t, I would still return to it just to wander the grounds of Manderley again!

23. The Thirteenth Tale – Once I chose Rebecca I realised that I must also keep The Thirteenth Tale. It is another gothic mystery involving a haunted house, an enclosed family and a timid narrator with an identity crisis. Like Rebecca, re-reading the novel knowing the answer to the mystery is like reading a whole new book. 

24. Pollyanna – My copy of Pollyanna was once my Granny’s and it is one of her favourite childhood books. Now it is one of my treasures, the lesson of choosing gladness may sound twee and unrealistic but I actually think it is still a pretty good mindset to develop.

25. Systematic Theology, An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine – A big fat bulky textbook that looks intimidating but actually this book is a joy. Systematic Theology is the study of God is a systematic way, i.e. by topic such as prayer/the Holy Spirit…etc. It is so well written and clear, drawing together what the whole of Scripture says on a topic that it is an excellent resource for anyone who teaches or preaches. But more than that, this book talks about God in such a way that each chapter just makes me want to worship Him more. It draws you to appreciate more and more the wonder of God.

26. Jurassic Park – Now for something completely different. A brilliant action book that made an excellent action movie. Fast paced, fun, and yes, thought provoking, Jurassic Park isn’t a book I would part with easily. Great one to revisit when

27. The Hobbit – Deciding on the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was easy but I wanted to make sure I had room for a few other books before I gave another slot to Tolkien. Happily, there were four spaces left on my hypothetical bookshelf and this is where the Hobbit belongs. A charming adventure story that places cunning and grit over strength and power. Please ignore the movies, the book is delightful.

28. The Night Circus – Whimsical, romantic and dream like. This is a story that is a treat for your senses, like Gormenghast it is all about losing yourself in a different world with some very peculiar characters. You’ll finish this and long to run away with the circus. 

29. Alfred Lord Tennyson Selected Poems – I studied Tennyson in College and was blown away by his poetry. Every now and then I need to return to it and read Ulysses again. “That which we are, we are; one equal temper of heroic hearts” Yes!

30. Garden Spells – I wanted another light-hearted book in my top thirty list, so the final slot is going to Garden Spells. Two sisters in a small town where everyone knows everyone, and where a magic apple tree reveals the future of those who eat it’s fruit. A book to read outside in the garden on the first day of summer.

And that’s my list. Maybe not the thirty greatest books in the world but for the thirty books I most want to read again and again, and again. if you are a book lover who likes to torture themselves, why not give the thirty book challenge a go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *