My Personal Canon | 2017

Recently Jillian @ To Begin with I Read Jane Eyre created a post about her own personal literary canon and requested that I do the same. The goal is to compose a list of books that have greatly influenced your life, that you consider to be your favorite books, etc. I think this is a really interesting idea because there are so many different variables involved. On what criteria do you decide which books to include? Do you focus solely on books that have had a positive influence on your life? How long should your list be? Canon formation in general is really fascinating, but that’s a topic for another day.

For now, here is what I consider to be my personal canon. Some of these books I’ve read more times than I can count, while others I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing once. Some have shaped who I’ve grown to be since childhood, while others have influenced my much more recently. Nevertheless, all of these books are ones that I love wholeheartedly, that I would read again and highly recommend to others. You’ll likely recognize these as ones I talk a lot about on this blog! In no particular order, they are:

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

I don’t think this one needs much of an explanation. I first started this series when I was in second grade and in a way I don’t think I’ll ever be truly done with it completely. Even though I’ve certainly “finished” the series in the sense that I’ve read all seven books, I know that I’ll keep rereading it well into the future.

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

Again, this one doesn’t require much of an explanation. I’ve reread these books more times than I can possibly count and they played a huge role in shaping my reading tastes and interests in middle school. They’re books I return to again and again for comfort, reassurance, and entertainment alike.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg

I vividly remember buying my first and only copy of this book at a Scholastic book fair when I was in third grade. (Did anyone else LOVE those things?!?!) Since then I’ve reread it nearly every summer and each time I discover something new. What was at first a simple summer camp story in my ten-year-old eyes has transformed into a story of family, history, creativity, and resilience. (And THIS is why rereading is both important and awesome!)

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta

I’m sure it is absolutely no surprise to anyone in the slightest that this book has a spot in my personal canon. Words cannot express how much I LOVE this book. It’s the one book I always bring with me to college each semester and that I talk about incessantly on this blog. For the millionth time, PLEASE read this fantastic novel. ❤

Gone by Michael Grant

Interestingly, this book’s influence comes from the context in which I first read it: a lunchtime book club in seventh grade. Through avidly reading and following this series’ six books I met one of my best friends, actually met Michael Grant in person at a book-signing, and realized how social reading could be.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

In reality, this is more of a placeholder for all of John Green’s books, though Looking for Alaska is probably my favorite. As with Gone, the context surrounding these books has been just as influential in my life (if not more so) than the content of the books themselves. John and Hank Green have shaped my life in countless ways at a time when I needed it most (I’m looking at you, tumultuous middle school years).

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reading this classic novel in my high school American literature class opened my eyes to the depth and breadth that symbolism could add to books. Though this symbolism is pretty obvious (colors, the green light, East and West Egg, the eyes, etc.) it nevertheless made me realize how interesting and fun analyzing literature with a critical eye could be.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Ah, Jane Eyre. I adore this novel not for the romance, writing, or plot (though all aspects of this book are fantastic) but primarily for the character of Jane herself. She is strong, independent, witty, kind, determined, and resilient– everything that I aspire to be. I’ve only read this novel once; however, it has lingered in my mind with more clarity than most other books I’ve read since then. I can’t wait to read it again soon!

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I ADORED this book when I was assigned to read it for my AP English class senior year of high school (much to the annoyance of the majority of my peers, who didn’t share my enthusiasm). I love watching Pip grow over time and overcome all of the obstacles he has to face. Dickens’ writing is witty and captivating, and the plot twist at the end had me gasping in surprise. This is another one that I definitely have to reread in the near future!

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave by Frederick Douglass

Since reading this autobiography in my Intro to Literature class during my first semester of college I have written at least three papers about it and researched the critical reception of Douglass’ works in general. Something about Douglass’ life and use of language to transform himself in American society fascinates me like nothing else.

My Ántonia by Willa Cather

I read this for my Cultural Diversity in American Literature class during my second semester of college and have not been able to stop thinking about it since (I’m only slightly exaggerating here). The narrative is constructed brilliantly and I think it’s fascinating how we only ever see Ántonia through the lens of Jim’s narration. Since then I’ve read two of Cather’s other novels and am eagerly looking forward to reading more!

There are so many books that I could have included, but I think this is a solid look into the books that have had the greatest influence on me thus far. Thanks so much to Jillian for asking me to make a personal canon! I had such a great time forming this list and thinking about all of the amazing books I’ve had the pleasure of reading over the years.

What books would be in your personal canon? What are you thoughts on any of the books that I’ve mentioned? Let me know in the comments section below!



36 thoughts on “My Personal Canon | 2017

    1. ahhh I’m SO GLAD you loved The Hobbit!!!!! It’s one of my absolute favorite books ever and LOTR is equally as amazing. ❤ Definitely let me know your thoughts on LOTR as soon as you read it! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  1. My canon would be: Harry Potter, Hobbit/LOTR, Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman, Shadow of the Wind by Zafon, Sherlock Holmes, The Spy Who Came In From The Cold and Angels in Demons 🙂

    I studied the causes of the American Civil War at university, and I read some of the Frerick Douglass autobiography so I can understand why you have it on your list. I could probably put one of the books I studied on my list as there are so many interesting books about that period in history.

    Great list Holly! 🙂

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    1. Dark Materials is a great one! I loved that series when I read it years ago and I still find myself thinking about it sometimes… the entire premise of those books is so interesting! I really need to read Shadow of the Wind soon because I’ve heard such amazing things about it.
      Thanks! 🙂

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      1. The Book of Dust is out this year and I think they are making a TV series out of the books that is out later this year, early next!
        The Shadow of the Wind is my all time favourite book. I seem to recommend it every week to someone. 🙂

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    1. I definitely need to read more books by Margaret Atwood. The only one I’ve read is The Handmaid’s Tale, but I absolutely loved it.


  2. Thank you so much for doing this, Holly! I’m really glad you had fun looking throughout your reading memories. It’s like going through a box of letters and remembering the loveliest of times. x

    WE SHARE DOUGLASS AND BRONTE!! I completely agree with what you say about Jane: that’s why I love that book, too. Jane, through and through. If you haven’t read it, I recommend Villette by Charlotte Bronte. It’s not happy like Jane Eyre, but I think it’s beautifully done. Also, that you’ve done so much research on Douglass really impresses me. I love the theme that writing and reading has in his life — that it completely transformed him. And that without it, he was a prisoner, and with it, he found the strength and courage to fight, and communicate eloquently. Just completely awe-inspiring, to me. I’d love to shake his hand.

    I will have to read Great Expectations and Jellicoe Road, since you so love them! Also, I need to read Willa Cather. Margaret Mitchell read My Antonia, don’t ya know? It’s on my Margaret Mitchell reading list. 🙂

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    1. AHHH YES I’m so happy we both put Douglass and Bronte down!! I absolutely need to read more by Charlotte Bronte, so I’ll definitely be adding Villette to my list. I also feel the same way about Douglass– he is an incredible inspiration in countless ways, both in terms of his success as a writer and a human being in general. ❤
      Oh my goodness, PLEASE tell me your thoughts on My Antonia once you read it. I would love to know what you think!
      Thanks so much for sharing the idea of the personal canon with me in the first place! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I was thinking of doing a similar video to this post, about “books that made me who I am”, but I struggle so hard to choose books for it! I loved reading through yours – I bet Harry Potter is on so many people’s list! I agree with loving Jane Eyre for the character of Jane too, she’s amazing ❤

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    1. That’s an awesome idea for a video! It is difficult to pick books for a list like that, though. I would probably just list a bunch of books and then narrow it down from there until I got to a smaller number.

      Jane Eyre is the best ❤

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    1. Looking for Alaska is definitely my favorite John Green book, though I feel as though if I read them for the first time now that I’m in college I might feel differently about them. Nostalgia plays such a large part in why I love them now ❤

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    1. Thanks so much!! It really is amazing to think about how much I’ve been influenced and shaped by books over the years. I would be a completely different person without these stories in my life.

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    1. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who loved Great Expectations when they read it in school ❤ It was such a disappointment to learn that no one else in my class enjoyed reading it because it's a great novel.

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  4. Oh this is such a lovely post! I’m so glad that John Green books basically had the same effect on you than they did on me ahah ❤ ❤ Also, Harry Potter, obviously ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  5. So many great books here – Harry Potter, Jane Eyre, The Hobbit, LOTR, The Great Gatsby – they’d all be on my list too. I also remember reading Gatsby in high school and just being blown away by the symbolism and the imagery. It’s definitely one of the books that made me love studying literature!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree! I think it’s so important to teach The Great Gatsby in schools because it really is one of those books that opens your eyes to how interesting studying literature can be. ❤

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