There is something nostalgic about selecting a book and sitting down to turn its pages. It's an action reminiscent of sleepy days where nothing needs to be done. When you sink beneath a volume of words, you board a train to somewhere unknown. Now that 2015 has wound to a close, my holidays stretch out before me and beckon for me to pick up a new book. Academic texts on fashion theory, art history and post-feminism that littered my bedroom are left behind for now. Instead they're replaced with a novel I'd rather carry; an undisclosed ticket.
I can now read for pleasure, and get off at any stop.

Since a young age I've remained an avid reader. In primary school the library stifled me after I read my fair share of Jackie French,  Iranian themed novels and anything with a horse on the cover. I borrowed and finished 2-3 books a week. Conveniently enough, I'm never stifled by lack of choice as I now work at a bookshop, where I first handed in my resume at 8 years of age. Nonetheless I got the job some years later. Throughout my first years of high school I would borrow consistently from the library, a new place where I read many books I probably shouldn't have. I even remember some of my friends and I hiding books on the shelves while there on class visits so we could come back and borrow them at lunch time. Safe to say I was pretty obsessed. Books consumed most of my spare time and I continued to fill up notebooks worth of short stories. When I was fifteen, I decided to "write a book". 30,000 words later, I deleted the whole thing in a spout of teenage rage. It was crap, everything was crap. In my final years of high school, despite working in a bookstore I read less and less. I still wrote a bit, scattered throughout school books and random journals. However, the books I did read stimulated some of my strongest values. They rubbed off against my shoulder with some force, seeping under my skin and evidently permeating my identity. Moreover, they acted as a snake oil concoction, soothing my insecurities and entertaining my curiosities of times gone by.

Here are just five of some of my favourite books I've ever read. Some I read in school and others after I'd left. Nevertheless, they've impacted me in ways I am both aware and unaware of. 

1. 'Just Kids', Patti Smith (2010)
"No one expected me. Everything awaited me," (p25)

Fifteen years old on a plane ride to New Zealand I began to read the story of a woman I barely knew of. I'd danced to her Gloria which turned around and around on a turntable in my friend's bedroom. "Who is this?" I'd asked, and my friends responded by lending me Smith's memoir they'd come across while away on a trip to Europe.  Gripping the book by its cover above the clouds, I delved into Just Kids.

This book is so honest, a pure recount of a life lived. Smith tells of her early years and humble beginnings, that so eloquently re-evokes a childhood plagued by illness and wild imagination. After falling into trouble as a teenage girl, she makes an inspired move to New York City in 1967. That summer she meets artist Robert Mapplethorpe and the rest is history. Just Kids captures Smith's sheer tenacity to make something of herself. Moreover, it delves into her intense relationship with Mapplethorpe as they became two creative kindred spirits, punctuated by the iconic time they lived and breathed. 

Smith's grounded though hauntingly poignant narration drew me into her story. Weaving stream of consciousness prose throughout her words, Smith tells everything beautifully, even the ugly. I read the whole book in a way I imagined she would tell it to me in person. She spoke softly, though her words were heavy. 

Smith will always be my main muse as a strong, intensely creative woman. I recently finished her second memoir 'M Train', which I highly recommend as an excellent follow up book. 

2. 'Lolita', Vladimir Nabokov (1955)
"She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolres on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita" (p7)

I think I read this book when I was fifteen and a half. After developing an obsession for the orange covered Penguin Books classics, I picked up Lolita while at work and bought it upon leaving. Leafing through it now, I realise I really need to read it again. 

Lolita was first published in 1955, an iconic and controversial piece of literature for the time which Nabokov is best known for. It is the story of a middle aged man, Humbert Humbert, who develops a vehement obsession for a twelve year old girl, Dolores Haze. Humbert shares the origin of his desires and his intensifying attraction to his adored nymph Haze, who he nicknames Lolita or 'Lo' for short. Humbert continually humanises himself to the reader which in turn makes his actions seem almost natural. Moreover, Haze's juvenile manner toys with Humbert, blurring the lines between what we originally perceive as right and wrong. 

Lolita is undeniably dark, disturbing and beautifully written. Nabokov obscures notions of love, age and forbidden desire. In the end I was left asking, who really was in control?

'Lolita' taught me a lot about the beauty of words and how they can be pieced together so eloquently to form a flowing sentence that can be used for better or for worse.

3. 'GRACE: A Memoir', Grace Coddington (2012)
"It always arrived rather late in the month, and there were usually only one or two in stock. Presumably, Harper's Bazaar was around then, too, but for me it was always Vogue," (p30)

I pretty much almost fell over the day this book arrived in stock at work. While watching The September Issue documentary on American Vogue, which focussed primarily on the commonly demonised (though incredibly driven and successful) editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, I was introduced to the creative director (newly creative director at large), Grace Coddington. I'd seen former modelling images of Coddington, her iconic fiery red mane sticking in my mind. Her highly regarded position at Vogue, her love of cats and her undeniably chic though down-to-earth personality immediately placed her in the shrine of women I look up to.

Grace: A Memoir is a captivating recount of Coddington's upbringing, her fashionable modelling years and life at British Vogue and American Vogue. Her words are accompanied by unique scribbly drawings throughout, the same style in which she would pen every outfit at runway shows as they walked her way in the front row. The book puts Coddington's transition into perspective, from the naive, young, thin-though-not-traditionally-beautiful girl in Wales to experienced, confident, witty creative director at Vogue magazine.

Coddington is effortlessly her stylish self, which she communicates through her writing. I love the way she relives times in her life, is able to laugh at herself and share her honest reflections and opinions on the industry she was destined to thrive in.

Coddington will always inspire me to pursue a career in fashion.

4. 'Astragal', Albertine Sarrazin (1965)
"My new freedom imprisons me and paralyses me," (p32)
"She was my guide through the nights of one hundred sleeps. And now she is yours," Patti Smith

Tucked away in the offbeat novel section at the bookstore, I found Astragal waiting for me. I took it down off of the shelf and felt it's weight in my hands. I noticed that Patti Smith had composed an introduction for this print edition and typically, I instantaneously felt compelled to fall into bed and read it in one go.

Sarrazin's semi-autobiographical Astragal is a transfixing piece of 1960s French literature, a forgotten classic to the masses. It was written from a prison cell, as Sarrazin herself was serving time. She tells a bewitching tale of youthful rebellion and romance (which somehow feels all too familiar to Sarrazin) that follows nineteen-year-old Anne, who makes a daring escape from prison by leaping from the height of its walls. She falls, only to break her ankle under a blanket of stars - "L'astragale" is the French word for the exact bone she breaks. She's rescued by a motorcyclist named Julien. From then on they're destined for a life of love and crime. 

The emotions presented throughout Astragal are extremely vivid, I felt every one. This book not only speaks of love and crime, but epitomises helplessness and the feeling of being left behind. 

This book showed me how captivating fiction can be. I worried for Anne even when I wasn't reading about her.

5. 'Not That Kind of Girl: A young woman tells you what she's "learned"', Lena Dunham (2014)
"How could I ever experience true solitude again when I'd had someone poking around my insides? How permanent virginity feels, and then how inconsequential," (p8-9)

I'd heard of Lena Dunham before, I knew of her hit TV series Girls but had somehow missed the bandwagon and never watched an episode (this is a common trait of mine: missing out on pretty much any interesting/popular TV shows). I love reading autobiographies (as you've probably gathered from this reading list) and drawn to the satisfying bolded font on the cover, I started to read this book and there was no turning back.

Undoubtedly one of the funniest books I have ever read, Not That Kind of Girl is a hilarious though sophisticated compilation of Dunham's life-shaping experiences. Unashamedly honest, her  book is a realistic representation of a life lived existing as a female during this generation, in a culture punctuated by technology and sex. Sometimes shocking, wrenching even, Dunham doesn't hold back at all. She tells you how it was and how it is. It's boldly genuine, exceptionally clever and written with a kind of awareness that considers the world we know and the people who inhabit it. 

Nuanced and imperfect, Dunham's candor shines brightly from the first few lines. Not That Kind of Girl is a testament to her brilliant ability to communicate through written words. 

Once I'd read the last line, closed it shut and lingered for a while on the satisfying feeling of reading a good book, I developed a new found appreciation for Dunham. I was itching to watch Girls, and so this new found appreciation for was pursued. 

These are the books I suggest to my friends, the ones that I couldn't put down. I hope you have something new to read now, something to pick up and take with you wherever you go. 

Love Chlo x