Reading has always been my favourite pastime with the novels and manga I read greatly influencing my own writing.
Here are my top favourite manga series and books in the various age categories. I wonder if you’ll spot any familiar friends among them!!
1. Saiyuki by Kazuya Minekura
A marvellous retelling of the legendary Journey to the West, a Chinese novel published in the 16 th century. A Buddhist monk sets out for India with three companions. His mission is to retrieve the Saten Sutra (sacred scripture) stolen from his murdered mentor and stop the revival of the youkai lord Gyumaoh.
However, Genjo Sanzo is not your typical Buddhist monk. He drinks, swears, smokes, likes gambling, and carries a banishing gun. But he does have several redeeming qualities. He’s kind to the innocent, intolerant of hypocrites, cares deeply for his companions and will do whatever it takes to protect them. His almost fatherly behaviour towards Goku, the perpetually hungry and childlike Monkey King who he released from a 500 year imprisonment, makes this manga my number one favourite.
The series is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3VC0Vqn
The various anime series are also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3AyeMFl
2. Library Wars by Kiiro Yumi
A romance placed against a dramatic backdrop of government censorship and violence. In the near future, the government of Japan creates a committee to censor all books it deems unsuitable. Libraries across the country vow to protect their collections and begin to form military groups to defend themselves. They are known as the Library Defense Force (LDF).
Enter Iku Kasahara. She has wanted to join the LDF since one of its members protected her and the censored book she was holding while in a bookstore. She’s finally a member of the LDF, and one step closer to learning the identity of the brave soldier who helped her. But there’s a problem. Her hard-hearted drill instructor, Atsushi Dojo.
This series had me laughing and crying. The romance between Iku and Atsushi is developed naturally with a lot of comedic moments. This balances out the more serious themes of government censorship and violence running throughout the series. The manga is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3PTY7SA
Finding the anime series and the live action films(starring Junichi Okada as Atsushi Dojo and Nana Eikura as Iku Kasahara) can be a bit tricky, but they are definitely worth watching if you can purchase a copy.
3. Snow White with the Red Hair by Sorata Akiduki
Don’t expect any mine-owning dwarfs in this fantasy story. However, there is a prince! Several, in fact! Shirayuki, a talented herbalist, is famous in her hometown for her beautiful red hair. Unfortunately, it draws the unwelcome attention of the spoilt prince of her country. To escape his insulting attention, Shirayuki flees to the neighbouring kingdom where she meets the handsome young man Zen. After they both save the life of the other, a deep affection begins to development between Shirayuki and Zen. But with Zen being a prince, Shirayuki will have to overcome numerous obstacles to become his bride.
A lovely and heart-warming read. I love Zen (such a cutie and so protective of his friends!) and Shirayuki is everything you would want in a strong female lead: independent, kind, and smart.
The manga is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3AT0n8b
The anime is also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3RzYbIv
4. Maid Sama by Hiro Fujiwara
If you want a strong female lead with an equally strong male lead then this manga is for you!
Misaki Ayuzawa is class president at a predominantly male high school. She consistently gets high grades, she’s athletic, and she’s popular with most of the students and teachers alike. Overall she’s the perfect student. But there’s one thing she really doesn’t want any of her classmates, particularly the obnoxiously talented and handsome Takumi Usui, to discover: the fact she works at a maid café after school! When the worst happens, and Usui finds out her secret, how can Misaki trust him to keep silent? And why does he continue to visit the café? Maybe he wasn’t lying when he said he liked her!
The only complaint a reader could possibly have after reading this manga is that they’ll never find a boyfriend like Usui. Seriously, he’s handsome, intelligent, a skilled musician and athlete, multi-lingual, a great cook, good humoured, considerate … the list goes on!!
The manga is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3AnRz8W
The anime is also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3cnVeMc
5. Kamisama Kiss by Julietta Suzuki
A dramatic fantasy with a fair sprinkling of romantic comedy. This entertaining series has something for everyone: adventure, action, intrigue, romance, comedy, with a bit of violence thrown in!
Nanami Momozono is left destitute and homeless when her dad skips town to evade his gambling debts. A kind stranger offers her the use of his home during his absence. Without hesitation, Nanami accepts. However, the home turns out to be a shrine inhabited by spirits and one extremely handsome, but cranky, fox youkai named Tomoe. What on earth is Nanami to do, especially when it turns out she’s unwittingly taken over the job of Earth Deity, which includes having Tomoe as her familiar!
The comedy in this series is five star. The arguments between Nanami and Tomoe had me laughing out loud, and when the romance came it was sweet, but not so much that you’d get cavities!
The series is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3AUYVT2
The anime is also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3ReJlXu
1. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien
This marvellous tale of a hobbit called Bilbo Baggins, who joins a quest to rid a treasure-filled mountain of the fierce dragon Smaug, is an easy number one for me. It has charming characters, fantastic adventures, and features my favourite Tolkien character, the Elvenking Thranduil.
It’s available for purchase in various editions and formats at https://amzn.to/3pQQ3aI
2. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Pure enchantment. In this beautiful story we travel with the four Pevensie children, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy to the magical land of Narnia. There they encounter the evil White Witch who lives in dread of her power crumbling at the return of the powerful lion, Aslan.
I’ve reread this book, and the others in the series, countless times. The beauty of the stories never ceases to amaze me.
This book, and all others in the Chronicles of Narnia series, are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3pOKkSq
3. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A hot-tempered, imaginative and charming little girl with red hair, Anne Shirley and her adventures helped me escape reality on so many occasions.
In this book, the first of a series of novels, the orphaned Anne arrives in Avonlea after being adopted and proceeds to charm many of the townspeople, including the incorrigible Gilbert Blythe.
All novels in the series are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3cpxPdb
The beautiful TV series starring Megan Follows as Anne and Jonathan Crombie as Gilbert is also now available for purchase on DVD at https://amzn.to/3CHJaA9
4. Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
A twelve year old criminal mastermind. That label caught my attention!
The ingenious Artemis intends to hold a leprechaun to ransom. Unfortunately for him, the one he captures is Captain Holly Short. What follows is an exquisitely funny and thrilling adventure.
This book, along with the others in the series, are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3pRSLg4
5. The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
The first book of the Magic Faraway Tree series, this delightful story enthralled my imagination as a child. The main characters are three children, Joe, Beth and Frannie, who keep finding different magical lands at the top of a tree.
Individual editions and special collections of the series are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3QUt0aE
6. Wombat Stew by Marcia Vaughan
While not a novel, I had to include this brilliant little story about a dingo who catches a wombat and wants to cook him in a stew. The tricks played by the other animals of the Australian bush to rescue the wombat will have you laughing, no matter what your age. I’m delighted to have introduced this fun story to a new generation by reading it to my nieces and nephew.
A number of editions are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3wBafAR
7. Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone by J.K. Rowling
A book that surely needs no introduction. The first novel in the acclaimed series, this is actually my favourite.
Eleven year old Harry arrives at Hogwarts, a school for witches and wizards. There he finds friendship, adventure and danger.
I was introduced to this series by my younger brother. I then proceeded to finish all the books before him. LOL!
All books are available in various formats and editions at https://amzn.to/3cxncVz
1. Trixie Belden by Julie Campbell
A girl detective who solves dozens of mysteries that confound even experienced law officers – that’s why I love this series!
Trixie’s sleuthing often gets her into trouble, but together with her trusty friend Honey, they always manage to solve the mystery and live to tell the tale.
My older sister took to hiding her copies of these books as I had a habit of sneaking them off her bookshelf. I always found them though. The lure of wanting to know what Trixie would face next (the headless horseman, jewel smugglers) was far too tempting to ignore! Plus, the hints of romance developing between Trixie and her neighbour Jim Frayne was always a joy to read. My teenage heart leapt whenever I caught even the slightest display of affection between them on the page!
Although each story is independent of others in the series, if you’re interested in reading them, I highly recommend doing it in chronological order, starting with Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion. The books are numbered, which makes reading them in sequence a lot easier!
Books from the series are available for purchase in different formats at https://amzn.to/3B8q6tC
2. Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
Another girl detective, but older than Trixie Belden, Nancy frequently gets into her fair share of trouble. Together with her two best friends, the delicate Bess and tomboyish George, and occasionally joined by her boyfriend Ned Nickerson, Nancy proves herself the nemesis of criminals everywhere.
Again, thankfully, the novels in this series are numbered which help if you’re wanting to read them in order.
Individual books and collector boxsets of the series are available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3KqdMaW
3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In this confronting novel we look at the world of racial prejudice through the eyes of 6-year-old Scout Finch. When her respected lawyer father, Atticus, defends a black man accused of raping a white girl, Scout learns of the blind hatred and intolerance shown to African-Americans – and all who would associate with them.
Unlike many other students who read this book for the first time due to studying English Literature, I read it after watching the award-winning film version starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. The lessons it can teach on the evils of racism are many, not least of which is that innocent people can die as a result.
The book is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3wADVhQ
The film, starring Gregory Peck, is also available at https://amzn.to/3R1FflS
4. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
This rollicking tale of the beautiful Buttercup and her “one true love” Westley is one of the most entertaining fantasy romances I’ve read. In this book you’ll find true love fighting against evil villains, murder, swordfights, poisoning, kidnapping, torture, giant carnivorous rats and eels.
It’s available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3clPBOB
I also highly recommend the film version starring Cary Elwes as Westley and Robin Wright as Buttercup, available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3PPYgGF
5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
A delightful book I picked up while holidaying in Japan.
Sophie is the eldest of three sisters and is unfortunate enough to incur the wrath of the Witch of the Waste. The cause: Sophie had been seen with the handsome Wizard Howl. Poor Sophie is transformed into a hagged 90 year old woman. She will need the help of Howl and his magic to break the curse.
The novel is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3TllN56
A delightful animated film version was directed by Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and is also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3TllN56
1. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
The epic fantasy trilogy that launched the modern fantasy genre. I first read it at the age of 12 and have regularly re-read it ever since.
A sequel to The Hobbit, the three volumes tell the tale of Frodo the hobbit and his companions who set out to destroy the Ring of Power and restore peace to Middle-earth. If I tried to go more in depth with the synopsis, I’d be typing whole pages!! Suffice it to say, there are orcs, elves, wizards, dwarves and, of course, hobbits.
The books are available separately or in boxsets for purchase at https://amzn.to/3TmC4H3
Peter Jackson’s award-winning films are also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3R1CctV
2. Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
An historical romance by the queen of the genre. I love all of Heyer’s novels, but this one holds a special place in my heart. It was the first of her books that I read and I was so delighted by her wit and humour, I had to read all the others.
Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, has very exact requirements for his future duchess. He visits Wiltshire to determine whether the Honourable Phoebe Marlow will make him a suitable bride. He did not expect that the possibility of an offer from him would cause Phoebe to flee her home, nor that he would become embroiled in one madcap adventure after another thanks to her impulsive nature.
Available in various formats, this book, and many of Georgette Heyer’s novels may be purchased at https://amzn.to/3pOE5hx
3. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
Before Batman, before Zorro, there was another hero of the people. His name: The Scarlet Pimpernel. His talents: master of disguise and escapes. His mission: To rescue as many innocents from Madame la Guillotine during the bloodbath that was France’s Reign of Terror.
Sir Percy Blakeney, the wealthiest aristocrat in England, dons the mask of a complete dim-witted fop to protect his secret identity. Not even his beloved wife, the beautiful French actress Marguerite St Just, knows to whom she is married. But then Marguerite’s brother Armand is condemned to die unless Marguerite helps unmask the Scarlet Pimpernel. Loyalties are put to the test when Marguerite seeks to both save Armand and protect the true identity of the man she loves.
I fell in love with this story when I first saw the film with Anthony Andrews. After I discovered there was a book, with a number of sequels, I was thrilled. There are some exquisite scenes in the novel that will have the romantic at heart swooning in delight!
The book is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3KsK45h
The film I mentioned, starring Anthony Andrews as Sir Percy, Jane Seymour as Marguerite, and Ian McKellen as the villainous Chauvelin, is also available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3RbqdcS
4. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
My earliest introduction to the world of romance. I first saw the 1940 film with Greer Garson as Elizabeth Bennet and Laurence Olivier as Mr Darcy when I was six. When I read the book a few years later, I was, of course, surprised by the many differences in events. However, the playful and comedic tone of the story remained. First published in 1813, this brilliant novel remains a marvellous study of the foibles of human nature.
Upon their first meeting, Elizabeth Bennet believes Mr Darcy to be the most arrogant and conceited man. He, in return, considers her family to be quite beneath his notice. Through a series of misfortunes, some humorous, others quite serious, Jane Austen expertly shows the folly of judging by first impressions and how friendship and love can develop in the most unlikely of places.
The novel is available for purchase in various formats at https://amzn.to/3CTABlV
The Film with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy and Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet is also available at https://amzn.to/3TnbA8f
5. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
A chilling story of a young woman who marries the romantic Max de Winter and finds herself living in the ghostly shadow of the beautiful Rebecca, Max’s deceased wife and former mistress of the imposing grand estate of Manderley.
This book is one that stuck in my mind after reading it. The first sentence is innocent enough: Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. But from there the book descends to a darker level. While loved by her husband, the new Mrs de Winter struggles against the sinister mind games played by those she meets at Manderley. Definitely not a bedtime read!
The book is available for purchase at https://amzn.to/3e5KeDH