between daemons: true (bookish) love

Between Daemons is a discussion post series dealing in bookish and filmish topics. Inspired by the spiritual companions from the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman, I chose that specific title to encourage comments and conversations grounded in the personal thoughts, feelings, and opinions you may not have the chance to share very often. While disagreement is welcome, disrespect is not. As always, please be polite to your fellow commenters!

A popular theme for the month of February is love: familial, romantic, or platonic, everyone's attention seems to turn to the special people in our lives. I wanted to take a slightly different approach and, apropos to this blog's focus on books, discuss the presence of literary love in my life!

Because really, books don't differ all that much from the people we meet, do they? There are the unfortunate few we wish we'd never met, the fun and casual friends, the best friends, and the loves of our life. My favorite books are those that make me feel like the best version of myself: not because they're motivational self-help manuals, but because they inspire such a depth of emotion that I'm able to learn more about myself just by virtue of having read them.

Also like a love shared between people, the affection I feel for my favorite books can either be rooted in a very specific time, place, or feeling, or else it might grow and change with time. I've included a selection of both down below, and I hope after reading about my true bookish loves, you'll share yours with me as well!


Probably near the top of many readers' lists, Harry Potter was an important cornerstone of my childhood (And, let's be honest, adulthood too; I was 21 when the last movie came out!). There is a lot of discourse and analysis in the fandom now that the core series has come to an end, but I'm not particularly interested in it. My love of Harry Potter is very simple and straightforward: it made me very happy as a child and young adult, and is the source of many fond memories. Other readers may deepen their appreciation by parsing out the text, but that's not me. For once, this Slytherin is content with the uncomplicated, unquestioned pleasures in life!


For me, His Dark Materials is a foil to Harry Potter in several ways. Both spurred some controversy, particularly on religious grounds, and are titans in the fantasy genre. It's in my approach to each series that the difference lies. Where I'm perfectly content to approach Harry Potter as-is, I find a great deal of joy in re-reading Philip Pullman's trilogy, each time digging a little deeper, picking through another layer of meaning. I also find a great deal of comfort in Pullman's imagining of the soul and its place in the world, both during and after our lives.


This was the first novel I got to personally select for an English paper in high school. It fit the page count and other requirements, plus I'd recently re-watched the compulsively watchable Disney adaptation that doesn't seem to be made for children (too many creepy priests) or adults (too many singing gargoyles). It was intimidating. It was challenging. And it was sublime. Themes like unrequited love/obsession, otherness, and institutional corruption are raised to an art form. Claude Frollo remains one of the most fascinating villains in literature to me; his struggle between the church and his human urges, then finally the madness that conflict drives him to, is profoundly unsettling. Love mingles with pride for this title. As one of the first books I studied because I wanted to, rather than had to, Hunchback holds a very special place in my heart.


My love of this novel is as much situational as it is related to the lovely coming-of-age story nestled under its cover. Many years ago when it went through a long-awaited reprint, my dad heard J.K. Rowling's blurb for it on the radio. Since I was of an age with Rose, the narrator, and obsessed with Harry Potter, he went out and bought it as an impromptu present. That never happens, which made receiving and reading I Capture the Castle a special occasion. Revisiting it reminds me not only of the bittersweet experience of growing up (which I'm still going through in my late twenties!), but also of the support I continue to have while I navigate through life. Even without the personal touch, it's a marvelous story that every young woman should get the chance to read. But that extra touch undoubtedly adds an enduring sentiment that I know I'll never forget.


I rarely get outwardly emotional when reading a book. Sometimes I let out a soft chuckle, but I never guffaw. Sometimes I feel a catch at the back of my throat, but I never cry. The final pages of Deathless, on the other hand, had me curled into a ball and weeping. Despite claiming it as one of my all-time favorite novels, I've only read it the once because of the painfully acute feelings it wrung from me. The structure, the characters, the melancholic inevitability of fairy tales that was made more wrenching by the historical setting: all that combined to make Koschei and Marya astonishingly real for me. It's a beautiful book that reflects back some of the most private parts of myself, which made reading it an intimate and chilling experience.

What are some of your true bookish loves? Are any of my picks on your list?

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