The journal or diary is a hugely popular format that has been widely used to great effect, with writers deploying the familiar structure to tell powerful personal stories. Using first person prose creates a strong feeling of intimacy and connection with the protagonist, helping readers to get inside the mind of the narrator and increasing the believability.
In no particular order (and because we love an excuse to make a list) here are some of our favourite fictional journals.
Amusing, gaudy, shocking, Candace Bushnell’s Sex and the City novel, made from a collection of her own notes and articles, gives an insight into the dating habits of the affluent and wealthy members of New York’s society. Telling the exploits of Carrie and her girlfriends, the novel explores the difficulties of finding the perfect match in Manhattan one stiletto step at a time.
2. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, Sue Townsend
This humorous diary by Adrian Mole delves into the struggles of being a teenager and the quintessential problems of growing up. Set in Leicester 1981, Adrian documents his love life with girlfriend Pandora and the feuds between his parents. Adrian’s intelligence and amusing outlook on life makes this a brilliant read.
3. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower also focuses on the tricky transition from adolescence to adulthood. It follows Charlie, a fifteen year old who lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh and suffers from anxiety. This captivating read takes the reader on journeys through Charlie’s first experiences of taking drugs and alcohol, first kiss and first date, with support from his best friend Patrick.
4. Any Human Heart, William Boyd
The diary of Logan Mountstuart born in 1906 takes the reader from Uruguay to Oxford, on to Paris, the Bahamas, New York and West Africa. Logan leads an incredible life, working as a spy, a gallery manager, a teacher and a writer. It is a witty, inventive and compelling read as we journey with Logan, as he makes way through the century.
5. The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger
The story begins when Holden Caulfield, the witty and easy to-warm-to seventeen year old, is expelled for the fourth time from school. Set in the 1950s in Pennsylvania, we are taken on an exciting and invigorating trip as Holden explores New York and returns to his hometown where the problems follow. The cornerstone of the novel is Holden struggle to mature and come to terms with the death of the loved one. It is a classic novel of the 20th century.
6. Diary, Chuck Palahniuk
Not a read for the faint hearted, a true horror novel Diary from the author of Fight Club, Snuff and Invisible Monsters is a dark and disturbing read. Misty starts writing a diary while her husband is in a coma. Once a promising art student she has ended up working as a hotel maid. But then driven by a compulsion she begins to paint again.
7. Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
Funny, engaging and highly relatable, Bridget is on a quest to improve herself by always telling the truth in her diary as a new year’s resolution. Bridget’s great endeavour, incompetent friends and disastrous love life makes this a very amusing read. At its crux is the conflict Bridget has over living a fast, exciting life as a singleton and trying to find true love and companionship.
8. The Colour Purple, Alice Walker
A Pulitzer Prize winning novel the Colour Purple is a deeply moving read. In it Cecile writes a series of letters first to God and then to her sister. Set in the 1930’s in the American South, it is the story of poverty, oppression and segregation, but also of hope, friendships and self discovery. It is powerfully honest novel that stays with the reader.
9. Diary of a nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith
A comic novel by the Grossmith brothers, Diary of a Nobody records the daily events of Charles Pooter and his family. It is a brilliant portrayal of suburban life and values. A funny and charming read, that more than hundred years after it was written and published will still has reader chuckling.
10. Dracula, Bram Stoker
The horror novel that launched the vampire genre, it tells the story of Jonathan Harker who has travelled to Transylvania to help with the purchase of a house. A seminal Gothic tale it has endured as the quintessential story of suspense and horror and it is still a chilling read.
11. The Diary of Adam and Eve, Mark Twain
A hilarious peek inside the minds of Adam and Eve and their escapades in the Garden of Eden, if you enjoyed Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn this is definitely one for you. The entries are very funny, men and women it seems have never seen eye to eye on anything.
12. Diary of an Ordinary Woman, Margaret Forster
Presented as the ‘edited’ diary of an ordinary woman, it tells the story of Millicent King who begins keeping a diary on the eve of the Great War and whose life and entries spans the 20th century. Through Millicent life we experience a century of change, tragedy and transformation.
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