I was nominated a couple of weeks ago to take part in the latest Facebook challenge to be doing the rounds – to list ten books that have stayed with you for whatever reason, and in no particular order. You are asked to not think too much about it, and the books can be any you like – not necessarily great works of literature (the ones you’re ‘supposed’ to read).
Part 1 explains more about the background, how I ummed and ahhed, and how I really wanted to explain why the books I chose are important to me.
6. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
I read this book for my English literature A-level coursework in around 1994. I loved the spirited energy of the book, and especially the spirit of the heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. Similar to Jane Eyre, I liked how Lizzy stuck to her guns and refused to marry for anything other than love, or to act against her principles.
At school, I wasn’t one of the popular girls, meaning I particularly enjoyed Austen’s portrayal of the Bingley sisters – there were mean and bitchy girls even in Regency England.
The classic BBC adaptation, the one with Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, came on TV the following year. The series was aired during my first term at university – I had a life then, and didn’t get around to watching it for a couple of years. But once I did – phew! While the lake scene was wonderful, the parts that really got me were where Darcy’s love for Lizzy is unrequited and he bores in to her with those deep brown eyes…*fans self and moves on to the next book*.
7. Walking on Glass – Iain Banks
This was the second Banks book I had read. The first was The Crow Road – incredible, but very tough going. I’d seen a stage adaptation of Wasp Factory at the West Yorkshire Playhouse back in the 1990s – having no idea of the story, I was blown away.
The day before going on holiday, I stopped by a second-hand book shop for some reading material. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw five brand-new Banks books, all on sale for a pound each. The lady in the shop explained that someone had heard Banks was good, so had bought the books – but having started to read one of them realised she didn’t like his style, so disposed of the lot. Well, their loss was very much my gain.
Walking on Glass was the book I chose to read on holiday. I was mesmerised by the three story strands – a young man pursuing an unattainable girl, and the relationship with his male friend; the man who is convinced he is from outer space and trapped in the body of an Earth man; and two war criminals from an intergalactic conflict who are forced to play games that are impossible to win. It becomes apparent that these discrete stories are, in fact, connected.
It’s the kind of storytelling that makes you gasp in awe at its sheer brilliance, and that is why it has stayed with me.
With Banks’ death, the literary world lost a true great.
8. Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder
I read Sophie’s World while I was a student. It was possibly the perfect time for me to be reading it – away from home for the first time, new experiences, new thoughts and new perspectives.
It’s an incredible book, with its history of philosophy and philosophical thinking. It was my introduction to philosophy, and I was fascinated.
The book has stayed with me because it helped open my mind to these new ways of thinking.
9. Virtual Light – William Gibson
I love dystopian science fiction, and this book, the first in Gibson’s Bridge trilogy, is a shining example.
It is set in a near-future San Francisco, after the ‘big one’ (earthquake) has hit. There is no middle class: you either are ridiculously rich and powerful, or terribly poor and living off the black market. Many of this class of people live on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Like its trilogy counterparts, Virtual Light explores cultural change and the impact of technology on our lives and environment.
Gibson is credited with envisioning the concept of cyberspace before the prevalence of the internet. His insight in to a world ruled by technology is both absorbing and ominous.
10. The 13 1/2 Lives of Captain Bluebear – Walter Moers
I happened upon this book in a little independent bookshop in The Rocks, Sydney.
The book follows the adventures of Captain Bluebear through Zamonia. He encounters all kinds of things, such as trolls, a pterodactyl, giant spider, and gets trapped inside a tornado. It’s a pastiche of the fantasy genre and combined with the many illustrations, is very funny.
Bluebears, we are informed, have 27 lives and I have been eagerly awaiting the adventures of the rest of his 13 1/2 lives.
There are so many more books I would love to have included and afterwards I was thinking “Oh no! How could I have left out that book?”
These books include Birds without Wings by Louis de Bernieres; Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell; Death and the Penguin by Andrei Kurkov; Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey; A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin; F*ck It Therapy by John C. Parkin; Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood; To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; The Help by Kathryn Stockett; Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela; Wild Swans by Jung Chang.
So many wonderful, thought-provoking books!
What would be in your list of the ten books that have stayed with you?