So I did that Facebook list thing - 15 books that have been the most influential in my life, without thinking too hard. It took far longer than it perhaps should have, as I went blank, then later remembered a whole heap of others. Here's my original list:
1. Cold Comfort Farm (Stella Gibbons)
2. Lord of the Rings (Tolkein)
3. Bible (God)
4. Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
5. Things Fall Apart (Chinua Achebe)
6. The Book Thief (Marcus Zusak)
7. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
8. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
9. Time Traveller's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
10. Famous Five (Enid Blyton)
11. Almost any Terry Pratchett
12. Dracula (Bram Stoker)
13. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
14. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
15. The Horse and his Boy (CS Lewis)
Followed by the extras I would have added if I could have had a few more spots (or even replaced some of the above with):
The Dark is Rising Sequence (Susan Cooper)
Two Caravans (Marina Lewyecka)
Dune (Frank Herbert)
Empyrion (Stephen Lawhead)
Obernewtyn (Isabelle Carmody)
Cloudstreet (Tim Winton)
In the Hall of the Dragon King (Stephen Lawhead)
Tom's Midnight Garden (Philippa Pearce)
The Elijah Bailey books (Isaac Asimov)
1984 (George Orwell)
Taming of the Shrew (Shakespeare)
What were my criteria? To tell the truth, there weren't really any specifics. Some people looked at books they reread a lot, others at books they felt they had to read, and I just looked at books I always remember. A lot of these books have just one or two scenes that have stuck with me, such as the final scenes of Brave New World, or when Shasta and Bree are travelling along the cliff edge at night, with Aslan protecting them from falling, in The Horse and His Boy.
Some of the others I re-read regularly for the story, like The Secret Garden, Empyrion and Terry Pratchetts. Empyrion (especially the first) plays like a movie in my head as I read it, and even now I recall large chunks of narrative in movie form, although I haven't read them for a few years. Some I listed for the way they made me think about the world, 1984 being the slightly stereo-typical one of them, but also Things Fall Apart and The Book Thief, which gave me new perspectives to mull over.
And then others I listed because they are books of my childhood, read over and over, and yet still loved (and still read). Famous Five (yes I still re-read these occasionally) Dark is Rising Sequence and In the Hall of the Dragon King are some of them.
Of course not all fit into one of these categories, some are books I studied at school or uni (Cloudstreet, Things Fall Apart, Northanger Abbey). To some studying a book ruins it, but I find that I often like the book far more after, because of the intimate knowledge I have of it. I can appreciated the humour more knowing who the author aimed it at, I can see the lessons being taught. Of course it doesn't always work. There are some books I plan on never ever ever picking up again, but that's more related to the fact I didn't like the book in the first place, and couldn't care less about learning anything about it.
Lastly, I would like to thank my parents for raising me with books. To my Dad for reading me Lord of the Rings every night when I was seven, to Mum for taking me to the library, or collecting me after school when I'd taken out too many books to carry. For Sunday afternoon trips to Book City (the smell of which still transports me back 15 years). For letting me read anything, with nothing more than a warning that 'this book might be a bit complicated, but give it a go'. For all the times I've stood in our lounge room staring at the bookshelves, being advised by Mum or Dad on what to read next. For letting me (or perhaps even expecting me) just sit quietly in the corner with a book at dinner parties, afternoon teas, lunches, before church, in the car, on the plane, in front of the fire, on buses, while for parental meetings to finish, at restaurants or almost anywhere else.* For teaching me the necessity of being able to just sit quietly and amuse oneself, and how easy that is with a book. That is one invaluable lesson I will be passing on to my children.**
*please note that this may make me sound like a very anti-social child. I wasn't really. The partner lesson to being able to read anywhere, is learning to tell the difference between when you should and when you shouldn't. I think sometimes my teachers wished I was a little more anti-social sometimes, if my reports are anything to go by.
** I think I'll try to accompany that with a love of reading non-fiction and textbooks though. Haven't quite grasped those yet. Usually I find just sitting and staring at the clouds preferable. That's a problem.
Navidad En Bolivia 2009
8 years ago