If a good book is a nourishing meal, then a blog post is a snack. There is no need to go for the bad ones which are like boiled sweets – bright glossy colours but brittle and with no substance – as there are so many good ones to dip into. One of my favourite regulars (akin to a plate of hummus and colourful slices of red pepper, perhaps?) is the lovely K M Lockwood (http://kmlockwood.com/) who picked up on David Rain’s idea for listing the hundred books that have most influenced your life (more about that at http://davidrain.net/the-hundred-book-challenge/).
I agree with all his reasons for doing this, though he is fairly adamant that one mustn’t read ‘bad’ writing and I would suggest, carrying on the analogy of writing as nourishment, that a mindful dip into the junk food end of the business from time to time is a good way to appreciate the value of a well balanced literary diet.
However, what interested me most about the ‘One Hundred Books’ project is how difficult I found it to do. Looking back over a lifetime of reading, I simply can’t remember titles and authors. Fiction is especially hard: ‘Ooh, what was that one about the freelance writer who struggles and then finds he has written a successful book about being a struggling writer and that’s it, that’s the book I’m reading? What was his name? What was the title?’ Or ‘That clever story that they made into a tv drama, about the photography student…. was that a Deborah Moggach? Or was that the other one?’
Is it only me? Does everyone else’s one hundred books flow effortlessly from your well ordered brains or are they all kept neatly on your wall to wall bookshelves? My excuse is not just that my memory is dire but that I have no bookshelves. A nomadic life means that each time I moved, books have been reluctantly left behind especially over the last few years as my living space has shrunk dramatically. Good for everything except book hoarding. Of course I can now keep fiction electronically, but reference books need to be real. Bookshelves, proper floor to ceiling bookshelves, are the only thing I miss about living in a house. I have missed bookshelves more than I miss a bathroom, surprisingly.
Some are currently in the car, on their way to storage/studio or boat. It doesn’t help that studio still has no storage space until flood damage is repaired….
Eventually there will be some bookshelves on board ‘Else’, but not many. There is simply not enough space (though that doesn’t stop me still buying books!) I would love to keep my maritime and art library all in one piece, all in one place, but it can’t be done. For every lifestyle choice there is a price to pay. If I want this view out of my window in the morning, and have a boat that’s just big enough to live on but not too big to look after, then something has to give……..
Anyway, back to the book choices, here is a small selection of fiction, both adult and children’s, that I have valued the most – entirely from memory. The list would be over twice as long if I wasn’t sticking to the ‘rules’ of one book per author only! These are the stories I would keep, if I had copies and space to keep them. There are glaring omissions that will leap upon me over the next few weeks and months, I know. In no particular order:
Libby Purves – Casting Off
Madeleine Wickham – The Tennis Party
David Simpson – The Rosie Project
Colleen McCulloch – The Ladies of Missalonghi
Neville Shute – Trustee from the Toolroom
Deborah Moggach – Close Relations
Joanna Trollope – The Rector’s Wife
PG Wodehouse – Jeeves and Wooster
Dodie Smith – I Capture the Castle
Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice
George Eliot – Mill on the Floss
Thomas Hardy – Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Doris Lessing – Shikasta
Douglas Adams – Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Wilkie Collins – The Moonstone
CS Lewis – Voyage of the Dawn Treader
AA Milne – Winnie the Pooh
Edward Ardizzone – Tim to the Rescue
Arthur Ransome – We Didn’t Mean to go to Sea
Julia Jones – Salt Stained Book
Michael Morpurgo – Alone on a Wide Wide Sea
Frances Hodgson Burnett – The Secret Garden
Alan Garner – The Owl Service
Spike Milligan – Silly Verse for Kids
Given that a blog post is a snack and not a banquet, I will leave the subject of non-fiction until next time. For that, of course, is a different matter altogether. If you’re inspired by the idea and start your own list, send me a link. That’s all for now – apart from a reminder that all the best snacks need a dash of salt……