Book banquet

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 ( who picked up on David Rain’s idea for listing the hundred books that have most influenced your life (more about that at

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 of my books are hidden away in a dry storage unit…..books in store

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….

books in car

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……..

dawn sketch

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……

storm doodle



3 thoughts on “Book banquet”

  1. How recognizable!
    But I mustn’t complain: on board Windbreker there are 2 big and 2 smaller bookshelves. Filled, of course. And every now and then I need to store some books elsewhere (parents, workshop)to make space for new ones.
    Living on a sailingboat means balancing the interior weight: batteries on starboard allow books on port. Main bookshelves are placed just in front of the mast.
    Good idea to make a list and blogpost it. I’ll give it a try whith the next clearing (spring cleaning, not yet started).

  2. roger fox says:

    Hello Claudia,
    I think you’ll find Mill on the Floss was written by George Eliot.
    How’s Buttercup the scow? Is no news on the blog good or bad news?
    Hope you get the studio dried out soon.
    Best wishes,

  3. Claudia says:

    Hello Roger, good to hear from you….. well spotted, I must have dropped a line somewhere along the way! Could have been worse, it could have read that I thought Douglas Adams wrote Mill on the Floss…

    Buttercup didn’t make it in the end, sadly – being mostly softwood she was in a bad way and would have required a rebuild; it would have been cheaper to start afresh. I didn’t have the resources to go ahead or commission a new one so had to resign myself to say goodbye. Still miss her, and looking for a replacement.

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