BOOKWORMZ are lists of books, maximum 10, which tell a story of their own. Every so often I´ll ask you for a list on a new theme and I´ll publish as many as we can.
For the inaugural edition, the theme is FROM THEN TO NOW.
I want to see a list of books which take you from infancy to wherever in life you are now. I prefer if you´re honest to cool and I prefer your gut reaction to what you think you ought to say.
After you’ve submitted your list, include a brief description of the books you´ve chosen. Space permitting, we´ll publish that too.
If you would like to have your list published, make sure you´ve signed up to our mailing list.
Here´s mine, and a brief explanation of why I´ve chosen what I´ve chosen…
Play With Us (Peter and Jane, Book 1a) by William Murray
Good Work Secret Seven by Enid Blyton
Not A Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks.
The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
Post Office by Charles Bukowski
Night by Eli Wiesel
The Crime of Father Amaro by José Maria de Eça de Queiroz
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Under The Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Nobody who grew up in Britain in the 1970´s will have escaped the world of Peter, Jane and the Dog. Still evocative, these perennial bestsellers are now just as valuable as a historical record of their times as they are an educational tool. Sailing boats, red footballs stuck in trees, flares and having “We we” written at the bottom of a page mean these books remain close to my heart.
Enid Blyton is one of the all-time great storytellers. I love her so much I put her in The Invisible Eye as the headmistress, Miss Waters (her final married name). The Secret Seven was my favourite series of hers and Book Six, with its mix of fireworks, ginger buns and the annoying but wonderful Susie, was one of my first hallowed books – set apart from the others, left face up beside my bed as a kind of badge of character. This is me! I used to think. This is what I like!
Jeffrey Archer gets a bad press but his books were good friends to me when I was metamorphosing into a teenager. The Willard Price “adventure” series were great but Archer´s books – especially the one on the list and Kane And Abel – eased me out into the adult world of books. I´ve met Mr Archer twice – once at a prize-giving competition (I won second prize for a ghost story, he left early) and once in the street outside his abyssmal West End play Exclusive. He´s like a character from one of his own books.
The Wasp Factory was a thrilling wakeup call: a jolt that reawakened an interest in fiction which had died with under the pressure of too many po-faced, “serious” teen novels and too-old for me classics pressed on us by teachers. It met me at the perfect time and bluntly informed me there was more nourishing soul food out there than the bland diet I was being fed. Like D.H. Lawrence, whom I gorged on after school, or Maugham, Pritchett, Bainbridge or Bates, I learned to love a singular author´s take on the world. These were writers I loved, whose personalities shone through their prose and spoke to and moved me.
Night by Eli Wiesel stands, with Yogananda´s Autobiography of a Yogi, in a separate category from the other books on the list. These works are touched by something other and contain a challenging power which makes them less volumes of writing than experiences which might change you profoundly. These are noble works.
My awful twenties, rising and falling, rudderless, on a rough sea of emotion and circumstance, were enlivened by new and surprising voices. Bukowski, although desperate to shock, is a poet. Lowry, although desperate to be a poet, is shocking. The Crimes of Father Amaro, and most of Eça de Quieroz’s work (especially when translated by Margaret Jull Costa) is testament to the power of literature to transmigrate: to pass from soul to soul.
Apart from this last book, almost everything on my list is by white, Anglo-Saxon authors, and mostly men at that. But I am a white Anglo-Saxon man and I suppose I read to know myself; I read what interests me. My interests are not solely white Anglo-Saxon male-authored books but these are the books I have picked because these are the ten books which presented themselves to me when I thought about the list. These are my books. My books which bring me from then to now.
What about yours?