I was tagged in this meme on Facebook recently by one of my good mates from university and, as I’ve hardly read any books since those days – which were more years ago than I care to remember now – thought I ought to write a post about it. Especially as my degree was in English Literature; I feel I owe the subject something having neglected to read much since those happy days. So here, without further ado, are ten books that have stayed with me…
Dogger by Shirley Hughes
It’s a shame that this book’s title has some rather different connotations now! It was my favourite story as a young lad and really captured the emotion of losing a much-loved toy and the joy of having it returned. I lost my favourite toy – also a dog, as it happens – on a couple of occasions and it really resonated with me.
Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl
Everyone loves an underdog – or underfox – story and I was enchanted by this one. It’s a classic tale of the little man taking one back and, of course, has Roald Dahl’s trademark dark edge which I think is vitally important in children’s literature. They need to know that there’s danger out there – and that it’s okay to challenge the greed and corruption of supposed authority figures.
Nicobobinus by Terry Jones
Another one from my childhood that I’m really looking forward to reading to Dylan and Xander. A captivating adventure with plenty of mild peril and fantastic characters. It’s written with great affection for the main protagonists and with the kind of humour you’d expect from one of the Monty Python team.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Yes, there’s probably something very wrong with me, but this is an amazing book about the brutality that mankind is sadly capable of and I couldn’t put it down. It’s a fascinating premise and I remember being intrigued by the way Golding’s initial description of the idyllic surroundings that form its backdrop hints at the horror that is to come.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I’m counting the entire trilogy of five as one here. They’re all brilliant books that are as much a celebration of whimsy as they are entertaining, laugh-out-loud stories. For me to persevere with a whole series of novels says a lot about it. The likes of Red Dwarf owe it a massive debt of gratitude too.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
I’m sure Orwell’s allegory would be on a lot of people’s lists, so no prizes for originality there, but I read this when I was very young and understood what he was getting at, which I think shows one of its great strengths. It helped years later when I was interviewing Alexei Sayle about being a cat owner. We deviated from the questions about felines into a much-more-interesting conversation about communism and what the cat in the story represents.
The Good Person of Szechwan by Bertolt Brecht
I don’t know whether plays count, but I’m choosing this because it’s brilliant. Three befuddled gods come to a cruel world looking for proof that good people exist. A tale of double identity ensues and the audience is confronted to make up their own minds as to whether what the gods are looking for is actually possible in the severe world they’ve created. Thought-provoking stuff!
Closely Observed Trains by Bohumil Hrabal
I read this one at university and got a first for an essay about it, so it obviously made an impression on me! A quirky tale about adolescence, heroism and misuse of ticket office equipment played out against the backdrop of Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia. It’s simultaneously tragic and uplifting. A great read!
The Vesuvius Club by Mark Gatiss
After The League of Gentlemen and before penning numerous episodes of Dr Who and Sherlock, Mark Gatiss wrote a trilogy of stories about Lucifer Box – a loveable rogue and socialite who also happens to be Britain’s top spy. It’s packed with colourful characters, beautifully described and genuinely laugh-out-loud funny. An entertaining romp.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
I loved this title because I’d read nothing like it before. Thursday Next is a literary detective who lives in an alternate universe in which the Crimean War is still raging and dodos are common pets. And someone has got into the original copy of Jane Eyre and kidnapped the eponymous heroine. It’s littered with wordplay and literary references that make you feel smugly satisfied for getting. I must get round to reading the remaining books in the series…
That’s quite enough from me. Which books would be in your top ten?