I was tagged some time ago on Facebook. The way the game works is to list ten that have stayed with you in some way. They don’t have to be the ‘right’ books, and you shouldn’t think about it too long — just ten that have touched you and stayed with you. Then you nominate ten more people to play the game.
My problem was sticking to ten, and sticking to the ‘stayed with you
in some way’, which isn’t necessarily the same thing as favourite books
Here, I’m including the list but with a variation on the theme adding
explanations. Slight cheat — the first is two by one author, and there
are a couple of trilogies.
In no particular order:
The Happy Prince/Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Happy Prince — read as a child, and I cried my eyes out.
Well, not literally and that would be gross, but yes, I sobbed. Hey, I
was like nine or younger, and the first time I heard the story someone
else read it to me. It would probably still make my lips tremble. It has
everything: morality, romance, heart-wrenching pain. A Picture of Dorian Gray
is just one of those stories that’s never forgotten. As is often the
case, my first awareness of this tale was the old black and white film. I
didn’t get to read the book until my teens, but it’s an undeniable
Gormenghast (trilogy/first two books) by Mervyn Peake
Not only a story that has touched and stayed with me, it’s one of my
favourites, if not ‘the’ favourite owing to the scope of imagination,
the names given to the characters, but most of all the richness of the
language used, something sadly lacking in most books today.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I adore this ‘other world’ below London in this urban fantasy. For
Doctor Who fans, it may be of interest to know that Peter Capaldi played
The Angel Islington in the 1996 television series, but it is
the novelisation that stayed with me. Again, I love the names given to
the characters, and the idea of an ordinary man dragged into an
extraordinary world, one right under London as well.
Wraeththu (trilogy) by Storm Constantine
This is possibly the author’s most well-known and outstanding work. A
futuristic fantasy of post-apocalyptic proportions told through the
eyes of three characters (one per book). The story follows Wreaththu —
hermaphrodite beings who are skillful with forms of magic — and their
interaction with humans. At times romantic, but questioning perceptions
of sexuality and mankind’s humanity/inhumanity to each other, there’s
more going on here to those with an open mind.
Snowflake by Paul Gallico
A child’s book that I’ve never seen anywhere since. I last tried
searching for it about five years ago, but it wasn’t available, and I
think I only found one listing for it. (Update: there are a few copies around and it can be listened to on youtube.) I have no need of an actual
replacement, although mine is so old and well-read it’s now lacking a
cover and is just a very thin volume of aged yellowing pages. In short,
Snowflake is born, goes on many adventures, falling in love with
Raindrop and then at the dramatic conclusion returns to the sky. It had
everything for a child — adventure, romance, and even self-sacrifice. I
loved (and kept) so many of my childhood books, but this is my
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
My first ‘adventure’ for an older reader, and I’ve chosen it because
it’s linked to the one good clear memory I have of my mother. She read
it to me long before I was able to read it myself. She must have read
it, at my request, about three times before I was able to take over. I
still have the little burgundy covered book that she gave me. Owing to
her ill health, I don’t have many memories like that so her reading Tom Sawyer is priceless.
Knowledge of Angels by Jill Paton Walsh
Only read once, but I loved this book and remember it well. Some
might see it as an argument against religion, but I think more than that
it illustrates what man is capable of doing to each other, using
religion as an excuse. I especially like the story behind the book, that
it was turned down by everyone, so Jill Paton Walsh self-published at a
time when it was much harder to do than now. It went on to win a Booker
prize — before they changed the rules to disallow self-published
The Incredible Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson
It was a close call between this and I Am Legend, but this
just pips it for me. My first memory of the story was once again the old
black and white movie. Who can forget the battle with the giant spider?
Some love spiders, some hate; some have this strange love/hate affinity
with them. I think their webs are beautiful and amazing. I think the
spider is incredible. I just don’t want to come across one unexpectedly.
In short, my early recollections were of that chill down one’s spine at
the thought of battling a giant spider. I hadn’t read the book until
recently, and likely had a preconceived notion of what to expect. The
book, though in many ways accurate to the film, differs vastly in that
it’s more emotional. I didn’t expect to experience so many emotions
including such sadness interwoven with sympathy for the main character,
in what many assume is a horror story.
Nocturnes by John Connolly
I like John Connolly’s work. I’m often perplexed with how he seems to
break so many ‘rules’, particularly with his Charlie Parker novels —
including both first and third person viewpoints, and even telling the
story in an omnipresent way when relating something that happened in the
past. Not all writers can even manage point of view changes
successfully, but it seems to suit his style, his ‘voice’. I chose to
include Nocturnes because I was surprised to come across a collection of short stories with gothic influences. They are both olde-worlde and new.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
Best known for writing One Hundred and One Dalmatians, and the sequel The Starlight Barking. Yes, 101 had a sequel, and I have both books. I Capture the Castle has one of the best opening sentences. As John Steinbeck’s end to Of Mice and Men
is startling, the most memorable thing about Dodie Smith’s first novel
for adults has always been the line that begins, “I write this sitting
in the kitchen sink.”