Saturday, 24 July 2010

25 books that have influenced me...

So already a few days ago George set a challenge to just write down 25 books which have had an influence on me in no particular order and see where I go. 25 is a good enough number to encompass different sort of stuff, not just favourites ...
You can see George's list here.
So here goes, not quite sure where this will take me but at least I immediately knew where it had to begin ...
Enid Blyton - The Secret of Spiggy Holes - When I was seven maybe eight this was the first proper book that I remember reading. It was my mother's hardback copy and I can still remember the dark red binding and the feeling of achievement when I finished it in a couple of days. Suddenly I had entered the world of reading and understood its secrets. Then of course I got stuck reading Enid Blyton for years!
Jan Piencowski and Edith Brill - The Golden Bird. This is one of the few books from childhood I still have on my bookshelves. A fairy story beautifully illustrated, beautifully told and crafted, I still read it even now. Wonderful.
Vera Brittain - A Testament of Youth - granting me as a young teenager insight into the First World war, peace activism, poetry and more besides.
Cecil Woodham Smith - The Reason Why. Wonderful writer and historian - links between the charge of the light brigade and the Irish potato famine. Military history with a difference. Picked up a copy in Booksfam Oxford, someone else has since "borrowed" it.
Jane Austen - Pride and Prejudice. To be read at least every two years. The perfect antidote to depression I read it to keep calm and to laugh - and of course to improve my English prose style!
Dorothy L Sayers - Busman's Honeymoon. This stands in homage to my complete thralldom to detective fiction.
Susan Hill In the Springtime of the Year. The only novel that my husband to be (9 years into the future!) recommended to me.
Anne Michaels - Fugitive Pieces - simply one of the best books I have ever read. I admire its breadth its vision and the way it confronts the seeming hopelessness of life ... I suppose I feel that it has the most satisfying unhappy ending, an unhappy ending that goes on making sense.
Toni Morrison
- Beloved, given to me by a lover who was abandoning me, reading it opened my mind to new story and language and continues to do so.
Heinrich Böll
- Das Brot der Fruhen Jahre. The first novel I remember reading in German simply for enjoyment.(first male writer on the list!)
Primo Levi
If not now When, A Periodic Table, If this is a Man - resistance, concentration camps, Jewish identity ... too much to bear ... and yet ... read online here
Alice Walker - My brother gave me The Colour Purple at about the same time as he was coming out but I think that the book that had more impact on was her Living by the Word which I took with me to East Germany and used to teach English to folk there as the Berlin wall was falling down.
Judith Kerr - When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit - her family history similar to my family's history
Doris Lessing - Under my Skin and the golden notebook - her first volume of autobiography and the novel of hers which it simply does my brain good to read.
Ursula Le Guin - the Earthsea trilogy which became a quintet and which I have been re-reading since I was 11
Margaret Atwood
- the Handmaids Tale and just about anything else. Love reading her.
Miles Franklin - My Brilliant Career - this is also here to remind me of the enormous pleasure Virago books in general gave me. Also reminds me of course that my career is going bung.
Robert Fisk -The Great War for Civilisation - extraordinary writing and my reading of it is interwoven with my ongoing struggle with Middle East and Jewish issues ... but it is an education and a must-read for anyone trying to get behind the news reports.
Sara Paretsky - Any of the V I Warshawski crime novels - I love crime fiction
Barbara Kingsolver - Poisonwood Bible and Prodigal Summer - novels I read again and again for pure pleasure and the challenge of narratives that renew me and themselves in the rereading.
Christian Bobin - L'homme qui marche, La plus que vive ... - the first his life of Christ the second his account of love and grief. Utterly extraodingary spiritual writing. Language as physical pleasure.
Sebastien Japrisot - Un long dimanche des fiancialles - when I moved to France this was the first modern French novel I read for pleasure. The inhumanity of the first world war and searching for a lost love.
Kurt Marti
- Mein Barfussig Lob - My copy of this comes from former East Germany, I only really realised he was Swiss very recently! Poetry that weaves theology, ecology and life together.
Alberto Manguel
- A History of Reading - The most wonderful book about the joy of books and reading. Such fun and erudition. someone has also "borrowed" my copy of this.
Maya Angelou - I know why the Caged Bird sings - another lyrical inspiring and challenging biography
Charlotte Bronte - Villette - all about Brussels, language and the clash between Catholic and Protestant culture. An almost modernist ending. Actually to give him credit, this is another novel my husband recommended to me

I haven't counted but that's probably too many, will do for now though I think. Happy reading - why not write down your own list?