There’s this thing going round on Facebook where you’re challenged to list the ten books that have influenced you, and someone did, indeed, challenge me. Normally I ignore this sort of thing as too much effort to do, but as I was showering this morning my list just popped into my mind. After getting dry, I jotted it down and here it is with explanations. It turns out to be a bit of a Desert Island Books list – broadly chronological in terms of my reading, not publication. You’ll probably notice that it’s more than ten books but I don’t want to edit any of these babies out. Plus I’ve cheated by including series and not just single books – my blog, my rules.
The Lone Pine series by Malcolm Saville – a great adventure series set in the Stipperstones in Shropshire and Rye on the South Coast (I’ve never been to either place but they loomed very large in my childhood). My first literary crush was David, though I did thrill when he and Peter had their first kiss in a cave. (Peter is a girl – we weren’t that progressive in 60s England).
The Billy Bunter series by Frank Richards – I learned a lot of classical allusions from these deeply unsound books, as well as laughing like a drain. Plus I developed a taste for bad boys, with an affection for Herbert Vernon Smith, aka The Bounder.
Dr. No by Ian Fleming – when I was a teen there was no such thing as YA literature, so I slipped seamlessly from Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to James Bond. There is very much more sex and sadism in the latter.
Whom the Gods Would Destroy by Richard Powell – after working my way through Lillington Library’s mystery and thriller shelves, I moved up to randomly picking novels off the fiction shelves. I have an abiding affection for historical fiction and the first ‘real’ novel I recall reading is this story of the Trojan War. (I had to look this up to see who wrote it and discovered that you can get it for $2.99 for Kindle and that many people really enjoyed it).
The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence – DHL is pretty unfashionable these days but this was the first book I really studied in depth, for English A’ Level. It is terribly overwrought, but I can still picture the characters in my mind and can remember the last line.
Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy – after finishing high school, I started to read this, found it terrifically boring and gave up. Thus I learned that not only are many classics very dull, I also don’t have to read them.
Blandings Castle series by P. G. Wodehouse – the ultimate comfort reading when I was swotting for my finals at university. Also I scored a couple of points on a TV quiz show called Matchpoint by knowing what P. G. stands for.
Success by Martin Amis – this is the first novel I read after reading a review. We used to get the Sunday Times and I recall it getting a very positive review, so I went out and bought it. I have read most of Martin Amis’s oeuvre and use with some regularity the epigraph to Dead Babies (often called something deeply bland like Deep Secrets) “I don’t know much about science, but I know what I like.”
Mapp and Lucia by E. F. Benson – when we first moved to San Francisco I couldn’t work and had a lot of time on my hands. So I joined the local library and ploughed my way through the complete works of Sue Grafton, Marcia Muller, Sarah Paretsky and Charles Dickens. But the books that cheered me up when I was feeling lonely and rather useless were the Mapp and Lucia books – very English and very funny.
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman – I read this trilogy when my daughter was a baby and then again when I had my son. I can remember willing them to stay napping so I could read another chapter.
Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling – my daughter is of the fortunate generation who grew up as the HP books were being published. I set the rather selfish rule that she couldn’t read the books by herself until I’d read them to her. And the same for my son.
Tess’s Tree by Jess M. Brallier – the first book I wrote a review for. I spent hours laboring over my deathless prose for what is a rather mediocre book that is now out of print.
Double Fudge by Judy Blume – the magical first audiobook that captured my kids’ attention and meant that we could be in the car for more than 15 minutes without tears and tantrums.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – it makes me very happy.