Sunday, 16 August 2009

15 books

So I found this idea on a series of blogs yesterday evening, people gave it different titles and different emphasis, see here or here or here, but with the same basic principle. So these are my books, not really 'favourites' but ones that have had an impact on me, maybe on my thinking or opening up something new to me, or left a lasting impression or maybe just important for a while. These first 9 are fiction then the last 6 are non-fiction.
  1. The Sneetches and other stories by Dr Seuss. Though I do love The Sneetches it is the story about the trousers with no-one inside 'em that stayed with me (What was I scared of), because it really scared me as a child. I have read Dr Seuss endlessly to my kids, The Lorax and How the Grinch Stole Christmas being other favourites.
  2. That was then and this is now by S.E. Hinton. This is the book from my teenage years that stays with me. It is about friendship and growing up, and mostly it was the ending I remember, where Bryon makes a choice that is so hard, but the right thing to do.
  3. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula le Guin. Another book I fell in love with as a teenager, and waited 20 years for the fourth and fifth books which she wrote to continue the tale of Ged and Tenar. Fantasy writing at its best and an ending that was absolutely, perfectly satisfying.
  4. The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks. I started reading this trilogy at about 15 or 16, it is about a young woman having a baby 'out of wedlock' (set in the 60's so not really acceptable) and I just loved the people in it and the romantic notion of the ongoing relation ship between Jane and Toby. Just life and friendship (I can see a theme developing here:-)
  5. The Magus by John Fowles. A boy in my English A level class carried this book around with him for two years, and I was always curious about it, so I read it, and it started me on my 'John Fowles' period (through my early twenties). A wonderfully complex book, with lots of ideas and history. I went on to read everything else he wrote, The Collector was one of my favourites.
  6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. Although I don't love these books I had to put them in because they were such a big and ongoing part of our lives for a few years. We read them over and over, at one point I did a three day stint, reading the first three books one after another while we all sat in the spare room, stopping only for drinks when my voice gave out. It is something the children remember and still talk about.
  7. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. This has to be in because they are basically the best books I ever read to my kids, and the most challenging for young people in terms of their ideas and philosophy, they really make you think. It continues to be M's favourite and she has read and listened to the tapes so much she can practically recite them.
  8. The Woman who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle. A startling book because it is the story of an abused woman, and you totally forget it is written by a man. I love it because it made me understand the thinking of another person in a way you rarely find. And I have never had such an overwhelming physical reaction to a book; at the end, when she finally breaks and hits him with the frying pan, I wanted her to hit him again, until he was dead, the sense of release of the anger and frustration was quite intense.
  9. We Need to Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver. This is the most recent book on the list. It's about being a parent and made me think very hard about what that involves. It challenges every preconception you might have on the subject, and I tend to find that is a good thing in a book.
  10. 117 Days by Ruth First. I bought this when I was at college. In retrospect it makes me feel I was so ignorant and naive, but maybe it is important to recognise that you are ignorant so you can do something about it. 117 days is how long Ruth First spent in detention as an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. I remember being outraged that such a thing could happen, only to find, or course, that much worse injustice is commonplace throughout the world. I learned a lot from it about politics and injustice and the power of protest.
  11. How Children Fail by John Holt. This was merely the first of John Holt's books that I read, and basically it has informed all of my adult life and the way I chose to bring up my children and our adventures into education otherwise than by schooling. So it is the most important on the list.
  12. The Cap or The Price of a Life by Roman Frister. This is the only book I have read about the Holocaust. It changed me because it is a personal story, so unlike the television images of mass horror you have one person and what happened to them, and what the impact of the experience meant to them. It is written with brutal honesty, mixing his childhood story with his current life. He does not try to present himself as anything other than a real person, there is no heroism, only survival. It stays with you.
  13. To Have or To Be by Erich Fromm. Wikipedia describes him as a humanistic philosopher. I bought this little book second hand, I think I had probably read about it as I remember seeking it out. I found it very thought provoking and it articulated something for me that I suppose I had felt instinctively but not put into words.
  14. The New Internationalist is not a book but a publication that I subscribed to for many years as a student and afterwards, and again recently for the last few years. It informs me about the world and stops me feeling totally ignorant about global issues. It has an essentially radical standpoint, looking critically at the status quo and seeking better solutions to the world's problems.
  15. Road Atlas. Tish thought it was funny that I put the road atlas on the list, but it is something I use all the time and has had a big impact on my life. For many years when we were actively involved in Education Otherwise we travelled frequently to gatherings and to see friends all over the country, and using the road atlas to plan the journey was vital for me when traveling alone with four kids. Definitely a book I could not live without.


  1. A great list - a lot of them are ones I've never read and will now go on my 'to be read' list. The L-shaped room was one of my favourites at college and has remained so ever since.

    (Your friend who recently lost her son may - or may not since we all approach these things differently - like to be aware of the Child Death Helpline which I was involved in setting it up twenty two years ago when my son died.
    0800 282 986
    It is for anyone involved - not just parents.)

  2. Thanks for visiting my site. I too went through the John Fowles "everything" stage..his work was so visual, so rich..also have you ever seen the film of "The Collector"? Chilling.

  3. Thanks for this Lyn, I didn't know it was a film too so I will have to search it out. I think it was on the Wiki page that says how thoroughly bad the film of The Magus is, which i totally agree, but I love the film of French Leiutnenant's Woman, deals with the 'split plot' very imaginatively.
    much love Martine


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