So there you have it. My ten favourite books. Some might say that it’s a bit premature to be making such lists at the age of 35, but I do remember starting it just over a month ago in the Espresso Americano cafeteria in Proceres, basing it on the incredibly long-running Desert Island Discs BBC Radio 4 show, and since then it has been entralling to myself more than anyone seeing what my memories my sub-conscious drags up. Sometimes it was about what I was doing at that stage of my life, or about people that I associate with the book. Feelings too. What I learned from it. Most importantly, why it is a favourite. I’ve surpised myself by realising how important these books are to me. Later in life, I might cheat myself, and pick my top twenty books, then top thirty, and so forth, because even though doing this has proved very taxing having read so many amazing books, it also reminds me that I’ve read so little. And that kills me. When I was small I would wonder idly and rather pointlessly if there’s someone in the world who’s read every single book, ever (if YOU have I recommend you lift your head for air and maybe go out for a walk and meet people. Anyone). This is, obviously, mission impossible. For myself, everytime I finish a book, I took a long, stressful couple of hours deliberating which I should read next. I have many that are crying out to be read. They look at me, sometimes with puppy dog eyes, other times with cruel judging stares, insisting on themselves. As a writer, I always try to read something depending on what I’m writing at that moment, for inspiration on style or plot or information, but I have recently seen a TedX Talk by a British writer (can’t remember who, sorry) and a creative writing teacher in a New York university (if I can’t remember the name of the writer, forget it if you think I’ll memorize the uni’s name), who said that you should only read what really inspires you, not books you might like or you feel you should read, as you will never enjoy them to their full potential. At the moment I love Latin American literature, so I should be reading more Galeano, Llosa and Bolaño (sorry, Gabriel Garcia Marquez is very overrated for me, personally). I’m not though, and more on that later. On the otherhand, one scifi writer who was a guest speaker at a writing class back in Brum told me that he never reads novels while he’s writing, saying they are too much of a distraction. I guess it’s a ‘what floats your float’ scenario.
To recap, here are my top ten favourite books:
1. Thomas the Tank Engine by Reverand Wilbert Vere Awdry
2. Of Mice & Men by John Steinbeck
3. Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
4. The Borstal Boy by Brendan Behan
5. The Woman Who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle
6. The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
7. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
8. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene
9. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
10. 1984 by George Orwell
I have now compiled some trivia, which is mostly useless apart from the last one, about the above list of books.
1. Only three of the ten writers are still alive. No big surprise. Most best of lists anything arty is usually consist of dead people. Most our heroes are at the end of the day. We prefer to believe in legends than we do in the living. Maybe it’s a futile attempt to achieve the impossible such as interview John Lennon. We’re all defeated by the laws of nature and God eventually, and we all live to die. Needless to say, I wish these dead writers were still alive. Touch wood that this isn’t the kiss of death (no pun fully intended) for the living writers on this list.
2. Apart from Savage Detectives and On Writing, all the books were made into movies or TV series. Well, not strictly speaking, as Stephen King does mention his book Carrie quite a lot which was twice made into a moving picture. Plus, tons of others of his books have been made into movies, so strictly speaking only Savage Detectives (as far as I know) is the only book that hasn’t been made into a movie on this list. Which is pleasing. To pick a best of the movie adaptions would take too much time and deliberation which I’ve not got, but the worst has to be the Borstal Boy, sadly, which stars an actor named Danny Dyer who is often uninterestingly referred to as “the prick’s prick”, and the fact that he plays Brendan Behan is a travesty to art and probably has Behan spinning cart-wheels in his grave. Going in a slightly different direction, the below image I think pretty much sums up the book v movie debate, which I also uninterestingly put up on the wall at the Dowal School Library. l
3. All the writers are white males. Yes. After just brutally laying into Danny Dyer, I can see why you might think that I haven’t a leg to stand on, nor am I seen in the best of lights. Not only have I just partaken in some cyber-bullying based on my own snobbish perceptions of life (especially to Danny Dyer fans and the man himself), I also come across as a closet sexist and racist (not homophobic though, as Brendan Behan was apparently bisexual, not that a person’s sexuality matters at all, but, you know, just saying). I was quite shocked when I looked back at my list and see no women nor people of other races (a part from Roberto Bolaño, who is a Latino). I’ll be honest, it doesn’t really reflect my reading preferences as I tend to choose books, like mentioned above, on what I’m scribing, so I’m more concerned on genre and what’s available cheaply on Amazon or in bookshops here. Ironically, I realised my faux pas of bigotry on the same day that Marlon James, a gay black Jamaican (I don’t know if it still is, but I’m pretty sure homosexuality is outlawed in Jamaica) won the Man Booker Prize for his book, “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. God has a funny way of sending you messages.
Well, I could buy this to correct my self-confessed literature discrimination, but then I remembered that a few months ago I bought Maya Angelou’s memoir, “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”. I knew I was going love it having heard such great things about her. She died about a year ago if I remember right. I’m already at the third chapter and she reminds me somewhat of Alice Walker with her work of art, “The Colour Purple”. Not because they are both black women, but because of the calm voice spreading wisdom even when the world feels as though it’s caved in and all they see is discrimination. The temptation to be angry is so great, but Maya has a way of behaving and writing that shows peace, forgiveness and passion. We’re not born racists. We learn it through life, sadly. The media or parents passing their hatred on to kids. Back to the book, she uses lovely expressions such as, “It throbbed so much it felt like Devil’s toothache”, she had a talent for such passionate phrases.
After, I think I’ll read Zadie Smith’s “White Teeth”. Right now, I need sleep, but in the coming updates, there will be the honourable mentions list i.e. other books I like but didn’t quite make the favourite 10.
Goodnight the world. My eyes are closing. Closing. Shut.