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Books Change Things

October 13th, 2014

Top-Ten-blogWhat are your favourite books? That’s a tough one. How about this – What are the books that changed things for you? The ones that made you think about yourself, or the world in a different way?

Here’s my top ten (whittled down from a short-list of some thirty-odd).

1.The Silver Surfer no. 16 – Stan Lee & John Buscema (May 1970)
I was a slow reader. At age 8 they put me with a special teacher (the fabulous ‘Mrs. Lines’) who got things started. Soon after, my Mum bought me this comic. It was the first thing I ever saw that made me think ‘Wow! I must read that!’

2. Finn Family Moomintroll – Tove Jansson
My first proper book. Through the adventures of Moomin, Snufkin and the gang, I began to suspect that other people felt things like pride, loneliness and jealousy, which was very reassuring at the time – meant it wasn’t just me.

3. Men Martians and Machines – Eric Frank Russell
A friend lent me this when I was 11. I tried reading it again recently and … it’s dreadful. But it paved the way for Isaac Asimov; Arthur C. Clarke; Ray Bradbury; William Gibson, and all the rest. I’m still a massive Sci-Fi fan.

4. The Lord Of The Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
OK – hands up. I was that Tolkien anorak. By the time I was 21 I’d read it 21 times. ‘The road goes ever on and on …’ It certainly does!

5. Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
I started playing in bands as a teenager. This one came from a keyboard player I knew, and it blew me away. Here was a literary writer who understood Science Fiction. And though he was clearly a grown-up, he thought the world was a mad, topsy-turvy place, just like we did. I still love Vonnegut’s prose; it’s like he’s sat across the table, telling it just for me – wish I could write like that.

6. Thom Gunn. Selected Poems 1950 – 1975
I never did sit those A-Level English exams. But at least I came away with this:
‘Men manufacture both machine and soul
And use what they imperfectly control
To dare a future from the chosen routes.’ (‘On the Move’)

7. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists – Robert Tressell
My Mum again. She bought me this when I was fifteen. It was ten years before I got round to reading it, but this is the book that tells me where my family came from, and why we should never, ever go back there.

8. The Razor’s Edge – W. Somerset Maughm
In my early twenties, a girlfriend gave me this as a present. Nothing has ever made me question my own views on success, achievement and ‘what it’s all about’ quite so much.

9. Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
So, what happens when the guy who was obsessed with Tolkien in his teens gets to Theatre School in his late twenties? Obvious – he gets fixated by Zen and the Art … I had a big black motorbike too.

10. Gone Fishin – Walter Mosley
In my early thirties, a great Belgian guitarist managed to convince me that, when it comes to popular music, the Blues really is the heart of the beast. I’m still trying to learn to play it, and if you want to know where the Blues came from, this is a great place to start.

So, there y’go. That’s my list. I’ll pop it up on Facebook, and it would be very interesting to see yours (but be honest now – If all we see is a catalogue of literary giants, we’ll know you cheated).

Keep on writing!

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