Saturday, 30 August 2014

Facebook 10 books thing

OK. Facebook trend 10 book thing

The Enchanted Wood, Enid Blyton

Seetha got me the 1971 edition with the green cover when I was 6. I was enchanted. Jo, Bessie and Fanny discover the wood, meet the angry pixie and Dame Washalot, Moonface and Silky, the Saucepan Man and Mr Watzisname (Kollamoolitumarellipawkyrollo – I even remember his name) and climb to the top of the Faraway Tree. Dame Slap’s school, Silky’s clock, the Red Goblins and the Land of Birthdays – Hooray!

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

After reading the Hardy Boys from The Tower Treasure to The Firebird Rocket (with the exception of No 16 – A Figure in Hiding) and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (Up to The Mystery of the Magic Circle) I was looking around for another series.My cousin suggested Sherlock Holmes. I found the A Scandal in Bohemia very ho hum – there was no villain, there was very little in the way of action – but the next story was The Adventure of the Red-Headed League. Jabez Wilson, “It’s no use John Clay”. Ears pierced for earrings. “To look at the knees of his trousers”. By the time I hit The Speckled Band, I was hooked.

The Corfu Trilogy, Gerald Durrell

Seetha used to get a magazine called Finding Out. It was a Brit magazine, and appa must have got it for her. Sometimes, it would carry book extracts. One such was this. One day, Seetha came back from the British Council with My Family and Other Animals. I said “Oh. Gerald Durrell,” very knowledgeably. She asked how I knew who Durrell was. I said “He’s a commentator for the BBC”. She started laughing, and kept laughing until I showed her the copy of the Durrell story. She told me I should read My Family and I did. And all the others as well.

The Guns of Navarone, Alistair Maclean

“The match scratched noisily across the rusted metal of the corrugated iron shed, fizzled, the burst into a sputtering pool of light, the harsh sound and sudden brilliance alike strangely alien in the stillness of the desert night.” As a first line, this must rank up there with “It was a dark and stormy night, the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind…” But I didn’t care. Mallory, Miller, Andrea, Casey Brown, Louki and Panayis and poor doomed Andy Stevens, unafraid at last. I read it through the night, took it to school the next morning and finished it.

Salem's Lot, Stephen King,

I wasn’t a big fan of horror. I read King to fit in. That was until I finished the second chapter of Salem’s Lot – before the chills really kicked in. What pulled me in was Susan Norton’s mother. Mothers were either ignored – or reasonable authority figures – in most of the books I’d read so far, but Susan’s mother was petty, occasionally spiteful – and so goddamn real. Then there was the line about a father meeting his daughter’s boyfriend “a man who dangled his daughter’s potential defloration between his legs”. Then little Danny Glick comes back. Barlow ages in reverse. And anyone can die – and does.

Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett

“I first heard Personville called Poisonville by a red-haired mucker named Hickey Dewey in the Big Ship in Butte. He also called his shirt a shoit. I didn't think anything of what he had done to the city's name. Later I heard men who could manage their r's give it the same pronunciation. I still didn't see anything in it but the meaningless sort of humor that used to make richardsnary the thieves' word for dictionary. A few years later I went to Personville and learned better.” The Continental Op, Ladies and Gentlemen. Accept no substitutes

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams

I woke up at around 11. I had a packet of Charms and half a T of smokes. I made some js and went down to Sky. For the rest of that golden day, I stayed there, surviving off chai and joints, and giggling helplessly to myself on the lawns. People came and went. Groups gathered and disbanded, but I was deep in the Heart of Gold, bistromathics, Infinite Improbabilty Drives, Frogstar fighters, Magrathea, Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts, Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, descendents of Genghiz Khan, the deaths of Agrajag and Wowbagger the infinitely prolonged. That day, everything else was an SEP

Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

This one is easy - I have at least four copies of this book, all in various stages of disrepair caused by constant reading. It's also tough because I'm using this in the place of Night Watch, Reaper Man, Moving Pictures, Soul Music, Neverwhere, Stardust, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Ocean - in fact, most of the books by both pterry and Gaiman. But still, you have Aziraphale and Crowley and one of the best descriptions of eternity ever
“I mean, d'you know what eternity is? There's this big mountain, see, a mile high, at the end of the universe, and once every thousand years there's this little bird-"

"What little bird?" said Aziraphale suspiciously.

"This little bird I'm talking about. And every thousand years-"

"The same bird every thousand years?"

Crowley hesitated. "Yeah," he said.

"Bloody ancient bird, then."

"Okay. And every thousand years this bird flies-"


"-flies all the way to this mountain and sharpens its beak-"

"Hold on. You can't do that. Between here and the end of the universe there's loads of-" The angel waved a hand expansively, if a little unsteadily. "Loads of buggerall, dear boy."

"But it gets there anyway," Crowley persevered.


"It doesn't matter!"

"It could use a space ship," said the angel.

Crowley subsided a bit. "Yeah," he said. "If you like. Anyway, this bird-"

"Only it is the end of the universe we're talking about," said Aziraphale. "So it'd have to be one of those space ships where your descendants are the ones who get out at the other end. You have to tell your descendants, you say, When you get to the Mountain, you've got to-" He hesitated. "What have
they got to do?"

"Sharpen its beak on the mountain," said Crowley. "And then it flies back-"

"-in the space ship-"

"And after a thousand years it goes and does it all again," said Crowley quickly.
There was a moment of drunken silence.

"Seems a lot of effort just to sharpen a beak," mused Aziraphale.

"Listen," said Crowley urgently, "the point is that when the bird has worn the mountain down to nothing, right, then-"

Aziraphale opened his mouth. Crowley just knew he was going to make some point about the relative hardness of birds' beaks and granite mountains, and plunged on quickly.

"-then you still won't have finished watching The Sound of Music."

Aziraphale froze.

"And you'll enjoy it," Crowley said relentlessly. "You really will."

"My dear boy-"

"You won't have a choice."


"Heaven has no taste."

The True Believer, Eric Hoffer

The only non-fiction on this list. It may not be fashionable to read Hoffer anymore, and there will be critics who say that most of his stuff is anecdotal, not scientifically proved by carefully selected statistically significant samples, and is more truthiness than truth. But as far as I'm concerned, Hoffer was fucking amazing when it comes to hitting it out of the park. Eg: "The less justifed a man is in claiming excellence for his own self,The less justifed a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause." or "A free society is as much a threat to the intellectual's sense of worth as an automated economy is a threat to the worker's sense of worth. Any social order…which can function well with a minimum of leadership will be an anathema to the intellectual."

That's the trouble with lists. You have to leave so many things out. No Sam the Sudden or Right Ho Jeeves or Spring Fever, no LA Confidential or The Big Nowhere or White Jazz. No Big Sleep or Farewell My Lovely. No Storm of Swords  or Game of Thrones. No Pickwick Papers or Alice in Wonderland or The Four Just Men or The Saint or The Dark Knight Rises or Watchmen or V for Vendetta or Pride and Prejudice or The Razors Edge or Tintin or Asterix or The Toff or On Her Majesty's Secret Service or Goldfinger or Casino Royale or Captain Blood or Some Buried Caesar or And Then There Were None or Roger Ackroyd or Little Women or Jennings or William or Karamazov or ....