Today, I thought I’d do something a little different. I don’t talk a lot about myself, as you all know, but thought I’d list some of the books that have made me who I am.
My whole life has been formed around the books, (and comics, as I’ve loved them since it was definitely not cool to do so) that I’ve read. Long before I wrote, I read. I was and still am a prolific reader who enjoyed receiving a book or comic as a present more than I would a car or a house (I’m still the same now.) The biggest single thrill of my young life was going into the city (York, England) and choosing a new book with my own saved money.
Here is a list that I think represents me from childhood right up to the present day. These books are not necessarily my favourites, though some are, but they are a fair representation of my reading history and what it has taught me.
I have listed the books as I have progressed in life from young to old-er. (that’s right – old-er!)
I hope you enjoy.
The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
If ever a story made me who I am it was this. As a child, I longed to visit a world so wonderful and believable as Lewis’s creation. The Narnia books were the first I bought and devoured. I still can’t help looking in wardrobes to see if there’s snow there.
The Forest of Doom
The Fighting Fantasy books taught me that a story could not just be set on one definite path but be both versatile and exciting. These books were new, different and most of all fantastical.
One prerequisite of a teenage boy is that he suddenly likes rock music, leather and horror. The Rats delivered, and for the first time in my life I felt a bit of a rebel.
Stormbringer and Michael Moorcock himself quite literally changed my life. I was blown away by his anti-hero Elric. The weakling King with a sword that fed him souls, quite often of those he loved, was genius. Moorcock created Elric as an opposite of the Conan character and reading this book inspired me more than any other to become a writer. I will never be as good as my literary hero, but even a fraction would suffice.
The Silmarillion is the single most convincing work of how Fantasy can be made legend. If this book was dug up two million years from now, the people of that time would consider it their Bible and that Elves etcetera DID exist.
And thus a love affair with poetry was born. Dante Alighieri could have written about a bin liner and made it sound poetic. Outstanding!
Death At La Fenice
I went through a period of reading stories about places I would love to visit. I’m lucky I’ve gotten to most, but Venice still haunts me. One day.
After Moorcock, Murakami affected me most. Murakami has the skill to write about anything and make it surreal, dreamlike and utterly compelling. Some of his stories lose you, others don’t, but either way, you HAVE to finish them and move straight on to the next.
Of Mice and Men
Steinbeck taught me that a story does not have to be hundreds of pages long, nor of a subject matter so intense as to fry your brain. Simplicity and innocence are the key here. I dare anyone not to have tears in their eyes.
To Kill A Mockingbird
I have an inbuilt resistance to reading, (or doing) what others do. I like to plough my own furrow, as we say around here. I don’t like being recommended books; I like to discover them. I don’t like being told what to read; I want my own decision to sweep over me. To Kill a Mockingbird was the singular exception to my rule. Thank god I took my Mother-in-law’s advice. Possibly the greatest book ever written, and that’s coming from a lover of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
I hope you enjoyed my selections. It was very difficult to choose them as I love so many. I have over fifty Michael Moorcock books alone just as an example. Everybody will have their favourites, but I don’t think you can look back and truly understand what reading has done for you until you reach a certain age. I have.
As an aside, I found listing my books like this quite therapeutic and would strongly recommend it to anyone else.
All images courtesy of Goodreads.com
Richard M. Ankers author of The Eternals trilogy.