If You Could Only List 10 Books...
PINK HEART SOCIETY COLUMN
A while ago, there was a Facebook tag going around asking people to list 10 books that had stayed with them – not necessarily their favourites or the books they considered the best.
For voracious readers – and therefore, all writers – this is tricky. I could spend a month choosing, discarding and reorganising my list of 10. But for what it's worth, I've decided to share my list here, the only caveat being that I'm excluding the Poldark series because there are 12 novels in it, even though those books are an obsession of mine.
So, here goes...
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
This one I don’t need to explain. Jane Eyre has entranced generations of book lovers with its dark passion and deeply romantic story, and Mr Rochester is my favourite ever hero.
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
Terrifying, as a group of normal, well-behaved teenage boys descend into savagery once they’re removed from civilisation. Just look around you at the world today to see the truth of what humans are capable of once their baser natures are let off the leash. Chilling, awful, and so real. The Plague, Albert Camus I read The Plague during my existential phase. A terrifyingly engrossing tale of life's irrationality. If you’re interested, read this article – which makes me want to re-read it...or maybe throw myself into bed never to emerge again.
White Holiday, Viola Bayley This book was written in the 1950s, and the inscription pencilled on the inside page of my copy is to people I’ve never heard of, so I assume it was came to me via a second hand book sale. Two British teenagers become embroiled in a mystery involving a hunky skier while holidaying in Switzerland. I think it's the first book I read that had a romance subplot. With its mix of snow, mystery and romance, it got my youngster brain dreaming of love and adventure. Persuasion, Jane Austen In my opinion, far superior to most people’s favourite, Pride and Prejudice. Captain Wentworth and his enduring love for Anne are so deeply romantic. The best second-chance-love romance you'll ever read.
The Woman Destroyed, Simone de Beauvoir
Only a novella, for which I am devoutly grateful because it would have destroyed me if it had been longer. So heart-breaking that even now, typing this, I want to scream for Monique, whose husband’s infidelity slowly unravels her. You feel like you’re bleeding for her. Don’t believe me? Read the Goodreads reviews and see the torture for yourself.
Sylvester, Georgette Heyer
Of course, Heyer's books are in the realm of Poldark – they could take up the whole list, but since almost none are part of a series, I feel safe nominating this one as the most special to me. I love the socially awkward heroine, love the fact she's an author, love her perfect best friend. I love the autocratic hero she brings to his knees, his mother, his nephew. Love the wit, the humour, the declarations of love. Love, love, love everything about it.
Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel
Please don’t judge me, but when I bought Wolf Hall pre-flight after forgetting my reading material, I realised too late it was a Man Booker Prize winner and nearly had a heart attack. I was not in the mood to be depressed and Man Booker winners usually have me reaching for the razor blades. BUT what an absolutely brilliant book! How was it possible to be so breathlessly glued to the pages when I already knew the story of Henry VIII? Well, duh, because it's wonderfully written, and it has a twist in that the well known tale is told from the view of the less celebrated character, Thomas Cromwell.
The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
What’s not to admire in a book that can take the absurdity of a man transforming into an insect and make it a tragedy of loneliness and betrayal. Check out a little history of the covers here.
The Wolf and the Dove, Kathleen Woodiwiss This is the book that hooked me on historical romance. It was a revelation! I tore through it, and then grabbed every other book by Woodiwiss, as well as those by Shirlee Busbee, Laurie MacBain, Johanna Lindsey, Rosemary Rogers, Karen Robards and Judith McNaught, and along the way, I addicted my mother and sisters.
I could spend forever listing books that have thrilled me, moved me, terrorised me, had me on the edge of my seat or flying to heaven – as well as all those I've already mentioned, others that spring immediately to mind are the Trixie Belden books, The Children of Primrose Lane by Noel Streatfeild, in which a group of kids save the day in WWII England when they trail a German spy (boy oh boy, as a kid adventurer did I love that book!); The Chalet School books by Elinor Brent-Dyer; all the Agatha Christies (although my favourite is the meticulously researched Death Comes as the End, set in ancient Egypt); the wonder that is Patrick White’s Tree of Man; the satire of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, Gaskell’s North and South and of course Wuthering Heights, Donne’s poetry, Shakespeare’s plays…
Okay, I'm cheating by squeezing in more over my self-allocated 10! Sorry.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that whatever books make your top 10, 20, 50, 100 list, there’s nothing better than the way in which a great story can touch the adventurer, the romantic, the thinker, the philosopher, the comedian, the escapist, the whatever in us.
Maybe, one day, I’ll end up on a list like this – a great reason to strive to be a better writer.