1. The Magic Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton. Blyton dominated my early reading. I still have dreams where I climb a tree and enter a different world, then panic in case the I'm there too long and can't get out again.
2. Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov After 3 false starts, due to my distaste for the subject matter, I found myself siding with Humbert Humbert. It was so well written, so absorbing and so convincing, that I saw Lolita as a conniving tease of a girl. It scared me that I could be so swayed (only as far as the characters go, obviously) on such a subject.
3. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley a perfectly wonderful Gothic novel which resonated with the seemingly permanently depressed 13-15 year old I was during first readings. It has been re-read countless times. My focus has been, until very recently, on the fate of the poor creature – created and then rejected by his ‘father’ and then society. He was not the monster, Frankenstein was. It continues to appeal to my continually, though somewhat more hidden now, dark Goth soul.
4. Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S.Lewis My first grown-up book, given to me on my 7th birthday with great solemnity. Sat around the dining table with my parents I was given the book to unwrap then told it was chosen as it was the first book my father had read. I then went on to read all of the Narnia Chronicles.
5. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys Poor Coco. The parrot who with clipped wings was unable to fly to escape the fire, and fell screeching to the ground, alight. This was written as a prequel to Jane Eyre, giving Bertha Mason’s side of the story. Coco’s fate foreshadows Bertha’s.
6. The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde. OK, this is a story not a book, but it has stayed with me. It made me cry. It still makes me cry. It is beautifully sad.
7. The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks My introduction to the works of Iain Banks, now sadly departed, through the short-lived book club (which was both amusing and alcoholic in turn). Experimenting on your child and keeping a trophy – it’s a lingering picture.
8. Day of the Oprichnik, Vladimir Sorokin A recent read and introduction to Sorokin who deliberately sets out to shock, whilst at the same time draws attention to the state of Russia (he is anti-Putin, good man). Imagine a homosexual caterpillar with glowing members. It’s not a pleasant thought but Sorokin put it in my poor, disturbed mind, and it just won’t go.
9. Animal Farm, George Orwell Four legs good, two legs bad…All animals are equal…Two legs good…Some animals are more equal than others: a Socialist criticising the hypocrisy of Communism. This book coincided with my early Russian phase (early in my life, that is), and whilst I was always afraid that the Americans would cause the final nuclear war, not the Russians (whatever Sting may have sung), this book reinforced my belief that Communism in theory is brilliant, but is doomed to be consigned to the bin of failure in practice.
10. The Bible, various I can quote verbatim from this book. It has some good stories. It has some good morals. It also has a wrathful God and lots of sex, rape, bigamy, misogyny, murder and sacrifice, as well as a few good old-fashioned miracles. I loved Sunday School – learning the stories, particularly the miracles. I’ve been waiting for a miracle along the lines of the one at the wedding in Canaan ever since.
I'd be interested to hear of your top 10 memorable books..