A friend had tagged me in her list on Facebook of 10 books that have had impact in some way, and my initial scribbles had 3 out of 10 books being Neil Gaiman’s works. I pushed this out of my mind for a while, as I found it challenging without my bookshelf to jog my memory, but I put some thought into it again today and came up with the following.
I’m surprised that that bulk of them are books with a fantasy or magical element, yet at the same time it’s not that surprising either. More than half a life-time ago, I went through a phase where I read almost nothing but fantasy books, but the difficulty in obtaining the complete series from the public library and general fantasy-fatigue led to me ‘outgrowing’ the genre. However, I’ve never lost my interest in the realm of magic and fantasy – after all, with both feet firmly rooted in real life, what can be better than being able to escape to somewhere else, if just for a little while?
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman – A no-brainer for anyone who has seen the username that I go by. While not my favourite Gaiman work, this book fascinated me so much that it led me to read all of Gaiman’s novels and short story collections. Gaiman, of course, remains one of my absolute favourite authors.
- Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings – This is the book that sent me devouring fantasy novels between the ages of 11 – 14. While not the best in their genre, Edding’s The Belgariad and The Mallorean remain, to me, the best fantasy series of all time.
- Atonement by Ian McEwan – A decade on but the force of emotions that I experienced reading this book remain fresh. So utterly beautiful yet heart-wrenching at the same time that I still can’t bring myself to read this book again for the rend that it will cause.
- Ghostwritten by David Mitchell – Chock full of memorable one-liner descriptions, this book prompted me to attempt Mitchell’s other works. While his following three didn’t really impress, I enjoyed The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which, together with the impression that Ghostwritten had left, means that Mitchell’s other novels remain on my to-read list.
- Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada – This isn’t really a book that I’d pick up on my own, but a friend had given this to me, for which I’m grateful, as it’s the most powerful book that I’ve read in recent years.
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – The one classic that I truly enjoy. Also, I’ve read it three times, which is impressive in itself since I don’t read many books more than once.
- Digging by Seamus Heaney – Neither a book nor my favourite Heaney piece, but it’s the poem that marked the beginning of my education on Northern Ireland.
- The Power of Three by Dianna Wynne Jones – A beautiful, moving allegory that really should be included on schools’ reading lists.
- The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber – It was down to choosing between this and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. While both books made me go on to read all the authors’ other novels (except their latest – I’m working on that), Crimson won because it inspired the production of a very good BBC mini-series which made me read the book again. Also, Poisonwood has appeared on a few people’s lists and doesn’t need further recommendation.
- The Discworld Novels by Terry Pratchett – What else can possibly round up this list? Clever, funny, exciting, interesting, intriguing, irreverent – and the cause of many an embarrassing moment laughing to myself while reading these in public. Strangely though, Good Omens, the lovechild of my two favourite authors Gaiman and Pratchett, never really hit the spot.