It would be a very arrogant person who decided to embark on a writing career without a deep appreciation of other people's work first. After all, we only really learn to write properly through reading. Not only does a great book fuel the imagination, it helps us understand how to make words flow and evoke powerful feelings; very important in this line of work.
Someone recently asked me what my top four favourite books are and it took a while to whittle it down to these. It would have been much easier with a top 20- Tess of The D'Urbervilles, A Tale of Two Cities and The Man Who Mistook his Wife For a Hat would all have been in there. But four was what I was asked for, so four is what we've got.
It's not an especially highbrow or intellectual list, but they've all moved and inspired me and in some way made a difference to my life. And that, dear reader, is what it's all about.
Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes
Every so often a book comes along that takes your breath away. Flowers for Algernon did that for me, and it's still unlike anything else I've ever read.
Written in the first person the book tells the story of Charlie Gordon, a thirty two year old janitor with a learning disability. When Charlie is presented with the opportunity to take part in a scientific experiment that has the potential to increase his brain power, his life changes forever.
Through a series of progress reports we witness Charlie's intelligence levels increase to genius level and as he does so, he becomes more cynical about the world around him. He soon discovers the fatal flaw in the experiment and his tragic connection with a laboratory mouse called Algernon.
Written in 1958, the book often features terms about disability that will make a lot of people feel uncomfortable today, but I'd urge you to stick with it. It's a beautiful book that touches on a range of important issues like discrimination, bullying, sexuality and megalomania. Once you've read it you'll never forget it.
The Time Traveller's Wife, Audrey Niffeneger
Can't bring myself to watch the film because the reviews have been less than great, so I'll remain in blissful ignorance unless someone ties me to a chair and plies me with too much popcorn to care.
Audrey Niffenegger's debut novel is a love story with a twist. Clare is a young art student who falls in love with librarian Henry- so far so average, you might think. But this story is anything but average; it's a tale of time travel, enduring passion and the ups of downs of relationships.
It's funny, thought provoking and beautifully romantic without ever being cheesy, and despite appearances it's much more about the human condition than science fiction.
The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Judith Kerr
Not an obvious choice for a grown up's reading list, but if you want to talk about igniting a passion for reading this one definitely can't be missed out. A magical, quirky tale with way more depth than might be initially obvious, this is a book that you can read over and over again and find just as much joy as the first time.
It's always going to be special to me because it was my daughter's favourite when she was little. We spent many bedtimes snuggling up together, voicing the characters and imagining what we would do if a big, friendly tiger turned up on the doorstep and proceeded to empty the fridge.
Beautifully illustrated, the book is thought by some to be an allegory for Nazi invasion in the 1930s. Only the author herself really knows the real story, but I for one am very grateful she wrote it.
The Dice Man- Luke Reinhart
Apparently this is now widely regarded as a cult classic, and rightly so. The Dice Man is by turn shocking, laugh out loud funny and thought provoking, but not everyone's going to like it.
The story revolves around Luke, a bored psychiatrist who's at the top of his game and struggling to find any joy now he's achieved all his life goals. He decides to mix things up by making decisions based on a roll of a dice; essentally turning his life into an exciting and dangerous game.
This is a book that has been dividing opinion since it was first published in the 70's, and it covers some pretty tough subjects. The main protagonist is not very likeable and his attitudes and the way he treats people are far from pleasant. But if you enjoy subversive stories (think Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Fight Club, American Psycho) you'll probably love this.
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