Ten books that have stayed with me – meme

reading book on beach

I got tagged on Facebook to list ten books that have stayed with me and moved me. As always I began to over-think things and went off for a while to do some deep pondering and reflecting. Then I made my list, and instantly realised that I had missed a very important book from it, then another, then another. Yes, again I was tying myself up in indecision.

However, I drew a line, figuratively, and said, right that’s it, no more, I stop now. Therefore, I present my list, with a brief description as to why it is on the list. You’ll see there aren’t currently any ‘classics’ here, and I am sure there are others I have forgotten about. There are also some notable omissions that, if I had been compiling this list on another day, I may have been included… ten is such a small number.

Before I list my books, I would like to thank authors everywhere, past, present and future, for writing their words, words that have stayed with me and moved me. My list is presented as close to the order I read them as possible.

  1. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis. The book that introduced me to metaphor. Yes, I suppose it is a classic.
  2. The Last Legionary – Douglas Hill. Possibly the first science fiction I liked and enjoyed, beyond the old Doctor Who target books. Perhaps the last children’s book I read… as a child.
  3. The Stand – Stephen King. The epic, post-apocalyptic battle of good and evil. There aren’t many 600+ page tomes I have read more than once.
  4. Haunted – James Herbert. There is a passage in this book, when I first read it, that made me feel scared. It remains the only passage ever to do that.
  5. The Post-evangelical – Dave Tomlinson. The book that resonated. Here was someone saying what I was thinking. Since I read it I am so happy that others were, and are, on the same wavelength.
  6. Excession – Iain M Banks. Science fiction will always have a place in my heart. This is currently my favourite, that may well change. Here we have galaxy-spanning events, unidentified objects and Artificial Intelligence that brings humour and humanity into play.
  7. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People – Stephen R. Covey. Seven habits that should change my life… I’m still working on them.
  8. Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk. The book that made me think that there are alternatives, alternatives to everything… all wrapped up in a shocking and disturbing tale.
  9. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami. The book that reintroduced me to metaphor and surrealism. I’m still not sure if I understood it all, or if I was supposed to. However, I love the way Murakami weaves his words and worlds… even through translation.
  10. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak. Beautiful, just beautiful. A sad story, that makes me glad to live every moment this universe gifts me.

Okay, that’s my list. It will change. Currently there is no room for The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, I read this not too long ago, so felt it needed a little more time to be included. I haven’t included, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, Neuromancer and Brave New World, but on another day I might. Peter F Hamilton may have made the list, but my favourite works by him are never stand-alone books, so I couldn’t choose one on its own.

One other piece of writing should be here. Technically though, we could argue for a very long time as to whether it is a book or not. So I’ll leave it as an aside. Ecclesiastes by Qoheleth, has probably stayed with me the most as a religious text, and one I return to time and time again. It is practical, simplistic and questioning. It speaks to my Gen X mind like a Palahniuk novel, despite being over 2,000 years old. I would say that it might be the ‘complete’ text… if only it said, there is a time to read.

An insignificant review of 2012

i photoshop, therefore i am

i photoshop, therefore i am

To sum up my 2012 in one sentence would be; the year that things began to change, or transition. Transition is a better word, it implies controlled and positive change. After 16 years working for one organisation, the opportunity to leave was offered, and I took it. Before I left I was offered a new part-time role and with the rest of my time I am preparing some very exciting ventures.

2012 saw me become debt free. This has been a long-term goal, caused by long-term stupidity. My transition into next year will be to not be stupid!

TV

I don’t watch a great deal of (current) TV, but I do tend to watch series. 2012 finally saw me watch The Sopranos and The Wire. Two great series that kept throwing surprises. The Killing III was also good, with a really shocking ending.

Movies

Nothing really stood out for me this past year. I watched Prometheus, having waited over 30 years for Ridley to finally get around to making it. I liked it, in fact really liked it, however there was one major problem, and this has been something that has annoyed me with most films recently. The trailer of the movie told me pretty much the whole story. When it came to seeing the actual film, there was little left to make me wonder what going on, and engage me. I hope this is a trend that will soon disappear.

At the very end of the year I got to see The Avengers… brilliant, another fun flick from Mr Joss Whedon.

Books

Again I was catching up on the book front. I read the complete back catalogue of Chuck Palahniuk, and overall that was really good. One surprise was Old Man’s War by John Scalzi, it was lent to me and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Perhaps I was sci-fi deprived at the time, but I recommend it.

Music

I continued my descent into the world of John Darnielle and The Mountain Goats. I saw him perform with Anonymous 4 at The Barbican and that was quite amazing. I also caught Frank Turner at Oxford doing a great live show. I missed out on seeing Dead Can Dance, but the album made up a little for that.

Apps

Back in February I enjoyed taking part in FAWM, a social songwriter’s event where participants write 14.5 songs during the month of February. I took part and completed the challenge. But the writing was made significant.y easier by a wonderful app on the iPad and iPhone called Songwriter HD. This simple app allows you to jot ideas for lyrics and record bits via the microphone. It’s nice and simple, but perfect. Exactly what a good app should be.

UKPLC

I am not a royalist or a fan of the Olympics. With the year being dominated by the Queen’s jubilee and London 2012, it was difficult to avoid both of these events. However, it was nice to see a country, that 12 months before had been shocked by inner city riots, being proud. More importantly being proud without being arrogant.

2012 was a good year, although looking at what I have written above, I think I need to record things a little better. This was the first year in several where I haven’t kept a diary, perhaps I need to buy another Moleskine.

2013

So unto 2013 I go. I know there will be several more transitions ahead, many already in motion. But it is my story. Story is my word of focus on 2013, but that is another post.

Why did the freak buy a book?

In a very interesting post Michael Hyatt shares research on why customers of his company Thomas Nelson buy books. The research is really interesting and makes a lot of sense. The most interesting point is that price is actually low on the list… well last to be exact.

The problem is, his list just doesn’t resonate with me. I have never bought a book based on the list his research shows. In fact, if anything the over-riding factor as to when I buy a book is related to price. Can I afford this or not?

The author is the key

One thing Michael notes is that the author is not on this list. This is because the author, if well-known actually becomes the title. If someone is well-known and respected they become more important than the title. Although a good title and the rest of the list will still help, especially when deciding which one of their books someone will buy.

The celebrity cult

We live in a culture that is celebrity obsessed. I have tried to fight this. Honestly I have. I refuse to watch Pop Idol and other celebrity pop-culture shows. If an event is publicised because ‘x’ or ‘y’ is going to be there, I instantly turn off.

However, when I looked at the books I had bought, and why, I discovered something that chilled me to the bone. The main reason I bought books was because of the author! Give me a Seth Godin, Tim Ferris or Stephen Covey and I was there. Anything that had David Allen’s name on and it would be on my wish list.

Well that’s non-fiction and that makes sense, surely I would only buy books that were recommended by others and were the ‘right’ books to buy. But I was the same when it came to fiction.

Social media and the new celebrity

As for fiction I was the same, from Asimov to Iain M Banks and King to Herbert, I was hooked to the cult of what was widely regarded as pretty good. And there is the nub of the matter. To become widely regarded. Actually, the widely is step two. Step one is to become regarded.

Once you’ve discovered the most well-known in your particular genre and exhausted their catalogue, you need more. One way to find more is through the social net. The greatest gift Amazon has given us is the review. Okay, you need to weedle out the author’s girlfriend and the publisher’s niece, but once you’ve done that, you can discover authors who are actually quite good.

Why did the freak buy a book?

So why did I buy a book? Because you said it was good. Tell me, tell others, review.