This list of the 100 Best Books of all Time in the world is interesting. I’ve read 6 thanks mostly to Shakespeare, and 2 halves (100 Years of Solitude; which I’ve been reading for 21 years now and haven’t quite finished, and Hans Christian Anderson’s Fairy Tales). I have often laughed at the idea of creating a list of books that in some way ranked them. There’s a fashion for lists, especially in blogs for all kinds of things. I’ve tried in the past to name a top 10 of books and failed.
I’m just not able to wittle it down and order them. So I’m not going to try to do that. Instead I’m going to record a number of books that I think have changed my world view, stayed with me, or I read at important stages of my life. I’m going to write this quickly and not think
about it too much, otherwise I’ll get all pretentious. I might write another post, looking at it in more detail. I’m really going to try to dredge them out here. So I’m not numbering them, and I’m not counting them. Let’s see where I end up.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – C.S.Lewis: Not strictly a book I read, I had it read to me and it changed my attitude towards reading and education. So very important.
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffeneger: Probably would be top of the list if it was ordered. An absolutely unbelievable
premise made believable. So emotionally real. A masterpiece (shame about the film, perhaps they should rename it so they aren’t connected)
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown: A good story. Sorry.
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold: How can this book be uplifting?
To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee: A great story, very evocative of a place and time.
Jasper Jones – Criag Silvey: A great story, very evocative of a place and time.
A Vision of Elena Silves – Nicholas Shakespeare: It took me somewhere completely different when I was a teenager.
Chatterton – Peter Ackroyd: A fantastic weaving together of many story lines, introducing me to some great British arty types. I still find the painting The Death of Chatterton whenever I go to the Tate.
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte: A tribute to my English teacher Mrs Seymour, who brought this book alive. I still look back at those scary English lessons with enjoyment, I can’t remember much else from my Secondary schooling.
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen: As above really, but Jane and I have been moving in the same circles (geographically speaking)
The Giggler Treatment – Roddy Doyle: I loved reading this with my children. Just what children’s books should be, funny and a bit naughty/rude
Galore – Michael Crummey: It feels like a load of village gossip and folktales woven together into a plausible history of a family and a place.
The Belgariad – David Eddings: I can’t think of a reason why, but I loved it at the time.
Eragon – Christopher Paolini: Some very original ideas here (magic with a cost).
Sandmouth People – Ronald Frame: Original and a bit quirky, but captures a British town in a way I find believable.
Panic – Jeff Abbott: Introduced me to a new style of high-octane thrillers.
Before I Go To Sleep – S.J.Watson: A brilliant, clever story that kept me guessing to the end. Actually I think I knew and that only made it more enjoyable.
Into the Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes: Scary but believable, taking me to a world of an obsessive compulsive and an abuse victim (I make it sound great, but it is well worth reading).
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles: Not some soppy romance, but an analysis of image, stigma and the media. Surprisingly recommended to me by a guy I worked with, until I read it.
Holes – Louis Sachar: Symmetry.
Winter’s Tale – Mark Helprin: An introduction to adult weirdness.
The World According To Garp – John Irving: Gritty honest characters.
Phew. I made it. I had to stop myself writing Just Read It at the end of each one!
I greatly enjoy the contextual life blog. I like the weekly roundup of links, which are serious, interesting, quirky, grammatical and topical.
In this weeks there was a link to the BookSmash Challenge. This is
Use imagination and technology to build software that goes beyond the traditional ways we read and discover books
Interesting stuff there, it’s really worth looking at the entries and voting. This is just the kind of thing we, as readers, need to be thinking about.
It struck a chord with me and the ethos of this blog. It did get me really thinking about How do I not pick a book?, I wondered if that would make a good idea for a book browsers (or not). “Book Look” has some features that are similar to my ethos, but doesn’t quite go far enough.
Perhaps a Blissfully Ignorant applicatioin could choose you random books against a profile (you’d need to be careful there) but I was thinking things like very broad categories in fiction, e.g. child/adult, new/old and possibly some more specific “absolutely nots” e.g. sci-fi, romance, historical fiction, violence (I quite like all of those btw). Probably the most important part would be the aspect that would cover “recommendations”, as I feel this is the key to success with this technique of Blissfully Ignorant reading (so you’d use some algorithm on ratings/number of ratings. For example, my new BIB has 4 1/2 stars from 211 reviews so that’s pretty convincingly good.
So a randomly selected good book would be chosen for you.
I should have entered!
So what do you think? It’d make a great mobile app too.
By the way, I’ve cracked! I’m still reading my non fiction book on body language but I had to get my fix of fiction. I just don’t seem to be able sustain my interest in non-fiction. I am interested but there’s always a bit that I want to skip and that make me feel uncomfortable. I will finish the body language book.
I’ve started reading I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes, this was a recommendation from a friend.
I haven’t read much, but it dives straight in. I’m pretty sure of the genre. There’s some unusual quirks to it. So it’s making a great first impression.
If you’re buying books to try Blissfully Ignorantly then it’s definitely easier to do this with an e-reader. You can make the purchase without the unfettered blurb, flick throughs, reviews and possibly comments f rom other people around you that you might be tempted by when getting a paper book.
I must confess that I have an e-reader and couldn’t be without it – which surprises me. I thought I’d be a purist – I still love bookshops and the feel of a book, weighing how big a book is in my hand often would give me a feel as to whether I’d want to read it (is that allowed in Blissfully Ignorant Reading? I think that’s legitimate otherwise you wont be able to pick them up!) I find paper books far more tempting than e-books, but I buy more e-books. I’ve even been known to buy the e-book of a book that has been lent to me.
I have a very good reason and I’m not sure how much this has influenced my liking of the e-reader. I am visually impaired ( I used to be partially sighted until a man in Vision Express told me I wasn’t allowed to call myself that as it wasn’t politically correct – I still prefer partially sighted: more drama and sounds like a real issue as visually impaired sound a bit like “restricted view” on theatre tickets). So with an e-reader I can change font, bump up the size and have white on black! These combined make reading a much more relaxing pleasure but mean that reading on the bus is a public affair (everyone can read what I’m reading!) Which is fine most of the time, but even the most uncontroversial books have sex in them! I don’t want everyone on the bus to think I’m a pervert. I was discussing this with a friend on the bus and then settled down to read, on the very next page appeared the word c**t ( I think it was Atonement – Ian McEwan – a worthy book so you won’t judge me too harshly), so I quickly flashed my page at him and he was shocked. So now I sit at the back of the bus!
E-book sales are constantly rising but I would say the vast majority of readers I talk to are unimpressed and not tempted to either get an e-reader or to move away from paper altogether. So I think paper is safe for a while. What worries me the most is what will happen to bookshops. I’m sorry to say that I think it inevitable that we will lose our beloved bookshops in their current form some time soon.
As an experiment I wrote this post by hand on paper first! My hand hurts now. I was telling my dyslexic son that it is ironic that you write by hand all though school and in your exams. Then you might as well throw your pencil-case away! In work who hand writes any amount these days? I take notes in meetings – but am starting to feel that I should have a tablet to help me sort and organise my notes, but any serious writing, like a report, are done electronically.
It’s strange writing this by hand. I know I’ll restructure and edit it when I transfer it to the blog but Im surprised how complete this paper version feels. Am I using a different writing technique; where I am more consciously structuring and editing? Perhaps I’m not re-reading as I go along as I do on the PC? This is feeling more like a final draft than a first draft (and in fact as I type it in I’m not changing much at all but my goodness my touchtyping has gone out the window!)
If you are a writer I bet you write on a laptop or PC. You should try hand writing for a while. It’s very different. I thought I’d find it really difficult, but actually it’s okay. It’s also interesting to see a quantity of my handwriting. The last time I wrote anything this long was an account of my eldest’s birth! I’m quite pleased with the quality of my handwriting, I thought it would be really irregular but it’s survived well through lack of use and if anything seems to have improved.
So what do you think? Paper or pixels? For me, for reading it’s definitely pixels, writing, well I’ll be back on the PC for the next post, so I that must be pixels too. It’s easy to romanticise paper, but the electronic stuff is there to meet a need. Is it meeting yours?