Tag Archives: reading

Top 10 Books of all time?

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss, 1957 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Cat in the HatDr Seuss: A book I remember blowing my mind during a “wet play”.  I’d never seen anything like it.

Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Shadow of the WindCarlos Ruiz Zafon:  I read this after my brother died and I still really enjoyed it, so it must be good.

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold:  How can this book be uplifting?

Wolf BrotherMichelle Paver:  This is one of those books that make you think you know about pre-history.  It’s so well imagined and researched.  So believable.  I read the whole series.

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.

Wolf Brother

Wolf Brother (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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).

Crime ZeroMichael Cordy:  An excellent writer.  Far, far better than Michael Crichton.  A well imagined near future.

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 Am Pilgrim – Early thoughts as a BIB

So far I’ve been unable to do much of a book review about a BIB (Blissfully Ignorant Book) and keeping within The Rules, without robbing you of the chance of reading it Blissfully Ignorantly too.

However, with I Am Pilgrim – Terry Hayes I do have something I can say.


As you can see I’ve been busy, for me anyway, reading.  This is a big book (700 paper pages apparently – I’m reading the e-book version).  I am thoroughly enjoying it.  Not just as a book, but as a BIB.

It starts well.  I thought I had it pegged, a good book of its genre.  But it quickly changed into something else.  I think that is the key to a good BIB; surprise,  changing genre, unexpectedly finding yourself in a situation alongside the characters and wondering how you’re going to get back.

Now 15% of the way through I’m not sure what I’m reading!  Brilliant! The author is laying out a series of questions like a trail of breadcrumbs for me, which I hope lead along a path where they are all answered or consumed!  The books I love best are like that as I’ve blogged about before.  There’s plenty of swapping between story lines, not sure how they are going to come together, but it looks pretty massive in scope from here.  Can the author pull it off I wonder?

I would probably have ignored this book in a bookshop as too serious.  I’m very glad I was recommended this book.  I wonder if the author will sustain my interest and recommendation as a BIB.  This is the first BIB since starting this blog that I would highly recommend.

Why not try it?  Read along with me.  But don’t look at reviews etc.  I can tell you that Amazon has lots of ratings and they’re all around 4-5 stars!



Rethinking the bookshop online

Pageant of American Literature, Hawthorne study

Pageant of American Literature, Hawthorne study (Photo credit: CT State Library)

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.


What do you say to someone when they’ve finished a book?

I’ve just finished my latest BIB – The Collaborator (see below for  BiblioGraph and general comment).  I told my wife, because I’d stayed up late to finish it.  She seemed a bit non-plussed at what to say.  Should she say “Well done”, “Oh dear” or something else?  I think she settled on “Oh dear”, because I said I’d really enjoyed it.

I normally have quite a sense of achievement when I finish a book, so I suppose I was looking for some approval and congratulations.  I expect this is a hangover from first learning to read where success is measured by progress rather than quality (I remember children racing through the reading scheme, way ahead of me, and even at that time I remember feeling unimpressed and quite happy with my more sedate path through).  I also think I feel a sense of achievement because that’s one more book read, only 129,864,879 to go (am I really going to read every book ?  I think subconsciously that’s my plan, so please stop writing them whilst I catch up).

She wasn’t sure whether to commiserate or congratulate.  I know that sinking feeling too when a book is so good you almost don’t want it to end but you have to find out what happens. (Literary having your cake and eating it!)

So what do you say?

I suppose the best ones are

“Would you recommend it?”

“Was it good?”

“Have you got another one lined up?”


The Collaborator – Gerald Seymour.  Overall good.  I’m not needing a recovery period though (see Do you have a recovery period?).  I’d definitely read another book by Seymour, a well crafted book, it was quite a page turner at the end, hence the rapid upturn in the graph.  I’d never have picked this book up if it hadn’t been a BIB, but I’m glad I did.

What next?  Well uncharacteristically I’ve started reading a non-fiction book about body language.  I’ve also noticed that I’m writing this instead of reading.  So I’m making an effort to read more!

Does reading run in families?

Pauline Baynes

Pauline Baynes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Looking through your blogs out there, and very interesting they are, I’m struck by all the

I borrowed this from my brother

I gave this to my Dad

It made me wonder whether the nature or nurture question applies to reading.  It certainly would appear so.  That if your parents read then you are likely to.  We’re given tons of advice from schools as parents that we should model reading behaviour to our children, particularly Dads for boys! (Does that mean more women read than men?  I’ll see if I can find out for a later post).

I have aimed hard to read to my children every day (mostly succeeded and have thoroughly enjoyed it, I’ve included a few gems to read to/with your children, particularly boys that you may not have come across) and this has only recently stopped.  They’re now 12 and 10.  I stopped because they were not becoming independent readers, seemingly preferring to hear me read rather than read themselves.  They are evolving now into more independent readers (a phase for graphic novels/comics at the moment).  My wife is a keen reader and we do have everyone reading in the house on occasions.  But I would say on balance that all this has not had the desired result.

When I think back to my own childhood I remember my parents reading the paper and flicking through magazines.  But never reading a book.  We weren’t taken to the library, but books were around, it was an unusual extravagance of my parents to buy books for us.  I was also encouraged to buy books.  But all in all not a literary household and in fact neither of my brothers is a reader.  Apart from school I don’t think they’ve read a book at all!  My Mum always says she doesn’t like books.  So those of you who swap books in the family count yourselves lucky!

I can still remember when it all changed.  A school friend read The Lion, the Witch and the WardrobeC.S.Lewis aloud to us and did a good job of it.  I remember thinking to myself I want to be able to do that and it all changed from that point on.  So a big thank you to Guy Picken, who read wonderfully all those years ago in his Mum and Dad’s back room.  If I ever see him I must tell him personally.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that my sons continue to develop as readers, and that one day we’ll be exchanging books saying You must read this.  I’ll try not to be disappointed it I don’t and enjoy whatever it is they do bring and exchange things with them that they will enjoy.  (I’ll expect whatever happens I’ll always recommend books to them)

So to answer the question.  I’d have to say no.  There are no guarantees whatever you do.  But I suppose if you didn’t show some enthusiasm for reading then it’s unlikely you children will.  I’ve certainly achieved that with football!

Recommended Read with older children…

The Seven Professors of the Far North, The Flight of the Silver Turtle and The Secret of the Black Moon MothJohn Fardell

The Remarkable Adventures of Tom Scatterhorn – Henry Chancellor (The Museum’s Secret, The Hidden World, The Forgotten Echo)


The Collaborator – I couldn’t put it down today,  I just had to find out what was going to happen.

Listless? Not I #4 Completed

The finished list in the spirit of #1 nine is enough.

English: Six year old boy reading "Diary ...

English: Six year old boy reading “Diary of a wimpy kid” License on Flickr (2011-01-07): CC-BY-2.0 Flickr tags: diary, wimpy, kid, book, read, bed, boy, hold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1.  Don’t impose too many rules on yourself!

2.  Read widely.  Books are about expanding your view of the world so don’t give yourself too small a window.

3.  Read the classics when you’re younger.  Then you’ll know about them.

4.  If you’re not enjoying it then stop.  It’s okay to give up on books, you don’t have to like them all.

5.  Don’t skip bits.  That poor author thought it was important, so read it, my friend skipped a whole section of Holes – Loius Sacher and to my mind missed the symmetrical beauty of the book!

6.  Think about what you are reading.  It’s not wallpaper you know.  Take notice of the books that stay with you, think about why.  These are important and tell you something about yourself.

7.  Don’t be a snob.  Classics, popular, pulp fiction – so what?  If you enjoyed it then good, don’t be afraid to own up to it.

8.  Stockpile books, but don’t be afraid to ignore them for something that catches your attention.  I always have a pile of books in waiting, but I never read them all.

9.  Take recommendations of books, take notice of where you got a good recommendation from and go back there for more.  Seek out more obscure book awards as recommendations (e.g.  Commonwealth Book Prize is a favourite of mine discovered from an early BIB GaloreMichael Crummey)


Going well – The threads of the story are coming together in a predictable but not obvious way.

Listless? Not I #3


books (Photo credit: brody4)

A few more  rules for readers added .   I don’t know how many I’ll come up with, I’ll add to them as I work them out. (I’m aiming for 10 but I may run out of sense before then!)

1.  Don’t impose too many rules on yourself!

2.  Read widely.  Books are about expanding your view of the world so don’t give yourself too small a window.

3.  Read the classics when you’re younger.  Then you’ll know about them.

4.  If you’re not enjoying it then stop.  It’s okay to give up on books, you don’t have to like them all.

5.  Don’t skip bits.  That poor author thought it was important, so read it, my friend skipped a whole section of Holes – Loius Sacher and to my mind missed the symmetrical beauty of the book!

6.  Think about what you are reading.  It’s not wallpaper you know.  Take notice of the books that stay with you, think about why.  These are important and tell you something about yourself.

7.  Don’t be a snob.  Classics, popular, pulp fiction – so what?  If you enjoyed it then good, don’t be afraid to own up to it.


Going well – The threads of the story are coming together in a predictable but not obvious way.

Can you answer the challenge? A call for guest bloggers!


I’ve been writing this for some time now and it would be brilliant to hear from anyone else who has tried Blissfully Ignorantly Reading a book.  If you’re not sure what I’m on about see The ethos, the rules, the challenge.  Or if you’d like to and would like to write a guest blog post then let me know.  Be my guest.

Paper or Pixels?


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?



What’s the world reading then?


The Collaborator – Gerald Seymour – early days still, but I’m a bit “Come on! Get on with it!”

Since I started this blog I’ve discovered some fantastic blogs about books and reading.  I am particularly fond of the US Library and bookshop blogs, which really feel dynamic and engendering a sense of community.  I wish our libraries in the UK did this, it would be great.  I’m considering going into my local library and suggesting it.  With a community of contributors it strikes me as a no-brainer and relatively easy.  But I think they might just think I’m a weirdo!  I’ll let you know how I get on.

Looking at other blogs from around the world has exposed me to whole libraries of books I would never have come across.  I had assumed that bestsellers (with “the international bestseller” splashed across the cover) would be a world-wide phenomenon.  I thought there’d be an inescapable bank of books, so I thought I’d look.  This is what I found

  USA (New York Times Bestsellers w/e Aug 4) UK (Lovereading.co.uk w/e July 20) NZ (Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers w/e July 13)
  Robert Galbraith John Grisham Dan Brown
  Daniel Silva J.K.Rowling Khaled Hosseini
  Danielle Steel Robert Galbraith James Patterson
  Dan Brown James Patterson Sylvia Day
  Iris Johansen Dawn French Karin Slaughter
  James Patterson Richard Madeley E.L. James
  Brad Thor Gillian Flynn Julie Thomas
  Khaled Hosseini Linwood Barclay Charity Norman
  Gail McHugh Karin Slaughter Jeffery Deaver
  Gillian Flynn Jo Nesbo Lee Child

Sorry, I couldn’t do every country, but I thought this was very interesting.   Finding the information first was difficult, thank you New York Times for making it easy to get yours, boo to The Sunday Times (UK) for making it impossible to get your list without a subscription, and I wasn’t sure where to look for New Zealand but relied on Google.

There are overlaps, and some authors appear repeatedly, I expect that’s to do with the size of the publicity machine of the publisher, but there are also some significant differences.  I can’t comment on US and NZ but there are a couple on the list which are by celebrities turned authors who I doubt have much of a following outside the UK.  The UK list has many books set in the US, so was surprised not to see those in the US list (perhaps it’s a date of publication thing?) and it doesn’t look like Robert Gailbraith aka Joanne (she who must not be named!) has hit NZ yet.  Some of the UK ones are quite old too.  I wonder how many books in each list are set in other countries (UK list not set in UK etc).  Would this be an indicator of character of that country?  If a countries bestseller list contained mainly home grown stuff does that indicate it is inward looking for example?

I did find the New Zealand listing fantastic though (Nielsen Weekly Bestsellers List) it is separated out into international and NZ books, the NZ books look really good.  I think this may be another way of How do I not pick a book? and it’s pretty easy to stick to the rules of Blissfully Ignorantly Reading.

I’m going to keep an eye on these lists and see how they compare over time.