Monthly Archives: June 2014

Rambles: Ten books that made me the reader I am today

A fellow blogger Becky Day recently posted (here) about the books that have made her the reader she is today. It’s a fascinating thought, and one that’s impossible to resist. How do you decide which books you read when you look at all the ones you can pick?

I have read a LOT of books since I started around the age of six or so. I have no idea how many, but my Goodreads shelf count is 426, and those are only the ones I can remember reading or have added to my bookshelves. I know there are ones I’ve never added – I have a complete set of Star Trek movie novelisations and short stories based on the original episodes by James Blish sitting on my shelf at home, for instance, and that’s just the tip of the literary iceberg.

But I managed to pick out ten which I think define me as a reader. The ones that made me look at the world a little differently, or the ones that I simply loved and read over and over.

(Looking over this list as I type the author names, I just realised I only had two females. Doesn’t mean I haven’t read any, just interesting to note. I think the ones I have picked pitch some literary weight though, certainly for me.)

 

Anyway, in no particular order:

 

Bedknob and broomstick, Mary Norton (Review)

B & B was the first book I remember reading independently, and for that it’s made an indelible mark. I remember reading non-fiction at the little library in my primary school – books full of trivia like the size of dinosaur teeth or the world’s smallest plant – but this is the first time I think I ever tried fiction. I fell in love with the simple story and read it over and over again. Even bought myself a new copy a few years ago…and the magic was still there. If I hadn’t read this, it would have probably been another fiction book I read first…but who knows, I might not have developed the early skills to sit and read and enjoy fiction as much as I still do. I might have hated it!

 

Tomorrow when the war Began, John Marsden (Review)

When I first met my wife in 2001, I hadn’t read any young adult books in years. Mostly, I was in to movie novelisations and Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Young adult to me was of the level of “Oh, dear, I farted {giggle}” – and I hadn’t seen anything to convince me otherwise. My wife told me to read this and Marsden changed it all for me. Here were intelligent, well created characters you lived and breathed with, characters you laughed and cried with, characters you climbed inside of. He’s a big influence on me as writer as well, and I’ve read almost everything he’s ever written.

 

Lord of the rings, JRR Tolkien

Now this is an odd one. I have never read Lord of the Rings, or The Hobbit, so why is it here? I think the books we don’t pick say as much as much as the ones we do. I tried LoTR, I really did. I loved the movies…but the books…just plain bored me. I never got past page one of LoTR or The Hobbit, and to this day I’ll never read a book where they name a sword. It’s not pushing any of my buttons, folks!

 

Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham

Way before anyone knew the phrase “post-apocalyptic”, here’s John Wyndham in 1951. The world goes blind overnight, and the survivors struggle to rebuild their lives and start a new society. The story is creepy as hell and the scenes of a crumbling London and England fifty years ahead of its time…and it started my ongoing fascination with post-apocalyptic fiction.  

 

Star Wars Episode IV, Alan Dean Foster (as George Lucas)

This is the novelisation of Star Wars, and it started a long love affair for me for movie novelisations, which for a while I was actively seeking out in bookstores, (remember those?). Some of them were good – like this one – and some of them bad (Yes, you, Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The book is good enough to stand alone without the movie, and I’ve still got it on my bookshelf – along with five other Star Wars novelisations! Entertainment, pure and simple, and I love dipping into them.  

 

IT, Stephen King

One of my aunts had an extensive library of horror fiction in her spare room – some heavy stuff like Graham Masterton and Dennis Wheatley – and a collection of King. When I’d stop there for the weekend, I’d always pick one up, never quite daring to read it at midnight or one in the morning. IT (for those of you who don’t know) is 1100 pages of book, so it’s understandable I’d be intimidated by it even if it wasn’t horror.

But I found myself sucked in to it once I started it, and it started a love – and hate – relationship with King ever since. Some of his books don’t cut it for me (Needful Things and The Dead Zone), but mostly I’m in for a good time with Uncle Steve.  

 

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

One of my parents books is an old copy of aToTC, bound and made sometime in the 1940s. I started it one day, not really knowing who Dickens was or what made him write it – or even when. Although the language was weird and it took a while to get started, I really got into it. I haven’t stopped reading Dickens or classics since, coming back to this one again and again and getting a little something different from it each time.  

 

Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank

Surprisingly, I didn’t have to study this at school, and it was quite a few years later that I picked a copy up. Anne was a blunt girl, not mincing words about anyone, but what got me was her simple hope and a wisdom she had beyond her years, and I symbolically have the book beside my 19th century Dickens and other classics. After I read this, I realised all you need to be free is to see is a blue sky, even if it’s glimpsed at from a behind a black out curtain. I still look at the sky sometimes and remember that.

 

Nineteen-Eighty Four, George Orwell

How startling it is to read this, in an age of internet snooping and CCTV on every street corner, with traffic cameras that keep records for five years. How easy it becomes to hate someone because the media says you should. How easily we slip, uncaring and indifferent, towards the world Orwell imagined.  

 

Lightning, Dean Koontz

Koontz is often bundled with King as a horror writer, and some of his earlier books were certainly that. But Koontz has transcended his genre. He doesn’t exactly write thrillers, or horror, or comedy, but mixes them all together into a wonderful smorgasbord. When he gets it right – like the generational time-travelling story of Lightning, the first of his books I read – his prose is powerful, his characters engaging. When he gets it right, you simply cannot put a Koontz down, and when he gets it right, there’s no one quite like him. Which is why I keep reading them…even when he gets it wrong.

 

I hope you enjoyed the list! Any thoughts on what books define you as a reader?

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestWordPressShare...

First Time

I take her hand.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this?” I ask her, my voice not above a whisper. She looks at my hand in hers for a long time before she can meet my eyes and nod.
Still, I sense the hesitation. I can understand it as well, of course; even though I’ve been doing it for a while, I didn’t know what to expect either the first time I did it. That giddy sensation of always falling, the incredible release of endorphins and adrenalin.
I squeeze her fingers tighter when her head drops again. “It’s going to be okay. I promise.”
Her tongue flicks over her lips. “It…it won’t hurt, will it?”
“I’ll be right there. I promise it’s not going to hurt. It’s incredibly gentle when you get into it.”
She disengages her hand and walks to the window and stares out at the sky and trees beyond. “I’m…I’m not sure I’m ready, Steve.”
I don’t try and pressure her. The sensations have been building inside us for months now, and the time is right, the time is now. We’ve talked about doing it when we were ready, and I know we both are. She either realises it herself or she doesn’t.
“If it makes it any easier, I’ll start,” I tell the gentle curves of her spine. Her hair is liquid gold with the summer sunlight streaming through it, the light dress she’s wearing made almost transparent by it.
I look past her to the forest, vivid verdant and full of green life. “Let’s go outside.”
She stiffens. “Just for a walk right?”
Now I move a step beside her and I take her unresponsive hand in mine. “Just for a walk.”

***

The house falls behind us and is gone in a few steps, and we’re surrounded by forest, the path well marked and clear to see. I help her balance over the rickety bridge crossing Allen’s Creek, and we’re there, we’re inside the trees, surrounded and enmeshed in them, in that way that forests have of entombing you with life. Every direction is the same, every aspect identical, but I’ve walked this path so many times I would know it blindfolded.
Something cracks off to my left and she jumps a little at the sound and grabs for my hand. She’s not used to being out here, city girl that she is.
“What was that?”
“Probably just a deer.”
Her curiosity over-rides her fear and she peers back to where the sound came from as we walk. “You have those?”
I nod. “In the winter, Pop leaves food out for them and they come almost on to the porch. You can’t do it too much or the bears start hanging around though.”
Her eyebrows raise. “Bears?”
“One or two. Not that dangerous really. Shoot over their heads and they run.”
I’m talking to get her comfortable, to relax her, and as we walk through the seamless weave of trees and bushes, she smiles at me when I look back at her.
But that smile drops when we reach the clearing.

***

“You tricked me.”
She stands at the other side of the clearing, arms folded across her lovely breasts. She knows what this place is; she knows this is where the first time happened for me.
“I’m sorry. I should have told you this is where we were going.” I look down at the terse grass that pushes between my legs and brushes my ankles. “But see, the ground is quite springy. It won’t hurt.” I raise a foot, then lower it again.
She takes a step closer, her eyes not leaving mine and I echo her movement. Then again, and again, until we meet in the centre.
Her hand clasps mine without looking away. “I’m ready, Steve.”
I nod, suddenly breathless. My fingers tighten in hers. I look up at the cloudless porcelain bowl of the sky.
“Slowly, at first.” I say to a cloud, then lower my gaze to her hair, her eyes, her mouth.
“I know.” She manages a nervous smile. “I’ve been…practising.”
I return her smile with one of my own and a question in my raised eyebrows. “Oh, really?”
I take a step back, looking down at her lithe and delightful body. “Show me.”
She takes her hand from mine and spreads her arms, closing her eyes and rolling her head back. She inhales.
And it happens.
She rises. A centimetre, then two, then ten. She opens her eyes, and her face is painted with joy, intense pleasure making her eyes wide and dark, her lips full and parted. “Teach me then, Steve. Show me how beautiful this can be.”
I take in a breath and my feet leave the ground, matching her rising height, and for the first time, we fly.