I have just commenced this new blog page listing the books I love, or changed and profoundly influenced me. Some date back to when I was 7 or 8 years of age, or just after, when obsessed with aerial warfare and the adventure of Biggles. Many are not ‘good literature’, just books that make me happy to reflect about. I will add to it when I have some more spare time or more jewels sparkle in memory.
It is pleasant to reflect on these past reading experiences but my purpose is actually more about asking you, dear reader, to post a comment here about any of the books listed that you love. When did you read them, what was the context? Why are they precious to you? What are your favs?
I’d like to get to know you better and perhaps this is a conversation we would enjoy.
Who is going first?
Wow, so many of ours overlap…I can’t pick one tha stands out more (and others I am writing down to add to my list/pile)…
1984, First read at Uni- coming from a family of non-fiction readers (read Father enjoyed reading anything about war)- I tried to pinpoint parts of 1984 that reflected 21st century Australia.
Can I suggest a book? The History of Love – Nicole Krauss…
I have so many more favs to add and just thinking about it makes me feel happy.
Read ’1984′ in 1984 when I was in Year 10 at school. I loved it so much that I re-read it that very year; and, also saw the brilliant film version. It has always been seminal but I recommend that you read both the Amis and Hitchens books listed. They profoundly impacted on my thinking about 20th century intellectual history and the impact of Marxist history and historians on our culture and my thinking (my degree is in History/English).
Did you also note I have added a current reading section to my sidebar?
I will check out the Nicole Krauss.
Wow, some of my favourite books. I absolutley love Gunter Grass’ “The Tin Drum.” I studied German literature at uni (did a whole course on Hesse so love those too) and I have read The Tin Drum so many times. I only recently read an English translation as I’ve always read it in German. Thats was great too. I was planning to reread these holidays!
And who doesn’t love Tim Winton’s “Breath?” Oh, and “The Little Prince” – such memories.
Its hard for me to quantify or qualify the books I love. Its rare that I don’t love a book, even if its a bit of fluff.
I’m going to start a list myself. I think I’ll have to think of some limits before I start or it will go on forever!!
Thanks for sharing such a personal part of yourself.
The Tin Drum, as much as I loved it, would be one of the few adaptations where I prefer the film. Oskar is so hauntingly cast and some of the scenes as disturbing as it gets. Maybe if I could read German, I’d change my mind though.
Thanks for posting.
Great minds think alike – your list very much like my list, especially your obvious enjoyment of Phillip K Dick.
My all time favorite novel is Catch 22 – I love the satire, its absurdity and its anti war stance. I first read this as a teenager and I loved the way it attacked all things American. This was certainly reflected in poetry I wrote at this time.
It was about the same time I read The Womens Room and this was just as profound for me in developing my view of what it was/is to be a woman.
My favorite series from childhood was Narnia, especially The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The epic battle with children as the heros fighting alongside mythical creatures and Aslan really engaged my already over active imagination. As a child I also loved Andre Norton’s sci fi novels, probably for much the same reasons.
Current favorites include all novels by Paul Auster (the man is brilliant!) and the The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde (if I must pick a favorite). I have also just started reading the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Laarson and am pleased it has lived up to the hype surrounding it.
I could continue on, there are so many books that have moved me and inspired me but that will do for the moment. Though now you ahve me started I will probably come back with another list.
The German is infinitely better than the English translation. Oskar’s character is superb in the original and is just not matched in the film despite the almost perfect fit of casting to character.
When I first began German lit at uni, very often I would read the translation first. Once I felt confident enough to read the original first I realised just how very much I had missed. Mostly related to passion and deep connection. So in the case of The Tin Drum I certainly understand your point.
I have always found writing a challenge, particularly collecting and gathering my thoughts into some kind of sensible picture. I guess thats why literature and reading remains a love and why maths is my passion.
I too have sucuumbed to the hype and purchased the first Larsson book, on Kindle for $7.50, but have yet to start.
Everyone says it is worthwhile.
My Year 7 English teacher gave me Catch 22. She must have had a small pile left after handing them out to a HSC class and was happy enough to respond positively to my request. I struggled to ‘get it’ but always remember, how years later, on subsequent re-readings, realised that the frustration felt with Orr, when in Year 7, was great evidence of the clever writing by Heller – as Yossarian’s annoyance was almost personally lived.
I love that book too!
How interesting. I have always assumed that anything written, then translated, must lose much of the original spirit and style. I remember, vaguely, that Grass was involved in some kind of controversy recently? Well, this century anyway ;O)
Your list charts my history too – partially because you recommended some of these titles and discovered others at the same time(Hesse, Amis, Ellis and Campbell come to mind).
I would have to agree with Paula (my former head teacher) about Paul Auster and Catch 22; i taught it last year and reading it again was great – laughed long, loud and hard again.
‘Chronicles’ is a fantastic choice in the Autobiography form; i thought Martin Amis and ‘Experience’ would be here too for the biography.
Of the modern novels, ‘The Road’ is quite profound and so economical. I would have ‘Atonement’ and ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog..’ due to the problematic nature of their central characters. Briony Tallis is close to my favourite. As for ‘The Slap’, i liked the fact that it had some unlikeable/deplorable central characters but if it was not for the need to see the resolution of the central premise I would have stopped reading. Too many sentences were pedestrian.
Also found trouble with the second read of Brave New World for HSC marking. The last chapters are so dialogue heavy and rather clunky (but by your criteria I still like it because of it’s impact on a 16 year old in 1985.)
‘Hamlet’ is truly difficult to beat. Have read it 3 times now and seen 3 or 4 film versions and it gets better and reveals more each time.
As for now, ‘Tough Boris’ by Mem Fox.
Egads Mark, I keep finding more and more books I love.
I really did a lot of reading before the advent of the internet ;O)
I will add ‘Experience’ and ‘The Curious Incident…’ too. I agree with you about the ‘Brave New World’ but I still love that book for the ideas and Mustapha Mond.
Sooooooo many of those books occupy a space on my bookshelves. They are much loved and many of them are books I could re-read, given the time.
The exception would be your “Biggles-inspired” war novels!!! I have not read any of them, nor have much desire to!
I love “The Secret History” by Donna Tartt – could not stop talking about it when it sfirst came out and I read it. I recall waiting with baited breat for her second novel … and bought it the day it was released – only to find it was the biggest let down for a book I have ever experienced.
I adore Tacitus and Suetonius and would have to add Sophocles. I adore a great Greek Drama and can rarely pass up the opportinuity to teach that as a topic in my senior ancient history classes – as an excuse to once again immerse myself in the morality play/fate of Oedipus the King.
The Stand is an all time favourite and I love many Stephen King novels – his references to popular culture and the conversations he reveals from within his characters minds are always aspects of his writing that appeal to me, although he has definitely diappointed on more than one occasion!!!
Oh — to read a book!!! I definitely read far less fiction with the advent of the internet!!!
My newly appointed holiday mission is to take at least one of my unread books off my shelf and read it – probably the new Augusten Burroughs novel to start with …
Kate would have had me add ‘The Secret History’ to the above but I just read that book too late – it didn’t do it for me. Augusten B. is one of her current favs too.
So many of the books above would no longer, if I read them today for the first time, resound. Jim Morrison’s hagiography may appeal to the adolescent mind but I doubt that I would be too interested if I picked it up today.
The war thing is odd. I suspect that I read so much pre-high school that I was just saturated with it and, of course, that war is so part of our culture, especially for young males. War just seemed so other-worldly compared to the life of a schoolboy. I decided not to list that many of this genre but inevitably they are fond reading memories and I could add many more, for example, Homer and Von Clauswitz as I do really ‘love’ or been changed/influenced by them really were not chosen. I should say that Geoff Dyer’s ‘Missing of the Somme’ probably comes close to getting to grips with some of the fascination of war in collective memory. Peter Kocan – God, I really need to list ‘The Treatment and The Cure’ – said, in a poem, that WWI is a ‘scar’ across our human psyche. I think that is correct.
Which also reminds me, I have all these 100s of other favourites that are the ‘lesser’ books of authors I listed above for example, I loved Jeannette Winterson and have read all Hesse, Winton’s and Malouf’s) and many, many more kids books too. Some, like ‘Jennings’ and ‘William’ fit into that British boarding school, post WWII world and of course, I read all Enid Blyton’s. I was born in 1968 and the Australian publishing industry did not provide much choice in my youth. Alfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Biggles have me hundreds of books to read that were readily available at the library. Doctor Who novels were a staple and I read all published until about 1985.
My daughters reading delights are a source of joy…but that’s another post altogether.
Thanks for sharing, Deanna.
Artifacts charting the history of Darcy. Milestones, turning points, road-forks. Funny how reading a book can change everything.
Exactly – and well said, Steve! Your favs from this lot – or do you have 130 completely different books?
This list would have a lot in common with a list of my own, however, my books as a girl were not Biggles books. I had Seven Little Australians, Little Women and the entire Anne of Green Gables series as my inspirations and escape. From Shakespeare my favourite is Othello, with Twelfth Night coming in second. Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice would have to be on my list of classics, with Magician by Raymond E Feist (and all the rest of the books in that series) and for comfort reading and escape the trilogy that is The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay on my contemporary fantasy list. Intensity by Dean Koontz for a creepy insight into the mind of a serial killer, the three part series by Wilbur Smith: River God, The Seventh Scroll and Warlock offering a fascinating look into Ancent Egypt. I could go on and on but this is your list not mine!
Thanks for sharing, Darcy, and reminding me of all the great books of my childhood.
I could have easily list ‘Magician’ too and fondly remember the first half-a-dozen Wilbur Smith books I read in primary school, especially ‘Cry Wolf’, ‘The Sunbird’, and ‘When the Lion Feeds’.
Never read the ‘Anne’ books though.
The importance of the Austen thing to English speaking people, of course, I understand – but being forced to read her novels endlessly for school and uni, with all the (female) students mostly gushing, led me to prefer to be iconoclastic (and not list them). There’s only so much ‘strawberry-picking’ one can do and I was rebelling against the name my parents chose ;O)
Macbeth is my all time favourite Shakespeare and it still tickles me pink to teach to the next unsuspecting group of year 10 students. The two novels that impacted me most at uni were Atwood’s The handmaid’s Tale and Brideshead Revisited and both sent me off in search of more. I now classify Atwood as a favourite author and the BBC tv series of Brideshead still has me claiming the couch when I see it’s return on Austar. I also remember reading the Red Badge of Courage along with Henry James, Steinbeck, Melville and Poe – all favourites too. I love the fantasy and sci-fi and all on your list have been explored too. I started my own blog with summer reading – thanks for reminding me that Easter reading would be great too- might start those sonnets of Shakespeare that I keep seeing on my bookshelf…
Thanks for that.
I really enjoyed James, especially ‘Portrait of a Lady’. Brideshead Revisited is close to may favourite televison adaptation/series. Of course, Poe’s classic short stories are memorable; The Telltale Heart being my favourite.
I appreciate you dropping by to make comment.
Considering what is happening here, this looks like a great resource for us English teachers:
My favourites now aren’t very literary.
I read enough,almost unintelligible French, German and Italian lit. at uni. to last me a lifetime.
I only read “whodunnits” now. Crime and mystery, that is what keeps me entertained. I have read all Agatha Christie novels and have all but ten in my collection. Goes without saying I like, Cornwell, Reichs, Grafton and so on ….
I had read all Stephen King’s work up until about 5 years ago when they began to be a little too repetitive. I liked The Shining best of all.
The Millennium Trilogy has been my best read for ages. Just love Lisbeth Salander! Great movies too …
I have also read a lot of books for youth. I enjoyed the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.
Thanks for these thoughts.
I must admit to be very envious of people like your good self who are multilingual. Although, having said that, I need to be careful, remembering the Ken Robinson anecdote from ‘The Element’ – where he says to a guy he admires, at the end of a gig, that he’d love to play an instrument. The musician replies, no you wouldn’t, if you really did, you’d be doing it!
I was turned off science fiction after having to read The Black Cloud in high school and have never really returned there! The only science fiction that would make my list is The Marriages Between Zones Three, Four and Five by Doris Lessing.
My favourite book is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – I’ve read lots of books by Indian authors or about India. Shantaram is a great holiday read, Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things would also make my list.
My favourite high school teacher introduced me to Thomas Hardy and Tess of the D’Urbervilles would also be on my list, as would Middlemarch by George Eliot.
Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos would make the crime writing list.
Tim Winton is a definite – especially Cloudstreet which I was just inspired to reread by The First Tuesday Book Club.
Thanks for your list Darcy. Lots of great reflection because of it!
Luckily enough, I have not heard of ‘The Black Cloud’ and have read sci-fi all my life, probably as a result. ;0)
I have had both Mistry and Roy’s novels on my ‘to read’ list for years and will get there one day having spent prolonged periods in India during the mid-90s. Highly recommend ‘Karma Cola’ biy Gita Mehta if you are interested in some wonderful insights into the ‘Indian mind’.
Hardy was not for me, “to sorrow I bade good morrow…” and all that – too miserable by half but maybe I will try again one day – maybe.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Is it wrong to LOL at one of your picks? I LOVED Jonathon Livingstone Seagull as a late teen. I was in a Very Serious Relationship at 16 with a boy in second year uni and he introduced me to Richard Bach. Not sure if I could stomach them now but I gulped them down then. Actually I still occasionally do the thing from Illusions where you ask a question, open a book or newspaper to a random page and alight your finger on a sentence as your answer. Have sudden memories of the esoteric bookshop in Elizabeth St Hobart, run by the Channel 6 newsreader & local celeb, Tom Payne.
Some of these I relate to – Possession, Perfume, The Little Prince, Curious Incident, Negotiating with the Dead. I remember loving Duncton Wood in grade ten though I remember very little about it (was it about moles?). I adore Where the Wild Things Are. I think Tsiolkas did an amazing job capturing zeitgeist in The Slap.
I am another one who would put Secret History on my list (I read it at 18 and it was one of the reasons why I did Ancient Greek and archaeology at university), but I remember giving it to my mum to read and she was a bit underwhelmed, finding the only really adult character a bit 2-dimensional. I wonder if it would have been published as YA in today’s market.
My own list would include more poetry (Simon Armitage, Adrienne Rich), Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Joe Cinque’s Consolation by Helen Garner, A Long Way from Verona by Jane Gardam…hmm. I could go on. And on.
I’m so going to do this sometime.
I think it fair to laugh loudly at a number of my selections. Biggles and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull are about as far away, on any spectrum, as one can get. Some may have baulked at listing JLS (not to mention Biggles) but like you, my memories of it are strong – and fond. Don’t tell anyone, I even loved the film with Neil Diamond crooning away.
Teaching poetry, can sometimes make one avoid it too often, if that makes sense. I will add more though when I get a chance. My favourite poets from University were Hughes and Dransfield but I like Gig Ryan, Peter Kocan, Geoff Page, Rembrandt, Dorothy Porter and many others too. Recently purchased the 2008 + 2009 editions of ‘The Best Australian Poetry’ for an overview of what has been published lately in the mainstream.
Thanks for your thoughts and I look forward to your list, sometime in the future.
#edit *laughing* it was late…make that Rimbaud not ‘Rembrandt’ unless he wrote poetry.
Reading is like oxygen only richer and sweeter. Darcy, you have listed many of my fav books: Atwood, Card, Haddon, Winton, Byatt (Possession is right up there!), Waugh, Shakespeare, Pilger…I also love The Left Hand of Darkness, The Riders, The White Tiger, The God of Small Things, anything by Richard Flanagan, Ian McEwan, Murakami Haruki, Umberto Ecco, Jane Austen or Yukio Mishima…Too many.
I cannot let two days go by without dipping into a book.
Thank you Darcy – a beautiful idea for a blog post!
Thanks for commenting Karen.
Yes, ‘oxygen’, that’s good. I’ve not read any Flanagan but have been meaning to for years. The only Ecco book I finished was ‘Name of the Rose’ but have started quite a number. I am keen to read some Japanese authors in the future and have a friend who love Haruki, so may start there.
Was fascinated by your list Darcy. Really enjoyed reading through the titles. So many that we share on our shelves!
Ender’s Game is an old favourite. I worked my way through the entire series years ago, which for memory got a little odd toward the end. It is I think, inspired by the Foundation series which was also a favourite of mine many years ago… and you can see where some of Card’s inspiration came from. Almost want to hunt for my dog eared copy and read it again!
Loved the authors name of The Camels are Coming … Capt. WE Johns. Excellent! I had a number of Biggles books growing up. The Machine Gunners was also a childhood favourite of mine.
For some reason, I was also obsessed with a Famous Five style series called Swallows and Amazons … something else I’ll have to return to one day to see if it holds up after all this time!
Lord of the Flies, and Animal Farm I remember a having a profound effect on me. Read, and reread them several times as a young adult.
Rereading Maurice Sendak to the girls over the last few years, I’ve fallen in love with his work all over again … wonderful the way that happens when you have children!
Another one that jumped out at me was Perfume by Patrick Susskind … I read that the year before last I think, and loved it.
Just read a number of Alain De Botton’s books, which I’ve also enjoyed, though I found his exploration of Proust a little dry at times.
Will have to have another look through my shelves and get a list of my own together, which will of course, include anything by the talented Penni Russon.
Isn’t it amazing the memories a book cover can unearth! Primary school – Terrified of the wild things that Max encountered when he ventured across the sea. High school- Year 8 – Colin Thiele’s Blue Fin, a book that very quickly was renamed “Bore Fin’. Reading ‘Flowers for Algernon’ in Yr 10 and crying at the realisation of what was to come. Lord of the Flies in Yr 11- crying once more with the death of Piggy. My Stephen King years -convincing the owner of the bookshop I worked at that ‘IT’ was his career highlight and we had to purchase plenty of stock for the Christmas period. I was right! The discovery of Robert Westall in the reading of ‘The Machine Gunners’, but never really being able to convince students of the merit he had as a writer when I began my teaching years. In recent years, ‘The Road’ and the despair over the decisions a parent has to make in the most trying of times. My Web incarnation – joining the ranks reading ‘Here comes everybody’ and ‘Tribes’ .
Thanks for posting this Darcy; a pleasant walk down memory lane on a Saturday night. Happy Easter to you. : )
The sort of unique post we expect of you. Certainly a great list, my favorate book on your whole list has to be ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Funny that in the comments above so many of these books have a consistency with educators from such a variety of backgrounds and key learning areas.
I thought your inclusion of Brett Easton Ellis is an interesting one. One of those books that I assumed had a limited audience (having restrictions on its distribution didn’t help).
Certainly up with with you on Margaret Atwood and the classics. But I’d add a fair bit of non-fiction to you list which some might think takes all the fun away. But I’m a big fan of Naomi Klein, Norm Chomsky, Jiddu Krishnamurti and Richard Feynman.
Thanks Martin, Jenny and Ben. I appreciate your interesting, thoughtful comments!
Martin, as you know, having young children allows one to ‘legitimately’ return to reading pleasures from childhood, as well as finding new kids’ books. Recently, we read all the ‘Captain Underpants’ books and laughed very hard. We started Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot but I desisted, realising my audience was flagging, as Jupiter Jones pinched his lower lip. I will seek Penni’s books out but am uncertain of their age appropriate audience. Have either of you guys a suggestion for where Miss 6 should commence?
‘Ender’s Game’ is a particular fav too and I love that incredibly insightful description of the influence and impact of opinion writers in the tabloid media. You remember that?
Jenny, as a boy growing up in coastal villages, along the NSW coast, there was not much in the way of literature that explored similiar worlds – and maybe aspects of that life were pretty boring ;o). I related to the boys in Thiele’s books and their relationships with their fathers. When Thiele passed away, in the same week as Steve Irwin and Peter Brock, I felt genuinely sad, as his imagination felt like it was also mine. I wonder how many Australians knew Thiele, compared to the other two? Not enough.
I liked ‘Uncle Gustav’s Ghosts’ too.
Ben, I was gifted ‘American Psycho’ in 1991 by a friend from Uni. It was wrapped in plastic with an ‘R’ emblazoned, rather prominently. Several times, while reading the novel in public spaces – the beach and train – I just had to stop; it was just too disturbing!
The most amusing and enjoyable passages in the book are the chapter openings. Ellis’ description of Patrick Bateman’s clothing, decor and music of Genesis are, well, a scream! I believe this novel really effectively describes the impact of neo-conservative polices on society (being dismembered) – that cigar in the beggar’s eye and Bateman escaping into a Wall St office to avoid capture – particularly impacted in the era when politicians were making public utterannces like, “there is no such thing as society”.
I highly recommend Ellis’ ‘Lunar Park’ too. Any parent will laugh, in a kind of high-pitched, staccato and anxious manner, at the wonderfully satirical passage about the birthday party.
Finally, in the last 10 years I have read much non fiction and really should have listed more, especially politics and popular science. Maybe I will and at some future stage may end up with two pages, one just for non fiction. Maybe next holidays.
Oh, I have read much Chomsky – linquistics and politics – and Klein’s most famous work, No Logo too.
Thanks to everyone who has posted or lurked at this post – I am genuinely enjoying your reading lives and commentaries!
Every year I try to list what I’ve read along with my thoughts about them. Here’s my effort for 2009.
In terms of books that shaped me, here goes:
Jostein Gaarder – Sophie’s World(set me on the path to study Philosophy at university) Fydor Dostoevesky – Crime & Punishment(made me realize that people can think very different to me) Postman & Weingartner (forced me to realise the political and social nature of my role as a teacher)
Hope that helps!
Thanks for that link to your 2009 reading list, it has excellent suggestions for me/us.
I have read several of these but most be unfamiliar to me. I do have Peter Watson’s book and read most of it. Have wanted to read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s ‘Flow’ and will seek out the Burrow too.
Cheers! I will look for ward to your 2010 list!
I heartily echo Doug’s Inclusipn of Sophie’s World. I absolutely loved that novel – and the others written by him. I have to also include the Patricia Cornwell’s Scarpetta series and Dick Francis’ series for popular crime fiction. I started reading both as a teen and still grab them from my parents’ shelves when I have nothing to read on visits back to Sydney. Everytime I read another comment I hear myself saying “yes, me too!” over and over!
“The Little Prince” was given to me by my mentor when I was in graduate school. I was a Kansas girl, she was a German immigrant. We spent many, many hours together in the research suite and just as many hours trying restaurants and art galleries around town. After hours of conversation about my childhood she asked if I had read “The Little Prince.” Later, a copy was given to me with an inscription from her “to never outgrow my childhood.”
I passed the book on to friends with children. I’ve shared passages of the books with students.
“High Fidelty” cracks me up. The soundtrack from the movie is phenominal. That is the only book that both my husband and I agree on as being a “good read.” (Though “Enders Game” would be high on his list).
I gave up 2 different times on The Gatsby before I learned I had to teach it to my junior students. Since then, I’ve read it close to 20 times with students. Nick is a legendary character. George is haunting.
My faves: “The Poisonwood Bible” by Kingsolver and “I Know This Much is True” by Lamb.
I can’t believe the overlap. Good to see some Philip K. Dick in your list and Robert Hughes. I’d say your tastes are pretty close to mine, even if I haven’t read some of these, they’re on my “list”.
I have just started watchingJohn Berger’s Ways of Seeing again on YouTube, the book was a major influence during my years at art school. I wish I could add a New Zealand author, but I’m an ex-pat Yorkshireman – maybe Michael King’s History of New Zealand.
I’d add some of Bill Bryson’s books, especially A Short History of Nearly Everything.
There are so many books here from my childhood and teens and I’m very lucky – I get to read Where the Wild Things Are every year… aloud and with feeling
Lovely, sage advice! I remember ‘The Little Prince’ very fondly indeed and am ‘saving it’ (along with ‘JLS’) for when the time is right to share with Misses 3 and 6. My partner and I have very similar reading tastes, except for military – fiction or non fiction – and I can only take so many Tudor tales, puroprted to be true or historical fiction.
WTWTA is read regularly at my place too. We all have a fascination with Max’s fork, in the opening pages, glad that his pet escapes.
I think one of the reasons I may like Geoff Dyer so much is that he was/is a devotee of Berger and wrote much about him.
I am after some NZ fiction, so ask around, if you can ;O)
Thanks Christian. I see you are a big Terry Pratchett fan!
Thanks Darcy. You’ve identified many of my favourite titles and authors and given me a few more to explore. You have also provided an affirmation that there are still big readers out there at a time when I often despair that it is going out of fashion among professional educators.
Here is an activity I ran in Literacy Week 2008. Our teachers were asked to name the significant title that figured on the landscape of their memory. This may have changed the way they perceived the world; it may have been simple a turning point marker in their growth; it may have been associated with a special person. We only asked that they feel an emotional investment in their choice. We took the first paragraphs of the work, collated them and circulated the list to students to read aloud during their Drop Everything And Read period on September 3. Students were given an initial, a gender and a Key Learning Area for the teacher and then asked to guess which title was the favourite of which teacher.
While it took quite a while to get titles from the majority of teachers the students loved guessing who read what. http://tinyurl.com/yko29pb has the above intro as well as the list of titles which I still use from time to time as a reference point. A community of readers is core to a flexible and dynamic teaching body and I fear for us all but particulalry students when I hear a teacher say “I haven’t read a book for years”
What an excellent, innovative strategy, Victor. I would have loved attempting this as a student, including when at University for my tutors etc..
We are attempting to ‘talk up’ reading at my school as a staple – along with eating healthily, especially breakfast, drinking sufficient water and sleepin well – and the library borrowing data is showing strong improvements.
On the last Thursday of this term, the principal sat on the assembly before the students gathered, reading the novel he was commencing for the holidays. He said, if I finish a book in the first 48 hours of my break, it will be a great holiday!
Eating, sleeping, drinking & reading – what a holiday!
Good news – both the titles you recommend are on the shelf at my local library and I will check them out tomorow (pile outrageously high now that working for a living may no longer be an option post-holidays).
I’ve thought about your Kafka query on and off today. It has happened to me too often with films too. I dismiss something on first viewing (almost within minutes) and discover 10 years later that just ‘didn’t get it’ at the time. I think my expectation of ‘loving’ the dystopian story of Joseph K just led to disappointment (never got even half way) with ‘The Trial’. I just then thought Kafka wasn’t for me (strangely). Never finished the ‘The Metamorphosis’ either but have his complete works on my shelf, so maybe one day.
Troy is an English teacher who loves to read and shares that enthusiasm but is also willing to enjoy what digital technologies have to offer his students and self. We need more of that, i can tell you!
Cheers and I hope you have time to swing by my blog more often. Maybe this will interest you.
From my childhood, Tolkien and Sendak to my teens, Salinger, Vonnegut, Adams, Golding, and Huxley, this list reads like a timeline of my life with reading with the exception of not having graphic novels and as many children’s literature pieces that have long been a part of my life even today.
These days, my eyes are deep in non-fiction, which was a rare until my early twenties. I do long for these days of social, emotional, and critical ideas being shared through the eyes of masters who found a magical way to paint a vivid picture. However, I do dust off the Alchemist once a year to keep me whole.
Wonderful list to share and thanks for the trip down memory lane!
MAUS! You reminded me to add Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel. It is my favourite graphic novel, although, I have not read as many as I’d like to have of this genre. Hve you (or anyone) some others to suggest/list?
I to have been immersed in non fiction over the last decade much more than fiction – but not that much has made it too this list. The emotional pull of the novel, perhaps, makes it return to memory more readily.
Thanks for posting, Ryan! I greatly appreciate it!
My list of 42 – we have a lot of crossovers:
Watership Down-Richard Adams
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-Douglas Adams
Little Women-Louisa May Alcott
Tirra Lirra by the River -Jessica Anderson
Feed-M T Anderson
Pride and Prejudice-Jane Austen
The Naughtiest Girl in the School-Enid Blyton
The Song of an Innocent Bystander -Ian Bone
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas-John Boyne
The Secret Garden-Frances Hodgson Burnett
Left, Right and Centre -Tim Ferguson
The Great Gatsby-F Scott Fitzgerald
The Sound of One Hand Clapping-Richard Flanagan
My Brilliant Career-Miles Franklin
Diary of a Wombat-Jackie French
Sophie’s World-Jostein Gaarder
Cheaper by the Dozen-Frank Gilbreth Jr & Ernestine Gilbreth Carey
Lord of the Flies-William Golding
Lillian’s Story/Dark Places-Kate Grenville
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time-Mark Haddon
The Kite Runner-Khaled Hosseini
The Girlfriends’ Guide to Pregnancy-Vicki Iovine
To Kill a Mockingbird-Harper Lee
Picnic at Hanging Rock-Joan Lindsay
The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell-Robert Lowell
The Road-Cormac McCarthy
On Chesil Beach-Ian McEwan
Dark Victory-David Marr
Life of Pi -Yann Martel
Anne of Green Gables -L M Montgomery
The Scarlet Pimpernel-Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Pollyanna-Eleanor H Porter
Rattletrap Car-Phyllis Root
Merchant of Venice-William Shakespeare
Larry’s Party-Carol Shields
The Stone Diaries-Carol Shields
Of Mice and Men-John Steinbeck
Vanity Fair-William Makepeace Thackery
The Day of the Triffids-John Wyndham
The Book Thief-Marcus Zusak
I love Tim Winton’s writing but don’t count his books among my favourites which is a bit strange. Breath haunts me which makes it a good book but I question the material, although I don’t believe in censorship (full of contradictions aren’t I).
The Slap annoyed me. I don’t want to think that men think like that and I think some of the voices, particularly female, failed.
I’m amazed at how many books I read as a teenager, particularly for school, that have made the list. I had a great English teacher Yr 8-10. Thanks Mrs (Carmel) Thew.
I also found it hard to separate movies and books but hope I have.
I recently did a masters unit on Young Adult fiction – I just picked a couple of clear favourites from that very enjoyable course.
These days I don’t read much – I’m just too busy. I have a bookcase full waiting for my retirement, or at least LSL.
I keep adding books, many that you have listed in the comment here. I just added two Christopher Koch books, ‘Highways to a War’ and ‘Crossing the Gap’. The essay on Hesse is disturbingly brilliant and will upset, disorient and sadden Hesse fans (but it is a must read)!
Don’t laugh but I think I need to add this biography too, as it gave me the most immense (nostalgic) reading pleasure.
Of the many many books some stand out.
Philosophy of Science gave me Karl Poppers work, Thomas Kuhn and Michael Polanyi Marx and lakotos
An interest in israel led to
The Secret war against the Jews, Loftus and Aarons
A History of israel, by Ahron Bregman
Others come to mind:
CS Lewis Problem of pain
Lord of the Rings
Hesse – Siddhartha
Thanks for sharing! It reminded me how lucky I was to have inspiring high school English and History teachers that exposed me to so many of the titles in this list. Others from school days that have stuck are Othello, Of Mice and Men, Waiting for Godot, TS Elliot and John Donne’s poetry.
First year English at uni exposed me to new memorable experiences like Brave New World, 1984, Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock. And of course my worst experience at uni, sitting around in a small tutorial each having a turn at reading Malory aloud.
My most recent fav in your list is definitely The Slap! Loved, loved, loved it.
Others that are not on the list that come to my mind are Robert Callaso’s Cadmus and Harmony, Crime and Punishment, Norwich’s Byzantium trilogy and Italo Calvino who I couldn’t get enough of at one stage.
What I would love to see you do is take out Where the Wild Things Are from this list and start another with just children’s picture books?? When I started teaching Year 1 I was exposed to a whole new world of literacy that could have easily been missed.
What a great discussion!
The picture book thing was reinvigorated for me twice in the last decade. The new English syllabus prescription to teach picture books and visual literacy + the birth of our two daughters. A few of my fav favs, in no order of preference:
The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan
The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan
Courtney by John Burningham
Mr Grumpy’s Motorcar by John Burningham
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker
We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen
Too Loud Lily by Sophie Laguna
Mr McGee by Pamela Allen
Belinda by Pamela Allen
In fact, pretty much everything by by Pamela Allen
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor
Wibbly Pig by Mick Inkpen
Oh, I could do 100 + no probs. Maybe next hols!
Oh me too! Love the children’s books. Love reading them out loud and doing all the voices, just like my Mum did for us. On holidays my nan, aunts, cousins, brother and I could hear Mum read to my 10-yrs-younger-than-me brother down the hall. We were all entertained immensely.