Top Ten Books Recommended To Me

Even the strongest and bravest must sometimes weep.”

Brian Jacques

  1. The Gunslinger – Stephen King. The Resident Grammarian recommended the Dark Tower series, and, for all the faults of the later books, I loved The Gunslinger: its apocalyptic desperation, its ambiguity, its refusal to elucidate reasons for anything. It was so utterly different from anything I’d read before.

  2. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever – Stephen Donaldson. My fat omnibus edition was a gift from the Resident Grammarian, and the books are fantastic: detailed and introspective and heavy and learned, Tolkien with psychological realism thrown into the mix.

  3. The Madwoman in the Attic – Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar. I think it was one of my schoolteachers who sent this polemical chunk of feminist criticism my way, and I found it so useful that I bought my own copy when I went to university. It wasn’t so much the content – although that was deeply interesting in itself – as how the book made me think: analytically, critically, contextually.

  4. Howl’s Moving Castle – Diana Wynne Jones. I was recommended this by a tutor for my Children’s Literature course, and it’s a rather lovely fairytale with a difference.

  5. A Face Like Glass – Frances Hardinge. One of the TolkSoc Lembas Reps made me read this, and when I say “made” I mean it more or less literally. It’s another fairytale, strange and potent and dark and twisty.

  6. The Redwall series – Brian Jacques. These books, handed down by a family friend with a grown-up daughter, filled up large swathes of my reading time as a child, and they are really sweet things, full of mouthwatering descriptions of vegetarian feasts and warm-hearted characters and songs and adventure. Not subtle – but subtlety can be overrated, right?

  7. The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis. I don’t remember who gave these to me, but they’re classics if nothing else. And there is a potency to them, a wildness which seems utterly at odds with their ostensibly Christian message.

  8. The Caves of Steel – Isaac Asimov. I’m reasonably sure the Pragmatist mentioned this. It’s a story notable for its concept rather than its execution, but what a concept it is. Asimov can be just right sometimes. (And sometimes not.)

  9. Engleby – Sebastian Faulks. English Friend insisted on getting this out of the library for me. It’s a dark and twisted story of murder and memory, clever and stone cold.

  10. The Famous Five – Enid Blyton. The Grandparents gave me a new Famous Five hardback every time I went to visit them as a child, and something about them just says “childhood” – solving mysteries on the moor, home in time for cake and lashings of ginger beer, the archetypal childhood fantasy.

(The theme for this post was suggested by the Broke and the Bookish’s weekly meme Top Ten Tuesday.)

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