If I thought too much about this my head would explode, so, as if leaping over the alley between two rooftops five floors up, I don’t pause and…
1. A Ride on the Whirlwind (African Writers Series) – Sipho Sepamla (Fiction – tales of a revolutionary cell in apartheid South Africa.)
2. A Time of Gifts: On Foot to Constantinople – From the Hook of Holland to the Middle Danube – Patrick Leigh Fermor (A memoir of his eighteen-year-old self walking from the Hook of Holland to a bridge over the Danube between Slovakia and Hungary in 1933. The next part of his journey to Constantinople is described in the sequel, Between the Woods and the Water: On Foot to Constantinople from the Hook of Holland – The Middle Danube to the Iron Gates.)
3. Lucky Jim (Penguin Modern Classics) – Kingsley Amis (Fiction – the funniest book ever)
4. E: A Novel – Matt Beaumont (Fiction – a clever concept, written entirely in emails, very funny with it. Sequels include The e Before Christmas and E Squared – though the idea is getting less and less fresh.)
5. You are Here: Personal Geographies and Other Maps of the Imagination – Katharine Harmon (A wonderful collection of maps of the mind, imagination, the world, heaven, hell and other points west. Just a gorgeous book to hold.)
6. The Forging of a Rebel – Arturo Barea (Autobiography – this is a trilogy, so is it cheating to include it? The three volumes are The Forge [ The Forging of a Rebel Book 1 ] (Flamingo), The Track (Flamingo) and The Forging of a Rebel – The Clash – childhood in Madrid and Castile, action with the Spanish army in the Rif War in Morocco, marriage and children, and finally his part in the Spanish Civil War.)
7. Ulster (A Penguin special) – The Sunday Times Insight Team (Reportage/History – an account of the outbreak in the late 1960s of the most recent “Troubles” in Ireland. As a “child of the Troubles”, this book made a big impression on me when I read it as a young ‘un. And while we’re on the subject, isn’t the “Troubles” an odd term to use to describe periods of general mayhem, localised civil war, military curfew, murder gangs roaming the streets, and widespread fear and loathing. It’s on a par with that other useful phrase – “a wee bit of bother” – as in: “Oh, I’d suggest you take the other road this evening, there’s been a wee bit of bother over beyond.” The WBB a euphemism for, say, the blowing into a ditch of a passing armoured personnel carrier and the killing of those inside. But moving right along…)
8. The Blue Tango – Eoin McNamee (His imagined version of the real life murder of Patricia Curran in 1952. It was the main pre-Troubles crime celebre in Northern Ireland, never satisfactorily solved. He’s done another interesting version of the death/killing of Princess Diana, called 12:23: Paris. 31st August 1997, but I prefer The Blue Tango.)
9. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 – Tony Judt (History – Post World War Two history of Europe.)
9 1/2. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway (Fiction – you may have heard of this Spanish Civil War tale.)
10. Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa – Dambisa Moyo (Well argued polemic – She lays out the reasons the West should suspend development aid to Africa, for the good of Africa. She’s Zambian. I bought the book in Durban, South Africa.)
Phew! I was worried for a moment that I wouldn’t fit it all into a top ten. And appallingly I have failed to include anything by Andrea Camillieri, Henning Mankell, Roddy Doyle, Maurice Leitch, Brian Moore, Chuck Palahniuk, MJ Hyland, Philip Kerr, Iain Banks, Michael Dibdin, Martin Cruz Smith, Andrew Marr or Ian Rankin. Or any poetry at all. Disgusting.
And that previous paragraph means I’ve cheated three times. Rubbish.
6 responses to “Favourite books (as of today)”
I read the Ulster report (No 7 on the list) in 1981. It made disappointing reading even then that the violence had continued for so long.
Thanks for the great blog Paul. There’s always room for a new’un if it’s a good’un. Finally I know what a culchie is, but re. this book list, I wish you hadn’t! I’ve already got a list of ‘must read before I die’ books as long as your arm. Your intriguing list has just added another four to this. Keep up the good work…
@Ian – Yup, disappointing then, disappointing now.
@ Basil Dajani – Ah… but which four? (I recently lent my copy of A Time of Gifts to a neighbour in the film business. Maybe he has plans.)
Okay since you asked… 2 is already on my list. But now I have underlined it. 3 I now wish to re-read after 25 years (so I suppose that goes to the end of my list? Question: How can one decide a certain book is worth re-reading rather than one we have not / may never read that has been highly recommended by another? 6 The word ‘Morocco’ drew me in. 7 as it is of ‘the Troubles’ and recommended by you… It seems like time to reprise that tragic period in our history.
Oh – good question. Given that the time available is not infinite (and even if it was) – to re-read or read something new. no.3 Lucky Jim never fails to cheer me up when I need it. A bit like The Pogues.
As for no.7 Ulster – it was the first of its kind to grab me, which is why it’s in the list. But so many others have been written since, I’d hesitate to say it’s the best way in. I’ll have a think about that a bit more. And now that I remember it, my copy has had such punishment it may be missing the odd page here and there.
Nice list, Paul. Though your tags do say it all–it’s not ten. But as the original article had fifty, I think you’re within your rights..