There’s a meme going around on Facebook which asks you to name 10 books that have stayed with you. One caveat is that you’re not supposed to think too hard about it, but I came up with about 20 books so I had to narrow it down a bit. Here they are, in no particular order…and I could quite easily add another 10 to this (honourable mentions to Watership Down by Richard Adams, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough.)
1) Moominland Midwinter – Tove Jansson. Yes, it’s a Moomin book, ostensibly for kids but it’s really so much more than that. It’s a surprisingly profound and honest exploration of loneliness, not belonging and the fear of the unknown – and the Lady of the Cold genuinely scared the life out of me as a kid.
2) Firestarter – Stephen King. My nan bought me this from a car boot sale. I was about 11/12 and was absolutely captivated by it. It was around about that time I realised that a good horror story does more than just indiscriminately frighten. (I blame nan for the things I write today.)
3) Spike Milligan’s War Memoirs – I have to treat this as a series because underneath Milligan’s hilarious commentary there’s a very real and very human story, especially following Milligan’s shellshock and subsequent slide into depression. Mostly, it’s just really bloody funny.
4) The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris – read this when I was probably a bit younger than I ought to have been (14) and decided I wanted to be Clarice Starling. Hannibal Lecter is a fantastic, complex villain/antihero/christ knows what, and both characters have endured in my imagination.
5) Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck – studied this at GCSE and am gutted it’s supposedly going to be removed from the syllabus because it is such an important piece of literature.
6) The Green Mile – Stephen King. I don’t care if it’s a giant cliche, I love this book. The film version is also the only film I’ve ever watched that makes me cry every time. I have a heart of stone, but even though I know what’s coming, I tear up. A modern day Of Mice and Men, in many ways.
7) Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman – it was a toss-up between this and American Gods, but I chose Smoke and Mirrors because it introduced me to the idea that the short story was as powerful and worthy a medium as the novel. (Snow, Glass, Apples is still a favourite of mine)
8) The End Of The Affair – Graham Greene. Again, a toss-up between this and Brighton Rock but this book makes my heart hurt every time I read it, and I figure that’s the sign of a very well-written story.
9) Watchmen – Alan Moore – I know it’s a graphic novel but it’s still one of the best things I’ve read in a long time, and appeals to my own sense of politics in many ways. Plus, the superhero genre was always ripe for deconstruction.
10) No Country For Old Men – Cormac McCarthy – Sometimes I think that if I could write like McCarthy, I’d be a very happy writer indeed. It’s a dark story without redemption, and I was utterly captivated by the sheer brutality of it – not in a ‘spilled entrails and splattered blood’ sense, but in the total lack of apology it makes for being so bleak and dark.