Book Worm

In the last couple of weeks I’ve noticed posts on Facebook about ten books. Here is mine:

With sufficient respect to Nigel for asking, and in the hope people may find it interesting, here are my ten books. Books that have stuck with me for one reason or another. Read them all.

1. Equations of Life, Simon Morden
2. Rock and Roll is Dead, Steve Lawson
3. Jingo (and Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms and Thud!), Terry Pratchett
4. The Horse and his Boy, CS Lewis
5. The Crow Road, Iain Banks
6. Poetics of Music, Igor Stravinsky (translation from the original French)
7. And now let’s move into a time of nonsense, Nick Page
8. Sharpe’s Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell
9. Pigeon Post, Arthur Ransome
10. The White Cat. I’m not even sure who wrote this but it was my boyhood favourite bedtime story. “There once was a King who had three sons… we shall see what we shall see.”

Please do feel free to share your ten. I’m not going to nominate anybody. It’s been quite fascinating reading other people’s though.

And beneath, in the comments, Nigel was kind enough to wonder how and why these books have a hold. So I decided the best way to address his interest would be via the blog. Here again are my top ten books in no particular order, this time with a little about each.

1. Equations of Life, Simon Morden

The book is genius. I even reviewed it in an earlier post. Dystopian future London with everything that might entail. Post apocalyptic nuclear nightmare, an immigrant Russian kid with a very fast brain and a slightly faster mouth, tech at the cutting edge of possibilities and the Order of St Joan. It has religion, guns, swearing in Russian, and everything else one might need to establish the foundation of a hit series. Numbering four books so far, and the fifth known to be in some state of writing, I love the grand sweep of the thing and the generous detail which Morden assigns to his characters.

It’s scary to see how accurate some of the futuristic tech in Morden’s novels has turned out to be, and that makes one of the central themes so much more believable. Hatnav (Google Glass), Domiks (container-appartments), cloud based computing (um, everywhere!) and so forth are all technologies referenced int eh book which are coming or have arrived.

2. Rock and Roll is Dead, Steve Lawson

More hairy sweary storytelling, this time from a man who knows the business because he’s lived with it. A slightly cynical (realistic?) deconstruction of the modern music industry told through the eyes of musicians who find they win by making music but could lose by getting signed. A very key influence in my goal-setting when playing music, not because of the industry critique but because there is a fluid and dynamic narrative which totally nails how it feels when I improvise and I love that another person managed to explain it in mere words.

3. Jingo (and Guards! Guards!, Men at Arms and Thud!), Terry Pratchett

Or practically any of the Discworld novels. Jingo is particularly fine because it covers a range of theatres of action and contains lots of clever nods to popular culture and films. I sometimes use my favourite concept from the book to tackle people who insist politics is civilised: “Democracy – one man, one rock.”

Terry Pratchett is a good fantasy writer, and I love his characterisations. It’s no coincidence my other particular favourites all feature Sam Vimes for whom I have quite the soft spot.

4. The Horse and his Boy, CS Lewis

The Horse and his Boy is the third book in the Narnia series (according to Narnian history) and features a number of assumptions and cultural descriptions which are now massively outdated. The core of the story, however, is gripping and serves to bring two characters into a narrative counterpoint that really delivers. The ending is good enough, and ties up some ends into the wider Narnia narrative, but really it’s the characterisation and development I like. This remains a favourite from childhood.

5. The Crow Road, Iain Banks

Classic non-linear novel with three key pieces of the story floating free in the text. I love the concept, I love the setting and I absolutely adore the ordinariness of the central mystery while around it all sorts of crazy things happen. Best explosion in a crematorium scene I’ve ever read. This is one of those where I happen to have seen the story adapted for TV before I read the book. The book is better.

6. Poetics of Music, Igor Stravinsky (translation from the original French)

Igor Stravinsky, lecturing in French at an American University, delivers a series of well reasoned and constructed lessons in Music. Again, a really big influence on some of my thinking about creativity and musical validity, he’s well worth a read but a bit stodgy in places where the English translation aims to deliver Russian idiom through French into English and doesn’t entirely succeed. It’s a good read for musicians, which is why it was on the reading list when I began my degree and unlike half the texts we were given, still on my bookshelf a decade later.

7. And now let’s move into a time of nonsense, Nick Page

The second non-fiction book. Contemporary Protestant Western Church-based musical worship taken to pieces and reassembled with some of the bits back in the right places. If it’s an area where you are active, absolutely read this book. It beats anything I’ve ever read by Matt Redman hands down. Sorry, Matt. There are some classic lessons for church musicians and a few interesting facts which I thoroughly enjoyed devouring.

8. Sharpe’s Waterloo, Bernard Cornwell

Back to fiction and a guilty pleasure – Cornwell’s romp through historical (mostly) fact is glorious and well worth an afternoon’s read. I seem to have seen more Sharpe on the screen than the page, but the book is so much more than the Sean Bean adaptation ever could be. Richard Sharpe is instrumental in defeating the French at Waterloo. Yes he is. It says so in the book.

9. Pigeon Post, Arthur Ransome

Children on adventures, in a time around the same as Enid Blyton but written by someone who really knew something about his subject matter. There is something quite remarkable about successfully taking a bunch of water-borne characters who first came to be known through Swallows and Amazons before takign them off the water and up a hill looking for gold. Ransome does it. Yes, the language and certain assumptions are dated, and I probably wouldn’t let me kids read it if they had other options, but I love it.

10. The White Cat.

I’m not even sure who wrote this but it was my boyhood favourite bedtime story. “There once was a King who had three sons… we shall see what we shall see.” A tale which I never read, but was read to me. I knew the story so well I could tell if tired parents “accidentally” turned two pages at once and missed some minor twist of the plot. How my loving mother and father didn’t drive themselves crazy reciting the book night after night I’ll never know. I love the tale. It is familiar and comforting and completely nuts.

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2 Responses to Book Worm

  1. 1. The 39 steps
    2. To kill a Mockingbird
    3. The Newtonian Casino
    4. Bad Science
    5. Arthur Mee’s ‘Kings England: Staffordshire’
    6. Five Fags a Day
    7. The Kingdom by the Sea
    8. The Beast in Man
    9. Rip it up and start again
    10. What was lost

  2. […] I’m not on either side of the Kindle debate, having both more books than I should comfortably fit on the available bookshelves and also an e-reader with more to enjoy. But I am a keen advocate of recommendations. And lists of personal favourites. […]

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