Friday, 19 October 2012

Something for the weekend - 'Five books that..' No1

'Five Books that changed your life'

This weeks 'something for the weekend' is a little different. Soon on the shelves of our beloved book shop you'll see a new promotion: 'Five books that changed your life' or 'our lives', I'm not sure the details have been hammered out yet. So I thought I'd go first & run you thorough my chosen five, what they are, why they're great & what affect they've had on me. Let me take you back in time..

Number one, these are in vaguely chronological order not in order of merit (come on picking five was hard enough!), is The secret diary of Adrian Mole aged 13 & 3/4 by Sue Townsend, I was roughly the same age as Mr Mole when this came out & I liked that fact & I liked the cover so I bought it. I'd been a fairly avid reader from a young age, I was obsessed with Dr Who so had read a lot of the adaptations, & various other school favourites (Famous five, Asterix, Jennings etc) but nothing had even been as relevant to me as this. I realised that books could speak to me about my life. So for better or worse (& judging by my own diary of the time - for worse) I sort of became Adrian Mole, bad poetry & first crushes included. It's actually a very funny & acutely observed look at early adolescent, unfortunately I saw it as a guide book. But I forgive it! & I still love it to this day.
  
Number two is The Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy I wasn't much older (possibly even younger) when I first read Douglas Adam's masterpiece & it's the book I re-read the most. The first of a 'trilogy in five parts'  to me it's just about perfect (the other four are also very good especially two & three). The adventures of Arthur Dent in space & time shaped not only a nascent love of Sci-fi but also,I believe, my whole sense of humour. The book is thick with Adam's very own, peculiar,dry, but most importantly hilarious wit & I adored it. If ever I need a hug from a book I return to Arthur, Ford & Zaphod et al. This is the kind of book that sparks the imagination & keeps you entertained  - absolutely perfect for young readers.

Number three is a different kettle of fish Requiem for a dream by Hubert Selby Jr. A few years later (A level time) in the long summers that used to exist I would walk up  & down the shelves of my local Library (keep the libraries open!) & choose interesting looking titles, this was how I discovered many excellent writers: Vonnegut, Irving, Kundera, Mishima to name just a few. I could have chosen one of  a number from this time. But the reason I chose 'Requiem' is that it's stayed with me, without looking at it I can feel it's choking, desperate atmosphere. I remember being genuinely shocked as the plot darkened & at the bleak & unusual but pulsating prose style. It was this type of novel that opened my eyes to that fact that there were no limits in literature & that books could take you anywhere you wanted to go.

Number four is  Batman The killing joke. I'm not actually a huge graphic novels fan but this is unbelievably good. The art by Brian Bolland, who I knew from 2000ad & the story & script by Alan Moore, who I was unaware of the time (though he had written for 2000ad I only noticed artists for some reason) are of the utmost quality. I would, & still do, take an age over each page devouring the stunning visuals & enthralled by Moore's plotting. There is a very cinematic feel to it, more than most graphic novels I've read. For example the way they segue past into present never fails to delight. The Joker here is as abhorrent as you will see him & yet you will feel some sympathy as Moore reveals his desperate origin story. Even if you're not a big Graphic novels fan you should have a look at this.

& Finally at number five it's The Damned Utd  by David Peace. I've already done a review of this which you can find elsewhere in the blog. Suffice to say it's my favourite book & David Peace is the best writer of his generation. Friends & colleagues - if you've ever had a drink with me & I've ended up going on & on about this book I apologise, but if you've then picked it up & read it, I'm not.. & nor are you.

It's difficult to pick five books that changed or shaped you, as in it's difficult to hone it back to five. What would you pick? Over the next few weeks our bookseller will be telling you there favourites & why they mean so much to them. Because as I said in the very first post, we love books & we want to tell you why.

Gary

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