Monday, 2 November 2009


I was reading on another blog a list of 15 books that the writer described as "life changing". I can't say that any of the books I have read have had that effect on me, but I freely admit that I read for enjoyment and as a form of escapism. Nevertheless, that blog set me thinking about the books I have most enjoyed. I'm not sure that I could actually come up with the full 15 if I include only those few that I have read and re-read, some of them three or four times, but I have enjoyed reading many, many books. Anyway, here is a random list of my favourite books and authors. I say random, because it is in no particular order.
  • In Pale Battalions by Robert Goddard has to be included. This was the first of his books that I read and has, I think, more twists and turns than any other book I have ever read. I have enjoyed every one of his other books as well, but this, for me, is his best.
  • Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) is another of those books that I remember well. I am, in any case, reminded of it every time we drive to our French cottage as we pass over the River Authie which features quite strongly in the book. (Memo to self: get a copy of his latest.)
  • Very much in the same vein is C J Sansom's Winter in Madrid, although this is set around the Spanish civil war instead of World War 1, which is the setting of the previous two titles.
  • I have also enjoyed most of Thomas Hardy's "Wessex" novels (I deliberately wrote "most" as there were a couple that I couldn't get on with for some reason) but I think the one that stands re-reading the most is possibly Under the Greenwood Tree, although Tess of the d'Urbervilles runs it close.
  • Charles Dickens would also feature in my list with Great Expectations, possibly because I studied this one at school and I know well the marshes of north Kent where it is set.
  • I don't think there is a one-word title like "chicklit" for the genre that I, along with many other men, enjoy - stories of war at sea. Douglas Reeman (also writing as Alexander Kent) is prolific in this field and I enjoy his work, but there are two books by other authors that I consider quite outstanding. HMS Ulysses by Alexander MacLean is about a ship of that name sailing on the Arctic convoys during World War II and how the cold and exhaustion affected each man differently. Possibly the least well-known of MacLean's books (others include The Guns of Navarone) but in my mind his best. But the really outstanding title in this genre is The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Montserrat. Again set in World War II, but this time concerned with Atlantic convoys. My father, who served in the Navy during the war, considered this the only book truly to capture the real spirit of the battle of the Atlantic.
  • Out of print now is John Masters' Loss of Eden trilogy - Now God be Thanked, Heart of War, In the Green of the Spring - describing the effects on different social classes of World War I. Pity that, as I would like to read them again and the local libraries have got rid of their copies.
  • I also regret being unable to borrow Morris West's novels about the catholic church, specifically the papacy: The Shoes of the Fisherman and Devil's Advocate are two titles that spring to mind.
I could go on, but I think sufficient unto the day etc.

1 comment:

Uncle Skip, said...

The first book that really sticks in my mind is Wind in the Willows.
I suppose I could make a list, but I like reading others' lists to see if we've read any of the same things.
Winter in Madrid still stands out. So I must have enjoyed it a little more than most.