Ten most influential books

I saw a post about listing the ten books that have stayed with you on this fabulous blog and couldn’t resist getting in on the action. However, like most book bloggers I’m sure, there’s no way I could just list the books – I need to explain my choices, but I promise I’ll try not to waffle.

  • Marching Powder by Rusty Young: I read this just before going to Bolivia on holidays, so it’s always stuck with me, mostly because travelling through Bolivia was such a life-changing experience – I’d never been anywhere that was so different from my own life. Although, sadly, I didn’t make it to the jail that the book is about, I was blown away (pun intended) by the story.
  • Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta: Oh, the feels. Just thinking about this book brings back all the teenage angst I felt when I read it. Even though one of the book’s main themes was the challenges of the immigrant life, I would have given anything to have been born into a big Italian family with all their traditions and culture (and food). I wanted Josephine’s family, her curly hair, her friends, but most of all I wanted Jacob Coote. I suspect he was my first proper book crush, and I’ve never forgotten him.
  • Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey: I read this for my brother in high school (one of his ‘things’ is that he has never read a book cover-to-cover in his life), and I have never forgotten how much I loved it. It was one of the first truly ‘adult’ books that I read, and I think, subconsciously, I’ve been using it as a literary fiction benchmark ever since. Carey is one of my favourite writers of all time – I think he is a master storyteller, and has an incredible ability to capture the weird and the wonderful. I have read pretty much everything he’s ever written (which is a LOT), and he’s never let me down. In fact, I could probably fill this list with Carey titles alone, but where would the fun be in that?
  • Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: This book really took me by surprise with how much I loved it. I had read The Poisonwood Bible and enjoyed it, but this one had so much more heart and warmth to it. Kingsolver’s shtick is interweaving serious social issues into beautiful narratives, and I found the ecological nature of this one much easier to swallow than the religious fanaticism of The Poisonwood Bible. I loved the three storylines – the way they seemed so disparate but were all connected in small ways.
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde: This book is simply the perfect combination of silliness and book nerdery. It’s my favourite book about books, because it’s so clever but never takes itself too seriously. What’s not to love about a book that involves Mr Rochester stepping out of the pages of Jane Eyre into the present day to save someone’s life. Perfect.
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen: No list of favourite books of mine will ever not have Pride and Prejudice on it. There’s nothing I can say about it that hasn’t already been said, so I’m not even going to try. I love it. That is all.
  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson: I think this was one of the first books that I remember laughing out loud to. I’m sure I had read funny books before this one, but none of them have stuck in my memory the way this one has. This book also began my extreme love affair with Bryson, one that has never died.
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: I couldn’t stop raving about this book after I finished it and I forced it on a couple of my friends who both hated it with a passion (needless to say we are no longer friends – it’s sad but necessary.) I just loved everything about it – right down to the way the first section ends in the middle of a sentence. I thought the structure was perfect, there was just enough in each time period to hold my interest, and the different genre of each shows just talented Mitchell is. I don’t think it will be long before I read this again.
  • The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons: This one is my guilty pleasure, and one I don’t normally admit to loving, but I’m really coming to the realisation that all the book snobbery in the world (of which I am guilty) is just bullshit. Read what you want to read. And a lot of the time, what I want is an epic love story just like this one. I’ve reread this more than any other book, and I don’t regret a single minute that I’ve spent with Tatiana and Alexander (except the next two books in the series – I kind of regret those minutes).
  • The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson: I am fascinated by North Korea – just the fact that it exists as it does in this day and age, it’s like something out of a science fiction novel. Johnson was actually allowed into North Korea to research this novel, which is amazing in itself, meaning that most of the things he describes are real – like the Japanese kidnappings and ‘disappearings’ – and, in fact, he said that he had to tone a few things down that were just too gruesome to write about. Woah. This book is strange, eye-opening, beautiful, compelling, and a thousand other adjectives that don’t do it justice.
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