Saturday, 21 March 2009

Books That I Love

Sometimes I come across a book so wonderful that moving away from the printed page feels painful: the real world is dislocated from the reality that the book has provided for me, and it feels too cold and shallow compared to the richer, more nuanced and textured world the book creates.

The first time it happened to me was about thirty years ago, when I read Doris Lessing's Martha Quest series and realised that Lessing was speaking directly to me. I can still remember lying in bed reading the book late one summer evening, the windows open to the rustling chestnut trees, the light fading from the sky until a shimmering darkness blanketed the windows.

Then there was Margaret Drabble, whose earlier novels accompanied me through my teenage years; Penelope Lively's The Road To Lichfield; Sybille Bedford's Jigsaw; Janette Turner Hospital's Charades; The People Of The Black Mountains, by Raymond Williams; Ian McEwan's Saturday; Julia Leigh's Disquiet (ignore the Amazon reviews: this is a gorgeous book), and her earlier book, The Hunter; Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible and the fabulous non-fiction book The Snakebite Survivor's Club: Travels Among Serpents by Jeremy Seal which I read just before it, which added so much to the Kingsolver text.

And now it's happened again, with Sue Gee's Reading in Bed, a glorious book which Sally Zigmond likes just as much as I did. If you can’t get hold of a copy of this one then just buy any of Sue Gee’s books: she’s such a wonderful writer that I bet even her shopping lists are good; and tell me which books remain with you, years after you've read them. My bedside pile is down to just double figures now, and I feel a need to restock.


Anonymous said...

I've felt the same way about the Maqroll novels of Alvaro Mutis. Philip Roth can do that to me sometimes too. When I read Moby Dick I feel like the rest of the world is really not important.

I just finished reading Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier in which the premise is that a single book can change your life and become your obsession.

Rod H said...

I find that such a list would change as I get older, which I can tell from the changing stock on bookshelves over the years.

Books I have read recently which I liked a lot were The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and The Book of the Dead. The latter is so subtle I had to read it twice, much of the dialogue taking on a new significance the second time through. I liked William Boyd's Brazzaville Beach a lot too.

Anonymous said...

So good to bunmp into someone with the same loves - certainly Lively, Drabble, McEwan & Gee. I would add Carol Shields 'Republic of Love' and probably others if they had not flown my Saturday brain. Now must look out for your other picks as I'm sure to like them too!

catdownunder said...

Really good books are surely books that, even as an adult, one can go back to and read again and still say, "I love it"?
Is it being able to wrap yourself in a cocoon of words and having to break out at the end of it and discovering that you are a (slightly) different person because of the reading experience?
Just thoughts Jane....

Alis said...

Sue Gee has been one of my favourite writers for years, ever since I read her The Hours of the Night. A truly wonderful, lyrical writer.
Someone who has recently jumped straight into the same league for me is Geraldine Brooks whose astonishing Year of Wonders is one of my all-time top ten.

none said...

Affinity by Sarah Waters? Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Suzanne Clarke?

(Word ver: manzit ewwwwwwwww!)

Jane Smith said...

I've not read any of the books or authors discused here apart from the ones that Debut put forward--and I've read just about everything that those writers have written. I think Debut and I must be library-clones.

As for Suzanna Clarke's housebrick of a novel: I started it twice but couldn't get to the end. It went on and on and on and I was bored. And yet so many people love it. Why's that, then? I can't possibly be wrong...!

Blasé said...

I read this book some time ago, and it was very interesting. I recommend it, the name of it tell the truth, I haven't read a book in many years.

Just thought I would try to fit in here. If I wasn't so intimidated with your blog, I would sign up as a follower. Why am I always out-of-the-loop?

Jane Smith said...

Oh, Blase (sorry, I can't get your accent to work), don't be intimidated. It's not like I'm anyone to be impressed by. Just join in and see what happens: only a few people round here bite, and I do try to stop them doing so!