I know, it's a click-bait list article thing, and I can't really rank the books that I like easily. However, I think I can give you ten books that have stayed with me for "some reason" and briefly explain why. I can't promise any order to the list, any rhyme or reason to the inclusion of books or any great themes that I shall be exploring. Equally, there will be books that are missing simply by dint of me having read them too recently for them to have stayed with me yet, like How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran and Kazuo Ishiguro's Remains of the Day, which are both brilliant books in their own rights and will no doubt make me think for a long while yet but, having only been read in the last few weeks, can't really qualify for the list.
Then there's the influential books that shaped who I am today: Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series, Tom Clancy's books, Colin Dann's Animals of Farthing Wood series or pretty much anything by John Wyndham (his short story Consider Her Ways was very much part of making me who I am, as was The Trouble with Lichen and, of course, Chocky). Obviously not all of those can make a list of ten books that have stayed with me, so the list will be culled and will be pretty random. Without any further ado then, the list continues after the line break.
Also, if you haven't read it, do so. If you haven't read anything by Terry Pratchett then I recommend beginning with Guards! Guards! if only because that's the first one I read.
Goodness me, the pain of run-on sentences!
I finished it when I was visiting Auschwitz with a school trip. It was surreal and also strangely fitting to be thinking about identity when reading a book that tackled that and the link to landscape. How much of a product we are of where we live and how we relate to that landscape. Set in Pre-Conquest and post-Conquest angland it was a story about the end of the world. It was a story as much about the language (itself made-up to mimic eald anglisc enough to look like it but remain legible) as it was about the people. Although, as a classic novel, it is a bit simplistic and the ending is a bit of a cop out, it was a book that brought an atmosphere that cannot be denied. An atmosphere of mist and legend. And something one immerses in like a fragrant bath with scents and candles and petals on the water. Somewhere downstairs there's the smell of a wonderful meal and the promise of something excellent for dessert over the dining room table. That's the feeling of this book. Let's face it, anything that can make room for itself during the assault on one's sensibilities that is a visit to Auschwitz is going to stay with you. I'll let Mr Kingsnorth himself take up the task of making you buy this.
Factual books I love, I do, but I view them as a means to an end - a way to acquire more knowledge or to think in a new way. As a consequence I am strictly utilitarian, mostly, when reading them. Some, like one in this installment, make me think so much in a new way that they stay with me. Most, I dip in and out of chasing references or sources. I am an historian and I read like that all the time. I said before that I do not prize a clever narrative over facts, and I don't, so 'great literature' to me can rarely be factual - mostly I chase information through labyrinthine corridors left by dry academics, and I like that. See a clever bit of prose and I get suspicious - what angle are they going for and why would they want me to focus on the prose rather than the facts?
However, I do respect the fact that some factual books are simply mind-blowing. Here I must plead the arrogance of youth and of my profession. I have worked so long and so hard to appear unfazed that I usually convince myself that mind-blowing information isn't. Now, I have already cited The Politics of Breastfeeding as one of my books and tonight I shall cite two more factual tomes that did blow my mind. But, hopefully, this explains why fiction has such a lasting hold on me.
And all this leaves out wonderful works like the Mars trilogy, the Night's Dawn trilogy, virtually every major history of the First World War or the Somme, Stalingrad by Anthony Beevor, Sahara by Clive Cussler, Invasion by Ian MacKenzie, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostakova, The Undercover Economist, Freakonomics, everything Harry Potter, and a whole host of other books that I can heartily recommend. But there, you have my list.