It’s fitting that I should post this list at Easter, since it’s something of a miracle that I got it done at all.
Choosing only ten was a huge challenge. I thought I had it nailed when I decided on the semi-hypothetical natural disaster approach: What if I had still been living in Canberra during the 18 January 2003 firestorm? What if my suburb had been evacuated? And what if I had only had room to carry ten books? That worked for all of five minutes, until I realised that, in that situation, I’d have done anything I could - knotted books up in a tablecloth if necessary - to be able to save as many treasures as possible. So I settled for contemplating which I would have grabbed off the shelves first, and which I would have most regretted the loss of.
Then it occurred to me that some of the books in my TBR pile might qualify once I’d read them. Not wanting to post the list only to change my mind a few days later, I packed in some last-minute reading. But now it’s done. Kailana asked for them, and here they are:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenHonourable mentions: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon; Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer (so close). I, Claudius and Claudius the God by Robert Graves (if only he hadn’t portrayed the - apparently perfectly respectable - empress as a murderous bitch who offed half the family - including, ultimately, Augustus himself). The Hitchhiker’s series by Douglas Adams (sadly, I’ve only read three of them). And finally, the Nancy Drew books, single-handedly responsible for getting me hooked on crime fiction. Fourteen years later, I’m still addicted.
A book list just wouldn’t be complete without Jane Austen, and this is my favourite.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
Of course they only count as one! A highlight not just of fantasy but of literature in general; nobody, butnobody, does world-building like Tolkien.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
So the characters might not be among fiction’s most likeable, but this stormy tale of a love stronger than death is compelling and unforgettable.
Possession by A.S. Byatt
Literature and history, romance and mystery, professional rivalry ... it’s all here. The story is fantastic; and Byatt’s ability to create letters, journals, stories, book extracts, articles, and poems by multiple characters is extraordinary.
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder
A complete history of philosophy for those who know nothing about philosophy, all packaged into an entertaining and intriguing story. This is one of the very few ‘young adult’ books that I’ve kept.
My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
The hysterically funny first and most famous of Durrell’s autobiographical books is guaranteed to keep you in stitches. It’s full of hilarious misadventures and affectionate portraits of the creatures of Corfu - and some slightly less flattering ones of his relatives. The tv adaptation is on the ABC on Sunday night; I do hope it’s as good as the book.
The Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde
Totally bizarre, and utterly addictive. Time travel, Supreme Evil Beings, mnemonomoprhs, grammasites, malevolent multinationals, eradicated husbands, pet dodos, literary detectives, Montague and Capulet street gangs, and the Cheshire Cat as uberlibrarian. No matter what your preference in literature, there’s probably a reference to it somewhere in here.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
One of the original detective stories, and one of the best, with a plot full of twists and turns that any modern writer would envy.
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
Say what you will about Andrew Lloyd Webber, he’s got great taste in inspiration. This horror story about the Paris Opera and its all-too-corporeal ghost is still creepy a century after it was written. And in answer to those unspoken questions ... no, I have not seen the musical - yet - and yes, I did enjoy the movie.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
I borrowed this from the library last semester and was utterly enchanted by Holly Golightly.
And a totally cheating eleventh, eleventh-hour addition on 14 April ...
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
A strong and principled heroine, a hero who loves her no matter what, and issues still relevant today. It was love at first page.