What are my favourite books?
As I have already said my induction into this magical world of words started with the Rainbow books but I soon progressed onto Enid Blyton. My elder brother and sister had all her books and I read them one after the other rather like a child dipping into a bag of sweets. I then progressed onto Malcolm Saville and his Lone Pine Club series. I remember writing him a letter and the dear man replied, although he was a bit disturbed by me wanting to copy the Lone Pine Club and write my name in blood. I've still got his letter with the Lone Pine Club logo. I know these authors got a bad press but they were really the J.K Rowling and Rick Riordan of their day.
A book that really caught my imagination at junior school was Stig of the Dump. I don't remember too much about it now but I do recall being captivated by it and I couldn't wait for the teacher to read out the next chapter. As I progressed through secondary school I gained a love for Shakespeare, in particular A Midsummer's Night Dream and The Merchant of Venice both of which I saw at the Theatre in Portsmouth – unforgettable experiences. Everyone should see at least one Shakespeare play in their lifetime. People often ask me what I miss about England being an ex-pat, expecting me to say warm beer or the BBC, but in actual fact it would have to be not being able to see the Royal Shakespeare Company, a national treasure if ever there was one.
Around this time I came across, possibly my favourite book of all time: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It left a lasting impression on me and I think I've tried subconsciously to emulate Atticus Finch ever since. Would be fathers could do no worse than read this book. I also dipped extensively into Dickens and Thomas Hardy but my Victorian writers of choice are Henry Fielding and Wilkie Collins. What a brilliant man was Henry Fielding; witty, philosophical and thought provoking. Most people recommend Tom Jones but I would go for Joseph Andrews any day of the week. And what can I say about Wilkie Collins? Read The Woman in White or The Moonstone. He was the master of suspense and some of his descriptions will leave you spellbound; I particularly remember one about quicksand which you must read.
In my late teens I really got into farce. The two stand out authors for me were P.G Wodehouse and Compton McKenzie. They made writing seem effortless; the perfect books for whiling away the long summer days. I suppose Douglas Adams could be included here as well although his writing was from another Galaxy. I loved everything he wrote but in particular So long and thanks for all the fish and The restaurant at the end of the universe. What a shame he was cut off in his prime. Another phase I went through was crime books. I devoured every book I could get my hands on by Agatha Christie, Ruth Rendell, Ngaio Marsh but my favourite crime writer of all is without a doubt Margery Allingham who knew perfectly well how to scare the living daylights out of me.
Strange but true, I didn't read the Lord of the Rings trilogy until I was well into my thirties. I had read The Hobbit in my teens which at the time would have been my favourite book. Another fantasy book that I was passionate about was The Neverending Story which I remember reading in one day only stopping for an occasional piece of toast to keep me going.
Unfortunately, when I first went to live in Spain twenty-four years ago I had to dedicate my spare time to learning Spanish so I didn't do much reading for pleasure. As well it was difficult then to buy books; Amazon didn't exist. Then my children came along and I spent many happy hours and hours reading to them. I remember going to the beach with my son and spending the whole time reading Harry Potter to him. Likewise flights to England. On one trip the people sitting in front of me thanked me for making the trip more interesting than usual. The upshot of all of this is that I haven't kept abreast of recent books for adults, as much as I would have liked. However this is not the case for children's books as the piles and piles of books in my children's rooms testify to. My favourite of all of them is anything by Philip Pullman. He really is quite brilliant.
If I'm honest there are far too many books which have left an impression on me to mention and I'm now regretting not having mentioned A confederacy of dunces, The girl in a swing, Candide, As I walked out one midsummer's morning, The secret diary of Adrian Mole to name a few and it's made me wonder how I managed to find the time to read so many books.
|© 2014 Ian Locke|