I recently sojourned to the Australian Outback to write my dissertation without the distractions of work, socialising, and a certain squawking parrot who shall remain nameless. I arrived with a suitcase full of books all relevant to my dissertation so that I would not be distracted by reading. Alas, I love books.
Needless to say, it took about two weeks of being here with “no distractions” before I dove to my favourite online bookstore and maxed out my credit card. Now there is a pile of books next to by bed in the ‘read’ pile and another (shrinking) pile of books ‘to read’.
I’ve been here over eight weeks now and the postman is not so impressed with my love of books as I’ve made many more orders and packages of books arrive in every mail bag with a grunted ‘read much?’. Um, yes. This year alone I’ve read well over thirty books (which averages out to be one every 4-5 days) which isn’t bad considering I have to be very strict and ration my books to a) accommodate my budget, and b) ensure I take care of my basic hygiene. Of course, this got me thinking about my favourite books. There are numerous books I could happily read over and over again, but if I was trapped in a cave with nothing but ten books and an endless source of light, here’s what I would take with me …
The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran – I constantly refer to this book as it seems to have something beautiful to say about everything! When I first started applying for teaching jobs I had a quote from The Prophet in my CV and at my first ever interview the school’s priest and I discussed the quote and our mutual love of Gibran. Later that day they offered me my first teaching position. I declined two days later after another successful interview at a school in a different location, but I often wonder if things would have been different if I had accepted it …
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – It might be cliche to have a ‘classic’ book on this list, but I truly love Jane Eyre. Books like this have ruined me for real life! I demand passion! Of course there are other ‘classics’ I love, but this is it.
Metamorphoses by Ovid – One of my favourite ‘quotes’ is from a Greek myth I read somewhere sometime when I was about ten or eleven. I don’t know where I read it or even if my memory of it is entirely accurate, but it was something along the lines of a story about Apollo and his sun chariot riding across the sky and arriving to the gates which ‘Aurora opened with her rose-tipped fingers’. Regardless of where I read it or how I remember it, I cannot look at a sunrise or sunset without thinking of Aurora. When I was doing my BA I read Metamorphoses for the first time and now every time I read it I seem to find another story I haven’t seen before, regardless of how bent the spine is.
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams – When I am asked what my all-time favourite book is, this is the answer I give. I think that, as a child, it was the cartoon movie I saw first and it wasn’t until much later that I discovered the book. It helps that I still to this day believe some toys are really real.
The Red Tree by Shaun Tan – Shaun Tan is one of my favourite writers for children and his picture books appeal to all ages. I read this to a class of fifteen year olds who sneered when I first told them I was going to read to them a picture book. When I finished the class was silent. I knew exactly how they felt; when I first read this book I burst into tears and wished someone had given it to me when I was fifteen and in desperate need of a red tree.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery – There is something magical about this book and I first read it shortly before I went on a long eight month backpacking adventure, though I knew of it when I was sixteen and studying an Italian movie – Jack Frusciante Left the Group – that refers to the taming of the fox which we read at the time. I love, love the appreciation of childhood and the criticisms of ‘grown ups’!
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand – When I was in the USA in early 2010 a friend of mine was talking about this book and I had no idea what he was carrying on about. Apparently it’s quite well known in the USA and it’s read in high school, though people I’ve spoken to in Australian don’t tend to know much about Ayn Rand. I fell in love with Dagny as a character, and my eyes were opened to the world of objectivism. I don’t completely agree with all principles of the philosophy, but I loved the book. It definitely kept me occupied on the train trip from Philadelphia to Buffalo!
Feed by M. T. Anderson – When I first read this book I cried and had to be coaxed out of bed and convinced not to give up on the world just yet. A terrifying insight into a fictional future that I would suggest is not-so-fictional. I am terrified for the future when I read novels like this.
The Mortal Engines series by Philip Reeve – It might be cheating to put a whole series on the list but I can’t resist the amazing world constructed in these novels. The prequels are also intricately woven and I find something new in the books every time I read them. I have the pleasure of reading Fever Crumb often as it is one of the novels I am analysing in my dissertation! Lucky me!
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I had to read this book when I was tutoring HSC English a few years ago though my first introduction to Margaret Atwood was via Alias Grace which I read when I was about seventeen. She remains one of my favourite authors, of course, but The Handmaid’s Tale is my favourite of her novels. Of all the books I’ve had the pleasure (and not-so-much-pleasure) teaching, The Handmaid’s Tale is my favourite.
If you could only choose ten books, what would they be?