The List

David Bowie’s recent list of his 100 favourite books, and a conversation I had with my Aunt Pauline approximately 25 years ago, inspired me to write my own list.

But none of this ‘100 favourite’ bizzo. That’s way too much pressure. And anyway, there are so many awesome books I have yet to read. And plenty I have read and forgotten. So no, it is simply impossible to create a definitive list. This list will be continually evolving. I’ll add and take away (but mostly add, I think) as the whim and mood takes me. I hope you enjoy it – maybe it will remind you of some of your favourites, or maybe you might discover something new.

And in no particular order…

  1.  The Complete Short Stories of  Ernest Hemmingway. I dip into this randomly. It always brings me a mixture of emotions – mostly featuring awe and joy at the purity of his craft.
  2. Flash Fiction eds James Thomas, Denise Thomas and Tom Hazuka. My first introduction to the ultra short story.
  3. The Collected Stories of  Lydia Davis. A master storyteller and rule breaker. What’s not to love?
  4. Violin Lessons by Arnold Zable. The book that taught me that non-fiction doesn’t have to be boring.
  5. Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood. Because I read it in Berlin. Because I left part of my heart in Berlin.
  6. The Wall Jumper by Peter Schneider. As above. Plus, a whole new perspective on the Wall – it blew my mind!
  7. Black Vodka by Deborah Levy. Discovered and bought on impulse at the Sydney Writer’s Festival 2013.
  8. Suddenly A Knock At the Door by Etgar Keret. For not conforming. For embracing the power of imagination. Also discovered and bought on impulse at a writers’ fest (this one the Adelaide version). That’s why I love writers’ festivals.
  9. The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill. For writing stories in new ways. For retaining heart and emotion in writing as spare and (apparently) clinical as pie charts and lists.
  10. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro. It’s a struggle to decide which of Munro’s books to list. I love all those that I have read.
  11. American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Brutal. Raw. The kind of stories that stick with you.
  12. Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver. The master. The forefather. The godfather.
  13. 1984 by George Orwell.
  14. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
  15. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
  16. Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Again, hard to choose which of Winton’s books to list. In my mind they are all brilliant.
  17. The Last Magician by Janette Turner Hospital. One of the few books I enjoyed reading as a student.
  18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I don’t care that it’s a copy of Salinger’s much earlier novel. I love it anyway. Somehow it takes the same story and makes it fresh and relevent.
  19. Catcher in the Rye  by J.D. Salinger. Perfect, in my mind. Felt so sad to finish it. I didn’t want those characters out of my life. Maybe that’s why I liked meeting them again in The Perks.
  20. Pet Cemetery by Stephen King. Because reading Stephen King as a young person was like having a new world explode in my brain.
  21. The Chrysalids (and Day of the Triffids) by John Wyndham. The books that taught me the post-apocalyptic sci-fi can be seriously cool, insightful and entertaining as all hell.
  22. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Brilliant, moving, terrifying.
  23. The Chosen by Chaim Potok.  On paper there should be no reason why I should relate so strongly to Potok’s many novels about young Jewish men growing up in mid-twentieth century USA. But once I started reading Potok I couldn’t stop. And therein lies his genius.
  24. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. Just because.
  25. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Just because.
  26. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. It made me wish he had spent less time on plays and more time on novels.
  27. The Book Thief by Markus Kuzak.
  28. Animal Farm by George Orwell.
  29. Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. The best kind of cross-over fiction. Written for young adults, enjoyed by the whole world.
  30. All That I Am by Anna Funder.
  31. The Harp in the South by Ruth Park.
  32. The Getting of Wisdom by Handel Richardson.

And that has exhausted my memory for now. I will have to go and look at my bookshelf at home. Stay tuned…

PS Reflecting on this list I notice that there are not many Australian writers and not many women. I’ve always been drawn to the ‘great’ American writers, which all too often are men. Makes me want to rectify that imbalance. Hopefully when I scan my bookshelf I will be able to do that.

And, after looking at my bookshelf, the list continues…

  1. The Bone People by Keri Hulme. Because it reminds me of when I lived in New Zealand as a teenager. And because it is a beautiful hymn to the rich Maori culture.
  2. High Fidelity by Nick Hornby. Perhaps the coolest book ever written. No, scrap that. THE coolest book ever written.
  3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. The kind of book that I thought I would hate, but ended up loving.
  4. The Year of Living Dangerously by C.J. Koch. I read this for my Year 12 project. Not sure why. I think I was drawn to the adventure and mystique. Anyway, it marked a time when I began to read independently and adventurously, and for that I love it. Unfortunately Mr Eyers was not that thrilled with my essays. Oh well.
  5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Just because.
  6. Monkey Grip by Helen Garner. Has any book captured the zeitgeist quite as well?
  7. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote. If you’ve seen the movie, forget it. Read the book. Light years better.
  8. How It Feels by Brendan Cowell. This book has been roundly criticised. I don’t care. I love it. It’s raw and captures something important. I think it is telling of the times we live in and I think Cowell is a brilliant writer.
  9. Awake During Anaesthetic by Kimberley Mann. The only poetry collection in this list, and written by my lovely super-talented friend.
  10. Don’t Start Me Talking: Lyrics 1984-2004by Paul Kelly. Don’t start me on PK. My hero.
  11. How To Make Gravy by Paul Kelly. And another one, because it’s impossible not to. I love this book as an examination of the artist’s journey.
  12. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. Murakami is a singular writer. Brilliant. This is my favourite of his.
  13. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Like The Dog in the Night-Time, I didn’t expect to love this as much as I did. So cleverly done. The voice is perfect.
  14. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

OK, that’s it for now. More updates to come as my slow and foggy brain recalls more favourites, and new ones cross my path.

Please comment and tell me your favourites!


4 thoughts on “The List

  1. Happy to see Etgar Keret on here. He was a great find for me too. Are you into George Saunders at all?

    Selections from my list:
    The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
    Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
    The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
    Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
    Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
    The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
    The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat
    Cathedral by Raymond Carver

      1. I suppose would recommend his most recent collection ‘Tenth of December’ to start with. It’s the one the New York Times called ‘the best book you’ll read all year’, if that’s the sort of thing that sways you. I actually hadn’t compared him to Keret; Saunders is probably darker, but there are similarities, humour and fantasy/sci-fi elements among them.

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