A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Nigella And Me: Tales Of Sex, Drugs, Rock 'N' Roll And Artichokes

I know it's silly, and childish, and bloggish, and inaccurate, and I know it's a game and the choice will be different in the morning — but how about a list of your ten favourite books? Books that have influenced you, delighted you, stunned and startled you, books that have changed your life in some way? They needn't necessarily be literary, or even well-written; they may be books which were important at a much earlier stage of your life and which you wouldn't want to read again. Or they could be books which are so totemic that you have them by your side at all times. I invite you to indulge me and play this game — those who don't comment regularly, or even at all, are very welcome too! I won't hold you to these lists, which should be spontaneously scribbled down off the top of your head. Though I think you may be surprised at how much such a list says about you. Well, here goes — this is mine. Not in any particular order:

1. Georges Duhamel The Life And Adventures Of Salavin
2. Colin Wilson The Outsider
3. Edward Thomas Poems
4. Rainer Maria Rilke Letters To A Young Poet
5. Alfred J. Brown Striding Through Yorkshire
6. Hermann Hesse Steppenwolf
7. Rebecca Solnit Wanderlust
8. John Hillaby Journey Through Britain
9. Iris Murdoch Under The Net
10. Krishnamurti The Penguin Krishnamurti Reader

See — it's easy, isn't it? That only took a minute. Why don't you have a go? 

Oh, and by the way, in case you're wondering about the title of this blog post... I only put it there to attract your attention...


Timecheck said...

Edward Abbey - The Monkeywrench Gang
Colin Fletcher - The Man Who Walked Through Time
George R. Stewart - Earth Abides
Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles
Richard Feynman - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
Winston Churchill - the World War II series and English History series
Gerald Weinberg - The Psychology of Computer Programming
The Boy Scout Handbook
Doris Alcorn - Freshwater Fishes of California
Susan Alcorn - We're in the Mountains, Not over the hill

The Solitary Walker said...

The Abbey and the Fletcher — with you all the way, Ralph. I'm ashamed to say I've never read the Churchill!

Suman said...

Ian McEwan - 'Atonement'
James Joyce - 'The Dubliners'
Kazuo Ishiguro - 'Never Let Me Go'
Hillary Mantel - 'Beyond Black' Jhumpa Lahiri - 'The Namesake'
Patrick McCabe - 'The Butcher Boy'
Pablo Neruda - 'Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair'
Sylvia Plath - 'The Bell Jar'
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - 'Love in the Time of Cholera'
The Harry Potter series

The Weaver of Grass said...

Oh Robert - what a task. It changes with me all the time as I get older - so some of the books on my list are recent reads which have caught me in their grasp so much that they have kept me awake at night and I have had to get up to read a bit more. But here is a rough list.
1. A book I read in my early teens and which I think was called 'Kurun around the World' by Maurice le Toumelin.
2. Anything by Iris Murdoch, who is probably my favourite novel writer.
3.Any Poetry by R S Thomas.
4.Ronald Blythe - The Wormingford Trilogy.
5. Colin Thubron 'To a Mountain in Tibet.'
6. Elizabeth David 'An Omelette and a Glass of Wine.'
7. L M Montgomery 'Anne of Green Gables' (didn't read it until I went to see Montgomery's house on Price Edward Island a few years ago, but now I read it often.)
8.John Lister-Kaye 'Nature's Child'.
9' Ditto - 'Song of the Rolling Earth.'
10. 'The Snow Child' - can neither remember nor spell the author's name and as I have just lent it out for the nth time, can't check on it, but it is brilliant.

The Solitary Walker said...

It's already apparent how wonderfully different all these lists are! Out of your choice, Suman, I particularly latch on to "Dubliners' (the last paragraph of 'The Dead' is one of the most perfect paragraphs ever written by anyone anywhere) and Neruda's poetry.

And Pat — the Thubron too is fresh in my mind. I liked it a lot, but I wouldn't call him my favourite travel writer, as his style can be a bit dense (I could easily have included Patrick Leigh Fermor, however.) Re. the Murdoch - yes, one of England's best 20th century novelists, I agree. I remember so well the impression reading her first novel 'Under The Net' had on me (see my list). Here was a novelist who wasn't afraid of 'not being English', of absorbing 'foreign' ideas such as existentialism! However, of her subsequent books I think some are much better than others ('The Bell' is a really good one, I think) and sometimes you weary of her complicatedly interwoven style. Couldn't get on with Lister-Kaye at all, I'm afraid. But the Elizabeth David is a classic.

Suman said...

Robert, absolutely agree about the last paragraph of 'The Dead'. It just lingers on, and more so when it's snowing.

Rachel Fox said...

Can't do this now but might come back to it. And I'd quite like the Solnit book for Xmas if anyone asks.

Ruth said...

Perfect timing, Robert. I just finished Clarissa and wanted to ask everyone I know for recommendations for the next book! How did you know?

I am a slow, and thus not prolific reader. But here goes:

1. Clarissa, Samuel Richardson. I have been enveloped by it these few months. Very long, and worth every epistolary page.
2. Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels
3. Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung
4. Birth of a Poet, William Everson
5. Four Quartets, T.S. Eliot
6. Loving What Is, Byron Katie
7. The Soul of Rumi
8. Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke
9. Winter's Tale, Mark Helprin
10. The Gifts of the Child Christ and Other Tales, by George MacDonald (early, lifechanging)

I too enjoy Fermor, as you know, but not having gotten too far, I can't list his in good conscience. I also highly value Krishnamurti and Osho and many other writers whose works impacted me greatly.

Ruth said...

P.S. What a great title for your post!

David said...

JA Baker – The Peregrine
Wilfred Thesiger – Arabian Sands
Charles Dickens – Great Expectations
Joyce Cary – Mister Johnson
Sara Maitland - A Book of Silence
Beatrix Potter – The Tale of Mr Tod
John Gray – Straw Dogs
Wu Ch'eng-en – Monkey
Laurie Lee – As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning
On Love and Barley: Haiku of Basho – Lucien Stryk

George said...

Off the top of my head—

T.S. Eliot — The Complete Poems and Plays
Somerset Maugham — The Razor's Edge
Eckhart Tolle — A New Earth
Emerson — Collected Essays
Hans Kung — Christianity: Essence, History,
and Future
Willigis Jager — Search For the Meaning of Life:
Essays and Reflections on the
Mystical Experience
Lao Tzu — Tao Te Ching
Thoreau — Walden and other works
John Fowles — The Aristos
John O'Donahue — Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic

To these, of course, I would add everything written by Thomas Merton and all of the nonfiction of Henry Miller.

Will be commenting more frequently now, Robert. Just returned from walk of The Cotswold Way.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your list, Ruth - and hope you find some ideas in other people's lists! Apart from the Rilke, which is on mine too, you won't be surprised to hear that I'm in sympathy with your Jung, Eliot and Rumi. (I've just realised that I intended to put Kerouac's 'On the Road' on my own list, but it somehow got left off. But of course we could all write many top 10 lists and they would probably be different every time.)

Thanks for contributing to this, David — that's a fabulous list! "The Peregrine' is very special, isn't it? As is the Laurie Lee, which thrilled me when I first read it, and inspired me to go on long walks. That Sara Maitland book I've been intending to read since I saw it reviewed. Joyce Cary is an interesting choice. He's little read nowadays, I suspect. I read 'The Horse's Mouth' a long time ago and loved it. Must read the one you mention.

Hello George, and welcome back! Hope you had a great time in the Cotswolds. Looking forward to hearing more about your walk.To all of us who know you, your list comes as no real surprise!

Dominic Rivron said...

Swallowdale by Arthur Ransome
Waterlog by Roger Deakin
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
Ulysses by James Joyce
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Mountaineering in Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland by WH Murray
Briggflatts by Basil Bunting
All the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
A Year From Monday by John Cage

The Solitary Walker said...

Again, knowing you, this list does not surprise me, Dominic! I have yet to tackle 'Finnegans Wake', and have an idea I probably never will! Woolf I love, and 'To the Lighthouse' is quite wonderful. Must get round to reading 'Briggflatts' (I know you and I have discussed this).

The Solitary Walker said...

Being a little obsessive by nature, I feel compelled to add another list, as I've left out so much...

1. Jack Kerouac — On The Road
2. DH Lawrence — Sons And Lovers/The Rainbow
3. Somerset Maugham — Of Human Bondage
4. Henry David Thoreau — Walden
5. S Vere Benson — The Observer's Book of Birds (my first natural history identification guide)
6. Jeanette Winterson — Art Objects (literary essays)
7. William Wordsworth — The Prelude
8. Constantine FitzGibbon — The Life Of Dylan Thomas
9. Edward Abbey — Desert Solitaire
10. JB Morton — Vagabondage (an obscure one, very over-the-top romantic, very 'English', not terribly well written — but instilled in me a lifelong love of walking, the countryside, poetry and country pubs.)

There's no end to this, is there? It's a ceaseless conversation.

Martin said...

Almost impossible but off the top of my head:

1. On The Road - Kerouac
2. Homage to Catalonia - Orwell
3. Goodbye to Berlin - Isherwood
4. A Brief History of Everything - Ken Wilber
5. Good Soldier Švejk - Jaroslav Hasek
6. I Am That - Nisargadatta
7. The Revolution of Everyday Life - Raoul Vanegiem
8. Just William - Richmal Crompton
9. The Magus - John Fowles
10. A Season in Hell - Rimbaud

Reading back through these I think 'gosh how pretentious I look' and 'not enough female writers'... sigh...

dritanje said...

Rumi – Collected Poems
TS Eliot -The Wasteland
Anais Nin - Journals
Ella Maillart – The Cruel Way
Annemarie Schwarzenbach – Ou est la terre des Promesses
Anne Michaels – Fugitive Pieces
Maggie Helwig – Between Mountains
Henry Miller – Stand Still Like the Hummingbird
Dubravka Ugresic – Nobody’s Home
Irena Vrkljan - The Silk, the Shears
Danilo Kis - Garden, Ashes
Nicolas Bokov – La Conversion

And that's more than 10 and as soon as one starts to think, you want to add more. And more....

Loren said...

Hardy Jude the Obscure
Heller Catch-22
Ellison The Invisible Man
Emerson Complete Essays
Thoreau Walden
Whitman Leaves of Grass
Roethke Complete Poems
Hemingway Old Man and the Sea
Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird
Melville Moby Dick

Rubye Jack said...

Off the top of my head --

Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capicorn
Scott Fitzgerald - The Great Gatsby
Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Doris Lessing - The Golden Notebook
Jean Rhys - Wide Sargasso Sea
Anne Lamott - Hard Laughter
Carson McCullers - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Robert Heinlein - Stranger in a Strange Land
Loren Eisley - The Star Thrower
Baruch Spinoza - The Ethics
Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights
Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre

I think this is more than 10. Ah well... never one for following the rules well. :)

am said...

The Stream and the Sapphire -- Denise Levertov
The Magician's Nephew -- C.S. Lewis
Waiting for God -- Simone Weil
Mrs. Dalloway -- Virginia Woolf
The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh
Beloved -- Toni Morrison
The Things They Carried -- Tim O'Brien
A Wizard of Earthsea -- Ursula K. LeGuin
Always Coming Home -- Ursula K. LeGuin
The Impossible Question -- Krishnamurti

Sad to say, my current limited income and my tendency to develop 3-day headaches if I enter public libraries have cut my reading of books back to just a fraction of what it once was. From the age of about 10 to the age of around 56, I was always reading a book. Since beginning blogging in late 2006, much of the time I used to spend reading books has been spent in reading things on the internet. I do read something contemplative every morning when I wake up and just before I go to sleep. I used to be able to read novels before sleep, but now that kind of reading keeps me from sleeping well.

I like looking at all the lists! Thanks!

Sabine said...

The Big Friendly Giant - Roald Dahl
Light at the edge of the world - Wade Davis
An evil cradling - Brian Keenan
Full tilt - Dervla Murphy
Tracks - louise Erdrich
Shikasta - Doris Lessing
The Greek Myths - Robert Graves
Heroes - John Pilger
The way that I went - Robert Lloyd Praeger
Franny and Zooey - J.D.Salinger

Ruth said...

I don't know how I could have left off Austen (I'm ashamed). Mostly Pride & Prejudice, but all of hers are my delight.

am said...

Oh Sabine! Thank you! How could have I forgotten Shikasta by Doris Lessing and The Golden Notebook?

Solitary Walker -- I have to add to my list to make it fourteen books:

The Essence of Yoga: Reflections on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, by Bernaud Bouanchaud.

The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner.

The Solitary Walker said...

Martin — what a great list! I have to check out 6 and 7, but the rest I have read or heard of. Orwell could easily have been on my own list, but I couldn't highlight of one book in particular — for me, it's the whole oeuvre that add up to the man. I was a Fowles addict in my twenties, though not sure I would return to him now. But my favourite choice of yours is the Rimbaud — wow!

The Solitary Walker said...

dritanje — this is way the coolest list of us all! I'm totally with you on Rumi, Eliot and Miller. 'Fugitive Pieces' I have always wanted to read. Anais Nin — I've read some of her — was 'introduced' through the Henry Miller connection. The rest I'm looking forward to investigating and exploring... Thanks so much for participating in this!

dritanje said...

loved to see Rubye Jack included Loren Eisely - The STar Thrower which I loved so much many years ago. And Doris Lessing's The Golden NOtebook. But as we were to write down what came into our heads without thinking too much!! more recent books tended to appear.
Two which made a huge impression on me a long time ago were Freud's Interpretation of Dreams and William James Varieties of Religious Experience. Later followed by Jung's Memories Dreams & Reflections. You just can't get some people to shut up now can you? What have you started O solitary walker....

The Solitary Walker said...

dritanje — Lessing — tried but failed. More of a women's thing than a men's thing (he said controversially)?

Freud — yes — and Jung even more so (see Ruth's choice). Have done several posts about Jung on this blog (label: Jung).

Strangely enough, I read 'Varieties of Religious Experience' quite recently (always intended to read it after it was mentioned in Huxley's 'Doorways of perception'). Pretty heavy going, though? Much prefer the Huxley.

As I said in an earlier comment, dritanje, this is an endless conversation! And a lovely one.

The Solitary Walker said...

Loren, there are so many writers you list here I admire: Hardy, Hemingway, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman Roethke...

The Solitary Walker said...

Rubye — I shout a particular YES to your first three! In humble opinion 'The Great Gatsby' is one of finest novels (novellas) ever written.

The Solitary Walker said...

am — I know you already know how much I like Levertov, Weil, Woolf, Van Gogh and Krishnamurti!

Glad you're enjoying all these comments as much as I am.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for taking part, sabine — I've yet to read the irrepressible Dervla Murphy, and the Praeger is here on my shelf, still unread... Oh, the limitless world of books. The more we read, the more we want to read — and the less we know, probably.

Susan Scheid said...

Not easy, but I’ve bookmarked this post & keep coming back to it to try. Here’s a shot at it, totally arbitrary:

Autobiography of Red: Anne Carson
The Great War and Modern Memory: Paul Fussell
Ulysses: James Joyce
Danube: Claudio Magris
My Name is Red: Orhan Pahmuk
In Search of Lost Time: Marcel Proust
The Rings of Saturn: W. G. Sebald
Europe Central: William Vollman
The Waves: Virginia Woolf
Mr. Mani: A. B. Yehoshua

. . . and Wallace Stevens & T. S. Eliot

Cris M said...

Dear Solitary Walker,

May I still join?

1) The great Gatsby - Scott Fitzgerald
2) Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair - Pablo Neruda
3) "Madera Verde" (Inmature Wood?) - Mamerto Menapace (he is a Benedictin monk in Argentina, still alive)
4) 100 years of solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
5) Malena is the name of a Tango - Almudena Grandes
6) The Book of the Embraces - Eduardo Galeano
7) Awareness - Anthony de Mello
8) "Uno y el Universo" (One and the Universe?) - Ernesto Sábato
9) The Etruscan Smile - Jose Luis Sampedro
10) Budapest - Chico Buarque de Hollanda

Lovely post! So nice to read each of lists!

Warm hug,
Cris M

Cris M said...

Another great book I have read lately is "Everything is connected. The power of music" (El sonido es vida. El poder de la musica) written by Daniel Barenboim, the pianist.

(Just noticed that I listed within my favorites "Budapest", written by one of the greatest bossa nova musicians, the (obviously Brazilian) Chico Buarque.)

Anonymous said...

excellent idea!
off the top of my head and very fast:
1. Dostoevsky - Karamazov
2. John of the Cross - Poems
3. Dickens - Great Expectations
4. Marx - Theses on Feurbach
5. Lash - On Pilgrimage
6. Francis - Canticle of the Creatures
7. Eliot - Middlemarch
8. Greene - The Power and the Glory
9. White - Riders in the Chariot
10. Swift - Waterland

do I get the Bible and Shakespeare?

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your excellent list, Susan. I've heard so much about that Danube book, and think it will be right up my street. Sebald is a favourite writer of mine.

Hi Cris, and good to hear from you! There are lots of unfamiliar (at least to me) names here which I'm sure many of us will investigate further. Love the Fitzgerald, the Neruda and the Marquez. I would very much like to read that Barenboim book. He conducted all the Beethoven symphonies in London recently, and the performances were magnificent.

Andy (pilgrimpace) — thanks for your superb list. I remember recommending to you that Jennifer Lash book ('On Pilgrimage') some while back. Great, isn't it? I can't refuse a priest the Bible, Andy, so please have it — oh, and the Shakespeare as well, since I'm in a generous mood (the first time anyone's mentioned Shakespeare).

The Solitary Walker said...

dritanje — a correction, I meant Huxley's 'A Perennial Philosophy' not 'The Doors of Perception'.

Cris M said...

Dear Solitary Walker,

Same happens to me, several writers mentioned by you are unfamiliar for me. As Argentinian, I am influenced by Latinoamerican literature and also Spanish writers like Jose Luis Sampedro or Almudena, and in my English courses, literature was a must so I had access to English or American writers.
I really enjoyed this exercise as it gave me the chance to go back in my mind and remember how I happened to read those books.

(Jose Luis Sampedro is a 91 yo Spanish economist, who decided to explore in literature in a superb way... that novel, The Etruscan Smile is just amazing. Barenboim book is deep and conscious, a very nice reflection... I need to stop, I get passionate talking about books!!!!!)

dritanje said...

Susan Schied - thank you,how could I have forgotten W G Sebald? Rings of Saturn yes, although I've enjoyed all of his.
Solitary walker, I did read Aldous Huxley's Doors of Perception but haven't read a Perennial Philosophy. I read W James 'Varieties' when I was very young and just finding out about these things and had more tolerance for heavy going stuff.

More recently, Robert Moss's Conscious Dreaming (and all his other books!). And I want to add Marina Tsvetayeva's Collected Poems and Basho's - Narrow Road to the Deep North.
And while I'm at it, I want to give you belated thanks for the quote which I discovered on your site, Martin Buber's 'every journey has a secret destination...' which I used as the theme of an essay I wrote for La Traductiere magazine - so thank you! Maybe we should all start another blog about books we love!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks, Cris — passionate is good!

And thanks again, dritanje, for your extra comment. Another blog may be stretching it a bit for me — I already have four!

Wow, my own comment here has made a total of forty comments now!

Goat said...

Enid Blyton, the 'Secret Seven' series (let's face it, it's all the same book)
RL Stevenson, 'Treasure Island'
Edward Abbey, 'The Monkeywrench Gang'
Masanobu Fukuoka, 'The Natural Way of Farming'
Charles Bukowski, 'Post Office'
Jack Kerouac, 'On the Road'
Legs McNeil, 'Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk'
George Orwell, 'Keep the Aspidistra Flying'
Jim Thompson, 'Pop. 1280'
Alan Booth, 'The Roads to Sata: A 2,000 Mile Walk Through Japan'

The Solitary Walker said...

Greatb stuff, Goat — must check out the Booth, the McNeil and the Fukuoka.

I was more of a Famous Five man, myself.

Goat said...

When I discovered & became obsessed with the SS books as a boy, they were remnant ancient editions in my one-teacher school library. I still recall the thrill of those beautiful dust jackets. They had the FF books as well but they seemed strangely grown-up to me! I would kill for some of those first-edition SS books - one day when I'm wealthy...

The Booth is a classic of walking lit. The Fukuoka is sublime, part practical how-to, part Eastern philosophy, part eco-treatise. I would recommend his most famous book, 'The One Straw Revolution', to new readers, though. The punk book is GREAT reading, melding together interviews by the protagonists to form an enthralling narrative about the origins of punk -- the (original) New York Punk, though it does inevitably overlap with the snotty, gob-specked UK version!

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for your extra comment, Goat. Another three books I HAVE to read!

jan said...

Hi Robert, I've been thinking on this for weeks now, even though I know ou said just to spontaneously scribble them down. Here are my "ten" at last.

The Great Gatsby - F.Scott Fitzgerald
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver
How to be Good - Nick Hornby
A New Earth - Ekhart Tolle
The Memoirs of A Survivor - Doris Lessing
The Other Hand - Chris Gleave
The Little Drummer Girl - John Le Carre
The L-Shaped Room - Lynne Reid Banks
When The Wind Blows - Raymond Briggs
Little Women - Louise May Alcott
Heidi - Joanna Spyri
What Katy Did - Susan Coolidge
The Wisdom of No Escape - Pema Chodron
The Art Of Happiness - The Dalai Lama
Arafat. Terrorist or Peacemaker - Alan Hart
Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway - Susan Jeffers
Women's ways of Knowing - Mary Field Belenky, Jill Mattuck Tarule
The Penguin Book of English Verse - P.J. Keegan
Ireland - A Terrible Beauty - Jill and Leon Uris
The Life Of Mahatma Gandhi - Louise Ficher
Roots - Alex Haley
The Gifts of Imperfection - Brene Brown
The Return of the Native - Thomas Hardy
The Chalet School Series

The Solitary Walker said...

Hmm, Jan... despite not being spontaneous, and despite your list being 24 not 10... I forgive you!

Some interesting inclusions here... Love the Fitzgerald, Tolle, Dalai Lama, Hardy, Le Carré. I only saw the film of the Shriver. Devastating!

What Remains Now said...

Coming over from Jan's blog and can't resist joining in (in no particular order)...

1. The Bible. Any translation for informing how I live, the King James Version for the majesty of the language.
2. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White. The book that made me a life-long reader.
3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. My perfect heroine.
4. Atonement. A beautiful novel that captures the messiness of life and the consequences of our sometimes horrible choices.
5. Little Golden Book - The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids. My mom would do the different voices when she read this to me. My favorite fairy tale. I wish I still had my copy.
6. The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. A fascinating story that illustrates how people, place and time form us.
7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. The first Shakespeare play I read and still my favorite. Who can resist star-crossed lovers and a blood feud.
8. Anything by Agatha Christie. I love mysteries. Agatha Christie introduced me to adult mysteries and is the Grande Dame to me.
9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. A frightening look at the thin veneer of civilization.
10. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. My favorite tale of redemption.

It is a pleasure to meet you Solitary Walker.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for taking part, What Remains Now. Dickens, Conrad, Shakespeare, the Bible — yes! Always preferred Dorothy Sayers to Agatha Christie, though.

Good to meet you too. Some great pics on your blog, btw!