As a professional writer I love words, I love language and I love storytelling.
Sometimes I wonder where this all comes from but it’s probably connected to the fact, that at the age of 12/13, I fell in love with reading and I started buying books.
The only problem is, because I’m now in my 50’s and over the years I’ve collected such an extensive and varied library, when it comes to choosing my very best books, well… where do I begin?
In the end then, these are just a very small selection of my all-time favourite books.
They are however books that I have a huge amount of affection for, some of which I think, you may like too.
1: Skinhead by Richard Allen
First hitting the shelves in 1970, Skinhead by Richard Allen is the first in a run of pulp fiction novels published by New English Library (NEL).
Alan’s real name was James Moffat and he was a talented Canadian who made a name for himself here in the UK.
The big youth cults of the time were the skinheads, the hippies and the bikers (or Hells Angels) and the bosses at NEL realised there was a whole new target audience here.
Allen’s first Skinhead novel was a huge success and resulted in a stream of follow ups such as Trouble for Skinhead, Skinhead Girls, Dragon Skins, Sorts, Punk Rock and Glam; to name just a few.
As a 13 year old with a bit of a rebellious streak, they were everything I wanted.
These are now highly collectable books and, whilst I’ve not read them for many years, I still treasure the ageing and dusty copies stored safely in my loft.
2: Dracula by Bram Stoker
New English Library also published a string of cheap horror novels and, after experimenting with a few of these I, (you know what it’s like) got into the ‘harder’ stuff.
By this I mean the classic British, gothic horror novels such as Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Dracula.
Dracula was my favourite.
Witten in the 1890’s by the Irish author Abraham (Bram) Stoker it is a fabulous read.
This is largely because it’s written in diary format and, as the narrative gets increasingly sinister, you start to read each page with a snowballing sense of unease.
It’s the perfect read for a wrapped up, winter night. The only problem is that you just can’t resist pushing on to the next chapter.
Then before you know it, you look up at the clock and discover that it’s quarter to one in the morning.
The garlic at the window, is by the way, optional.
3: The vet books by James Herriot
Readers of a certain age, particularly here in the UK, will remember the James Herriot vet stories.
They are to a large extent, the true life tales of a rural veterinarian practising in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1930’s/ 40’s and 50’s.
If you’ve not read the James Herriot books for a while (the first one, ‘If only they could talk’ came out in 1970) then I really recommend re-visiting them because they really are delightful.
The writing is wonderfully economical with some beautiful, narrative structures.
Reading the James Herriot stories is just like being hugged.
4: Moondust by Andrew Smith
I probably read more non-fiction than fiction and this particular book, written around 15 to 20 years ago, is an absorbing but nimble read.
This is when the journalist Andrew Smith realised that the generation that walked on the moon at the end of the 1960s and early ‘70s would not be with us much longer.
He set out therefore to meet and document their extraordinary experiences.
It was a timely move because since publication in 2005 we have of course, lost Neil Armstrong.
Thankfully this gives us an insight into the lives of the men who were at the forefront of this awe-inspiring, never to be equalled, human achievement.
I believe that you always know you’ve got a special book if, when you’ve finished it, you immediately want to pass it onto someone else to read.
Moondust is one of these.
5: The seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey
I thought I’d better put a business/ personal development book in here and many of you will know this one.
If you don’t, then brace yourself, because in just over 300 pages, the seven habits could potentially change your life.
For the better.
This is not a guide that tells you how to succeed in business or get rich quick; this is a moral guide for life.
And with over 10 million copies sold, I guess I’m not the only one who found it transformational.
Of course, I don’t have space here to outline all the ‘habits’. One however that I will mention, is the one that really resonates for me.
It’s the notion that ‘everything is a choice’.
Think about it. Once you’re aware that everything you do is a choice and that you have the option to make a choice about anything; wow, that’s fantastically powerful.
So, when you make a decision to do something (or to not do something) you must make that decision very carefully.
Covey rightly says that when you pick up a stick, you pick up both ends of it.
In other words, when you make a choice you also take on all the responsibilities and the consequences involved.
It’s a fantastically liberating and empowering notion that, no matter where you are in your life, puts you back in the driving seat.
So if you’ve not read the Seven habits of highly effective people by Stephen R Covey, then yes, I highly recommend that you do.
6: Three men in a boat by Jerome K Jerome
How can a book that was written well over 100 years ago be so damned funny today?
It’s also terrifically relevant for our day-to-day, 21st century lives.
Jerome’s saga is about three chums living in London in the 1890’s who set off for a rowing boat holiday up the River Thames.
What is remarkable here is not just the author’s charming, easy wit but that reading this, feels like your favourite uncle has come round at Christmas and is keeping the entire family spellbound with anecdotes and reminisces.
This really is a magical book which I recommend to anybody who wants to get a fresh perspective on their life and feel good again.
After all, isn’t that one of the things that the arts and literature should do?
How about you?
So, what’s your favourite book and why does it mean so much to you?
Why not leave a comment here and share your recommended read?