I was interviewed this week and one question – which tends to crop up in interviews – was: What books have most influenced your life?
If I’m calling myself a writer, I should probably answer this with – Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ or Strunk & White’s ‘The Elements of Style’. Well, excellent as these are, they are reference books essential to the trade, such as a dictionary, thesaurus and manual of style…all of which are handily placed next to my desk.
The real story though lies on my bookshelves – books I have kept through the years and various house moves, sometimes country moves. These are books I reread or refer to for the reference points in my life.
The three books pictured here have travelled with me through several decades. ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ was the book I wanted for my 10th birthday. I had a picture book on King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table but the stories didn’t really grab me. My parents wouldn’t buy ‘Le Morte d’Arthur’ for my birthday as they, quite rightly, thought it contained too much adult content. Anyway, being a sneaky little git, I coerced my grandmother into getting it for me. And I devoured it. But re-reading it years later, I could see why my parents didn’t think it suitable reading for a ten year old. Apart from all the blood and gore described in the many fight and jousting scenes, there was incest, matricide, infanticide…and more. Well, all this passed over my head at the time. To me, at that time, it was the pageantry and tales of courage and heroism that caught my imagination.
‘The Hobbit’ was a sort of continuation of the Arthurian obsession. It wasn’t much of a leap to take in a world full of goblins and elves and dragons. Ursula K LeGuin’s book of essays, ‘The Language of the Night’, then helped to define and give credence to what is blindingly obvious to lovers of fantasy…this stuff is real; it lives in our heads.
My wife doesn’t read this stuff. When we first got together, I offered her The Hobbit. After page one she put it down and said, ‘this isn’t real. I’m not going to waste my time reading about a hobbit that doesn’t exist.’
We’ve been together for over twenty-eight years, and some of you might now be wondering how if we can’t share a love of imaginary worlds. Well they say opposites attract, so I guess that must be it. She has many other redeeming qualities.
Back to the interview question – I probably answer it slightly differently each time I’m asked – depending on the day of the week and whether or not I’ve had my second cup of coffee. So, a sample here of my bookshelves to remind myself mainly, of the wide range of books and authors I love. (And this isn’t even touching on the lesfic books!)
Two novels (dragons not included):