Well, fellow bibliophiles, the time has come. I've come across a few "30 days of books" things on Facebook, Tumblr etc – the idea is that every day you write about a book that has affected you in a particular way, and after a month, everyone reading has a somewhat creepy level of insight into your brain. (And you possibly feel violated in the same way I did when someone used my email address to read my entire Amazon wishlist. I've got some crazy shit in there.)
Now, we all know that my writing is way too sporadic to commit to an "every day" thing, so I'm just going to drop in one of these as a lovely surprise every so often. (Yes, I mean when I'm totally out of inspiration and have nothing to write about.) I also might not stick strictly to the approved list of questions. What can I say? I'm a rebel.
However, I will start with the conventional question #1: What is your favourite book of all time?
Go in with the big guns, why don’t you? It’s hard to choose a very favourite (especially if you read a lot and constantly find new books to love) but my desert island, must-have-a-copy-until-the-day-I-die book, is The Chronicles of Narnia. I know it’s seven novels, but I do also have a large tome with all of the volumes, so technically I’m not cheating.
|It totally counts as one book.|
Oh, Narnia, how do I love thee? Everyone knows The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (it shaped my childhood) but some of the other books are less popular. I have no idea why The Magician's Nephew has not yet been adapted for the big screen – the scenes of Aslan singing Narnia into life, as well as the desolate city of Charn, all demand to be filmed.
I found The Horse and His Boy a little dry as a small child, but I grew into it and later spent hours acting it out with a rocking horse. (Prior to this luxurious toy, I made do with a makeshift version; the top of a large arm chair adorned with sellotaped-on paper eyes, ears and nostrils makes a FINE horse, actually. I have pictures. I might post them sometime.)
As I mentioned, the cheapo BBC series of the books is my guilty pleasure – to me, Tom Baker is not Doctor Who but Puddleglum. Every time I see Big Mick I cry "Trumpkin!" like a delighted, demented child. It's "Mike from Neighbours" syndrome, and I don't care.
C.S. Lewis not only had the inspiration to create the most magical world ever, but he writes in such a warm, friendly style that you feel as if you’re being read to by a favourite uncle. He has a rare gift for creating works which are accessible to children, meaningful to adults, and full of insight and beauty for everyone.
My favourite character was always Reepicheep the mouse; I was in awe of his unfailing courage. His first choice in every situation was to take the brave, noble option – even if it meant death. Especially if it meant death. He jumps at the chance of sailing on alone to the world's end in the hope of finding "Aslan's country". When faced with a cloud of darkness, the crew of The Dawn Treader are reluctant to sail on, asking "What's the use?" of ploughing into the blackness.
"Use?" replied Reepicheep. "Use, Captain? If by use you mean filling our bellies or our purses, I confess it will be no use at all. So far as I know we did not set sail to look for things useful but to seek honour and adventure. And here is as great an adventure as ever I heard of, and here, if we turn back, no little impeachment of all our honours."
When faced with strangers, his greeting is "If you are foe we do not fear you, and if you are a friend your enemies shall be taught the fear of us." Which is perhaps more aggressive than is ideal, but you're got to admire his moxie.
Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist, although that doesn't really count, does it? Everyone loves that book. I often make notes of lines from books that I find especially profound or funny or beautiful – when it came to this book, I scribbled a note to myself "Just read it again. It's very short and easy". I advise you to do the same.
The Color Purple: everyone who flicks through this book hands it back with an expression of confused disgust, because it's written in a pretty extraordinary style. I once excitedly described it as being written "in Lolcat" and was accused of being racist. But.... it really is lolcat language!
"She tell me, Your skin. Your hair. Your teefs. He try to give her a compliment, she pass it on to me. After a while I git to feeling pretty cute."
It's also an amazing story with memorable characters and a striking take on theology and images of God:
“My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it came to me; that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed.”
“I believe God is everything,” say Shug. “Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it.”
The film's not as good as the book, but it does have Oprah in it – and she's an amazing actress. Is there nothing the woman can't do?