Posted by Kim Borrowdale
Ben Higgs has sent me on a fool’s errand. He’s asked me to write a blog post on my top five books. How can I possibly do that with no set parameters?
What genre or genres would be most interesting?
Who’s reading this list?
Why five books?
Top five of all time including childhood, or just as an adult?
Fiction or non-fiction?
So many unanswered questions.
So many possibilities and thoughts running through my mind.
So, here’s what I’m going to do.
I’m going to throw all of those questions in the bin, clear my mind and just think of books I like. Any books. The books that first come into my head right now and why.
Are you ready for my stream of consciousness?
1. The Hobbit. by J.R.R. Tolkien
This is the first ‘big book’ I read as a primary school kid. The boys next door were avid fantasy readers and were constantly trying to push their books onto me like little literary pimps. I finally gave in when my teacher also recommended ‘The Hobbit’. Yes, I was that kid who listened to their teacher.
I loved ‘The Hobbit’. I loved the weight of it. I loved the luxury of the gold trim on the hard cover of the copy I was given to read. I loved that it was an adventure, a quest that these underdogs almost had forced upon them. I loved that it was magical but also about human relationships and personal triumph. I loved it so much that I even read the Lord of the Rings series after that. That was too far readers, too far.
As much as I enjoyed ‘The Hobbit’, contrary to many years of neighbour pressure that followed I have not since succumbed to the world of science fiction and fantasy novels. Although I will throw them a bone every now and then and play a fantasy themed board game. Sigh.
2. Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Have you seen the movie inspired by this Carrie Fisher autobiographical tale? Shirley MacLaine and Meryl Streep were so good and really brought the characters on the pages to life, almost exactly as I’d imagined them.
This book is screwed up, voyeuristic and addictive. I think anyone who has self-medicated their mental health issues or struggled pre and during mental illness diagnoses, will probably be able to relate to parts of this book.
What I found quite powerful was this book helping me to realise that I’m quite the sociable loner. I always thought I was an extrovert as I’m fairly chatty but when I read a line in this book that said something like “my extroversion is hiding my introversion” it made me think a little more about who I was and what I was presenting the world.
Anyway, the book is both deep and entertaining. It’s a glimpse into the trappings of Hollywood as well as family relationships and personal reflection. I like it and might give it another read soon.
3. Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This book is set in Barcelona in 1945. I found it beautifully odd, a little bit like Neverending Story but without the dragon.
It’s written in a really lovely style that really carries you into the heart of the story from the first page. The central character is a young boy antique book dealer’s son who is grieving for his mother, and becomes a little obsessed with a book and its author.
The story then becomes a story within a story with all the elements of a good mystery – murder, madness, love.
To be honest, it’s not my usual genre of book but a friend recommended it to me, so I gave it a go. I’m now sharing it with you because it’s always one I remember, one that surprised me.
4. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, translated by Geoffrey Trousselot
At just over 200 pages, it’s a short read but an intense one. I read it in one sitting one rainy Sunday afternoon.
Set in Tokyo, about a café in a back alley which allows people to time travel. It is originally a play and you can see almost visualise the movements and set up of the café as you read it. Time travellers have to return to the present by drinking a cup of coffee before it gets cold, or they turn into a ghost.
Imagine that, you can travel back in time to see anyone, perhaps someone you’ve lost and missed desperately for years. But, you also need to remain conscious of that cup of coffee or you’ll also be lost to the living world.
It brings up questions of who you would see?
What time would you go back to?
How does that affect your present life?
It’s just a very cool concept and a cool read – and the fact that it’s set in Tokyo makes it way cooler than all of us regardless.
Do you know what? I’m going to stop there.
I know Ben asked me for five books but those four came to my mind so easily and quickly that I think pushing for a fifth would lessen the integrity of this list.
So, there you go. My top four. Do with this what you will. Happy reading!