So, it's been rather a while since my last post. Basically I moved my home life and my business at the same time, and all of my routines and schedules promptly fell over, and things that didn't actually have direct consequences like not being able to pay the bills fell off the todo list and rolled under the chair. *ahem* Attempts at regular service will now resume.
I've seen this going around on facebook a little, but my writing friend E. Markham listed her own ten most memorable books and I felt inspired to add my own. The brief is:
Just pick 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. They don’t have to be classics, they don’t even have to be that good. They just have to have made an impression on you.
So, my own ten books, in the order that they came to mind:
Dune, Frank Herbert
This is the first science fiction book I ever remember reading; aged eight at my grandmother's house, because my brother had suggested it to me. The complexities of the political aspect impressed me as a child, as did the sheer scale of the stories of the houses behind the scenes, and the notion of religion being seeded into populaces on a galactic scale for the sole benefit of the members of a group that may need to use it, centuries later. I've studied parts of it later, and despite its many flaws, it still remains one of my most beloved books.
Oryx and Crake, Margaret Atwood
This was my introduction into Atwood, recommended by a friend. I loved her world and characters, the clear difference in character between Snowman and his younger self. The first time I read it, in my late teens, I absolutely had to know all the secrets right now. I had to know how it all happened.
And while I know she hates this distinction, Atwood was my introduction to the idea that you could write literary science fiction. Science fiction that dealt with ethics and big questions and humanity in ways that command respect. Up until that point, I had seen a clear distinction between "literature" which was worth reading, and "genre" which was nothing but cheap escapism. She showed me that I could thumb my nose at all the English teachers and literature professors who would sneer at me for my love of the fantastic.
Everything Is Illuminated, Jonathan Safran Foer
I studied this as part of my honours thesis, looking at unreliable narrators. I love Alex's use of language and the way you can clearly see both his 'real' narrative, and the narrative as he would want you to believe it. While at times I found it tiresome, that Alex was so hung up on other people's opinions and things that I thought to be of no consequence, it stayed with me as a powerful example of telling two stories at once with the same language.
Robinson Crusoe, Daniel, DeFoe
I studied this in my enhancement literature class in year 12, and I have a strange relationship with it. Because some parts of it are undeniably boring and dull. They really are. And yet I love the book. I think it's the isolation; when I'm feeling the pressure of people far too often, this is an isolation pill in book-form. I have always loved the notion of self-sufficiency; I used to love the mental exercises we'd play in grade school about what you would take (to survive) to a deserted island, how you would solve various problems with what you had. It's often a mental exercise for me, to imagine such a scenario, so reliving it in such detail is a pleasure of mine.
The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury
I have a strange relationship with the stories in this book. Bradbury wrote them long before we had any good idea of what the surface of Mars was actually like, and before we really understood the science of it, as well. But also, he wrote it without the idea that any of that mattered. It's science fantasy; it doesn't care if there isn't oxygen on Mars or if that's not how rockets work or gravity or any of that. I love it for two reasons: the distant-but-clear interconnectedness of the stories. This was not originally written as an anthology, but rather an anthology collected after they'd been published elsewhere. So some of the stories have clear connections, and some are far more distant to the point of having no points of contact (other than the planet), but that weaves together to give the uneven feeling you get from history; where the world was only being recorded when someone was watching.
The other reason is the beauty of the stories themselves. They're just such a pleasurable read, such wonderful ideas. The book also contains one of my favourite stories, where the actual story takes place entirely in one moment of realisation, where you work out what has happened, and therefore what this poor character (who is not the main character of the story) has gone through. You can clearly see, laid out, the decisions he's made, the pain that he's dealt with, all in one moment. And there's nothing anyone can do about it. It's beautifully bittersweet.
The Handmaiden's Tale, Margaret Atwood
Another Atwood, but I have to mention this, because this book is what gave me a ten-year love-affair with ambiguous endings. I practically needed a twelve-step program to stop trying to write ambiguous endings to every damn thing, because I loved the perfect, knife-edge balance of Atwood's. Everything leads to that point, and that single moment encapsulates the whole of the book, it's masterful.
The Borrowers, Mary Norton
I loved this as a child. I always loved miniature things, and creating things, so the idea of miniature people created things out of other things just stuck with me. Somehow I got the impression that, were I that size, I would do quite well surviving for myself. I imagined the world from that size quite vividly.
Daggerspell, Katherine Kerr
For her interweaving, redefining-of-the-word-epic narratives, I'm kinda cheating and including the whole Devery series in here. I devoured these books as a young teen, absolutely obsessed with the way she wove different timelines of the same people together, showing their various progressions through learning the things their souls had to learn.
The Lathe of Heaven, Ursula Le Guin
A great deal of Le Guin is still on my Shelf of Shame, unread, but this is one of my favourites, and the SF book I most commonly recommend to people. Its concept is simple, but I love Le Guin's exploration of the ramifications of it, and I love that there are no evil people in this book. This is just what happens when normal people get unprecedented secret power, and use it with the best intentions.
The Ivory And the Horn, Charles de Lint
I read Charles de Lint around my university years (and made my lecturers despair with my obsession with fantasy, until I explained it away as 'magic realism', which was perfectly alright back then, thank you Gabriel Marquez). This grabbed me about three stories in, when I realised that the stories were connected all peripherally: not to the same person (though there are several connections to Jill, who connects most of his Onion Girl collected works) but to different people here and there from other stories, like tiny easter eggs. I adored making those connections as I read, and the feeling I got of the book-world being so much the larger for it. It's something I've wanted to emulate in my own work for some time.