10 Books

In the spirit of my new endeavour to book blog (and also because I’ve been tagged on Facebook only three times), I decided to do the tag of ’10 Books That Have Stayed With Me’, here. 60% of the books on this list are books from my childhood, a time period where I was not only able to read freely all day every day (because homework is for suckers), but was also an extremely crucial time for me to develop my reading and comprehension abilities.

Rules: In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you. Tag 10 friends, including me, so I’ll see your list. No one has to do this, but if you’d like to then flag it at me somehow so I can add it to this post!

1. The Great Gatsby – Scott F. Fitzgerald

I recently came across an old Dayre post I wrote last year about The Great Gatsby the movie. It’s particularly hard for me to disentangle the book from the movie because I had read and watched them both in a very small time frame. I’ve paraphrased it below:

 I love the split of the opulence of the 1920s shown juxtaposed against the carelessness of mankind in the characterisation. The rapid decline of Gatsby, the revelation that all the money and power in the world cannot undo the hand dealt to you by fate, it enthrals me.

Gatsby’s love was impractical and deranged.

Yet my heart screams out why. Why does it have to be this way? Why are the feelings he had for Daisy that he kept concealed and pure all these years a bad thing? Why did unconditional love bring him to his demise? At the same time I’m not mad at all with how it ended. I did anticipate it since I had read the book prior to the movie. It was such a beautiful tragedy, the way he takes the fall. And as much as I love the character Gatsby, there just isn’t any way that he could have had a happy ending and still done the entire story justice.

2. Barracuda – Christos Tsiolkas

It wouldn’t be hyperbole to describe this book as indescribable but for a boring (and literal) synopsis, it’s basically about a boy who is very good at swimming and then he grows up. I was Skype calling Robert while in Malaysia last December, and I couldn’t properly explain why this book had kept me going for eight hours on the flight to KL from Sydney, the first book I had finished in one sitting in a long, long time. I think a really good character is one that can makes any reader empathise with it, and I really did with Dan Kelly even though our backgrounds are not at all alike. I picked up swimming again when I was in Sweden and each time I took the first plunge into the pool I would be reminded of the significance of this space that I was in, this space that was so fundamentally important to a fictional character I had just read about. I’m not even sure if this blurb makes sense, it really doesn’t do it justice, so you should all give it a try.

3. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

An excerpt from a previous floundering of a blog post about reading and watching Norwegian wood:

The book is incredible. In so many ways it reads like reality with only the most magical moments that remind you its fiction, it’s a fairy tale. It is terribly depressing yet obstacles overcome keep the overall tone hopeful. Basically I have not been so obsessed with a book or an author in such a long time. I feel like scabs all over me are reopening into fresh wounds, the way my feelings are creating a storm underneath my layers. Few books lend this to me, the feeling that I have never been more alive.

Worth mentioning is that it’s also a really good song.

4. Kafka on The Shore – Haruki Murakami

This is the very second Murakami book I read and I love it for everything including its title. It rolls off the tongue so well like waves beating back onto glittering sand. It’s also a bit hard to explain but there’s cat beheading, questions of gender and sexuality and Colonel Sanders. If you need any further indication of how great this book is, Robert the ‘I can read about machine learning for hours but not ten minutes of fiction’ actually finished this.

5. George’s Marvellous Medicine – Roald Dahl

This book is the cornerstone of my interest in reading. I had just graduated from mum’s school for kids that can’t read good (full attendance, occasional tears brought on by sometimes corporal punishment) and was finding my footing in reading Peter & Jane books independently and also Enid Blyton. Even as a kid I found a lot of Blyton’s short stories very contrived and unrelatable because of context. Dahl was a proverbial and literal breath of fresh air because I think this was one particular book that wasn’t a hand-me-down and didn’t have that musky smell accompanied by yellowed pages. There was so much excitement to it and I still remember the vivid scenes my imagination painted with the help of this book. It should probably come with a (larger) warning telling kids and parents not to replicate what George does though, because I remember post-reading this I would go around the house finding any form of liquid or powdery substance to add to my own medicine, which thankfully I lacked the bravado to consume.

Note: I love hand-me-downs please give me all your books.

6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

I was really proud to know what prime numbers were from reading this book. Finally, a ‘story book’ that I had read had some ‘real world’ application in my mathematics class! It is really quite a famous book so I’d be surprised if any budding reader or even any literate person hasn’t actually picked this one up.

7. A Child Called ‘It’ – Dave Pelzer

I was eleven years old at a second hand book store located in some market or other at the Gold Coast. Out of all the books in the store, this for whatever reason seemed to jump out at me. I remember the aunts and uncles that were present at lunch thought the title was kind of creepy, and that it was also kind of creepy how me as a child happened to gravitate towards a book on child abuse. It was a very easy read, too easy almost, which kind of speaks to the nature of the book itself. I think I may have been too young to fully grasp the horror of how Dave was made to drink ammonia, eat his own vomit, and all the other inhumane he had been coerced into by his alcoholic mother. I later went on to read the other two books to his memoir, the very last one invoking some serious tears (I had never before cried while reading a book), but A Child Called ‘It’ is the one I’ll always remember.

8. Going Solo – Roald Dahl

This book may have been a mistake by my mom or other adult figure with good intentions who had purchased it without correctly understanding the nature of the content of the book . This was during my Roald Dahl stage and I had loved Boy: Tales of Childhood (the preceding memoir) but giving me a book on my then favourite author’s autobiography of World War II when I was nine years old meant that for the longest time I was simply reading it without understanding a single sentence. I remember giving up once or twice but then really persisting with it. I felt extremely, extremely accomplished by the time I had read it cover to cover. I also felt that little bit closer to this brilliant Norwegian-Welsh author who had died before I was even born.

9. The Phantom Tollbooth – Norton Juster

I think I had picked this up during Potter fever and was probably just wanting something to read while waiting for the next book to come out. From memory it’s a really fantastic book and if I had one book I wanted to make sure my hypothetical future child needed to read (besides the entire Roald Dahl repertoire), this would be it. It’s incredibly witty, entertaining and there’s something to love about every single character.

10. The Song of the Lioness series – Tamora Pierce

It had never really occurred to me that the majority of the protagonists of my favourite books were boys. Not sure if coincidence or speaks to the nature of books generated towards a female audience (pink, glittery, pictures of the Olsen twins on the cover). My aunt who’s a flight attendant and main instigator of popular books in the outside world (she introduced me to Harry Potter), got the first book for me and I was instantly hooked, reading it at school, in class, during breaks, in the car ride home, because my thirst for Alanna was absolutely insatiable. She was such a rockstar and her stubbornness meant I really related to her. The entire series I read repeatedly, dog-earing my favourite sections, it’s a miracle the books didn’t just crumble to pieces under continuous exposure to my laser gaze.

Writing this list makes me want to revisit these books again, yet I know half the magic that surrounds these books are the fond memories that they have given me, and that I have held onto all these years. It’s amazing how much I remember of my precious youth spent reading. Considering that book reading is about as solitary as you can get, these are times where there was nobody in my world but me.

samanthawxlow

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