Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Desert Island Books

I saw this idea some time ago on another site, and never one to shy away from nicking ideas I thought I would list the ten books I would like to think I had packed in my suitcase should I ever be marooned. It is a bit like picking which of your children you like the best. There are so many that could have made the list but for one reason or another these are the ones I chose

Iain Banks is an author who isn't afraid to challenge his readers and push the limits of acceptability, whilst still telling a ripping yarn. This was (I think) his first book
and possibly his most disturbing. Banks also writes some great sci fi under the name Iain M Banks. First person narratives often struggle to grip me but this is done very well, letting you see the world through the eyes of a teenage anti hero with some odd habits.
Bond has held a facination with me from the first time I saw Goldfinger as a child on the TV. It wasn't until I was in college that I began to read the books. Other than the latest version of Casion Royale, the books are as far away from the films as it is possible to get. They are very much of their time with frightening attitudes towards women and non middle class white people. Despite this, the stories hold up today with some great fights chase sequences and cliff hanger moments . There is s definate chronology in the books which pays reading them in order. Goldfinger the film does follow the plot of the book to some extent although the laser was a Cubby Broccoli embellishment on Flemings circular saw. Not credited as Flemings best book (From Russia With Love holds that distinction), Goldfinger would be the one I would want with me.

My first historical book by a great TV historian with an eloquence and ability to narrate a story possibly unlike any other in my eyes. Several of Woods books could have made the list but Conquistadores won out purely on its story, about which I knew absolutely nothing prior to this book (and television series). A fascinating tale of greed ambition and exploration with colourful characters such as Pizarro and Cortes. Not a subject I would ever have thought would grip me, but Woods' telling of the story is first class.

Dungeons and Dragons played a big part in my teenage years to the point of obsession that could easily have seen me flunk my exams. As well as playing with
my mates during every spare moment I consumed vast quantities of fantasy literature, most rubbish by some of those books have been life long friends. Magician is one of them which I reread recently and still delivered the goods, 20 years after reading it for the first time. The tale of poor boy turned good, and by that I mean turning into the most powerful magician across not one but two worlds is maybe a common, even cliched theme, but Fiest is a true master of his genre. If anyone was asking what to read as a first taste of good fantasy literature I wouldn't hesitate in pointing them to Magician.

Up there with Michael Wood is Simon Schama. Although primarily an art historian, his tellin of the History of Britian is nothing short of exemplary. Covering all aspects of the development of the nation his writing is very accesible and if you have heard him speak on television, you hear his voice in your head when reading.

My dad read this when it first came out. I must have been around 5 or 6 and I can well remember thinknig how on earth anyone ever managed to read such a thick book. I am sure there are more acclaimed accounts of the Market Garden campaign, but this one, written by a journalist, in an almostconversational style hit the spot with me when I first read it some years ago. Market Garden has always held a fascination for me despite WW2 not being a favourite period to wargame. I think it stems from when my dad took me to see the film and just as the lights went out him leaning over to me and whispering "Now rememebr, the British lose so dont get upset". Of course my enjoyment of the book carries over to the film version too. I have lost count of teh amount of times I have seen the film but it never fails to stir the emotions.

On joing Stoke Wargames Group in 1990 as a student, I became friends with a group of people with a passion fro militairy history that went beyond the massive ACW games we played. George Hughes, ex Governor of HMP Nottingham was one. His ability to tell a joke, quote some Kipling or relate some anecdote about a VC winner from the Great War was legendary. From him came my interest in the First World War and along with others I walked the Ypres Salient and the Somme with him, recounting the events that happened on the those fields so many years ago. This book is my favourite of those in my collection, mainly due to the first hand accounts of the soldiers who were there. 1914 tells of a time before the War and the loss of innocence that came with those first months.

Prior to finding role playing games and Raymond Feist I remember sitting in an English class in primary school, messing around with a friend. When challenged over what I was upto I said something like "Just getting a book, Miss". I grabbed the nearest book to hand which was this one. It is the second book in a set of five, but this one is by far the best and was my first real foray into fantasy. It tells of one little boys adventures on finding he has an ancient power and some of the strange characters he meets along the way. Not the greatest piece of literature and a bit disappointing on a recent reread but it would still have to come with for the memories it holds.

Another easy read (sensing a theme?) piece of history that I took away on holiday recently. Like World War 2, ancients has only ever been on the fringes of my wargaming interests. However Tom Hollands book, and subsequent follow up (Persian Fire?) is a great single volume account of the Roman Republic. I had never heard of Sulla prior to reading this! So, like any book, this one broadened my knowledge of a period I was some what ignorant about, which is about all you can ask of any book.

Although the first of a trilogy, a bit like picking your favourite Star Wars film (got to be the first one right?), I have to go with this book from Shelby Foote in my imaginary suitcase of doom. The American Civil War was my first wargaming love thanks to Jeff Davies and his beautiful Dixon figures on hand made terrain covering a 10x6 table at our club. The first book on the subject I read I think was the Penguin History by Bruce Caton, but Shelby Footes 'Civil War narravitve' is about the most definative coverage of the war there is, just pipping Caton himself. If you have any interest in this turbulent period of American History, get this book. Now. Go on. You'll find it on Amazon for a good price I am sure.

So what does this list say about me? Not sure really other than I like a bit of fantasy and easy reading history. Hopefully nothing that could be considered pretentious, just an honest list of books that sit on my book shelf now. Of course this list could see a few changes next month or next year, but these are the ones for now!
More soon.....

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