I'm not the worlds greatest reader. Being dyslexic, it was something I didn't excel at at school. I didn't read any childrens books. The first book I actually read was 1984 by George Orwell when I was eleven or twelve. My sister Caroline told me it was a brilliant book and outlined the story. I was fascinated. It may seem a bit strange going from never reading to George Orwell, but that was how it was. my brother Laurie was into science fiction, so I had a phase of loving sci fi, but I sort of grew out of that. Now I tend to like books on history. This was a hard list go compile, I've tried to have some sort of chronology.
1. 1984 - George Orwell. This was where my reading career started. Orwell is a brilliant writer and a very astute observer. In some ways the book is rather prophetic. It seems to me that the age of newspeak is upon us.
2. Stormbringer - Michael Moorcock. A tale of sword and sorcery. I loved the alternative reality Moorcock weaves. This is one of a series, detailing the battle between chaos and order. In Moorcock's world, everything is a battle between chaos and order. As a teenage punk rocker, I felt I was on the side of the forces of chaos. The ultimate lesson though was that you need a balance between the two. Too much order and there is sterility, too much chaos and nothing works. Perhaps this has shaped my view of the world just a little too much.
3. Behold the Man - Michael Moorcock. When I started putting this list together, my intention was to have one book per author, but I couldn't choose between Stormbringer or Behold the Man. Behold the Man is the story of a Jesus obsessed Christian time traveller, who is determined to meet Jesus. He knows the gospels inside out. When he arrives, he is shocked to find that nothing is as it was told in the gospels. So he realises the only way that history can be fulfilled is if he takes on the role. He has technology and manages to ensure that history is fulfilled, at great cost to him, as he dies on the cross. I had a huge argument with my Dad,w ho considered it blasphemious. I pointed out (as I do with Life of Brian), that it is a work of fiction and a great book.
4. UBIK - Phillip K. Dick. Dick is best known for "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" (or Blade Runner as it is more commonly known. I think UBIK is a better book, more thought provoking and perhaps the scariest "alternative world" scenario ever. Not because it is ful of aliens, but because the subjects of the story are simply stuck in a reality created by themselves.
5. Britain and her Army - Corellu Barnett. A history of the British Army. I got very interested in military history. This book is a definitive study of how the modern British army evolved. It should be part of the history syllabus (if it isn't already). I think that it is impossible to understand the 20th century British experience without understanding the evolution of the British armed forces.
6. Anger is an energy - John Lydon. The story of the Sex Pistols/PIL frontman. A brilliant read. Lydon is a complicated character. The description of his growing up as a sickly child in a London Irish family is as interesting as the chapters on music. A fascinating piece of social history.
7. It's Dicey Flying Wimpeys Around Italian Skies - Maurice Lihou. The author flew in teh same bomber squadron as my Dad. His book documents his wartime experience. For me it was a way to understand what my father went through. It is also a fine, well written book.
8. Wild Swans by Jung Chiang. A book about three generations of women in China in the 20th century. Like 1984, a warning about totalitarian regimes gone mad. The sad thing is that this one is not a work of imagination or fiction. It also has a female perspective on important historical events that are not often heard and perhaps should be.
9. Anti cancer - A new way of life - David Servan. For me a life chaning book. Another one I'd put on the national curriculuum, given that one in four of us will be affected by cancer. Simply the best self help book. Written by a medically qualified doctor, it is not new age mumbo jumbo, but sensible practical advice for dealing with the issues.
10. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This book details the history of the treatment of cancer, from pre-medieval times to the current day. How treatments evolved and how many blind alleys researchers have gone down. If, like me, you are livingw ith cancer, this is a great book to help you understand why you are going through what you are going through. I believe that to fight anything, you need to understand your enemy. This is the best book for detailing this.
So that's my top ten, what are yours.