Skip to main content

The List

Ok, so, I slagged off the Leavisite notion of a definitive list of Great Books, but that doesn't mean I don't do my own. Yesterday, on the Guardian or somewhere else, can't remember, yet another other was giving a list of life changing/most influential during childhood/adolescence/whatever books. I sneered a little bit. Maybe it was his list. Anyway, it got me thinking, what ten books would I choose as the most influential thus far?

1. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson-Burnett - the rural idyll; secret hideaway where a child can hide from the mean adult world!

2. Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton - I desperately wanted to be in that school instead of an economically challenged Roman Catholic technical girls school in inner-city Manchester!

3. Alienated labour / The German Idelogy - Marx and Engels. Liberating and helped me shape and name some of the ideas and feelings I had in relation to the notion of personal freedom.

4. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Sharp, clear prose from a writer's writer examining existentialism and the principles of a doomed couple in the rapidly growing corporate culture in fifties America.

5. Hunger by Knut Hamsun. Due for a re-read. The painful life of a struggling writer.

6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte - totally feminist passionate treatise and love story and blows anything by Jane Austen out of the water.

7. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte - messy, dysfunctional, tragic, beautiful.

8. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell - Genius.

9. The Sea by John Banville - anthithesis to prose style of Richard Yates and equally admirable in its lyrical beauty.

10. A History of Western Philosphy by Bertrand Russell - If I could take only one book to a desert island (apart from Shakespeare) then it would have to be this highly readable and endlessly interesting overview of western philosophy.

This list could actually go on and on. I missed out one of favourite short stories, J G Ballard's The Subliminal Man and then there's .....

Popular posts from this blog

Who was Mary Burns?

On 7th January 1863 Mary Burns was found dead from a suspected heart attack. She was 43 years old. Since her death Mary has received barely any attention despite the fact that she spent over twenty years as the common-law wife of Friedrich Engels, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and the co-founder of Marxism.

Born in 1822, Mary was the oldest surviving child of textile dyer and factory operative, Michael Burns, and Mary Conroy, Irish immigrants from Tipperary. Mary’s parents had married at St. Patrick’s in an area known casually as Irish Town, one of few Catholic churches in Manchester at that time. The year of Mary’s birth and her infancy were significant in that Manchester was still dealing with the aftermath of the event that became known as the 1819 Peterloo Massacre, a peaceful protest of the working-classes on the site of St. Peter’s Fields in which several people were killed and hundreds injured. The Massacre occurred when magistrates, alarmed at the size of t…

My PhD critical paper

I thought I'd upload the critical element of my PhD thesis. Hopefully, for those who are interested enough to read it, it will make sense despite the references to my creative work, which I can't upload as I'm seeking publication. And besides, at 68,000 words...

I'm also going to tweak section one of this three section critical paper with a view to journal publication because of the academic interest in the claims I make of Mary.

-Dedicated with love and respect to Dr Bruce Lloyd-

And in memory of my parents:
Thomas Valentine and Joan Theresa
Good people who taught me so much more than they realised


The biggest thank-you is due to Norma Clarke, Professor of English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University, who supervised this PhD. I never had cause to doubt my initial instincts as Norma proved to be the best mentor I could ever have wished for.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous studentship that I was fortunate to be awarded by Kingston Universi…

Booker Shortlist announced

It's been a while... I know. Dog walking on the Downs, a bit of theatre, a bit of baking, a bit of writing etcetera etcetera. I also managed to read two complete books in the past month, which I was so pleased about. I had not read a whole book for about a year. The first was A Lie About My Father by Scottish poet/writer, John Burnside; a very well written memoir about father and son, but like all memoirs, some unreliability I felt. Poignant and tragic in equal measure. Then my husband returned from Cyprus (too hot for me this time of year, I can barely cope with England!) with Sebastian Faulks's Birdsong. He loved it. And then I read it and also loved it. I had originally picked it up several years ago but didn't get beyond Amiens, where the first section is set, but was really glad I did this time around. Another incredibly well written book in the style of a good Victorian! I felt a bit unsure about bits of Elizabeth, in the later section, but I have never learnt so muc…