These are in no particular order – it’s hard enough to choose top 5 let alone have to put them in order!
I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith. This is a book I read relatively recently, and it totally captivated me. Like thousands of readers before me, I fell in love with Cassandra Mortmain as she moves into womanhood and tries to understand what love means. It is an enchanting book, with great humour and insight. It is probably the most complete and all round piece of work I have read.
The Long Walk – Slavomir Rawicz. This book changed my life. In my late 20s I was working in a pension company branch office, my career going nowhere. The office was an unhappy place with a poisonous and debilitating atmosphere. I was drinking too much, and was unhappy.
I then read this book, and realised that it was up to me to do something to make change happen. I sat on Raynes Park train station after all the other commuters had left the platform to go home. I wanted to finish the book, and when I finally turned the last pages, I burst into floods of tears. Not only was the book profoundly moving, but it gave me the kick up the backside that I needed.
I changed jobs, and eighteen months later I set up my own business which continues today, Ovation Finance Ltd. I now give a copy of the book to every new employee of the company and invite them to read it.
Nightmare Town by Dashiell Hammett. The original writer of hard boiled detective stories, such as The Maltese Falcon. This book is actually a collection of his short stories. The way he describes his characters, with their scars and broken noses, regularly has me laughing out loud. I love Raymond Chandler too, who followed, but Hammett just has the edge for me.
Watchmen by Alan Moore. I used to get Mad Magazine every month as a child, and artists such as Don Martin had a great influence on my sense of humour. It also started my love affair with comics and graphic novels.
I went to visit my brother in London one weekend when I was a student, and he had recently bought a copy of Watchmen. It’s a thick book, and I had not seen its like before. I lay on the sofa, and started reading. Two days later I finished it, got off the sofa, and went back to Manchester. I’ve been buying graphic novels ever since, and am even passing on the torch buy subscribing my son to the simply brilliant The Phoenix comic. http://www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/
Beyond A Boundary by CLR James. My other great passion in life (after my family and alongside music and graphic novels) is cricket. In this book, James gives a history of cricket in the West Indies by placing in the context of the politics and culture of the time. Said by many to be the greatest sports book ever written (although for me The Fight by Norman Mailer would push it close).
Its message is epitomised by the line ‘What does he know of cricket that only cricket knows’. In other words go and do something else for while, and you will come back better at cricket. I have a frustration that football seems to be all year round these days (I coach youth teams and often lose players in June and July to football tournaments) and can’t help but feel that those children would enjoy their football more if they were encouraged to do something different for the summer months.
Just outside the top 5:
Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers
Bone by Jeff Smith
Any Raymond Chandler novel
This Thing Of Darkness by Harry Thompson
The War Of Don Emanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis De Bernier
A Confederacy Of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole