Invited to speak at a ‘meet the author’ function at the Ascot Vale Library later this year, I was asked to send a list of my five favourite books and ‘a line or two about why you love each one’ to the event organiser. This was over two weeks ago and, like a character in a Nick Hornby novel, I’ve been agonising about my Top Five ever since. How can I possibly limit my favourite books to five! Maybe if it were by genre, or author’s country of origin, or decade/historical era–though even then I’d still need the caveat of ‘Top Five Books I Haven’t Read Yet But May Well Become Favourites’.
(I’m current reading last year’s Booker Prize Winner, The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai–a contender for the latter–whose beautiful prose makes a sad story a great pleasure to read).
And then I wonder, What will this list say about me? Will I come across as too low-brow? Too high-brow? Too conventional? Will people choose not to ‘meet the author’ because they don’t share my taste in literature?
Under the circumstances, I decided to go with the first five books that came into my head. In fact, four of them came easily; I had to think about the fifth. It turns out they are all great books (as opposed to my favourite films, some of which are downright dodgy!). At some point in the future, I will indulge in listing my favourite books by genre, author, etc. But for now, here’s the list I sent the guy at the Ascot Vale library.
The Poisonwood Bible
The story of a fundamentalist preacher, his wife and four daughters, set during the tumultuous period when the Belgian Congo became Zaire, and told in the daughters’ four distinctive voices. The sort of book I aspire to write.
The Time Traveller’s Wife
Wildly imaginative and deeply romantic, I read this book slowly because I didn’t want it to end.
The English Patient
Forget the film! This stunning, poetic book about love, war and racism packs a punch that took my breath away.
The Booker of Bookers, this parable about the partitioning of India is beautiful, powerful, uncompromising and funny—much like my experience of India.
A Room of One’s Own
‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction’. Published in 1929, still a source of inspiration to me as a woman and writer.