This was an answer to one of those online questionnaire things you see from time to time. All of these books have had a big impact on me for one reason or another. I’ve avoided poetry and plays and stuck to prose.
1. The Fighting Fantasy series – by Steve Jackson / Ian Livingstone et al – The first book series I ever fell in love with (Martyn Bonar, you’ve a lot to answer for). They’re gamebooks rather than conventional books, but they captured my imagination at a young age – and they still do.
2. The Chrysallids – by John Wyndham – Wyndham was a genius and this is his best book. One of the most terrifying dystopian works I’ve ever read. It should be on school syllabuses as a warning of what happens when fundamentalism takes over.
3. Sophie’s World – by Jostein Gaarder – A whistle-stop tour of western philosophy from the Greeks through to quantum mechanics. You won’t believe learning can be this much fun.
4. Watchmen – by Alan Moore – A cliché choice for a graphic novel fan, but I can’t help it. The characters are among the most complex you’ll find in any novel, never mind comic book. It amazes me every time I read it.
5. Flowers for Algernon – by Daniel Keys – Charlie Gordon is my big literary hero. If you’ve never read this, do so. If you have, read it again.
6. A Clockwork Orange – by Anthony Burgess – Disturbing, dystopian and told in wonderfully colourful language. Viddy well, my droogies.
7. Fahrenheit 451 – by Ray Bradbury – A horrifying world where all books are banned – and burned. Bradbury lets warmth, humanity and intelligence triumph over the forces of sadism and banality.
8. Why I am Not a Christian – by Bertrand Russell – Anything by Russell is worth reading, but this defence of atheism is the perfect introduction to the great Bertie.
9. The Outsider – by Albert Camus – I’ve only read it once but it struck a chord. It’s thought-provoking and short – always a winning combination.
10. Shock of the New – by Robert Hughes – The best book ever written about art by the best critic ever.