World Book Day

Today is the eighteenth UNESCO World Book Day, a global celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading. The intention of today’s celebration is ‘to encourage children to explore the pleasures of books and reading’ and you can find out more at:

And God bless every single word. However many high tech and multimedia options there are for conveying information and telling stories I will always love the printed page the best. I learned to get lost in a book at a very early age during an otherwise pretty rough working class, provincial childhood in the 1960s. Speaking to you now as an author, editor and academic, I think we can agree that reading certainly improved my life. When I think about it, especially now I’m teaching my own son to read, I’m rather tickled at the thought that everything I know and what I do for a living all flows from teaching myself to read Bottersnikes and Gumbles and Batman comics when I was about the same age that my kid is now.

With that in mind, I thought it might be fun to make a list of my favourite books in honour of World Book Day; the ones that really inspire me, and to which I return again and again as a writer, reader and teacher – the ones that made me want to write, the real page-turners and mind-blowers, the sight of which on a shelf will always cheer me up.

This was not an easy task. We have thousands of books in our house, and I read two or three a week, usually one for work and two for fun. Even restricting myself to prose fiction and autobiography, I struggled to keep my list below three figures, which my wife rightly pointed out was crazy because, she said, no one would believe I’d read all these books. In the end I decided that I would limit myself to fifty titles, one for each of my years on the planet. I’ve snuck in a much loved short story collection, a graphic novel and a ‘play for voices,’ but have kept mostly to novels and the odd memoir and away from poetry, drama, philosophy and general non-fiction. Don’t get me started on that lot or we’ll be here all night! I have restricted myself to one book per author, although I could have cheerfully listed the complete works of many of them. If I could only take one on the desert island with me it would be Ulysses.

Here then is a book that I love – and I mean really love, admire, envy and adore – for every year of my life, followed by an eclectic Top Twenty from my strange and beautiful wife, the illustrator and graphic designer Gracie Carver, and ten of our son’s absolute favourites, all of which I can now recite by heart.

Stephen’s Top Fifty

Absalom, Absalom! – William Faulkner
All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque
Bad Blood – Lorna Sage
Beloved – Toni Morrison
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Collected Ghost Stories – M.R. James
Espedair Street – Iain Banks
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk.
Flashman – George McDonald Fraser
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Gormenghast – Mervyn Peake
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
High Fidelity – Nick Hornby
I Am Legend – Richard Matheson
If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor – Bruce Campbell
Jack Sheppard – William Harrison Ainsworth
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
Jaws – Peter Benchley
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Life in London – Pierce Egan
Mason & Dixon – Thomas Pynchon
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Mother London – Michael Moorcock
Nightmare Alley – William Lindsay Gresham
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft – Stephen King
Promenades dans Londres – Flora Tristan
Regeneration – Pat Barker
Sir Henry at Rawlinson End and Other Spots – Vivian Stanshall
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston – Siegfried Sassoon
The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham
The House of Nire – Morio Kita
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne
The Mysteries of London – G.W.M. Reynolds
The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde
The Road – Cormac McCarthy
The Tin Drum – Günter Grass.
The Trial – Franz Kafka
The Trilogy – Samuel Beckett
The War of the Worlds – H.G. Wells
The World According to Garp – John Irving
Ulysses – James Joyce
Under Milk Wood – Dylan Thomas
V for Vendetta – Alan Moore and David Lloyd
Waterland – Graham Swift
Wise Children – Angela Carter

Gracies’s Top Twenty

Alice’s Adventures Under Ground – Lewis Carroll
Arnold Bennett – Dorothy Cheston Bennett
Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe – Edgar Allan Poe
Creative Cloth Doll Collection – Patti Medaris Culea
I Like What I Know: A Visual Autobiography – Vincent Price
Jurassic Park – Michael Crichton
Lone Wolf and Cub – Goseki Kojima and Kazuo Koike
Looking at Lovemaking: Constructions of Sexuality in Roman Art – John R. Clarke
Lost & Found: My Story – Lynda Bellingham
One Child – Torey Hayden
Only Love Is Real – Brian Weiss
Parcours à travers l’oeuvre de Clovis Trouille, 1889 – 1975 – Clovis Prévost
Primates in Perspective – Christina J. Campbell and Augustin Fuentes (eds)
Simulacra & Simulation – Jean Baudrillard
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Priapus Poems: Erotic Epigrams from Ancient Rome – Richard W. Hooper (trans)
The Rosary Girls – Richard Montanari
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Une Semaine De Bonté: A Surrealist Novel in Collage – Max Ernst
Vamp: The Rise & Fall of Theda Bara – Eve Golden

Vincent’s Top Ten (Aged 3½)

All Stuffed Up – Catherine Hapka
Dinosaur Roar! – Paul and Henrietta Stickland
Dinosaur Train A to Z – Craig Bartlett
Dorothy’s Garden – Bob Berry
Haunted Henry – Britt Allcroft and Robin Davies
Horton Hears a Who – Dr. Seuss
See the Batcave – Lucy Rosen
The Dr. Who Annual 2015 – Moray Laing, John Ross, James Offredi and Lee Sullivan
The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Uneversaurus – Aidan ‘Professor’ Potts

Now wasn’t that interesting…?
Happy World Book Day!


2 thoughts on “World Book Day”

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