Celestial Weasel (celestialweasel) wrote,
Celestial Weasel

15 books 'that will stay with you'

An old meme. The idea ISTR is that what the question means is slightly undefined and you shouldn't think about the list for too long.

1. Alice In Wonderland / Through The Looking Glass
2. Sirens Of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut. I read this at an early age, as my brother had it. Probably affected me profoundly. Vonnegut is my elephant in the room, there in the background so obvious that he doesn't get mentioned.
3. A Canticle for Leibowitz - Walter M Miller. I read this at an early age, too. Early enough to not know what the word euthanasia meant :-)
4. To Vanishing Point - Doreen Norman. Blimey, took a while to find the author of this on-line, lots of books with that name! A children's SF book, got from a book-club at school. Basically, an alien ship crash-lands and the kids (one of the main characters looks like the alien girl), the kids manage to sort out a spare part and the alien takes off. In classic tradition, the alien offers to take the girl with her. It turns out, in a strange echo of the Vonnegut, that what the alien is doing is taking a poem between two worlds. I am wary of reading this again for fear that the demons of suck will have infested it, but it was very atmospheric and very good at getting across the unknowable-ness (unknowability?) of the alien.
5. Space Family Stone. Of all the juvenile Heinleins this was the one that I imagined myself being in in the space-ship by the side of my bed, possibly because the setting is more like our solar system than some of the others.
6. It's Like This, Cat - Emily Cheney Neville. See Wikipedia, and apparently this is public domain due to one of the weirdnesses of US copyright. This is, to me, the platonic ideal of the young adult novels of my youth. I have no idea where I came across it as it seems pretty much unknown in the UK. It is very sweet. I have reread this within the last few years and it is a fine book, though of course the world in which it is set is very much the world of its time, the early 60s.
7. Beyond Hawaii - Leonard Wibberley aka Patrick O'Connor. I rarely read non-SF books in the children's library, but I read this because the author wrote 2 SF novels. A family sails from the West Coast of California to (and, beyond, hence the title) Hawaii. Also very old fashioned, all the adults are Mr or Mrs So-And-So. I went sailing once and absolutely hated it, but still goes on the list!
8. Illuminatus / 9 Cosmic Trigger (Robert Anton Wilson's autobiography). My brother had 2 of the 3 books in the Illuminatus trilogy and Cosmic Trigger, as he had bought the wrong book by mistake. But bizarrely I found the 3rd book in a damaged books bin in a local bookshop. Illuminatus hasn't aged particularly well, I have to say, though.
10. The Alchemists - Margaret Doody. Have mentioned this before. This is a book that I saw mentioned somewhere and took a while to find, in the days before Abebooks. I think I found it in Banbury library when we lived there. Written in the early 80s and set in the early 60s, this is the closest to 'our' Oxford novel to my mind. The main protagonist is an American student who gets mistaken for someone from a richer family that the jeunesse dorée (the alchemists of the title) want to bring into their circle of friends to exploit. For me it captures the feeling of a 'normal' student at Oxford amid the rich, the beautiful, the outrageous etc. The alchemists have a number of scams going, which unravel at the end of the novel in a poetic fashion. The sexual attitudes of the time in which it is set, which are no doubt realistic, make one feel glad one was a student later. Bizarrely it appears to be in print in Italian. I wouldn't quite go as far as to say it is a great lost masterpiece, some of the scams don't quite make sense (spoiler really to say in what way), but I don't understand why it isn't in print and in the Oxford books sections in Blackwells etc.
11. The Whole Earth Catalog. Before there was the Internet, there was the Whole Earth Catalog. Like Dr. Whos you always prefer your first, and my first was, I think, the Essential Whole Earth Catalog
12. The World Radio And TV Handbook. Again, before the Internet, there was shortwave radio and impossibly exotic lists of radio stations all round the world.

Somehow after the top 12 things get a bit harder, but a semi-arbitrary 3 to round things off...

13. Something about SF... Hmm.... tricky. I want to say The SF Encyclopedia (1978 edition) which defined so many OUSFG discussion meetings, but it doesn't make the list in the same way as the other reference works in the list above, so I think I will say 'Engines of the Night' by Barry Malzberg, the one true history of SF.
14. Imperial Earth by the late great Arthur. I want to describe this as 'Space Family Stone but with polyamorous bisexuals instead of flat cats'. So I will. Another sensawunda tour of the solar system (*). Was it Michael Moorcock who said of Arthur that his world view had no room for the 4 horseman of the apocalypse trampling his rhododendrons? Yes it was
15. You'll Never Be Here Again by Mark Blackaby (and we are getting into the realms of the arbitrary here but it was what leapt to mind). Another Oxford novel, the author wrote two novels then vanished without a trace. Very much a first novel in the picaresque adventure with bolt on thriller plot mould (see also Fry, Stephen, novel, first). The main flaw to my mind is that the school-and-university-til-she-dumps him girlfriend and the picks-him-up-between-finishing-university-and-starting-job girlfriends being a little too much of the wishful thinking fantasy type. Won the Betty Trask prize. Whatever happened to him I wonder?

(*) 'oooh it's a sensa-wunda' to the tune of Stairway To Heaven

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