Wednesday, 2 May 2012

1001 Books You Otter Read

This week I've been going through the rather dubious list of 1001 Books To Read Before You Die. I actually spent some time on this, checking off the ones I had read (78 in total, which as a lifelong avid reader I find very surprising) and was disturbed to find that I am missing out on a large chunk of modern literature. Over half of the books I had read on this list were written before 1900. I have vowed to correct this, although I'm damned if I know where I'll find the time. I agreed with certain choices from more recent centuries - The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by the late and great Douglas Adams - but some choices stood out as awkwardly as a toddler in a police line-up.

I realise when people say things like "in my opinion" and "it's not for me to judge, but" - it usually means they are about to be dicks. With that in mind - it's not for me to judge - but in my opinion the following things are important facts when considering this list:

 - All of Sarah Waters books were vastly overrated and in fact I would rather read Kafka's The Castle again than any of them (see link to find out exactly how bad that statement is -, excepting perhaps Fingersmith whose only triumph was that I did not feel like someone was grating both my eyeballs into a mixing bowl for the entire duration of it. You have been warned.

- While I don't doubt that Maya Angelou did in fact contribute much to society and literature in her other books, my lasting memory of I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings is that she wee'd herself a totally implausible amount as a child, although I did read this a decade ago and may be a little hazy on the details.

- Everyone should read The Master and Margarita, Pride and Prejudice (the version without zombies, and then the version with zombies, just to squeeze the full comedy potential out of it - it is very pleasing to discover that in the zombie version, Elizabeth Bennett rejects Mr Darcy and then roundkicks him satisfyingly into the fireplace, smashing the mantelpiece, which I'm almost positive must have been in the first draft of the original. It also has ninjas, and Lady Catherine is just amazing. Go and read it now) and The Last Temptation of Christ at least once. I enjoyed each of these books immensely.

- Why the absolute sodding hell was there no Terry Pratchett on this list? This is no joke. Terry Pratchett's works have shaped me both as a writer and a person. I would quite literally give any limb to have written Thief of Time. In fact, Mr Pratchett, should you ever read this - I still offer said limb, if you can find any use for it around the house, whether as a doorstop or teacup-holder or similar. I regularly reference his books, to the bewilderment of most people around me, and have been known to yodel my own version of the Hedgehog Song after a particularly debauched evening out on the town. I consider myself a combination of Captain Carrot's steadfast honesty and loyalty (and misplaced sense of justice) and Granny Weatherwax's implacable conviction that she is correct in all things even when the current situation does not reflect this. (I suspect that people who know me would also throw in a Casanunda comment at this point, which I shall ignore but be amused by)

In addition, as I did promise an update, I have now been shortlisted for the Flashbang fiction competition. It's all very exciting as there are now 10 of us and 3 prizes plus 5 runners up. Paws crossed, otterlings!


  1. I'm crossing my eyes & dotting my teas for you!

  2. Are you crossing your Lionel Richteas? :)

  3. Trying to work out what my personality would be like if I hadn't read Pratchett growing up is like trying to work out what I'd be like without a spleen. In that I'm not really sure what it's doing, but I'm pretty sure that it's essential.

    What have you entered in a competition? Possibly it's in another post and I could just find it...

  4. There's an episode of Marcus Brigstocke's radio show I've Never Seen Star Wars where he got Sanjeev Bhaskar to read some Pratchett, but they gave him The Colour of Magic (which he wasn't that impressed with), and I was like "noooooooooooo! Read one of the good ones, like Soul Music or Moving Pictures!"

  5. I couldn't agree with you more about Pratchett, and I NEED to find the Jane Austen Zombies right away!

    But I don't agree about Sarah Waters. I really love both the Night Watch and Little Stranger, but even if you don't like her books, I think they deserve a place on a must read as they are so rare in actually showing women having a central role in plots and history.

    Good luck with the comp - my fingers are crossed!