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The Joy of Books – Part One

I was reading a newspaper article recently that reported that physical book sales (as opposed to e-books) are on the rise again. This set me thinking about books and reading….

I’ve always loved books and reading. As a child I devoured popular children’s fiction: ‘The Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’ stories by Enid Blyton and ‘Just William’ by Richmal Compton were some some of the series I went through at a proverbial rate of knots. Through my teenage years and every decade since I’ve continued to read. I’m no literary snob – I’ll read pretty much anything (although romantic fiction doesn’t figure in my reading tastes) and this includes classics, contemporary fiction, crime and science fiction, biographies, science, natural history, history, sport, politics and popular culture.

As a book reader I sometimes find myself talking to people who will ask me about my favourite book or books and, having read so much, its quite hard to draw up a short list of favourites. I thought it might be fun to have a go though!

In Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs guests are asked to choose 8 pieces of music to take to a Desert Island (and one book). I’m going to choose my 8 favourite books instead of music tracks – but for to keep your attention this is a two partner, so you’ll need to wait for another instalment.

So here goes:

1. Guards, Guards by Terry Pratchett
(Sir) Terry Pratchett was a comic and satirical genius who created the fictional ‘Disc World’. He has been compared to PG Wodehouse and justifiably in my opinion is ranked as a fine writer of comic fantasy fiction. His books are full of sharp observations of humanity despite being set in a fantasy world. Its hard to pick a favourite book but ‘Guards, Guards’, the 8th in a series of 41 novels, makes my list. It introduces the character of Commander Sam Vines of the City Watch. Think of it as a sort of police procedural – but with dragons, dwarves and slapstick.

2. Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
A good adventure story always thrills and as I like mountains and tales of adventure. The trouble is that most mountaineering literature is desperately dull. Not so ‘Touching the Void. Joe Simpson and his companion Simon Yates were claiming in the Andes when disaster struck. What followed was a remarkable and testament to one mans will to survive.

3. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
An unashamedly socialist novel, published in 1914, the story focuses on working class painters and decorators in a fictional town. What Robert Tressell does is take what could be a rather ‘worthy’ subject and turn this story into a moving and at times desperately sad account of the impact of poverty on ordinary people. Despite its age somehow it still seems relevant today.

4. Guide to the Western Fells by AW Wainwright
A bit of a cheat this – as Alfred (AW) Wainwright produced seven guidebooks to the Lake District Fells and the ‘Guide to the Western Fells’ is one of a series. My mountain walking adventures first started in the Lake District and it wasn’t long before I acquired copies of AW Wainwright’s guides. Produced by ‘AW’ between 1955 and 1966 each guidebook is hand written and contains descriptions of ascents, quirky observations and detailed pen and ink drawings and hand drawn maps make the series a joy to read over and again. A must for any fell walker.

I guess if you’ve got this far you probably like reading too. And, if like me you are constantly looking for the next ‘good read ‘, then why not do what I do from time to time and head down to either the Furniture Scheme bookshop in Ludlow at the back of the Renaissance Shop or to ‘The Charity Bookshop’ in Craven Arms. You’ll find plenty of choice in both shops and some real bargains too.

Even better to save cluttering up your home when you’ve read something – take it back as a donation so someone else can read it too. All of the funds raised by both bookshops go to support the wonderful work of The Furniture Scheme – so everyone wins.

I’ll reveal my final 4 book choices next time…so for now:

Happy Reading!

Chris Boote – Trustee for the Furniture Scheme

May 12, 2017

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