More Big Read

It’s almost time for the BBC to whittle down the top 100 books people voted for as their favourite novels down to 21 finalists. There was a regrettable lack of Scottish writers due to the natural imbalance caused by there being a lot more English voters than Scots. Still, it has been a very good way of getting a lot more people buying books, which is never a bad thing.

However, I thought I’d see if I can pick some of my own favourites (and not restrict myself to fiction only). I couldn’t put them in any particular order and indeed the list is likely to change from week to week as I suddenly recall other books that I’ve read over the last three decades (and believe me that is a lot of books).

High on any list of mine (and a scandalous omission form the Big Read) is the fantastic Lanark by Alasdair Gray, surely the finest Scottish novel of the 20th century. I’ve had the delight of meeting Alasdair and hearing him give a reading at a bash by his publisher Canongate and he is a national treasure. I treated myself to a limited edition slipcase hardback of Lanark a couple of years ago, covered in artwork by Alasdair and each volume signed and numbered – a beautiful edition of a fantastic book.

Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice. Originally published way back in the mid-70s this steamy first-person narrative is a lush, beautifully-described horror novel, dealing with immortality, love and loss. Claudia, the eternal child Lestat and Louis create was a character Rice developed to help her deal with the loss of her own child and is such a tragic and incredibly moving character, often imitated since (check out Homer in the excellent vampire film Near Dark for instance). In the opinion of this bookseller and consumer of many a Gothic novel, the best vampire novel since Dracula. Shame her later books aren’t quite as good (although I still enjoy them).

Beauty by Sheri S. Tepper. Sheri manages to combine this imaginative re-telling of Sleeping Beauty and a variety of other folkloric tales with an almost gritty realism in places. She uses the juxtaposition of magical and mundane settings and time piece, all held together by the struggle through life of a girl becoming a woman on a male-dominated world (Sheri always features very strong female leads and manages it without getting on a soapbox or hitting you over the head with gender issues). I love all of her novels very much, but Beauty (re-issued a few years back by Gollancz’s Fantasy Masterworks) is a gorgeous, moving, thoughtful work.

More to come.