Sunday, May 22, 2011


I appreciate how difficult this question is to answer. I understand how being consumed by and adoring a book is influenced by numerous factors.  Age. Maturity.  A death.  A broken heart. The circumstance of life.

So it was quite presumptuous of me really to even ask this question. Especially when I was asking people who live and breathe writing.   How can it be narrowed down to just one?  Something you read that blew your tiny mind 10 years ago may have little affect on you today.  Or vice versa.  And then sometimes reading a book the second time around, makes you appreciate and understand it more.  

Now, considering I topped my English class in year 12, I am woefully ignorant to many of the classics.  I think this was fairly evident when my 11 year old asked me if I had read Little Women.  When I replied in the negative, I think what I witnessed was what can only be described as pity.    She walked into her room, returned with with the novel, lay it on my bed and said "You should read this Mum, it's totally awesome".  Jesus.  My 11 year old has more of a clue than I do.

It was about at this point that I decided I needed to make a list.   A list of books I need to read before I eventually disappear forever. To get me started though, I wanted to ask some of my favourite authors and/or people in "the know".  These are all people I greatly admire and respect. 

So, in no particular order, please enjoy these recommendations:

KYLIE LADD.  Now this lady is smart. And witty.  And attractive. No really, I don’t think you understand.  She’s not only an incredible writer of fiction and non fiction including Naked, After the Fall and the soon to be released, Last Summer, but by day she’s a neuropsychologist.  We bonded over our mutual disdain of Nickelback and our love of eating 4 day old leftovers. Her novel, After the Fall, is one I have read three times.  She is constantly relevant. You can check out her website HERE

Buy it here

According to Kylie Ladd, the one book you must read before you die is: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald because “It is just perfection.  Melancholy has never been so beautiful”.


JOHN PURCELL.  Now here is a guy who knows his shiz. He is the guy behind, one of the fastest growing companies in Australia.  His life has always and still does, revolve around the written word. You can find Booktopia HERE and more than likely purchase any book we mention here today with what I can vouch for, is incredible ease.

Buy It Here
According to John Purcell, the one book you must read before you die is Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.  He admits “Few will enjoy it and I will probably come off looking like an elitist snob.

The good news is, John is anything but “an elitist snob” and is probably one of the most helpful and savvy booksellers around today.  But you know, if you are overcome with the urge to send him a strongly worded letter, I will be sure to forward it on.


DEE MADIGAN: Perhaps Dee looks familiar?  Well she should, especially if you watch The Gruen Transfer. And let’s face it, if you don’t, you are probably missing out on the most intelligent and funny half hour of Television in Australia.  To quote the Gruen Transfer website “Whenever there was a tampon ad shot on an exotic foreign beach, there was a very good chance Dee wrote it. And attended the shoot.”  When not writing award winning adverts, you can catch her tending to her three children under 6 and forcing them to watch Baby Einstein and flashcarding the one year old.   I totally made that last bit up.  Seriously though, Dee is one super intelligent, gorgeous human being.  You can check out her website HERE

Buy It Here
According to Dee, the one book you all must read before you die is The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy because “There are writers who write beautiful prose, and there are writers who are brilliant storytellers. But very few who can do both.”

She also went on to recommend  The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons because  “After reading this piece of crap, death won't seem so painful.” 


FLEUR MCDONALD: You know what?  I could bang on about how Fleur lives on an 8,000 acre farm with her young children and husband 110 kms out of Esperance and that despite that, she still found the time to write fabulous novels such as Red Dust and Blue Skies.  I could even tell you she’s about to release another book shortly.  But I won’t because to be honest, I just want to tell you how she’s one of the most lovable people, let alone authors I have dealt with.  She genuinely gets involved.  And she is remarkable.  You can check out her website HERE

Buy it Here
According to Fleur McDonald, the one book you must read before you die is The Poet by Michael Connelly.    “I chose this because I read a lot of crime/detective/courtroom fiction and I usually work out who the 'badie' is by about half way through. I have great enjoyment turning to the back of the book, when I think I've worked it out, to see if I'm right! I didn't pick this one until basically he was revealed by the author. It a high tension, gripping, thrilling drama and I loved every word!”


KATE HUNTER:  I have been lucky enough to have dinner a couple of times with Kate and her family and I’ve come to the conclusion that I want her to adopt me.   With over 20 years advertising experience under her belt, Kate wrote the AA novel (Advertising Adventure, yep that’s a new made up genre) Mosquito Advertising: The Parfizz Pitch, to rave reviews.   Mosquito Advertising: the Blade Brief will be out on June the 1st.  She rocks at what she does and oh, remember her name, you’ll be hearing a lot more of it.   
Buy It Here

According to Kate Hunter, the one book you should read before you die is Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding because “It slapped me and woke me up about how FUNNY fiction could be.  I wanted to be one of Bridget’s mates.  I felt I was.”

Ditto Kate, ditto.


KERRI SACKVILLE:  So.  Been living under a rock?  Then you won’t know this lady.  Let me break it down for you.  She’s only the hugely successful author of “When my Husband does the Dishes” and an uber-blogger.  Oh yeah, she’s a nothing.  If nothing in your world means freaking massive.  Her book, When My Husband Does the Dishes, is basically the Bible for modern marrieds.  Kerri’s best attribute however is that she engages. She does it often and she does it well.  And I guess the thing is, she does it genuinely.  Get involved people, she is ace.  You can find her website HERE.

Buy it Here

According to Kerri Sackville, the one book you should read before you die is Catch-22 by Joseph Heller simply because “It’s a masterpiece in every way.”  


LISA HEIDKE:  This lady is one of the most accessible, down to earth and successful authors I have come across.  Oh and she has a WICKED sense of humour.  Let’s not even mention lady caves Lisa.  Let’s just not.  So far, she has released Claudia’s Big Break, Lucy Springer Gets Even and What Kate did Next. Perhaps not in that order, but anyway you cut it, she’s bloody well made her mark in the Australian writing scene.  You can find Lisa HERE and I suggest you do.

Buy It Here

According to Lisa Heidke, the one book you should read before you die is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte because “Heathcliff and Cathy on the moors – a tempestuous love story – ah.” 


ANJANETTE MORTON: This lady blows my mind. Smart, strong and extremely funny and she may very well be that one person who determines whether your manuscript gets that one step closer to being published.   She has the eye. The one that discerns.  So I wanted her opinion.  And I value it.  You can check out her personal blog HERE

Buy It Here
According to Anjanette Porter, the one book you should read before you die is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo because “It changed my life.  It woke me up to pursue my dreams, travel and find my own way.”  


BENISON O’REILLY: God.  Where to start with Benison.  Her inner and outer beauty? Perhaps.  No, let’s talk about her smarts, because she has them in spades.  I first found Benison when researching Autism and I came across The Australian Autism Handbook written by herself and Seana Smith.  But that’s not all this savvy mum of three has written. Happily Ever After, her first foray into fiction, was relatable to me.  Well not the marrying a Pilot bit, but so many other parts.   Oh and the unusual name Benison?  It means ‘A Blessing’ How very true. You can find her website HERE.

Buy It Here 
According to Benison, the one book you should read before you die is Catch-22.  Although she found it hard to pick a top one.  She also liked The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas but understands it polarises. 

Note: I’ve started reading The Slap this week and am really liking it.  I wonder when and/or if it will make me jump the fence into the hate camp? 


ANITA HEISS: I’m sure I don’t need to introduce you to Anita.  With a mountain of published work under her esteemed belt such as Avoiding Mr Right, Who Am I? The Diary of Mary Talence and Token Koori, she is a well established and respected author in Australia.  She too is one of these wonderful, approachable people who is more than happy to help.  I am always blown away when an author will not only answer but happily chat with someone like me.  It blows my mind.  You can check out all of Anita’s works HERE

Buy It Here

According to Anita, the one book you should read before you die is Journey to Stone Country by Alex Miller.


RICK MORTON:  You may know Rick from such things as the Guiness World Book of Records for being the most spectacularly successful 24 year old.  Well, that’s not actually a real title he holds, but he should.  His incredible, wit, compassion and intelligence is why he is the News Editor at  And if that’s not enough, he’s quite fond of sloths. It doesn’t get much more tops.  Rick was one of my very first friends on the interwebs. He's a total keeper. You can follow his personal blog HERE

Buy It Here
According to Rick, the one book we should all read before we shake off this mortal coil is The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.  He went on to say “I cannot over-state how much I want everyone to read this book. Not only is Adams a genius with words, his books are at once absurd, philosophical, deep and hilarious. These books not only made me want to write, but they set me on my present course of reading about the universe itself. It might be a work of fiction, but when you begin to read about the cosmos, it is so utterly bizarre and awe-inspiring you'll think it, too, cannot be true. Do it, for the love of all that is good, read this book. And then read the other 4 books in the trilogy."


Robert Zappelli is one of my good twitter buddies.  His handle is @outbackexpat and was with him that I originally starting discussing this "One Book".  "I don't have a background in literature like the others, but I'm a people person and I like to read. Usually those two things are not compatible because generally one tends to read alone. A good book is almost like having a conversation with the author though you are listening and they're telling the tale."

Buy It Here
According to Robert, the one book you should read before you leave the earth is Tandia by Bryce Courtney because it is "Sad, compelling, moving and paints a brilliant portrait of the human condition"


REBECCA SPARROW: I didn’t mean to leave Bec until last. Well I kinda did.  See, Bec is the first and only person I’ve ever written a fan letter to.  Well fan email.  And she replied. Sure, this could sound like I’ve been stalking Bec since oh, 2004 , but so far she has chosen to take the high road and *not* get an AVO. Seriously though, I truly believe it was my very good fortune to randomly stumble across her book, The Girl Most Likely at a  Big W one rainy Sunday afternoon all those years ago.  The Year Nick McGowan came to Stay and Find Your Tribe are amoung her other published works.  

Buy It Here
According to Rebecca Sparrow, the one book you should read before you move on to the other side is Bird by Bird: Some instructions on writing and life by Anne Lamott.  “I'm not a huge fan of how-to-write books but Lamott's book is different. It's laugh-out-loud funny and so very wise. My battered, dog-eared copy is like an old-friend and I often dip into it for a pick-me-up or to be reminded of Lamott's refreshing take on the neurotic life of a writer. An award-winning novelist and respected creative writing teacher, Lamott's advice about character, about plot, about writer's block, about professional jealousy -- is all true.  And oh-so- very-funny.”


And as for me, and I know this won’t win me any highbrow friends, but Marian Keyes, Anybody Out There.  I laughed and literally cried distraught tears reading this.  In fact it made me feel quite down in parts.  A book that does that to me, well I take notice.  A mention also has to go out to The Stand by Stephen King.  It was a massive part of my late teens.

So there you have it.  Now comes the interactive part: I want you to tell me what book I need to add to my list.  Your recommendation.  It doesn’t have to be from the Literature section, it just needs to mean something to you.  


Muse of Flights of Fancy said...

The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

tonymcfadden said...

One? You want *ONE* book when I can choose from 'Stranger in a Strange Land', 'Life of Pi', 'Hitchhikers Guide', 'Lysistrata', well, you get the picture...

Love the choices above, though, and thanks for the intros to a few people I haven't run across yet.

So Now What? said...

Dianne Draganovic How to influence God and win over angels.

Bianca Wordley The Color Purple

Angela Pinjuh Oh the places you'll go. Dr Seuss

Melody Forrester Cries Unheard; The Story of Mary Bell by Gitta Sereny

Craig Scott Norwegian Wood - Haruki Murakami

Kristie Hedley Andre Brink's A Dry White Season. Opened my eyes to apartheid and senseless bigotry. Seems Nelson Mandellas fight for equality means shit when you see those bigoted American loons on 60 Minutes tonight.

Jenny Chapman Truth and Beauty - Ann Patchett

Lisa MacKinnon The Natural History of the Senses, by Diane Akerman

All the Above are from my Facebook. ;)

Melody said...


I just finished 'The Slap'. Awesome book. In my opinion. I loved Cries Unheard as it uncovers some truths about why children do kill. If you're after some good recommendations on reading, I suggest you check out my sister's book blog - it is continually in the Top 5 of British Book Blogs.

Anonymous said...

Tracks by Robin Davis, The Stand Stephen King... Awesome!

Diminishing Lucy said...

"Brother of the More Famous Jack" by Barbara Trapido.

For no other reason than it's lovely.


Jen said...

Look me in the eyes - john elder Robison. A first hand amazing account of what it's like to have Aspergers Syndrome. John has led an extraordinary life with so many achievements. I found it inspiring!

Karen said...

Jane Eyre...stayed up until 4 AM in my late teens to read it in one go... & have read it may times since.

Kylie L said...

Huh? But I LOVE Nickleback Bern!
Some wonderful suggestions there- I have read all of them except Fleur's choice (sorry Fleur!) and Bird By Bird- but I currently have that on order :)
But one is too hard. No-one asked me, but I can't leave this without adding: The English Patient (by Michael Ondaatje, and NO, not the film which changed the bloody ending and I still have a fatwa on Anthony Minghella); Beloved (by Toni Morrison, who could have won her Nobel Prize for this one novel alone); We Need To Talk About Kevin (by Lionel Shriver, because everyone truly does need to talk about Kevin) Sunnyside (by Joanna Murray Smith, because it's us. Ouch.) and The Potrait of a Lady (by Henry James... just because.)
Great blog! Must look up The Stand- is it scary?

Ms Styling You said...

I'm with you and Marian Keyes. I'm also with Kate and Bridget Jones Diary. I don't think it's about that one book. It's about never stopping reading and finding a genre/style that is a fit for you. Have I justified my shallowness and obsession for chicklit yet?

Glowless @ Where's My Glow said...

Fiiine I'll put it here for all to see.. Big thick books intimidated me when I was in school - I was the muso, the only books I carried around were filled with sheet music.
BUT the books that have stuck with me for all different reasons are: Adrian Mole's Diary (because it was funny and made me feel like I wasn't the only one who was weird), Two Weeks With The Queen (because it was sad and sweet and didn't have a fairytale ending) and more recently Running With Scissors (because it was completely fucked up and in comparison I'm perfectly sane).

Jodie Ansted said...

Well, I KNEW there was yet another reason why I love Kylie, love, LOVE The Great Gatsby. One of my fave books.

And I'm with Karen - Jane Eyre is magnificent.

I also read an amazing biography by Mary S Lovell called A Scandalous Life about Jane Digby - an aristocrat in England who ended up marrying a Bedouin sheikh - in the 1800s. She was truly ahead of her time, this woman. Fabulous read.

Kara_Malinczak said...

So many. I will try to do my best, but inevitably I know I will forget some.


Memoirs of a Geisha- Arthur Golden
The Thirteenth Tale- Diane Setterfield
Water for Elephants- Sara Gruen
The Help- Kathryn Stockett
The Odyssey- Homer
And Then There Were None- Agatha Christie
Jurassic Park- Michael Crichton
House of Leaves- Mark Z. Danielewski
The Sugar Queen- Sarah Addison Allen

Teen Fiction:

Harry Potter
The Hunger Games Series
The Secret Garden- Frances Hodgson Burnett
Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson
Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer- Mark Twain
Where the Red Fern Grows- Wilson Rawls
The Book Thief- Markus Zusak

I value books based on storytelling, imagery, and characters. I believe the ones I have listed have the best of all three. There are so many books I haven't read though, and I truly expect this list to change every day. But for now, there you have it.

Anonymous said...

"Paddy Clarke ha ha ha" by roddy Doyle. It broke my heart. A Touching story...

kim at allconsuming said...

For the sexually frustated teen: clan of the cave bear series (although granted access to porn is a lot easier these days than it was in the 80s)

Anything by Chuck Palahnuik.

Anything by Tom Robbins but in particular skinny legs and all

As I lay dying affected me deeply, as did The Great Gatsby as did The Collector. Catch 22 was a complete revelation.

But I haven't read a book in so long it depresses me. Must rectify that...

Fleur McDonald said...

Kylie, I am not at all surprised you haven't read The Poet! And I loved We need to talk about Kevin. The other book I really did adore, is The Lovely Bones. Thanks for having me Bern!

Sarah said...

"Life of Pi" by Yann Martell. I love that book so much that I'm rendered inarticulate talking about it. I wish I could be so clever In fact I think I'll have to take it off the shelf again. And "Wuthering Heights." Who doesn't love a romance with some necrophilia thrown in?

Kimbo said...

White Teeth by Zadie Smith. It's funny and strange and sweet and about EVERYTHING. Seriously, love, family, war, home. I have devoured this book so many times my copy is falling apart.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende for all the same reasons.


Cant possibly name one, would be like choosing a fave child (actually, that would be easier)and my opinion changes every year as I grow and mature(?hah)and glean different things from books depending on my own life experiences and emotional state at the time.
I once would have said To Kill A Mockingbird, the next year I would have said Memoirs of a Geisha, then The Great Gatsby, then The Book Thief, then Fight Club, then Portrait of a Lady...and so on.
I'm a Libran, cant help it.

Meredith @ thinkthinks said...

I'm glad to see The Book Thief get a mention in the comments. That book made me sob at both the beginning and the end. And I will love Rick forever for choosing Hitchhikers.

My own pick would be The Cat in the Hat. I'm predictable in my Seuss love, I know, but I might never have picked up any of the classics that I have read and love if this book hadn't turned me on to reading at a wee little age. Plus I've always been a bit in love with the Cat. He puts the fun in a dreary day, is contrite when he gets yelled at and he has a big cleaning up machine. What's not to love?

So Now What? said...

@3placesatonce said Cloudstreet by Tim Winton is my all time favorite! To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee should also be compulsory!

Meredith @ thinkthinks said...

PS I used "love" five times in that comment! See what that sexy Cat does to me??

Sara Foster said...

Brilliant post Bern - loved reading all these recommendations. At present, Rebecca is my favourite old classic, Jasper Jones my favourite new classic, and two more writers I can't help but mention are Maggie O'Farrell and Preethi Nair. I also agree with Kylie Ladd about Beloved - I did my dissertation on that book and Toni Morrison's talent blows my mind.

So Now What? said...

Thanks Sara, if I had been more organised, I would have contacted you and featured you as well. xx Love your recommendations, thanks Bern

Katrina Germein said...

I love 'Anybody Out There'too. There are a few of my other favourites on the list as well and many that I haven't read. Thanks for this list. I'm going to work my way through.

Belle Samson said...

The Diary of Ann Frank is still one of my all time favourites along with Little Women. Maddie is on to something giving you that to read. said...

Love this list...and thanks for including me, Bern! I have *ahem* a few more books on my "must read" pile now. Though after this post, I am happy to say that whilst I so obviously missed out on reading a HUGE number of classics, I DID read "Little Women" ;)

Aussie-waffler said...

There are two books that sprang to mind for me, the first I have adored since I was a teenager, My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell. Made me want to ship off and explore the olive groves of Corfu.
The other I stumbled upon when I was living in France and completely starved of the English language, Perfume by Patrick Suskind. I think I devoured it in two days.

Linda said...

Oh, Perfume! I adored Perfume too.

Others: Breath by Tim Winton, Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Allenda's The House of the Spirits was probably why I spent 6 months in South America, The Temple of my Familiar by Alice Walker, The Slap (firmly in the 'love it' camp) and Erica Jong's Fear of Flying was life changing in my very early 20s too. Zipless indeed. Ahem.

Linda said...

Of course by 'Allenda', I mean 'Allende'.

Rick M said...

Oh, I love the Poet! Such a fun and intelligent read...not my usual, but adored it. And Sarah, Life of Pi is amazing. So is the Book Thief.

But I read Hitchhikers first, when I was in Year 9 and it shall forever be my number 1.

Bern, what a fabulous list...and I'm a little bit chuffed to be featured on it!

So Now What? said...

Have just been told about the Zipless Linda. Ahem

And Rick, I am chuffed to have you. xx

Belle, I am going to get through this list, we should share at work x

Tara, am ordering that NOW.

Alex said...

Oh I loved Perfume too! I liked Chocolat, and most of the classics. I am currently in a Sara Douglass mood (fantasy writer). She's an Australian writer and one of the best storytellers I've ever found.
But my favourite books to chill out to are by Jilly Cooper.

bigwords is... said...

Great list it has given me so many book ideas. Must go to the library and stock up. As I said on FB my favourite book is The Color Purple. I also LOVE Uncle Tom's Cabin, Perfume, The Time Travellers Wife, The World According to Garp, Cloudstreet, Great Expectations (well anything by Dickens), anything by Maya Angelou, anything by Judy Blume, Grapes of Wrath and you know what I loved the Harry Potter books. I know I've missed a heap of others. So many books.

Veggie Mama said...

Ohh I loved The Stand!

My number 1 book is actually Little Women. While I have plenty that I deeply adore (just check my FB page haha), this one has had the most impact. I received it for my 11th birthday and have read it again every year since then. Wow, just realized that's 20 years, jebus. Anyway, it's beautifully written, it reminds me of what's important and is just a gorgeous story. It's funny, sad and truly sweet. You'll love it xo

Jennifer Smart said...

One book? Oh God it's like the one film question. There's never one! But I really love Atonement by Ian McEwan, The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton & Marian Keyes is great!

Belle said...

sounds like a plan Bern...we can start up our own Book club

Belle said...

Confessions of a Female Private Investigator by a Gold Coast local PI - Tiffany Bond was another great recent read.

Sarah said...

I'm not very original - I would have said The God of Small Things or The Portrait of a Lady -both rocked my world. I also love Alex Miller - Conditions of Faith.
Hubby would have said Catch-22, The Hitchhiker's Guide and A Prayer For Owen Meany (by the world according to garp dude)

The Great Gatsby really affected me as a teen- I'll have to pull it out and re-read.

I also love Maya Angelou, particularly I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

Margaret Atwood - the Robber Bride and Joyce Carol Oates - Mother, Missing

I hated The Slap. We are so bad at answering the question Bern - couldn't stop at one!

marilyn said...

I agree with your daughter....littel women! One of my all time favourites and so is the movie!! Rent it for your daughter!!!

Helene Young said...

Great post and now I need to track down more books!

Two of my favourites (because who could settle for only one!) Blueback by Tim Winton, and Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn. Beautiful!

lisa heidke said...

Hey Bern, thanks for including me on your list - Marian Keyes is my favourite chick lit author, though I loved Bridget Jones's Diary, too! Enid Blyton and The Magic Faraway Tree series is high on my list and I'm with Rick re The Hitchhiker's Guide to the many books. Oh and I'm with Diminishing Lucy re Brother of the More Famous Jack! Fab novel!

kass hall said...

I'm going to list the books that have changed my life - they may not be the greatest books ever but they were life changers and that means you should read them before you die!

1. Anne of Green Gables - Anne changed my life. She fired my imagination and taught me so much about myself. It lead me to Prince Edward Island as a 13 year old and I've been "home" 6 times now. The stories in Anne teach compassion, acceptance, love and deal with issues that remain modern - bullying, death, true love, female friendship, women who work etc.....there is just so much. I adore Anne.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird. Another story of acceptance, both of race and social differences, and of what it means to hold firm to your beliefs. Atticus Finch is a hero.

3. The Element - this non-fiction work by Sir Ken Robinson changed my life. It discusses creativity in life (not just education although that really is the crux of creativity) and finding the one true thing that makes you happy - what puts you IN your Element. Hilariously funny and easy to read, Ken Robinson will inspire anyone who feels lot or in a rut, and re-inspire those who've found their Element. This book was instrumental in driving my goals for this year (I read it last year) and I have already found more success and happiness than I dreamed of. And it's only MAY!

4. Look Me In The Eye by John Robison - I liked this better than his brother's book (Augesten Burrows' Running with Scissors). John was diagnosed with Asperger's at age 42 and until then was ostricised, called weird, deemed stupid etc when he wasn't. The impact on his life was profound and the impact of the book was on me too - I learned so much about Asperger's after this. Must read material.

5. The Kite Runner - was anyone NOT completely blown away by that book? Incredible insight into a country I'll never be able to know or understand.


flyingdrunkenmonkey said...

I was coming in to say that I couldn't believe that To Kill a Mockingbird hadn't been mentioned but just saw it in the comments.

I had a similar realisation to you a few years ago and actually started a blog about it -
I'm still reading but haven't updated the site in a long time. Should get around to doing that.

Jayne Kearney said...

I'm a Gatsby Gal - through and through and through. It's the hopeless romantic in me. :)And I love a bunch of the books mentioned here - the ones I haven't read are totally going on my To-Read list, because the folk commenting here have fabulous taste.

But the one book I'm always banging on about - which the RobStar (@Outbackexpat) reminded me of this morning - is Cormac McCarthy's The Road - a book of such singular horror I had to train myself not to think about some of the imagery within those pages. It is an absolute heartbreaker of a book and, for my money, the best book on parenting getting about. SPOILER: Imma quote here, cos this is where my Twitter bio comes from: The first speaker is the Dad, the second speaker is his son:
"You have to carry the fire."
I don't know how to."
Yes, you do."
Is the fire real? The fire?"
Yes it is."
Where is it? I don't know where it is."
Yes you do. It's inside you. It always was there. I can see it."

Goddamn - I'm tearing up right now. Carrying the fire is my goal, so that I can show my kids how to carry it too.

Thanks Bern for one of the best blog posts ever.

Suz @ Segovia and The I Love You Song said...

The Lovely Bones is IT for me. I have read it maybe 10 times and I never tire of it and its messages about life, death and the universe. Fabo post Bern xxx

mamabook said...

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. So many others but you asked for one - this book kept me awake for many nights when I was already suffering small child induced sleep deprivation.

Benison said...

Thanks so much for including me amongst this
talented crowd Bern.xx Can I add for the record: David Copperfield, The Blind Assassin, Atonement,and The Hotel New Hampshire, which I prefer to Garp for some reason. My fave book of recent times is The Lacuna, and after re-reading The Great Gatsby last month, on Kylie Ladd's recommendation, I fell in love with it all over again. Not sure what these books have in common - can someone analyse that for me!

And as the mother of a child with autism I am thrilled tha Look Me In the Eye features twice -fabulous book.

Finally Bern, you must read my guest blog with lovely Lisa, where Anybody Out There? gets a mention.

Melissa said...

I'm sorry. Your daughter is right. "Little Women"and "Anne of Green Gables" changed my life. They are why I am a passionate reader.

It's like asking me to choose between my children. Sophie's choice here - favourite must read books....

But it's so subjective. I hated some of the abovementioned (Life of Pi and Wuthering Heights)

"Persuasion", though I read "Pride and Prejudice every 6 months". "To Kill a Mockingbird".
Jane Eyre" "Much Ado about Nothing" and "Julius Caesar" both made me LOVE Shakespear in a way Romeo and Juliet never could.
"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" "The Power of One" (much better than Tandia). "I know why the caged bird sings" "Enders Game""Magician".....stopping now...

foxinflats said...

Bern, one of my favourite things - talking about books, second only to reading them.
So many favs already on this list, but I'm also a huge, huge fan of John Irving. Widow for a Year especially but also World according to Garp, Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules. If you havn't already read these don't be put off by the fact the last three were turned into movies. They are amazing.
On a different note: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe always has a soft spot.

Sally said...

What a great post Bern, lots of great book suggestions without any book 'wankerage'! At the grand old age of 35 I no longer persist with wanky books because it makes me look smart. Nope, if I don't laugh or tear up a little or have a nice warm glow when reading a book, out it goes.

For me, Anne of Green Gables (all of them) and the Adrian Mole series made me feel like I wasn't alone as a child, that someone else understood my life. And +1 for anything by Marian Keyes and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Twitchy said...

I'm ever heartbroken because I have the heart of a reader but the retention powers of a goldfish. If I read at night when it's quiet, I don't remember what I read the night before. Consequently, I'm painfully slow and suck at it, but my To Read List is utterly glittering! *ongoing apologies to the Lovely Kylie Ladd*.

My early reading life was fuelled and completely ruled by Enid Blyton.

What I did want to name though, was Kerouac's On the Road, because it heralded a massively influential turning point in the art form with the "Beat" movement, just as Cobain's "grunge" pioneering did in the 90's for music.

Nick Earls said...

I like the passion and positivity that a lot of people are bringing to this, spruiking books you love rather than anything else. The whole notion of 'should read' has me wanting to say I finished school 30 years ago and there's no 'should read' in my life any more. Bern, there need be no woe in your 'woeful ignorance'. We can't possibly read all the books people tell us we should, and the books people sometimes look down on us for not reading.

The whole 'should' thing risks treating books like medicine that some prescription says we should take.

I say we should tell people about the books we love, and perhaps why, but we should tell them because we can't stop ourselves rather than because we're telling them they have to read the book too.

The only book everyone SHOULD read before they die is 'How To Save Yourself From All Known Causes of Imminent Death'. Okay, maybe it doesn't exist, but I'll make an exception for it if/when it does.

Thea said...

They have already been mentioned but...To Kill A Mockingbird...Little Women...Wuthering Heights...The Diary of Anne Frank...yes yes yes yes!

And one more I reckon you need to put off dying until you've read...Gone With The Wind. I've read that book more times than I can even remember.

Naomi said...

Too hard!

I read Wuthering Heights every year, and on the weekend splurged with a new copy (but don't tell the one I've had since I was 16, it's highlighted & pencil noted pages will get upset)

For me also The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan - that book changed me. And the next time I see him (which I do in a pub in Tassie) I'm going to go all fan girl on him - maybe!

We Need To Talk About Kevin must get a mention too.

And as Jayne says above - The Road for the same reasons she mentions in her comment above.

Marianne said...

Best book and most interesting regarding the history of the last decades "The Children's War " by J.N. Stroyar.
How would the world looked like if WW2 had had a different ending.

traceyb65 said...

finally thought of one outstanding title: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. for when it was written is so starkly modern, totally timeless. even without knowing a thing about Capote, or the events that inspired it, it is an EXTRAORDINARY book. xt

Seana Smith said...

Hello, great post and comments. A couple of books that kept me awake all night and then stayed with me were, as a child, The Hobbit, and I still get a lot out of it. Then in my late 20's Trainspotting, because it portrayed life as it really is lived and English as she is spoke.... Still sends a shiver down my spine, shiver of horror.

And a face non-fiction book is Wilfred Thesiger's biography The Life of My Choice. The last great explorer... he lived an amazing life.

Seana Smith said...

Errrr....that was fab non-fiction....

rob_399 said...

One book? The best read I've ever had. Just one book? Only one? One book you must read before you die?

That's hard. I'm going to need to think.

Top 3;
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
The Lord of The Rings Trilogy by Tolkien

Martini Mom said...

Funny, I just wrote a post about the 10 books that changed my life. If I had to pick one from that list, I think it'd be Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins. The rest of the list is here, if you're interested:

emlythestrange said...

FINALLY at the bottom of all the comments! I don't have time to read books, too busy reading ur blog! :P hehe.. nah, favourite book of all time is April Fool's day by Bryce Courtenay. Read it once a year... :D

BertMaverick said...

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. Ecstasy in ink. Never have I been so enveloped in any book as the hazy, blissful, floating words that fill this novel. Reading this book is like having a fragrant, nostalgic memory so evocative that its hard to tell whether you were reading or just waking from a dream.

Smudgeblurr said...

Hey Bern,
Great Post! How about All I evern need to know I learned in Kindergarten - by Robert Fulghum - great storyteller - and there is also Women who run with the wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes... deep but true!

Kate said...

Such awesome suggestions here.

The Alchemist is my all time favourite book, I reread it at least twice a year.

Looking forward to finally starting The Slap very soon too.

Red Nomad OZ said...

So many great books - but my desert island duo has always been CS Lewis' The Narnia Chronicles (OK, that's 7 books, but the boxed set makes one!) and Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5.

But agree with the commenter above - there's no sense in saying you 'should' read a particular book. That's like saying everyone should like a particular food just because you do. The great thing about reading is that different books fit different moods and stages of life. So when you find a 'best fit', it's gold!

Have a great weekend!

Faybian said...

Do not have a favorite. I'm too much of a book whore. I do love Little Women and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I've written about some of my selection of favs on my blog

Yvette Vignando said...

Bern, I love this post. I came here intending to copy and paste all the recommendations into a Word doc to save up and look through when I'm next in the library - but there are so many! Do you have an executive summary of all these comments for me? No, I thought not,

I really can't remember book titles very well but I have loved and adores so many. These are ones I remember.

Any book by Edith Wharton
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (can't wait to read Freedom)
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
The Book Thief by Zusak
Jasper Jones by Silvey
Burning In by Mireille Juchau

I know there are a million more - I might come back here when I can remember the rest. OMG I love books - just not enough time in life to read them all. Oh, I liked The Time Traveller's Wife also, much more than I expected.

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