18 October, 2015

The Best Book I've Ever Read

Photo from Wikipedia.
The other day I saw a quotation from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. Straight away I thought to myself, That was the best book I ever read. This startled me. Had you asked me what the best book I've ever read was, I would've told you that it was impossible to choose. And yet my subconcious appears to have made a decision to nominate the 1989 Booker Prize Winner on its own.

If we had discussed this topic without my subconcious getting involved, I probably would've mentioned lots of books which I admire greatly. There would've been the well-deserved classics (A Tale of Two Cities, Emma, 1984, The Grapes of Wrath), the modern sensations (We Need to Talk About Kevin, Room, One Day, Gone Girl) and the books that have caught my imagination at various ages (The Secret Garden, The Stand, The Eyre Affair). I might even mention books by authors like Agatha Christie, who is most emphatically NOT the best author I've ever read, but who I adore anyway. None of them, however, would be THE best book I've ever read. I'm not even sure what that means. What do you think?

Do you have one book you consider the best book you've ever read? What would make you give a book that accolade? Here are some suggestions of criteria, please add your own!

  • a book that changed your outlook on life
  • a book that made you actively do something
  • a book that made you cry
  • a book you remember vividly years after reading it
  • a book you re-read time and again
  • a book that you share with all your friends

The Remains of the Day doesn't fit any of these criteria for me - except perhaps remembering it well, although it's only a couple of years since I read it. I was just blown away by the simplicity, the tragic beauty of the story. Have you read it?

This whole train of thought reminded me of a series I did on the blog once, where guest authors wrote about a book that meant something special to them. Among the authors mentioned were Enid Blyton, CS Lewis and Geore RR Martin. I'd love to do some more blog posts in this series, so please let me know if you'd be willing to contribute. The title would be 'The Book...' and you can finish it any way you like ('... I couldn't put down' / '... I'll pass on to my children' / '... that got me through tough times' etc.) You can check out this one by Roanna Price as an example.

In the meantime, I'd love to know what you think the best book you've ever read is!

07 October, 2015

BBC National Short Story Award - The Result

Yesterday, the results were announced for the 10th BBC National Short Story Award. The five shortlisted stories were broadcast on the radio a couple of weeks ago and I wrote micro-reviews of them all. My conclusion was that there was a good reason they were all on the shortlist of such a prestigious award! I didn't like them all equally, but I did think they were all beautifully-written.

The runner-up, and the winner of the Student Choice Award, voted for by 16-18 year-olds across the UK, was Bunny by Mark Haddon.

The overall winner with a beautifully emotional and simply-told tale of a clairvoyant asked to help a family whose daughter is missing, was Jonathan Buckley's Briar Road.

My favourite stories were probably the ones that made me laugh as well as think - Broderie Anglaise by Frances Leviston and Do It Now, Jump the Table by Jeremy Page, and I was perhaps most impressed with the writing of The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel. So that shows how much I know!

Which was your favourite story?