A few months ago I was asked to compile a list of my Top Twenty books of all time by my Book club "TBC on Facebook". A group 6000 strong of readers and Authors who read, books are sacred and the craft is our religion.
As a regular Reviewer /Blogger of a wide range of genres , it was deemed my choices might be of interest to a wider audience and so after a lot of internal mental arguments, re-reads and oscillating over which book from certain favourite authors should make the grade, I finally plumped for twenty.
What follows in the next four days are fleshed out posts about my choices for that event.
(These entries include reviews, the brief for the event was just a synopsis and the reason it made the cut.)
I could choose any book in any genre EXCEPT Crime, Psychological Thriller etc as others regular bloggers in these genres were tasked with that. Many great books fall into those genres and may have made my Twenty, but for the purposes of the event I am unable to draw into my list.
Over the next four days my list will appear here, one book per post and a widely eclectic bunch they are too!
The question was How does one choose only twenty out of all the books I have read in my 36- ish years of pretty constant reading?
Hard , so very hard! Nigh on impossible in fact.
Eventually I narrowed it down to the books that were most resonant at various times in my life, so this is not about the greatest works of fiction, the most worthy or "Wordy" books, but about the books that mean the most to me, the ones that have entertained or been catalyst for study or just instigated personal rumination.
In a sense they represent me better than any social media profile could ever attempt to do and reveal I think, a fair bit about me as I look back over the list. The list may differ greatly in ten years, but for now I am content with these.
You may think this is even a little self indulgent of me and I think perhaps it is, but maybe just maybe it might cause you to revisit your own "reading life "or just coerce you to read something new or unexpected.
The act of reading has always been a gift to me, a gift that not everyone has; even in the advanced country I live in.
The statistics are worrying.
Statistics from 2014 show that one in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11.
Research conducted in 2012 found that 17% of 15 year-olds in England do not have a minimum level of proficiency in literacy.
Analysis conducted in 2013 found that in England 16 to 24 year-olds have lower levels of literacy than young people in 21 out of 24 countries in the OECD.
Literacy levels are higher in Japan, Estonia, Czech Republic and the USA.
England is the only country where 16-24 year olds have lower literacy and numeracy skills than 55-65 year-olds, out of 24 OECD countries.
16% of adults (around 5.8 million people) in England and Northern Ireland score at the lowest level of proficiency in literacy (at or below Level 1).
Reading for pleasure
England's children have less positive attitudes towards reading than in many other countries: only 26% of 10 year-olds 'like reading' compared to 46%in Portugal, 42% in Georgia, 35% in Romania, and
33% in Azerbaijan
Most children in England do not read on a daily basis: in 2011 just over a third (37%) of 10 year-olds surveyed reported reading for pleasure every day.
In England, 36% of adults don't read for pleasure, rising to 44% of young people (aged 16 to 24).
In 2013/14, 18% of adults in England had only bought a novel or a book of stories, poetry or plays once or twice in the last 12 months.
In 2014/15, 30% of 5-15 year-olds in England had not visited a library in the last year. However, there are a significant number of regular library users in this age group: 20% had visited a library in the last week.
The frequency of reading for pleasure at age 42 is linked to vocabulary skills: those who read every day at 42 have an advantage of 4 percentage points in their vocabulary over those who do not read as frequently.
Health and wellbeing impacts of reading
. Adults with lower levels of literacy are more likely to experience poor health and to believe that they have little impact on political processes, and are less likely to participate in volunteer activities.
Literacy has been found to have a relationship with depression: 36% of those with low literacy were found to have depressive symptoms, compared to 20% of those with the highest levels of literacy.
Reading for pleasure has been linked to a reduction in the symptoms of depression and to a reduction in the risk of developing dementia in later life.
People who read books regularly are on average more satisfied with life, happier, and more likely to feel that the things they do in life are worthwhile.
76% of adults say that reading improves their life and the same number says it helps to make them feel good.
Research has indicated that reading fiction is associated with higher levels of empathy and improved relationships with others.
With these facts in mind, I present you with my very subjective choices.
You may disagree with a few, but remember that every reader is different, just as every book is different in a reader's mind... Jane Eyre or Hannibal Lecter of my imaginings will look nothing like the one in yours, every book is a GOOD book if you can be enriched by it, be that by the simple fact that it transported you away from your sofa, your life or your current state of mind for a while , or that it radically changes your world view. They all have merit.
They come in no particular order. They are not grouped by genre, they just ARE.
What might your top twenty reveal about you? I would love to hear from you as to what you might have chosen or to praise or berate my choices...
See you tomorrow for my first five!