Maybe I’m crazy, maybe I have too much time on my hands, but here is a list of my top 101 books (in no particular order).
- Vacuum Diagrams – Stephen Baxter. I love this book. It spans hundreds of thousands of years and it surprised and intrigued me right the way through. It’s often described as a collection of short stories, but it definitely seemed like one epic novel to me.
- Maskerade – Terry Pratchett. Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, the Discworld’s greatest witches, are back for an innocent night at the opera. Naturally there’s going to be trouble, but at the same time there’ll be a good evening’s entertainment with murders that you can really hum to. There will be another one or two Pratchetts in this list I’m sure! Maskerade is Terry Pratchett’s take on Phantom of the Opera and it’s lots of fun. Granny and Nanny are at their best in this, the eighteenth Discworld novel. I have this beautiful copy: The paperback is 384 pages. “Pratchett is as funny as Wodehouse and as witty as Waugh (Independent)
“Pratchett has an outstanding capacity to research a topic, then present his findings with peerless clarity and wit. This book presents so many aspects of theatre production, operatic lore and, amazingly, book publication they’re nearly overwhelming.” – taken from a five star Amazon review by Stephen A. Haines.
3. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish – Dr. Seuss. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish is a 1960 children’s book by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel). A simple rhyming book for learner readers, it is a book with a freewheeling plot about a boy and a girl, and the many amazing creatures they have for friends and pets. I adore reading Dr. Seuss aloud. 64 fun-packed inspirational pages! “Fun to read, fun to hear! Love Dr Suess!” – five star Amazon review by Ms L Richardson. Theodor Seuss Geisel was born 2 March 1904 in Springfield, MA.
4. The Witches – Roald Dahl. 208 pages of terrifying, heart-breaking, wondrousness!
5. The Miracle of Mindfulness – Thich Nhat Hanh. Change your life in 160 pages! Thich Nhat Hanh, through a few books, has genuinely changed my life over the past couple of years. He speaks very simply and lovingly about all aspects of life and the universe.
6. Rene Magritte, 1898-1967: Thought Rendered Visible – Marcel Paquet. The illustrations in this work constitute a comprehensive catalogue of the visible thought of the artist. Taking the form of the body in painting or of the relations between image and word, this book presents the poetic enigmas of the Belgian surrealist. 96 stunning pages about one of the greatest artists who ever lived. This book showcases some of Magritte’s best pieces.
7. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind – Shunryu Suzuki. A respected Zen master in Japan & founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki has blazed a path in American Buddhism like few others. He is the master who climbs down from the pages of the koan books & answers your questions face to face. A little more “in-your-face” than the lovely Thich Nhat Hanh, this book is extremely practical and I tend to go right back to the beginning again once I finish it! A small book of 132 pages, it’s a must for anyone who wants to calm their way of thinking and of living.
8. The 20th Century Art Book – Phaidon Press. Covering the international nature of the modern art scene, this title encompasses established, iconic works of art and the classics of the future. It presents 500 artists in an alphabetical order, each represented by a full-page colour plate of a definitive work and an incisive text which sheds light on both image and creator. Amazon link!
9. The Raven – Edgar Allan Poe. This classic poem is free on Kindles!
Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume
of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping,
suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping,
rapping at my chamber door.
“‘Tis some visiter,” I muttered,
“tapping at my chamber door —
Only this, and nothing more.”
10. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories – Tim Burton. Amazon link.
11. The Electric Michelangelo – Sarah Hall. Amazon link.
12. The Art Book – Phaidon Press. Like the 20th century art book mentioned above… but not limited to the 20th century!
13. Film Posters of the 80s – Tony Nourmand. “This is by far the greatest collection of the essential movies of the decade series. The 80’s created blockbusters like The Terminator, Friday the 13th, Poltergeist, Fletch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Raiders of the Lost Ark, ET, Rainman, The Breakfast Club, Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Beverly Hills Cop, Robo Cop and Rambo to name but a few. They’re all inside just begging to go up on your wall and be admired along with heaps of others.
You could either keep this intact as a collection of posters in a book to show and discuss with friends, or cut the book up and actually have a vast number of posters up on your wall.” – from a five star Amazon review by Mr James N Simpson.
14. The Lost Thing – Shaun Tan. “Having just purchased this book I have to say that it excels in so many different areas and i was delighted upon opening my amazon parcel.
This book is a wonderful synergy of excellent production, style, poetry and artistry” – from a five star Amazon review by P. Rust.
15. The Sadeian Woman: And the Ideology of Pornography – Angela Carter. Having been fascinated by the Marquis de Sade for many years, I was intrigued by this book – it’s a really thought-provoking read, no matter where you stand on Sade, pornography or feminism.
16. Leonora Carrington – Leonora Carrington.
17. Small Island – Andrea Levy.
18. After Modern Art, 1945-2000 – David Hopkins. Amazon link. Modern and contemporary art can be both baffling and beautiful; it can also be innovative, political, and disturbing. This book sets out to provide the first concise interpretation of the period as a whole, clarifying the artists and their works along the way.
19. Sun Boiled Onions – Vic Reeves. New Year’s Day, 1999. Vic Reeves wakes up to discover a flock of seven white doves of peace flying around his bedroom, “casting a Disneylike sense of well-being about.” However, all is not well; Vic re- awakens several hours later to discover that the doves have stolen his prized bust of Caligula: “a foreboding sense of gloom now hangs over the home”.
James ‘Jim’ Roderick Moir, more commonly known as Vic Reeves, was born in Leeds. He is most famous for his work alongside Bob Mortimer, with TV shows including Vic Reeves Big Night Out, The Smell of Reeves & Mortimer, and the comedy quiz show Shooting Stars. Jim Moir is also a successful artist. His artwork has featured in his television shows and he exhibits regularly around the world. He lives in Kent. If you didn’t know that Vic Reeves creates visual art, do yourself a favour and have a google now! His work is fun, cheerful, beautiful and just lovely. It never fails to make me smile. I always enjoy showing his work to students without telling them who it is – I give them little hints until someone makes an uncertain guess that it’s Vic Reeves.
20. The Snow Goose – Paul Gallico. This is easily one of the saddest stories I’ve ever read. It’s beautiful and sweet and I’m so glad I accidentally bought it (I wanted to buy The Cormorant and got my birds muddled). It’s a quick read but it will linger with you for a long time.
Set in the wild, desolate Essex marshes and is a tale about the relationship between a hunchback and a young girl.
“I recited a chapter of this in 8th grade drama class- the part I read was a monologue belonging to a private in the British infantry, written phonetically in a thick cockney accent. I bombed the reading, but I adore this book. It is a beautiful story and there is no shame in crying a bit toward the end.” – from a five star Goodreads review by Meredith. Amazon link. “A most impressive, newly illustrated edition of this clear and simple, yet powerful, tale of an outsider” (Carousel)
“Haunting and lyrical tale of love and loss and courage . . . A classic tale for every generation” (Pregnancy and Parenting)
21. 2,100 Victorian Monograms – Karl Klimsch. “Many of the drawings are fully detailed, most are much smaller basic designs around the main stunners in the middle of the pages.” – from a five star Amazon review by Sparkle.
Comprehensive compilation of elegant, imaginative two-letter monograms — ideal for enhancing scrolls, certificates, awards, and other graphic projects in need of calligraphic excitement. Easily reproduced, royalty-free letters are also perfect for use in art, needlework, craft and other decorative projects. 80 pages of really useful designs. I’ve had this book for years and it’s great for nipping in to for reference or inspiration. There are some really beautiful, intricate designs. Highly recommended for anyone who’s interested in arts, crafts, scrapbooks etc. The book is A4 (maybe slightly bigger), so some of the pages would probably look lovely in a frame too.
22. Silence – John Cage. “It is one of the great delights of my life to have actually met this remarkable man and it would not be overstating the case to call him a sage. As Robert Rauschenberg was breaking the ground in painting so John Cage was producing his wake up calls in music that bore no resemblance to the conventions of the past.” – from a five star Amazon review by Inch Worm.
Silence, A Year from Monday, M, Empty Words and X (in this order) form the five parts of a series of books in which Cage tries, as he says, to find a way of writing which comes from ideas, is not about them, but which produces them. 312 pages of pure genius.
23. My Forbidden Face – Latifa. “Latifa deals with what it is like to live under the Taliban as a human and especially as a female- her formally liberal Islamic traditions are brought to halt by the new regime and the book deals with her anger, disbelief and depression which this caused- her voice is all of Afghani women.” – from a five star Amazon review by Alex Magpie.
Born into a middle-class Afghan family in Kabul in 1980, Latifa had a conventional childhood. Then, Taliban soldiers seized power in Kabul. And from that moment, Latifa, just sixteen, became a prisoner in her own home. The simplest and most basic freedoms were forbidden. She was forced to put on a chadri, the state-mandated uniform that covered her entire body. Disbelief at having to hide herself was soon replaced by fear, the fear of being whipped or stoned like women she’d seen. My Forbidden Face provides a moving and highly personal account of life under the Taliban regime. With painful honesty and clarity, Latifa describes her ordered world falling apart, in the name of a fanaticism that she could not comprehend, and replaced by a world where terror and oppression reign. 224 very difficult to read pages. “Latifa brings us through the years of suffering endured by her family and other Afghans.” – from a four star Goodreads review by Aliyah Abdullah.
24. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Philip K. Dick. 256 pages which will never leave your memory.
25. Art Forms from the Ocean: The Radiolarian Prints of Ernst Haeckel – Olaf Breidbach. 96 pages which you’ll want framed on your walls, printed on to your clothes and tattooed on to your body! I never tire of looking through this book. It’s wonderful to think of people having access to these images long before the internet and TV. If you’re an art teacher, it also makes a very handy resource. ‘Haeckel’s meticulously observed drawings give an insight into the humblest manifestation of organic life.’ — Architectual Review, July 2005
‘What a wonderful book! Filled with exquisite illustrations of radiolarians (microscopic inhabitants of the oceans).’ — Focus (Science and Technology), October 1, 2005
26. Amphigorey Too – Edward Gorey.
27. Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White. Amazon link. This beloved book by E. B. White, author of Stuart Little and The Trumpet of the Swan, is a classic of children’s literature that is “just about perfect.”
Some Pig. Humble. Radiant. These are the words in Charlotte’s Web, high up in Zuckerman’s barn. Charlotte’s spiderweb tells of her feelings for a little pig named Wilbur, who simply wants a friend.
28. Living Buddha, Living Christ – Thich Nhat Hanh.
29. Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman. Fat Charlie Nancy’s normal life ended the moment his father dropped dead on a Florida karaoke stage. Charlie didn’t know his dad was a god. And he never knew he had a brother.
Now brother Spider’s on his doorstep — about to make Fat Charlie’s life more interesting… and a lot more dangerous. “He always does this. It’s always good, but I would never be able to explain it.” – from a four star Goodreads review by SuperHeroQwimm.
30. The Last Defender of Camelot – Roger Zelazny. One of the greatest storytellers of our time, Roger Zelazny was a writer who created entire civilizations from whole cloth as masterfully as he explored humankind’s place in the cosmos. From the depths of space to the depths of the human heart, from our darkest nightmares to our most fanciful dreams, Zelazny wove colorful tapestries that presented the wonders of the universe to us all.
The Last Defender of Camelot is a new collection of breathtaking stories that showcase these abilities, edited and with an introduction by award-winning author Robert Silverberg.
31. I’m Not Scared – Niccolo Ammaniti.
32. The Armageddon Rag – George R.R. Martin.
33. Arcimboldo – Werner Kriegeskorte. A fun and fascinating artist, perfect for inspiring students who are bored of still-life!
34. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath.
35. The Yellow Wallpaper – Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This little story genuinely scared me – it’s excellent.
36. Old-Fashioned Halloween Cards – Gabriella Oldham. Ok, so this isn’t a book as such, but it contains 24 gorgeous postcards featuring vintage Halloween sentiments! I sent most of them to friends and relatives when I first got it, but I still have some left. Images from early 20th century: kids and cats, witches and bats, apple dunking, fortune-telling, ghosts, pranks, and more.
37. Sun Dog – Monique Roffey. This is a beautiful and original story and I’m always telling other people to read it. August Chalmin feels the weather like no one else.
A large awkward recluse, with bright orange hair and sun-shy eyes, August hides himself away behind the counter of a Shepherd’s Bush deli. One winter’s day two things change his life forever: his mother’s ex-lover Cosmo shambles back into his life, and he discovers a rash on his arm which looks like frost. A rash which is frost.
As Cosmo raises questions about August’s identity, August finds himself changing with the seasons, in a journey that takes him deep into his past and to the very centre of his soul…
38. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult. Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, transfusions, and shots so that her older sister, Kate, can somehow fight the leukemia that has plagued her since childhood. The product of preimplantation genetic diagnosis, Anna was conceived as a bone marrow match for Kate — a life and a role that she has never challenged… until now. Like most teenagers, Anna is beginning to question who she truly is. But unlike most teenagers, she has always been defined in terms of her sister—and so Anna makes a decision that for most would be unthinkable, a decision that will tear her family apart and have perhaps fatal consequences for the sister she loves.
A provocative novel that raises some important ethical issues,My Sister’s Keeper is the story of one family’s struggle for survival at all human costs and a stunning parable for all time.
39. Reaper Man – Terry Pratchett.
40. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell. “It is a sextet, like the one found within the novel, with piano, clarinet, cello, flute, oboe, and violin – every individual instrument pleasing, but when played altogether becomes something different and brilliant – the Cloud Atlas Sextet.
Each novella is broken, torn in two, or interrupted, and later continued after the sixth, which is the only one completed in one section.” – from a five star Goodreads review by B0nnie.
41. Pricksongs & Descants – Robert Coover. Amazon link because you really need to buy it right now, trust me.
42. Practical Ethics – Peter Singer. Amazon link.
43. The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan. I really, really enjoyed this book, mostly for all the little stories which take place within it. It could work equally well as just a collection of short stories. I bought the DVD of the film as soon as I finished the book but haven’t got round to watching it yet. The cover makes it look quite mainstream, not like the book at all! I would love to hear from someone who has read the book and seen the film.
44. Have Space Suit, Will Travel – Robert A. Heinlein. Kip from midwest Centerville USA works the summer before college as a pharmacy soda jerk, and wins an authentic stripped-down spacesuit in a soap contest. He answers a distress radio call from Peewee, scrawny rag doll-clutching genius aged 11. With the comforting cop Mother Thing, three-eyed tripod Wormfaces kidnap them to the Moon and Pluto.
45. Animal Farm – George Orwell. Amazon link.
46. Venus in Furs – Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
47. M is for Magic – Neil Gaiman. “Neil Gaiman tells us ten stories, some based in fairytale or legend, others on science fiction, and others on childhood fears.” – from a four star Goodreads review by Ashley.
48. The Discworld Graphic Novels: The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic: 25th Anniversary Edition – Terry Pratchett. Amazon link.
49. Fluxus Vision – Allan Revich.
50. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl.
I hope you’ve enjoyed books 1-50! 51-101 will be following very shortly…
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