I have loved books all my life. They have made me laugh and cry. They have had me screaming in anger and frustration and one – I may name it later- got chucked out the window. A friend recently challenged me to name my favourite three books. I failed the challenge, miserably, as I could only cut the list down to ten after several days of deliberation, aided by a couple of glasses of wine. So for those that are interested, here are the final ten, in no particular order.
1 The thirty years war: C.V. Wedgewood
The most brilliant narrative story telling of the history of the thirty years war. Every detail is there, every motive examined. History as it should be written.
2 Hotel Savoy: Joseph Roth
A searing view of Europe in 1932. The Hotel Savoy is full of drifters, penniless aristocrats and intriguing revolutionaries all waiting for something to happen.
3 The Tortoises: Veza Canetti
The Nazis have marched into Austria and into the life and home, literally, of writer Andreas Kain. He has to flee but how and where?
4 The Discovery of Heaven: Harry Mulisch
Religion, friendship, the meaning of life, this books contains it all. And it starts with a conversation between two angels!
5 The Transylvanian Trilogy: Miklós Bánffy
The fall of the idyllic pre-industrial world of Hungarian Transylvania into the Nazis and then the Communists. The crumbling of certainty into self destruction.
(And yes I know I’ve sneaked three books in under the guise of one – I did say I’d failed the challenge.)
6 The Diary of a young girl: Anne Frank
The young woman who inspires me to write every day.
7 Dreamers: Elaine Feinstein
Imperial decline and societal change in 1848 Vienna. Dreamers follows the lives of women and Jews as they negotiate a changing world.
8 The Wide Sargasso Sea: Jean Rhys
The lush heavy atmosphere of Jamaica explores the early life of Antoinette Cosway before she ever saw the England of Jane Eyre.
9 Summer before the Dark: Volker Weidermann
Set in Ostend in 1936 a mix of artists and intellectuals spend the summer dreaming and discussing themselves, their beliefs and the looming spectre of fascism.
10 Peacemakers: Margaret MacMillian
An unflinching look at the Paris Peace conference of 1919. If you want to understand European and Middle Eastern politics today this is the book for you.
And the one that got chucked out the window? The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. I gave up half way through the first chapter and tried to throw it onto my desk but it slid off out the open window and landed in the garden.