Browsing Twitter in my sleep deprived state, I came across an article which made me think. Great Expectations: Books We Can’t Wait to Pass Down to Our Kids, compiles a list of books which women voted as being those they couldn’t wait for their children to read, someday. Now, one of the reasons (for me) I keep most of the books I have read is due to the slightly naive fantasy that, one day, I might have a house full of children who will have a wealth of literature at their fingertips. I also often hide such things as ticket stubs for certain journeys or important events within their pages, so that at some point my imaginary children may find them and ask questions about my long forgotten youth. Idealistic and soppy I know, but when books are pulled from the shelves by others, I want to remember where I was when I fell in love with the pages in their hands. I want to be able to share my thoughts and think on times which otherwise I may abandon to the universal black hole of memory. For each book inspires me, in some way or another, and I would love to pass on just what I learned from each experience.
The list generated on iVillage is an obvious one. I agree with most, if not all, but feel they are now a little cliche. They were the books recommended to me. Of course, To Kill a Mockingbird, is on the list, along with works by Dostoevsky, Truman Capote, Salinger, Alcott, Aldous Huxley etc. These are indeed great works. But I feel they are a given. Of course parents and literature teachers will undoubtedly force them their way as they blunder through adolescence, but what of contemporary fiction? What of the books we are choosing now? Which of our proud collection will we, as parents, recommend before all others? I am still pondering the thought. Obviously, such books as the Harry Potter series will fall into their hands without thinking, for Steve, his child will relish Pratchett and card sharp tales of the poker world. But what of me? Which books have inspired me so much I would think of them in an instant?
The first that comes to mind is The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. An utterly remarkable tale which moved me from one emotional precipice to another – but more than that. This book is an eternal lesson in great, no, astonishing writing. She is such a marvel. But fast on its heels would be her others; The Handmaids Tale, Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood. So rich and wonderful, these would be worlds that my children knew nothing of, nothing of the worry and fear and destruction. I would hope. But I would perhaps not hand these over immediately. I would let them wander through similarly dystopic teen books such as those I have read recently; The Hunger Games or Chaos Walking, before I lead them into the broken adult world.
Here I get a little lost in the wealth. The Life of Pi would certainly be in there, as I suspect would be A Curious Incident, and I would love to see their eyes open wide on their first reading of Stig Larson’s incredible trilogy. The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Silver Blade, The Witchfinder trilogy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, all books I would eagerly watch as they devoured. But I am hard pressed to finalise a real list, for reading is so objective. Our tastes so wildly different, and while some people believe The Other Boleyn Girl a literary masterpiece, others (mentioning no names) would write it off as a bin filler. The same could be said of Dan Brown. In general. And is also depends highly on what type of mood you are in; do you feel like grafting through a Louis de Bernieres? Relishing in Mario Puzo? Lounging back with a Du Maurier? Dipping through history with Austen or Collins? But this I would hope to combat. I would like to think that by the time my fledglings were grown, I could fill my head and heart with such countless inspirations that I could recommend a book in a moment, no matter what their taste. Which may mean I also have to dip in Steve’s collections of Rankin and Billingham, Woodehouse and Forsyth. Ah. But I suppose it is for the greater good!
So, let me ask you. Those with children and without. Which books from your lives can you not wait to see others read? Which novels would you immortalise? And what should I read to ensure my non-existent babes have the breadth they deserve?! Not that I worry about such things!