10 books for life

book26ers love reading. We also love lists. A round robin challenge to think, but not too hard, about our top 10 books yielded plenty of literary fruit. From The Twits to King Lear, from Atwood to Vonnegut, from Dr Seuss to Chekhov – 26ers have dashed off a bonanza for bibliophiles. Interesting fact: Just three books get a repeat mention, namely One Hundred Years of Solitude, Slaughterhouse Five and Charlotte’s Web.



100-years-of-solitudeTen books that have stayed with me:

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  2. The Big Golden Book of Poetry
  3. Horton Hears a Who!, Dr Seuss
  4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, CS Lewis
  5. Charlotte’s Web, EB White
  6. The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway
  7. Beloved, Toni Morrison
  8. Andrew Henry’s Meadow, Doris Burn
  9. Atonement, Ian McEwan
  10. All the Pretty Horses, Cormac McCarthy

Heather Aitchison

salughterhouseBooks for life:

  1. Slaughterhouse 5, Kurt Vonnegut
  2. How Tom Beat Captain Najork and his Hired Sportsmen, Russell Hoban
  3. The Cross-with-us Rhinoceros, John Bush
  4. Silly Verse for Kids, Spike Milligan
  5. I, Robot, Issac Asimov
  6. Catch 22, Joseph Heller
  7. Walden, Henry David Thoreau
  8. Moby Dick, Herman Melville
  9. Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  10. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

If I’m allowed one from the last 10 years that would have been a book for life if I’d read it before I was 21:

Rights of Man, Rights of Man

Martin Lee

charlottes-webBooks that jump to mind:

  1. Charlotte’s Web, EB White
  2. The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  3. My Antonia, Willa Cather
  4. The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler, EL Konigsburg
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  6. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  7. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
  8. Gifts from the Sea, Ann Morrow Lindbergh
  9. Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls
  10. Unbroken, Lauren Hillenbrand

Elena Bowes


twitsMy ten books:

  1. The Twits. My earliest introduction to the honest, irreverent, magical humour of Roald Dahl.
  2. Wild Swans, by Jung Chang. As a teenager this brought home to me how lucky I was, and how similar humans across the world really are.
  3. Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson. What a wonderfully imaginative, cyclical way to tell a tale of the trials and revelations of puberty and the familial ties that bind us.
  4. Once Were Warriors, by Alan Duff. Remarkably simple and deft portrayal of the cultural clashes that can bring a people down – and what can help them to rise again.
  5. A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth. The incredible breadth and depth of humanity contained in one book. I return to this again and again and always discover something new.
  6. The God of Small Things, by Arundhati Roy. Passion that pulls you in, and under. Beauty lies in the detail, tragedy in the whole.
  7. We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. Haunting. Thank God parenthood hasn’t felt this way.
  8. In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote. Such an evocative turn of phrase turns brutal murder into a wistful homage to life.
  9. Growing Up Under the Mango Tree, by Lily Forbes. My mother’s memories of an impoverished childhood in Malaysia that was rich in love, tradition and multiculturalism.
  10. And finally, Shantaram, by Gregory Roberts. I haven’t even finished this yet, but his words, describing the crazy fullness of life lived on the edge and lessons learned at the brink of despair, resonate with truth – and hope.

Rowena Roberts


bonjour-tristesse10 books that have stayed with me (and I’ve tried not to think too hard about this):

  1. The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley
  2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
  3. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  4. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  5. The Go-Between by LP Hartley
  6. Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
  7. Madame Bovary by Flaubert
  8. Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan
  9. The L-Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks
  10. The Waves by Virginia Woolf

Elen Lewis


wind-in-willowsQuickly between meetings, but I guess that’s the way to make sure these are books that stayed with me (from early/teenage/youth reading).

  1. Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame
  2. The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
  3. The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
  4. The Iliad, Homer
  5. King Lear, William Shakespeare
  6. Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
  7. The Vivisector, Patrick White
  8. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, Muriel Spark
  9. Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
  10. The Knot of Vipers, Francois Mauriac

The last one because of French A-level.

John Simmons

notesTop of my head:

  1. Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson
  2. The Art of Creative Non-fiction, Lee Gutkind
  3. Old Mortality, Walter Scott
  4. Dracula, Bram Stoker
  5. Attention All Shipping, Charlie Connelly
  6. Logo, Michael Evamy
  7. The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
  8. Disgrace, JM Coetzee
  9. At Home, Bill Bryson

Rob Self-Pierson



tripodsSo, without too much thought…

  1. The Tripods Trilogy, John Christopher.
  2. My Family & Other Animals, Gerald Durrell.
  3. Travels With My Aunt, Graham Greene.
  4. As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, Laurie Lee.
  5. On the Road, Jack Kerouac.
  6. The Walled Orchard, Tom Holt.
  7. Slaughterhouse Five, Kurt Vonnegut.
  8. Farewell My Lovely, Raymond Chandler.
  9. Post Office, Charles Bukowski.
  10. Generation X, Douglas Coupland.

This would also include Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale but I’ve only just read it. Brilliant.

Andy Hayes

villainHere are my ten books for life:

  1. My Darling Villain by Lynne Reid Banks
  2. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier
  4. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  5. Collected Stories of Anton Chekhov
  6. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
  7. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
  8. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
  9. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
  10. Final Harvest by Emily Dickinson

My criteria were: i) been read multiple times and ii) comforting in deep and mysterious ways. My desert island books, in other words.

Jill Hopper


doraMy top 10 books – lifelong choices:

  1. Water Music by T C Boyle
  2. The Star of the Sea by Joseph O’Connor
  3. The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling
  4. The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard
  5. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton
  6. The Devil’s Cub by Georgette Heyer
  7. Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
  8. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susannah Clark
  9. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  10. Poor Things by Alasdair Gray

Sara Sheridan

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