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10 books that made an impact on me when I read them

The item below is taken from a 10 day thread I published in Facebook following a nomination by a chum of mine. It is a surprisingly difficult thing to do, choose merely 10 books. How to play it? Look at me, I’m such a boffin! Look at me, I can’t read! Look at me, I’m so cool!

Well, I chose to plump for a mix of titles from nearly half a century of reading books. Here there are for posterity. I hope you enjoy my list and find some happy memories amongst these books. 

Thanks to Steve (May) I’ve spent a vexing couple of days
trying to remember what books had an impact on me the first time I read them.
I’ve decided not to be hip but display my low brow heritage in all of its
glory. Watch out if you are following me as I plan to pass this misery on and
nominate…

Here we go – Book 1 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

The first comic I read (after Crisis that I read about the
same time) that dealt with issues beyond slapstick and revenge violence. Great
fun and an eye opener.

Book 2 of 10 of ‘Books that made an impact on me when I read them’

I read this in my early teens when there was mass
unemployment and the beginning of the wealth gap was beginning to show its
face. Harry Enfield was shouting Loadsa Money and almost everyone I knew lived
in either rubbish rented rooms or squatted. The descriptions of poverty and
some of the very difficult choices that hopelessness provides are probably truer
today than they were in the 80’s.

Book 3 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

Beautifully written entertainment exploring what one needs
to do to get by if one doesn’t have talent. Touches of Walter Mitty but very
much from a middle age perspective. I read this a few years back during my mid
40’s and it rekindled my interest in Graham Greene. I’d read Brighton Rock as a
nipper as everyone does and like a fool thought that was it. Greene’s books
split into two main categories and being a pleb I enjoy the entertainments (as
he called them) more than the theological novels, but these are still pretty
good I think. Anyway, rambling, enjoy Our Man in Havana.

Book 4 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

Well, book 4 is a real world beater – or is that world
beater-upper? Read this in the 80’s when the world was overcast and the living
was squalid and desperate. Of course I was aware of the left and right before
this time but I read this and it put meat on the bones. There is another way.
An equitable way. This manifesto in its entirety is not it, in my opinion,
although it does have some elements that are. This book had a huge impact
shaping some of my pre digital views and for those of you who know me from my
digital 90’s and 00’s my early devouring of it will make perfect sense. Enjoy
Marx and Engles before they enjoy you!

Book 5 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

Book 5 (and 6) were absolutely crucial to my thinking in the
early to mid 90’s. They are exemplars from a wider range of books dealing with
emerging digital culture and how communication works cross platform. I was
reading these books when I first sat in Trent University’s Arkwright computer
room and took my first faultering steps with HTML and notepad. They also
unlocked the notion that online was little different to DIY print publishing
(at that time) and that what could be produced was democratic in its quality.
As an undergraduate urchin I could produce work of at least equal quality to
Sony, MTV, BBC et al. If fact I was up against the Beeb for an award a few
years later. Very exciting times where you could just roll up your sleeves and
have a go, dive into uncharted territory and see where you’d end up.

Just noticed the strap-line – the road map for survival on the information superhighway – all very Mad Max. One doesn’t hear much about the information superhighway anymore, which I think is surprising seeing how many casualties there are these days.

Book 6 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

Book 6 forms part of a suite of reading around the same time
as yesterday’s book 5. As a collective of reading I ran off and published
something called The Culture Surfer’s Manifesto promoting the use of the three
R’s. Reuse, Recycle, Regurgitate. All very up itself looking back but great fun
at the time.

Over the years I have thoroughly enjoyed playing with the
Medium is the Message. Always tired yet always fun.

This is one of the books I was reading about the time that
Steve (May) and I began looking at digital illustration and transfers. It was
like the wild wild west where everything was up for grabs and no one knew any
different. Remember Richard, Steve? – With his Christmas tree farm and flights
of fancy? Happy days…

I promise that tomorrow will be a proper book.

I have previously written about McLuhan and VLE’s on this blog. See the article here

Book 7 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

When I first read this in my teens I was blown away. It was
definitely not Ian Fleming and although the gritty Bond is good the no name
Deighton is just so much better. The Ipcress File began a love affair for cold
war spy rubbish that plagues me still. Pure escapism running amok in a land of
bollocks.

On a side note, I was given a promotion a year or so back
and my working life has become much more bureaucratic making some of the Kafka
elements contained in this world more readily relatable. I sometimes daydream
of a subcommittee holding the reigns for the oversight committees in a most
childlike manner.

Book 8 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

I read the first Discworld book in the late 80’s and to be
frank was a little underwhelmed. My father used to give a new book once a year
for my birthday; however he used to read them first. One year the book I was
given (can’t remember which one) looked like some kind of accordion, inside the
front cover was an inscription reading “Sorry about the mess, I spilt my
tea on it.”

Anyway, I digress. The Night Watch is when it all got dark
in Discworld and it is so much a better place for it. It’s got psyco killers,
time travel and some kind of medieval Clint Eastwood character. Unputdownable.
Silly. Fun. Although I had read others in the series, this is the one that
totally hooked me in and made me go back and read the lot. It is here that I
totally bought into the satire and although it’s not that subtle, I hadn’t
given it room previously.

The cover is great too; it plays on the famous Amsterdam
night watch painting. Visit the Dam to see the original, its spectacular. Over
the years I have definitely dragged a few folk to see this whilst we were
sampling the coffee shops and brown bars of that fair city.

Book 9 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

A pizza delivery hacker goes on an adventure. At the time I
was opening software that came free on floppy disc on the front cover of
magazines – the one I remember was the Guinness advert screensaver that one
could edit the dancing man making something quite subversive. I’m not sure that
one was supposed to be able to do this but what the heck. Screensavers were all
the rage back then.

This book reassured me that it was cool to lose weeks sat in a darkened room tapping away at a keyboard learning how to do stuff that one wasn’t supposed to. Happy days. Couldn’t do it now. The wild wild web has become a corporate cradle.

PS as a bonus here is the original video for the dancing
man.

Book 10 of 10 of ‘books that made an impact on me when I read them’

When I was a small boy in the 1970’s the winters were hard
and the entertainment scarce. Tell that to kids today and they won’t believe
you, and why should they care.

Anyway, this was the first book that I stayed up with at
nights beyond tired to see what happened next. It was the beginning of a lifelong
love affair with escapism that I still am faithful to.

Charming stories, witty and not condescending with to a
younger audience with sublime illustrations by Peggy Fortnum. Course I didn’t
care at the time.

Recently I read one of these books to a child at bedtime. I
think I enjoyed the experience more than they did. It struck me that some books
need to be discovered and not presented. I am slightly concerned that the
darlings will miss out because Paddington is not of the moment, however, no
matter how I feel about it all they will find their own escapisms.