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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.