My Ten favourite books (Not as easy as you might think!)


Opher's World Books

Choosing ten favourite books is almost impossible. I love books and must have read thousands. A while ago I started to realise that some of my favourite books I had not read for forty years. So I went back and reread them. Sadly a number of them did not stand up to the scrutiny.

This list will change daily but it is fun to do (They are not in any particular order):

a. On the Road – Jack Kerouac

It is a book of its time but I love reading it. The flow of the words as they tumble along in that stream of consciousness. I am aware of the sexist irresponsibility of the beast but it is so full of life. It was the first book that dared to say there was an alternative to the machine of the establishment. I love its vitality and daring.

b. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s nest – Ken Kesey

The film was good but, as is often the case, the book is so much better. In the book Murphy is a side character. The action takes place in Chief Broom’s head. It is a book about freedom.

c. The Magus – John Fowles

I adored this book. It played with your head so that you did not know what to believe. It was so well written that it drew you in. The trouble is that you cannot reread it once you know what happens and I was a bit disappointed with the ending.

d. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

This was an Indian Sci-Fi book for me. It was so funny, textured and fast moving. I’ve just realised that I want to reread it again.

e. The Tin Drum – Gunter Grass

I often have two books on the go and I read this one at the same time as the Rushdie. They both had a similar feel for me. I loved the humour, Sci-Fi element and pace. I also loved the message in it.

f. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

All Murakami’s books have a surreal quality to them. They feel other-wordly. I lose myself in them. It was a toss up between this one and most of the others. IQ84 is probably just as good.

g. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

The story of the dust bowl refugees so strongly put you could feel the injustice and persecution. I used to prefer East of Eden as a story but having reread that I’m back to this one as his best.

h. Whit – Iain Banks

I loved all Iain Bank’s books and especially his culture series. The Wasp Factory was exceptional but Whit blew me away.

I. 1984 – George Orwell

I used to prefer Keep the Asphidistra Flying but I’ve come back to this one. It is still chilling. Our society is controlling. Big Brother really does live.

j. Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D. H. Lawrence

Women in Love, The Rainbow and Son’s and Lovers all do it for me but I think Lady Chatterly’s was the one that captured his philosophy.

k. The Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

He started modern writing for me. The bohemian dream in New York and Paris. This book encapsulated it.

l. Journey Beyond Tomorrow – Robert Sheckley

Sci-Fi is one of my passions. I don’t like Fantasy but something that makes you think. Sc-Fi, when it’s good, is about the possible.

m. For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway

A story of love and betrayal in the hopeless morass of the Spanish civil war. The fight against fascism undermined by intrigue. A great book.

n. 2001 A Space Odyssey – Arthur C Clarke

I could put a whole lot of Sci-Fi in here but Arthur really painted a picture here and the film, for once, captured it.

o. A Clockwork Orange – Anthony Burgess

How the imagination runs riot. A great book.

p. A Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

A horrifying story of how religious fanaticism can destroy people. I think I preferred Oryx and Crake as a story but this really told a chilling story.

q. The Book of Dave – Will Self

Will Self surpassed himself on this one. I loved the apocalyptic story.

r. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

The way he captured the time and feel of society in Britain back in the 1930s was spectacular. The aristocracy looking to appease Hitler – brilliant.

Well that must be ten by now (and I’ve just got in my stride). I’ll have a think. There’s some I know I’ve missed out of my top ten that definitely should be there!

Anthropocene Apocalypse – Scenario 2 – The Population explosion and the future!

Anthropocene Apocalypse

beauty vv

In Scenario 1 the population continued to grow eating up space, wilderness and destroying all naturally living creatures. Technology dealt with the problems of food, water, energy, weather and even oxygen in the atmosphere. We lived in huge urban developments and the world is devoid of wild-life and natural areas.

Scenario 2.

The premise:

a. We realise the impact of our actions on the environment and limit our numbers, conserve the wilderness and wild-life, stop our habitat destruction and pollution.

b. We lay aside 50% of the planet for wilderness and wild-life. We do not allow roads, hunters or development in these areas.

We are extremely good at solving problems. We can easily create a sustainable future where wilderness and wild-life has a place.

The result:

a. We introduce contraception, education and family planning on a global scale and successfully reduce our population.

b. We use technology to produce better transport, housing, energy production, and food.

c. We do not have urban sprawl, deforestation, overfishing, or other unsustainable exploitation of the environment.

d. We raise the standards of life for all people globally so that there is no longer war, conflict or poverty. There are social services, pensions and sick pay enabling people to live without requiring large numbers of children to support them through hard times.

e. We produce technology that is not polluting and is sustainable. We have ample energy (probably through nuclear fusion and solar) and our farming methods are not cruel or ineffective. We can produce ample good food to support the population without encroaching on the wilderness areas.

f. The forests are conserved. Fishing is sustainable. The weather and global warming is controlled.

g. 50% of the world is teeming with wild-life that we can marvel at. The air, water and soil are not contaminated with carcinogens. We globally control the weather and global warming. Everything regarding conservation and pollution is controlled and enforced globally.

I know which of the two possible future scenarios I would prefer to live in.

The future is for our grandchildren’s grandchildren. In my own life-time we have destroyed over half of the world. I feel we are at the precipice. Will we jump?Posted in EcologyenvironmentExtinctionTagged conservationEcologyeducationExtinctionidealismjournalismLiteratureNatureOptimismPoliticsPopulationSciencethe futureWritingZeitgeist4 CommentsEdit

Writing a Book takes a Team!!

Writing a Book takes a Team!!

What is quite apparent is that writing a book requires a team of people. Rarely does one person have a complete skill set to handle the task.

Writing a book entails:

Having the imagination to envisage the novel.

Having the ability to create a plot.

Having the writing ability to create interest in a reader.

Being able to invent characters.

Being perceptive to see flaws in the plot.

Having the knowledge of grammar, punctuation and spelling to be able to correct mistakes.

Possessing the ability to make the language flow and create pace.

Being able to describe the novel in such a way as to create interest without introducing spoilers.

To possess the artistic skills to design a cover.

To build up the social media connections and other media connections to market the book.

Creative people rarely have the objectivity or skills to redraft, edit or see the flaws in their writing. They require a methodical editor to point out necessary improvements and corrections.

A person skilled at writing may not be at all skilled at design or even able to create an enticing and succinct back cover blurb.

Building up social networks, writing press releases, doing book signings and developing contacts, takes time. Most writers would rather be writing and might well be hopeless at communicating in other ways.

A team can hone and present a book to optimise its potential.

Writing a good book and selling it requires a good team. That’s why writers form relationships with publishers and Literary Agents.

The Process of Writing.

The Process of Writing.

I am certain that this process is different with all writers. We all have our ways of working. It is also clear that it is not always the same with me. Sometimes I have carefully plotted out a novel while at other times, I work with a vague idea and allowed it to unfurl as I progress.

I used the Butch Cassidy principle: there are no rules.

But always, as a novel progresses, as a character develops, a novel takes on a life of its own. It is a coalescence of ideas. I will wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and have to get out of bed to write it down or it is likely to go.

All my novels start with an idea. That might be sparked by a news story, a book I am reading, a programme I am watching or a train of thought. One idea is never enough though. It has to be married to others.

Often the end of the novel is what emerges first. I will often write the end first.

Always there comes that time when you sit at a computer (or a typewriter) and begin. You have a blank page in front of you and a head full of ideas. With me, there is excitement and anticipation.

The ideas have to have a setting and characters. With Sci-Fi, there are infinite possibilities.

I often write a beginning that is later superseded by another beginning. Once I get that first sentence down the rest seems to flow. The characters develop, the scenes change, the ideas flow. I struggle to keep up. It becomes like a line of dominoes. One knocks over another which sets two more falling over. I write quickly, trying to keep up with the ideas, following the characters and inventing settings. I work on the principle that with the first rewrite I can expand and fill everything out. It is as if the first draft is a rough sketch that gives the outline of the book. The rewrite starts to fill in the colour.

It is usual for me to increase the word by a good fifty per cent.

The second rewrite will again add a lot more.

The third rewrite is more of an editing process – changing words, altering sentence structure, correcting grammar.

The most important part for me in writing a novel is to get that first sentence down. After that, it is like an egg-timer. The sand grains are the ideas, characters and settings; I just allow them to trickle through until my head is empty.

Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

Lawrence Durrell – Justine – some thoughts

My second literary event in the space of a few hours was to finish my reading of Lawrence Durrell’s book Justine – the first book of his Alexandria Quartet.

I bought the book back in 1969 and it has been sitting on my shelf ever since. It was one of those books that I was attracted to and yet thought it might be stodgy and old-fashioned.

I am a great fan of Gerald Durrell and loved all his books – particularly the Corfu trilogy. I adored his light humorous style. In that book he gives a pen-picture of his two brothers, mother and sister. Lawrence comes out as a bit of an arrogant prig, a bit up his own backside with lots of pretentions to literary genius.

I found that I was automatically thinking of the name Durrell differently in pronunciation for the two men. With Lawrence it came out as a more affected French sounding, refined Du Rell rather that the more common Durrell of Gerald. But that was just me.

I enjoyed the book and its picture of Alexandria. It was rather old-fashioned and it did take me a while to read. I found I could only do it in small chunks. But it was colourful. It left me with three abiding impressions:

  • One the vacuousness of life with its preoccupation with love affairs and sex
  • The casual elitism and racism that the white elite should exist at a totally different, rarified, level to the native Alexandrians
  • The casual attitude to the suffering and cruelty meted out to wild-life – the mass slaughter of the ducks and geese on the lake and the description of how boats used live tortoises for ballast. They were easier to collect that rocks. They put thousands of them in barrels in the bilge alive – and dumped the putrefying bodies into the sea when they the arrived in port – there were plenty more where they came from.

I think future generations (if there are any) will look back in horror at the cavalier way in which we have cruelly treated living creatures. We will be viewed as barbarians.

This is a book that I will go back to read again. I think I need to absorb more that one can glean from one reading.

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Margaret Atwood in York! New book Hagseed! One of the world’s greatest writers!

Well I had quite a literary day yesterday and this morning. I went to see Margaret Atwood talk about her new book Hagseed (a reworking of the Tempest – she calls it a reimagining.).

I don’t write this as a review so much as an homage.

I rate Margaret as one of the greatest living writers (along with the likes of Iain McEwan, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie and Kasuo Ishiguro) so it was a rare opportunity to see and hear a living legend.

She talked about the new book and the themes that were in it and urged us to watch the Helen Mirren film of the Tempest before reading the book – which I shall do.

She talked briefly about The Handmaid’s Tale and the way fundamentalists only want to ban the things people want to do. In this age of religious madness (hopefully its death-throes) I think it should be compulsory reading – if only to see the misogyny in religion.

She also talked about the death of the oceans, from which between 60% and 80% of all the world’s oxygen is made, and that the rich were probably at this minute constructing their underground homes with oxygen making facilities and looking forward to being rid of us all. (There’s a book in that!).

I shall watch the film and then read the book. It was a pleasure seeing a living legend.


The graphics before the show were great. The words from Hagseed were used as figures walked through them or they squiggled about. p1140538 p1140540 p1140541 p1140542

Margaret was lucid and delightful.

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John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

John Fowles – Quote from The Tree – the real tragedy of the destruction of nature.

I have just finished reading The Tree by John Fowles (writer of the Magus and French Lieutenants Daughter and one of my favourite writers). It was a splendid little book. It encapsulated his feeling of oneness with nature and trees – the wild – something that cannot be captured by science or art but that is a state of being.

While reading it I was particularly struck by one paragraph that resonated with me and would like to share it with you.

‘There is a spiritual corollary to the way we are currently deforesting and denaturing our planet. In the end what we must most defoliate and deprive is ourselves. We might as soon start collecting up the world’s poetry, ever line and every copy, to burn it in a final pyre; and think we should lead richer and happier lives thereafter.’

That sums up the grief and anguish I feel inside at the constant cruelty and destruction we are wreaking around the world. Each tree and creature is a poem in my world – a poem lost forever – and one that makes me all the poorer.

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George Orwell Quotes – a man who saw politics for what it is – deceit, control and betrayal.

George was extremely intelligent, far-seeing and perceptive. His words still ring true.

In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.
The lies we are fed by politicians and the media!
If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.
Governments and corporations control and manipulate us.
Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.
History is written by the winners.
Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.
We call that spin. They stoke up division and hatred. Make black and white out of grey and get us to vote for war.
War is a way of shattering to pieces… materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable and… too intelligent.
If only all the money spent on nuclear bombs, fighter planes, armies, tanks and war-ships was put into education and music the world would be a better place.
All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.
I thought this was pertinent to all Trump, Clinton, Brexit and Bremain supporters.
Big Brother is watching you!
In this age of surveillance it has never been truer! But it’s in our own interests – right?

A writer on writing – the downside.

A writer on writing – the downside.


I enjoy writing. I find it a pleasurable experience. But it has many downsides:

  • It takes a long time – my first book took over two thousand hours of working and reworking (and was still crap)
  • It is antisocial. Writing is a solitary occupation that requires focus. It is a problem for relationships, friends and a social life.
  • It gets in the way of doing things. If I have a compulsion to write something it fills my head until I have written it down. Nothing else matters.
  • It can upset people. My life, friends and people that I have met become included in my writing. Some will not like the way they are portrayed.
  • You can become very obsessed and boring!

so it is probably not a good obsession to be saddled with!

These are my six books of poetry. They are available as paperback or on Kindle from Amazon – all for under £5 for a paperback. You could buy the whole lot for just £27.62!!

They are not conventional poetry books. They are like you find on my blog with a page of explanatory prose followed by the poem. The prose is as important as the poem to me.


Codas, Cadence and Clues – £4.97

Stanzas and Stances – £5.59

Poems and Peons – £4.33

Rhymes and Reasons – £3.98

Prose, Cons and Poetry – £4.60

Vice and Verse – £4.15



Science Fiction books:


Ebola in the Garden of Eden – paperback £6.95 Kindle £2.56 (or free on unlimited)


Green – paperback £9.98 Kindle £2.56 (or free on unlimited)


Rock Music books


In Search of Captain Beefheart – paperback £6.91 Kindle £1.99 (or free on unlimited)



Other selected books and novels:


Anecdotes-Weird-Science-Writing-Ramblings – a book of anecdotes mainly from the sixties and other writing.


More Anecdotes – following the immense popularity of the first volume I produced a second


Goofin’ with the cosmic freaks – a kind of On the Road for the sixties

The book of Ginny – a novel



In Britain :


In America:

In all other countries around the world check out your regional Amazon site and Opher Goodwin books.

Anecdote – My Dad and a mug

Anecdote – My Dad and a mug

My Dad and a mug
My old man worked up in Fleet Street. He ran a news reporters office. They all called him Ron. He demanded high standards and made sure he worked harder and longer than anyone else.
Every day he was up at half past six. He smoked a roll up and drink a cup of tea before sorting his breakfast. He’d catch the seven thirty to Waterloo and be in the office by nine. He finished at five thirty and was home at six thirty. Mum would have his tea on the table. He’d eat an then sit on the soafa reading all the newspapers, (he had every single national paper), checking out the stories, places and names, and watch a bit of telly. He’d either smoke his pipe or roll-ups. At ten he would make a milky drink and go to bed.
I used to think the Kinks – Well Respected Man – had some resonance with his life. It was regulated. There did not seem room for anything else. He worked Saturday and Sunday followed a pattern. He’d mow the grass, carve the joint and occasionally go down the pub for a pint on the green.
I think he found his work satisfying, maybe fulfilling, but to me it looked drab. I despised the predictability and the way it demanded all of him. My mum resented it too. She did not like the way he put his entire being into it. She said he never turned off. I wanted something more out of life. Work was not going to steal my spirit.
When I was seven or eight he took me up to work with him. We went up on the train. I enjoyed the bustle of it. It was exciting to go into his office. I remember him walking into the place with confidence and purpose. He was the boss. As he walked through the door the teaboy handed him a mug of tea – milk and two sugars – he did not even break stride. It was as if he had been waiting. He probably had. Dad was like clockwork. I was super impressed.
Dad took me to his office. We sat with mugs of tea while dad checked all the raw reports sitting in his in-tray. He corrected grammar and spelling and sent it off to the editorial office or filed it elsewhere.
I watched the office. I was intrigued. Dad had thirty people working for him on telephones plus a bunch of ancillary staff such as the teaboy and clerical staff. All of the telephone reported sat in little carels with headphones on and a Remington typewriter. Reporters at the scene would phone in their raw reports. The telephone reporter typed it up. They had to type at the speed the news reporter spoke – and sometimes they spoke fast. The task of a telephone reporter was to type fast enough to get it down and to ensure grammar, spelling and punctuation was correct. That was quite an ask.
I sat and watched, mesmerised, by it all. All around there were typewriters rattling away, mugs of tea being delivered and drunk, fags smoked and ashtrays filling to overflowing. There was a blue haze in the room. My dad sat in his office as report after report rolled in. He scrutinised, corrected and sent them on their way. Phones were continually ringing, people rushing about and a general buzz of excitement.
This was where the news happened. It was intense. You could taste the adrenaline.
Dad’s role was crucial. He hired and fired and ran the office. He sorted and made decisions about what to pass on and where it went. He corrected the script. There were deadlines and sometimes great spurts of activity so that he was inundated. Then it might ease off for a while.
Dad had a good team. He only employed the best. He told me his system. He always met with the person applying then he gave them a test that probed their weaknesses. It was a speed typing test with punctuation and spelling. He told me he had two tests – extremely hard and impossible. If he liked the applicant he gave them the extremely hard one. If they passed he hired them. If he did not like them he gave them the impossible one.
I enjoyed my day at his office. I was pampered by the clerical staff and the reporters. I could see that they liked and respected dad. I could also see that the adrenaline and frenetic nature of the job was addictive. There was a camaraderie and professionalism. It was hard, intense and required skills and concentration.
But what impressed me most was the way that mug of tea had been placed in his hand as he walked in. That spoke reams.