5 More of my favourite books.


41. Ian McKewan – Saturday Night

I first got to like Ian when he produced his first couple of books of short stories. They were very dark and macabre and had a mesmerising quality because the writing was so good. Since then he has produced a string of great books. I think he is one of the best writers around.

42.George Orwell – Keep the Aspidistra Flying

I’ve been rereading a lot of books I read a long time ago. Some stand up and some don’t. This book had quite an impression on me when I were a lad. I was pleased to find that it still had that magic.

43. Julian Barnes – The Sense of an Ending

I think of Julian of one of the new bunch of young writers. He isn’t. He’s really old and established. But his writing seems new and I had fun discovering his books.

44. John Fowles – The Collector

This was the first book I read of John’s. It was the story of a butterfly collector who took to kidnap and imprisonment. It’s a tale that has been repeated in real life a few times. He captured the atmosphere so well.

45. Stephen King – The Stand

I enjoy Stephen’s work. It is always really readable. He drags you along through incredible scenes with the way he makes the words flow and the power of the story. He is a master of writing the page turner. I can never put him down.

Five more essential reads for Opher’s favourites

36. D H Lawrence – Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Although this book is most notorious for its sex scenes I felt it was probably the book that was closest to Lawrence’s philosophy. It was set in the post-war Britain and was in many ways an anti-war book. The injured officer deprived of his manhood through injury. It was also about the class system and the purity of love. A lot of things going on.

37. Ken Kesey – Sometimes a Great Notion

This was the second masterpiece of Ken’s. A totally different book in a different setting. Unlike Cuckoo’s nest this was set in the big outdoors and logging. The story was captivating. I liked the was he depicted the same scene from different viewpoints in the same paragraph. It was very Faulknerish.

38. Salman Rushdie – Midnight’s Children

This is the second of Rushdie’s masterpieces. I read this at the same time as Gunter Grass’s Tin Drum and felt that they both carried that same multitextured, multilayered wonder. It was a tale to get lost in and one of those books you did not want to end.

39. John Steinbeck – East of Eden

The second work of genius from John Steinbeck. This told the tale of brothers and a big ranch. It was another sprawling tale that sucked you in. One of my all-time favourites.

40. Iain Banks – Whit

This seems quite topical when we’ve got cults like ISIS running amok in the world and a Marxist cult leader imprisoned for rape and imprisoning his own daughter. Iain is a brilliant story teller in both Sci-fi and mainstream. This is the story of a religious cult done brilliantly. I love all his books. They were all so varied. It’s a sad loss.

Well these five selections went against my original plan to try to stick to one book per author.

Rules? There are no rules!

Another set of my favourite books



Reading and writing is the highest achievement of mankind.

21. Arthur C Clarke – 2001 A Space Odyssey.

This was an incredible book and film. I adored it. I went to see the film eleven times. I liked the story Arthur told about writing the book. He wrote it on set with Stanley Kubrick. Every day he would go off and write a chapter and take it to Stanley, who would read it carefully. At the end Arthur said that Stanley would turn to him and say:

‘Arthur, this is brilliant. I do not know how you manage to come up with this.’

Then he’d pause. ‘There’s just one little thing.’

Arthur said that y the time Stanley had finished with the ‘little things’ Arthur had a complete rewrite on his hands. But Stanley had managed it in a way that was not deflating.

It showed the optimism of the sixties. We were on the moon. By 2001 we would not only have a colony up there but Mars, Jupiter and Saturn would be opened up for travel as well. Well that was not to be. We stagnated.

I like the idea of the aliens altruistically helping us to evolve as apes and then later to take us a step further. I like to think of us having the capacity to improve.

22. Alexander Solzhenitsyn – A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch

Stalin was a fascist monster, a tyrant who ruled with an iron fist. Any opposition was hunted out by the secret police and banished to the Gulags. It was a reign of terror. Somehow people such as Alexander found the strength to stand up to that machine. What courage. A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch tells the story of one day in that gulag in Siberia. It is chilling in more ways than one. Seemingly this was a good day.

23. Jonathon Frantzen – Freedom

I liked the story of the love affair, the misplaced marriage, the relationship and the Rock and Roll alternative life all mixed up with the environmental business and corporate world. He captured it so well.

24. Kazuo Ishiguro – The Remains of the Day

The front story is the doomed relationship of the butler and cook, both too repressed and proper to live a normal life. There’s is a world of place and duty. The backdrop is the relationship in the thirties between the aristocracy and the Nazis in Germany.

It is a story told with immaculate writing, nuance and touch. The amazing thing is that it took a Japanese man to observe the subtleties of the English in such detail. I was riveted.

25. Mezz Mezzrow – Really the Blues

Mezz, or Milton, as was his proper names, was a Jewish Jazz musician from New Orleans in the thirties and forties – also known as Muggles. He played clarinet and saxophone with the likes of Louis Armstrong. For a time Mezz became a slang expression for marijuana. This book is his biography and captures, in a pre-Beat manner, the underground life of the Jazz musicians. It’s full of drugs, women and song. It was wild. For anyone interested in Beat Poetry or Jazz this was the precursor. While Miller was living it up in Paris Mezz was blowing a storm in New Orleans.

My favourite books yet again.


Well obviously my own books are my real favourites!

16. The Book of Dave – Will Self

I’m not sure I like Will Self as a person. He seems arrogant and full of himself. And I don’t like all his books but he is a good writer. This is a dystopian tale that I greatly enjoyed reading. It seemed to sum up religion for me. I thought it was funny and serious.

17. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

He wrote a few books of genius. This story about the dust bowl migration of the forties always reminds me of Woody Guthrie. Those poor people were exploited and abused and he tells the tale so poignantly.

18. Steppenwolf – Herman Hesse

I read this a long time ago but I loved a few of his books. This one I remember as being very atmospheric.

19. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

I loved the humour and absurdity of the book – making war into a commercial exercise. That’s what it is. The man was a genius.

20. Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegutt Jnr

This man wrote with such a light touch the words flowed off the page. He touched me with his intelligence, wit and delicate touch. A great book. I’ll have that image of the end of the book in my head forever.

Someone is rewriting my past

I have read voraciously through the whole of my life. It has given me more pleasure than any other activity. I know – I know – but a book will last for hours!

It is not unusual for people to ask me what my favourite books were and I’d trot them out. There were the usual suspects:

Jack Kerouac – Dharma Bums and On the Road

John Fowles – Magus

John Steinbeck – East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath

Ken Kessey – Sometimes a Great Notion and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest

DH Lawrence – Sons & Lovers, Women in Love & Lady Chatterley’s

Henry Miller – Tropic of Capricorn

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World and Island

George Orwell – 1984 and Keep the Aspidistra Flying

Joseph Heller – Catch 22

Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land

Jerry Rubin – Do It!

Robert Sheckley – Journey Beyond Tomorrow

Larry Niven – Ringworld

Kurt Vonnegut Jnr – Breakfast of Champions and Ice Nine

Plus a few hundred more!

Then I got to thinking and I realised that a number of these books that I had revered I had read in my teens and early twenties. That meant that I had not read them for over forty years.

I decided that it would be good to go back and see if they were as good as I remembered them being. So I began to intersperse them with my current reading. Do you know what I discovered? Half of them had obviously been rewritten by inferior writers over the intervening years.

So come on you publishers – I want the original books back that I loved so much! Many of these are nowhere near as good as they were!


How about checking out my blog: http://ophersworld.com/

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