A couple of weeks ago author and blogger Angela Savage posted the contribution she’s made to a column in The Age newspaper in which the columnist is asked to identify Four books that changed me.
Savage, being a writer – her works include The dying beach (my review) and her latest novel Mother of Pearl (on my TBR) – chose books which changed or affected or inspired her life as a writer. Lucky her to have such theme by which to narrow her selection. No such luck for me. Even so, she said she had to whittle her selection down from about 400 to 4! It’s hard, of course, but I’ve decided to choose books that have taught me something about life. I’m going to list them in the order than I first read them because, in fact, three of them I’ve read more than once. The other I would happily read again.
First up is Jane Austen’s Pride and prejudice, of course. You knew there had to be a Jane Austen in my list didn’t you. It was hard to choose which one, in a way, because all of Austen’s books teach me about people, and they keep teaching me every time I read them, because every time I read them I’m at a different point in my life. The richness of her observation and understanding is timeless and unsurpassed. I chose Pride and prejudice because it was the first one I read, in my early teens, and is the one that hooked me on her. teaches me so much about life, about people’s – a book that I can read again and again
Next is Albert Camus’ The plague/La peste (my review) which I first read in my very late teens. I love Camus’ exploration of how different people react when presented with a difficult life-threatening situation – like a plague or, say, the Holocaust. I know which character I’d like to be, but would I? This book, I hope, keeps me honest.
And then there’s that terrifying book, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which I first read with my American reading group in 1992, when I was living there, and then again with my Australian reading group a few years later. If you want to read a book about the devastating impact of slavery – of its horror, of the way it destroys all sense of self, of agency, of hope – then this is the book to read.
And finally, I wanted to choose a book that has moved along my understanding of Australian history. There are many I could have chosen – so many great books by indigenous writers – but I think Kim Scott’s That deadman dance (my review) is a foundational book, because it reminded me of/showed me the generosity of indigenous people in the early days of settlement and how it was thrown back in their faces by people who didn’t respect them as human beings (let alone as owners of the land they were “taking up”.) Oh, and I read it in 2011, the year after it came out. Was it that long ago?
If you asked me to do this next year, would I choose the same books? I don’t know, but I think I probably would, because each of these books remains vividly in my mind years after reading it.
And now I’m going to ask you what Angela asked her blog readers, what four books would you choose?