THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE BOOKS
My passion is history, and I enjoy nothing better than to immerse myself within the pages of history books. My introduction to the world of Roman historical fiction, however, came by way of Conn Iggulden's Emperor Series. I had belonged to a book club and had to buy an extra book to qualify for a free gift. Okay, so there's nothing free in this world! I chose as my extra book the Gates of Rome; my accompanying free gift is not even worthy of a mention.
When my free book arrived it sat on the shelf for a little while before I decided to read it. From the first page I was entranced. The book begins with two young boys about eight years of age. The story follows them through adolescence and into adulthood; one child is Brutus, and the other is Caesar. Finding that it was part of a series I was grumpily protesting that I had to wait for a year for the next installment. Eventually I read all five books in the series. Between book four and five, however, Conn Iggulden started another five-book series, Conqueror about Genghis Khan, whom I had been interested in for quite some years, the first in the series being Wolf of the Plains. Again waiting for each book to come out was excruciating. When each book was released I would sit and read as if nothing else mattered. Conn Iggulden has a writing style that is unique. it fills your mind, makes you part of the story, a bystander hiding, unnoticed by the characters that are immersed in their parts.
Paula Lofting's book Sons of the Wolf which is set in 1052 is a very special book for me. Not just because I know the author, but because of its authenticity; there is no modernising of the Anglo-Saxon names, it has a richness of language: its history, its sense of place completely engulfs the reader. I have read it twice now, the second time much slower than the first. It's like getting a second helping of something you love, you take your time over it don't you? So you can savour it, breathe it in, experience it more fully in your mind's eye. It is completely enthralling. Paula's powerful language is woven silently into your psyche, and your experience is complete.
What poetry do I like best? Well my taste is eclectic. I like to read out loud The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I also have it as a recording read by Richard Burton with Robert Hardy. I sometimes read it 'with' him... trying to get the nuances, the pauses, the rhythm that only Richard Burton could achieve. It opens with words that just draw you in:
'It is an ancient Mariner, And he stoppeth one of three.
"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?
May'st hear the merry din."
He holds him with his skinny hand,
"There was a ship." Quoth he.
"Hold off! Unhand me, grey-beard loon!"
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.'
The language is wonderfully evocative, and the rhythm and the tension builds and builds until you are almost breathless. It is magnificent and artful poetry.
I have indulged myself in the joys of reading Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with its witty language, its comedy and its forthrightness. The images that are conjured up in the mind are as detailed as they are most entertaining. Such clever use of language is to be admired. If you can, give yourself the pleasure of reading it in its original Old English: the rhythms that this induces are magical.
I am trying to learn Anglo-Saxon, so reading Beowulf: A New Translation by Seamus Heaney is helpful. I also have a recording of him reading it. it is an exhilarating experience to read along in one's head as Seamus Heaney delivers the fearsome lines. His intonations, his lilting voice, rising and falling; the drama, the tension, and the baleful moments are exquisite in their intensity. It is an experience never to be forgotten.
Then there are the works of John Milton. I told you my taste was eclectic. I studied John Milton at university and became entranced by his works, for example, John Milton The Complete Poems. This book is a mixture of political poems, Psalters, and of course then there is Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained. Such forceful writing, thought provoking, and testing too. I did my dissertation on John Milton's Paradise Lost. I was immersed within his world with my research for many months, and enjoyed every moment of it to the point where I revisit his works at least once or twice a year.
Most of all I am completely fascinated by William Shakespeare. I first 'met' him at school, but didn't appreciate his work then. it was like dry sawdust, something to be swept aside. I was reintroduced to him when I went back into full time education in my mid-forties. What had I missed! Such use of language, such binding together of words, it was mesmerising. I began reading anything and everything to do with Shakespeare, and still do. My latest acquisition is Who Killed William Shakespeare? the Murderer, The Motive, the Means by Simon Andrew Stirling. I have to admit to never having heard that Shakespeare had been murdered. Although I have read much to do with Shakespeare, I had not come across this information before. It is a truly absorbing book, one which I am still working my way through. Some of it I have had to reread to get it straight in my mind before moving on. This book is so meticulously researched and written and would be one of my Desert Island Books, without a doubt.
My reading goes well beyond this limited list. I would need a complete series of "My Favourite Books". It is difficult to choose which ones I like the best; they all have a special place because they have all given me something that I would not have experienced had I not read them at all.
Louise Rule is the author of Future Confronted.