Number one in no particular order, Lord of Light is my favourite Science Fiction book. I say Science Fiction but Zelazny intentionally wrote it so it could be fantasy or science fiction. Written in 1967, I don’t think it has aged at all. I read it first in 1988 and it absolutely blew me away. I was at university at the time so I just skipped lectures and read the whole thing in one go. I can’t tell you too much without giving away the plot, suffice to say it is clever, imaginative, exciting.
Number two in my eclectic mix, Things Fall Apart was the debut novel by Chinua Achebe. Written in 1958, it deals with the arrival of the colonial powers in 1890s Nigeria and is often seen as the first modern African novel. I read it about ten years ago and found it a compelling read. You can obviously read a lot of politics into it, but I read it simply as the story of a man trapped by social position and both the expectations and traditions of his society and unable to deal with change. It is beautifully written.
Finally we have Stoner: a novel. Published in 1965, it sold less than 2000 copies and soon went out of print, yet in 2013 it was named Book of the Year in the UK. It seems to be one of those novels you either love or hate. I loved it but it is hard to explain why it is so compelling, other than the fact that it so beautifully written. The descriptions are wonderful and by the time I had finished the book I felt that I knew the time and place of the novel’s setting as if I had lived there myself. It reminds me strangely of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ in the sense that Stoner, like Holden, is an anti hero that I love while still wishing he would make better choices. In a sense the story catches the ordinary heroism of ordinary people living ordinary lives.