A few years back, I sat down and wrote, unprompted and off the top of my head, in five minutes, the books I wished I had written. Are these favourites? They are certainly not perfect, there are cogent criticisms of each of them. If I had written them, they would have had different faults. But these were the books that came to mind, without perusing lists of the canon.
- Northern Lights – (Philip Pullman)
- A Wizard of Earthsea, and The Left Hand of Darkness – (Ursula K Le Guin)
- Player of Games – (Iain M Banks)
- The Handmaid’s Tale – (Margaret Atwood)
- The Persian Boy, and The King Must Die – (Mary Renault)
- 1984 and Animal Farm – (George Orwell)
- Easter – (Michael Arditti)
- The Sparrow – (Maria Doria Russell)
Revisiting this list recently I added
- The Girl with all the Gifts – (M R Carey)
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane – (Neil Gaiman)
- The Name of the Rose – (Umberto Eco)
- Binti – Nnedi Okorafor
Commentary on this
- These immerse you in their world with complete authority
- Nearly all have great characters you care about.
- They do tend to address issues however obliquely
- The only ‘contemporary novel’ is Easter, a satire. Well, an everything.
- None of the thrillers, spy fiction, or detective stories make it in.
It is interesting that writers I really rate and recommend do not have a single work that leaps out.
To take some examples, Saki, Borges, Ray Bradbury, Angela Carter I think of as short story writers. No P G Woodhouse book or story is strikingly better than the next one.
Remember this list is books where I thought, I wish I had written this. That’s not ‘fave read’ (many are), or ‘most impressed by’.