Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting OXFORD NEWS to 80360 or email us
The building blocks of modern fiction
The Times came up with a great wheeze the other day. Some bright spark got people at the Cheltenham Literary Festival to vote for their favourite novels and the paper then compiled The Novel List: The 60 greatest books of the past 60 years.
Naturally I was intrigued - I love a good list - and was delighted to see that I had read 10 of the top 20, including The Lord of the Rings, The Catcher in the Rye, A Prayer for Owen Meany and Atonement.
I'm not a massive fan of the Booker Prize - often the novels on the shortlist simply don't appeal to me.
But as this selection had been compiled by book fans, I thought I would give it some attention.
The number one choice - To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee - I haven't read. But it was number two in the chart that caught my eye.
Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth has cropped up quite a few times now in these best-of lists, so I thought I would give it a go.
In bright sunshine I cut through Park End Street and the barrage of new students before breezing up New Road to the central library at Westgate.
Follett's magnum opus was not under F but a helpful librarian located the huge hardback in recently returned fiction.
The book probably weighed almost as much as one of the stones used to construct the cathedral at the heart of this historical tale, so I nearly bottled it and put it back of the shelf.
But then I realised I could be in for one of those life-changing reads that come along far too infrequently.
I still remember discovering Lord of the Rings when I was a teenager and marvelling at how Tolkien had managed to transport me to another world.
Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect looked a bargain at 20p among the library's cast-offs but I couldn't carry it and the Follett and a cup of Americano comfortably so reluctantly I left it.
It might take me a couple of weeks to finish the Follett, so Love in the Time of Cholera (Garcia Marquez), The French Lieutenant's Woman (Fowles) and One Hundred Years of Solitude (Garcia Marquez again), which also appear in the top 20, are going to have to wait.
I'm looking forward to receiving a copy of Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the Landing but the publisher fears it may never arrive because of the postal strike.
I've got more faith in the posties than she has, so I expect a copy to land on my desk early next week.
That should give me plenty of time to read it before Hill arrives for a signing session next month, at Mostly Books in Abingdon, one of the finest independent bookshops in Christendom. Catch you soon.
Comments are closed on this article.