Here is today's question and I will attempt to answer it with what comes first to my mind. I don't want to think about it too much as I think the books in the world would run rampant over my brain. That happens enough already.
What is one book you recommend pretty much across the board -- regardless of genre or what the person normally reads?
Quickly without thinking these are the three books I would recommend to anyone.
1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Maggie Smith (1943)
I have read this book several times and it tells a story of Francie amongst the poor immigrants in New York City. She is a young girl, age 12 who deals with not only the poverty of her family and others who enter her world but has a yearning to be educated and read as much as she can. She is a wonderful character and it is interesting to see this world from her eyes.
2. 87 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff (1970)
I had read this book perhaps more than any other book except Black Beauty. The wonderful relationship between the book shop owner in London and the woman in New York is wonderful. The discussions through the mail, long before email, Facebook and mobile phones is wonderfully told and it is probably my biggest comfort read of all books.
I might add the film with Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins is just as good and one I have seen dozens of times. Just love it.
3. Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxin (2003)
The story of a young boy from poverty like we have never known in rural China. He rises through the dance world eventually ending up in The United States. I think the best part of this book is when he first visits America and discovers the materialism of the country, that he could not ever have imagined. It was quite embarrassing to this American/Australian and made me realise what an absolutely wasteful society the west really is.
I MUST add, these are the three books that popped into my mind TODAY. You could ask me the same question and I would probably strongly recommend other books like Grapes of Wrath or Olive Kitteridge or All the Light We Could Not See. There are just so many really excellent books that have been written over the years and three recommendations are never enough but for today this is what you get.
What book pops into your mind, RIGHT NOW, without thinking more than 5 seconds? I'd love to know.
I'll talk to all of you again next week. This weekend I am going with 27 members of Ulysses motorbike club to the northwest of the state on my big Italian scooter. More than a 1000 km return so I probably won't be able to do much next week except lie in bed and type. And I imagine at the rate the Penguin is going with those cocktails he may be there too.