Thursday, 7 June 2007

My Watershed Novels.

What are the watershed novels that changed and shaped your life? These are the novels that made you take a different direction in your life, that gave you a different perspective on things around you, that inspired you to new and exciting things.

Here are the books that I think were my watershed novels:

Roald Dahl's children's books
I was introduced to Roald Dahl by my first year teacher. I'm not quite sure which exact book it was but I think it was the Magic Finger. (Ah, the days of innocence, long before the word "finger" had dirty connotations...) Thanks to Roald Dahl, I discovered that reading was actually a fun activity! I swiftly consumed the rest of his children's books. James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, et al. I miss him.

Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Which child didn't wish to discover a secret door to another world? Like Roald Dahl, my visits to Narnia encouraged a healthy dose of imagination and fantasy when I was growing up, but on a much larger scale. (Also, an ingrained hatred for the Moors (dirty, smelly creatures!), but I grew out of that.) I still dream of discovering strange new worlds once in a while.

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
I think almost everyone has this on their list of books that changed their life. To paraphrase that blurb on the back of my copy of Lord of the Rings, the world is divided into two: those who have read Nineteen Eighty-Four, and those who will. I was in Form 5 when I read this. I found a used copy in Novel Hut (these was in the days when it was still in Yik Foong) and read it cover to cover in one night. The next day, I wrote on the wall of my school: "SMKGR* - Totalitarian School". Hoho! I felt so cool back then, even though no one else, including the teachers, knew what "totalitarian" meant. I wonder if my graffiti survives? This book taught me to think critically and to always question the "truth".

Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Who knew Victorian fiction could be fun and entertaining? Sherlock Holmes changed my views on 19th century classics. Up to then, I couldn't stomach reading Charles Dickens or the Bronte sisters, but that changed after reading Sherlock Holmes. I think I even attempted Dostoyevsky at one point, but got distracted by Thackeray. I must try again one day. Classics - not so stuffy as previously imagined.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
Ah! My hero. I won't get into the details but suffice to say, I dumped my then girlfriend (she didn't love me anyway) and got a new, better life. I thank fate those horrid years of angst are over. But Murakami continues to entertain me to this day. (Watch out for my review of After Dark, his latest novel!)

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Don't roll your eyes! I know he gets a lot of slack for being simplistic and predictable, but I like this book anyway. I won't defend him, but this book made me realise that maybe I should just sit down and start writing seriously. And I did. No seriously published works yet, but hey it'll happen. It'll happen.

*SMK Gunung Rapat


  1. Ted,
    Couldn't agree with you more, esp. on "The Alchemist". My current read is "The Witch of Portobello", I wonder if the effect would be the same.

  2. I wonder too! I hope you will blog about it when you are done reading it.

  3. The one thing I like about confinement : I get to read a lot of books while breastfeeding my baby. :-)

    I sure I can finish the book. It was a gift from a friend. Usually, visitors/well-wishers would give gift to the baby. This is the first time that the mother is also very well thought of.

  4. Ted - I was completely floored by the simplicity of The Alchemist. It spoke to me! But I've forgotten half of what I read, so maybe it's time to go and re-read it.

  5. Definitely will happen. Cheering for you, Ted! :)

  6. Nisah: I think that's a wonderful idea, giving books to a new mother. I must keep this in mind next time my friends give birth.

    Chet: I think the message in The Alchemist is what's important, not so the story, which thinking back, wasn't all that great. Always chase your dreams!

    Irene: Thanks, Irene!


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