Marketing Manager Bex shares the books that have made her wonder at the world and ponder the big questions
I have always loved to read, earning me plenty of teasing (and a few detentions) at school for reading during lessons. I’m now a sporadic reader, mainly because when I get into a new book I REALLY get in to it. I read like some people binge-watch the latest box set. Once I’ve started, I don’t stop; if I need the toilet the book comes too. I remember staying up till 4am the day I first read the Handmaid’s Tale, there was no way I could sleep until I’d finished it. These days I’ve got a bit better at pacing myself, still, I’m careful to save new books for when I’ve got nothing on.
My favourite books are like old friends, I tend to re-read them once every few years. There’s something comforting about being able to savour a good story without the tension of not knowing what’s going to happen next, and you often have a slightly different take on things as you re-read at different points in your life. I love anything that blends a sense of wonder with the exploration of what it is to be alive, so science fiction and dystopian novels feature heavily on my bookshelves.
Through reading you can be transported to any time or place, you can explore the stars, travel back in time, or see the world through someone else’s eyes. Now more than ever, what better reason to pick up a book?
1. Ubik, Philip K Dick
If you’ve never read one of Philip K Dick’s books, you’ve probably watched a film based on one – Blade Runner, Total Recall, Minority Report, the Man in the High Castle and many others are based on his work. His vivid imagination was far ahead of his time, writing science fiction with a believable gritty edge that was in marked contrast to the clean and shiny future of his contemporaries. Ubik has so far escaped adaptation, but like many of his books explores what it means to be human, and the boundaries of what is real. It’s not all dry science fiction and lofty philosophising though, Dick’s wry sense of humour and innate understanding of people bring a warmth to his work. Written over 50 years ago this extract imagines the realities of the subscription economy:
“The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”
He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight. “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”
“I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”
In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.
“You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug.
From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.
“I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.
Joe Chip said, “I’ve never been sued by a door. But I guess I can live through it.”
My other favourites:
2. Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
4. The Odyssey, Homer
5. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky