Books as Friends

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
I recently borrowed two library books by favourite authors, which felt like meeting up with old friends. One is by cult author Richard Brautigan, the other by so-called Liverpool poet Brian Patten.

Brautigan wrote surreal bizarre tales of misfits, and his style is unmistakable and inimitable. I'm enjoying revisiting his Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 which I haven't read for twenty years.

Patten writes exquisite verse, some of the finest love poetry around and really entertaining poems for children. I'm currently recalling love affairs from long ago, helped by his Collected Love Poems.

Other favourite books that I've read many times over the years include The Wind In The Willows, An Island to Oneself, Those About To Die and any collection of Guy de Maupassant's short stories.

They all lift my spirit in different ways.

Which books are your friends?

Promise At Dawn - Romain Gary
Centennial- Michener
Red Shift -Alan Garner
The Haunting of Gad's Hall- Norah Lofts
The Soul of the Ape & Soul of The White Ant- Eugene Marais
Man & Dog - Konrad Lorenz
Ghost & Ghoul/The Monkey's Tail - TC Lethbridge

Many, many novels have struck a deep chord in their own particular time and way, but these are a few of the books I have returned to many times as an adult reader. Of 'women's fiction,' I have found myself returning to anything by Joanne Trollope (who is NOT a 'women's writer but a dissector of social mores. To say she writes aga sagas is to dumb her down most unjustly)
And Elegance by Eileen Tessaro which has a peculiar warmth and charm.
To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
A Wrinkle In Time - Madeleine L'Engle
1984 - George Orwell
A Rose In Winter - Kathleen Woodikiss
Sweet, Savage Love - Rosemary Rogers
The Other Side of Midnight - Sidney Sheldon
Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Echoes - Maeve Binchy
Masquerade - Terry Pratchett
a) my favourite Pratchett book (or at least top 2) and b) the last thing my dad bought me before he died.

Look To Windward - Iain M Banks
Just my favourite book; I really have no idea why, beyond that the Culture is my happy place.

The Martian - Andy Weir
Its just so bloody uplifting! Plus, it only takes a few hours to read.
So many of my favourites on this thread! I have a dog-eared copy of Henry James' Portrait of a Lady that always moves me, the young Isabel Archer given a gift of wealth to ensure her autonomy and the disastrous choice she makes.

I frequently reread the diaries of an English writer called Sylvia Townsend Warner who wrote from the 1930s onward (Claire Tomalin wrote her biography). She has a mind, smarter and more inventive, that is very like my own. The way she thinks and what she notices is so close to my observations and approaches. I thought for a long time this was just a fond illusion, a bit of vanity on my part, but a friend read her published diaries and called to say how much STW's voice reminded her of mine. Sylvia Townsend Warner wrote a book about a witch that was immensely popular in the 1920s, Lolly Willows. She went on to write many stories based in the Kingdom of Elfin for the New Yorker, very strange, bright stories.
The one that initially springs to mind is 'Autobiography of a Supertramp' - W H Davies. Then there's

'Stranger from a Strange Land' and 'I Will Fear No Evil' - Robert Heinlein,
'The Spy Who Came in From the Cold' - John le Carré
'Virtual Light' - William Gibson
'The Long Way' - Bernard Moitessier
'The Lonely Sea and the Sky' - Francis Chichester

I'm wondering about the reasons why these books are 'friends'. Some of them I friends I haven't 'visited with' in many years, but they are there under my skin and have in their way shaped my life - and, latterly, my writing.
All Things Great and Small--James Herriot (and the other books in that series)
Dandelion Wine--Ray Bradbury
Fire--by Kristin Cashore (and Graceling and Bitterblue, to a lesser extent)
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle--Barbara Kingsolver
For Love of Insects--Tom Eisner

I also have to count as friends the dozen cookbooks, so familiar and worn I can identify them by feel in the dark, that form the backbone of my kitchen.
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters - Julian Barnes
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
Lord of the Flies - William Golding

Anything written by Elizabeth Nunez - she's so incredibly poetic it makes me ache!
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I recently borrowed two library books by favourite authors, which felt like meeting up with old friends. One is by cult author Richard Brautigan, the other by so-called Liverpool poet Brian Patten.

Brautigan wrote surreal bizarre tales of misfits, and his style is unmistakable and inimitable. I'm enjoying revisiting his Dreaming of Babylon: A Private Eye Novel 1942 which I haven't read for twenty years.
We both attended the University of Oregon. Richard's poems still move me. I especially enjoy Machines of Loving Grace and of course, Trout Fishing in America and In Watermelon Sugar
Then, L. Frank Baum's Tik-Tok of Oz
Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End
Walter Miller's A Canticle for Leibowitz
Bradbury's Martian Chronicle
ALL of Tolkien...
All of Vonnegut...
John Irving's Until I Find You and A Prayer for Owen Meany
Harper Lee, of course... but I have to admit I like the movie better...
James Herriot, of course...
Annie Proulx's The Shipping News
Rudolfo Anaya -- everything...
Tony Hillerman, everything...
James Lee Burke, everything... well, almost everything...
Do I have to stop yet?
@Richard Sutton
I missed Tolkien :eek: I missed Tolkien! What is wrong with me?!:confused:

Also, late addition from me, largely as I just found the book after it went missing for years:

The Godwhale - TJ Bass

Odd book. Odd author. Completely stunning.
Since my mother first gave them to me when I was around seven, all the books of Moomins by Tove Jansson. I reread and reread and reread those original copies every year, in an effort to keep myself from losing my ever-waning sense of wonder.

Something Wicked This Way Comes had always worked like that for me as well, and more recently, The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness.

I could list a whole lot of my favorites and the books I'm most inspired by as a grown-up writer, but these are my friends, and you did ask which are my friends. :)
Not sure if it counts as a friend but I do have a permanent copy of 'Bleak House' down in Croatia and will, once a year, take it with me to my favourite beach cafe on a sunny morning and read the first chapter. Sends shivers down my spine.
Yes, @Matnov. The opening lines of Bleak House made a huge impression on me when I read them in a wet winter in London years ago, arriving from a hot dry South African summer. Rain and fog for days on end.

'London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.'

Other oldish book friends that come to mind:

William Maxwell So Long, See You Tomorrow. (I reread this every other year)
Albert Camus La Peste/ The Plague
George Eliot Middlemarch
Penelope Fitzgerald The Blue Flower
Doris Lessing The Golden Notebook
Daphne du Maurier Rebecca
Evelyn Waugh Brideshead Revisited
Vikram Seth A Suitable Boy
Ivy Compton-Burnett Elders and Betters
Dodie Smith I Capture the Castle
E Arnot Robinson Ordinary families
Shirley Hazzard The Transit of Venus
Shirley Hazzard The Great Fire
Marguerite Duras The North China Lover
Anya Seton Katherine
Marcel Pagnol Le Château de ma mère
Fernando Pessoa The Book of Disquiet
Karel Schoeman Forgotten Land
Alan Paton Cry the Beloved Country
The first book I ever read from cover to cover without putting it down, was Orwell's Animal Farm. Other literary chums include:

Milan Kundera - Incredible Lightness of Being
James Joyce - Dubliners
Oscar Wilde - Picture of Dorian Gray
Imagist Poetry - collection
George Orwell 1984
La Bruyere - Characters
Edgar Alan Poe - Fall of the House of Usher.
JJ Rousseau - Confessions
Ernest Hemingway - For Whom the Bell Tolls
Albert Camus - The Outsider
Harrison Ainsworth - Old St Pauls
John Wyndham - The Day of the Triffids
The Beano Annual 1969
What a terrific & inspiring thread this is! Please... more contributions!

I'm certainly checking out books new to me, ordering those available from my local library. It's made me wonder if a psychologist could reverse-analyse what someone's character was like from their choice of books that they consider to be their friends....

Agent Pete, we're all waiting to hear what books warm the cockles of a literary agent's heart.
Ah, well, that's the question :) The books I feel most “friendly” towards are mostly from my childhood/youth. Growing up in a village with no other children, they literally(sorry) were my friends. One reason I was curious about John Masefield recently, having adored The Midnight Folk as a kid. But also near and dear were TH White, anything with the illustrious Kaye Webb imprimatur (Kaye was apparently a bit of a goer in her private life – not at all matronly) Alan Garner, C.S. Lewis, James Thurber… Oh god, there’s no end, really. I loved them all.

'When Marnie Was There' by Joan G Robinson?

That book haunted me as a child. Lonely, silent Anna is sent to a seaside town in Norfolk where she meets Marnie.

Samphire, boats, a landscape so alien to the ones I knew, and the strangest possible secret...but so moving.

Making a new friend, and later finding out, she was a ghost. You'd met her out of time and she was your own dead grandmother.

Wow! Gotta read this. I already know the area, from your description. Certainly one of the more interesting parts of the Norfolk coastline, much of which is bleak and, well, er, just bleak. That area - around Blakeney, etc, - is quite different, all the way round to Holkham (MR James country...)
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The Seven Basic Plots

Spot On Blog Post About Romance Novels