As a bit of fun, I had a look at this link to the 2003 BBC Big Read survey, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time. It's ten years out of date, sure - and there are many more novels that could feature if you redid the survey tomorrow - but I was surprised at scoring only 39 out of 100, in spite of being a well-recognised bookworm.
It made me think about some of the books which had the biggest impact and stayed with me in my life.
I first read King of the Copper Mountains by Paul Beigel when I was at junior school. It seemed a hefty tome - I must've read it two or three times. It's a story of stories, beautifully illustrated throughout and it stayed in my head for many, many years. Just a couple of years ago, I rediscovered it - one of the children I was helping with their reading had a new version, complete with illustrations. I think I actually snatched it out of his hands in my eagerness to check that it really was the book I remembered...and the same day, I ordered a copy. It was a much shorter book than I remembered, but the magic in the pages was still there...
I got into horror when I was a teenager - James Herbert's The Rats frightened me silly. I can't remember much about the story, except that it made my stomach clench every time the rats attacked...and that the sequel was even worse. There's one scene I remember, set in the underground in London - but I really wish I could forget it. (I read Terry Pratchett's Amazing Maurice novel as an adult; the rat king made all the memories and fear come flooding back...)
I wasn't into horror very long.
In the sixth form, I found a book with my name on it - literally! Katherine, by Anya Seton. The only reason I picked it up was because my spelling of Katherine was somewhat unusual among my peers (I knew lots of girls with the same name, but they were always spelt with a 'K' and an 'a' or a 'C' and and 'e'...not a 'K' and an 'e'.) Fortunately, I loved the story as well.
Discworld - I didn't discover Discworld novels until I was married. I don't think there's a bad one among them. Nuff said.
And the last one that stays with me is Peepo, by the Ahlbergs. 'Here's a little baby, one, two, three...' If I read that book once, I read it a million times to my children. It has lovely detailed pictures, beautiful rhythm, and always made me feel like I was singing the words rather than reading them. We had to buy it as a board version because the paperback got so tatty.
I'm sure there are others I could have picked, but these are the ones that jumped out at me this morning.
Is there a novel you read that impacted on you? Why? Drop it in the comments - you never know, it might be one we've shared.