Thursday 28 June 2012

Five books that changed me

There's a major Australian newspaper that runs this column weekly - featuring some famous or near-famous writer, commenting on the books that changed their lives, or influenced their writing.

I'm unlikely to ever score a column in that paper. And a few of you have asked who I read. So here goes...

1) In the Shadow of Man - Jane Goodall.
The first book I ever borrowed from a library as a kid. It has it all - sex, graphic violence, wild jungles and a pretty English girl. And it's all 100% true. A highlight of my life was meeting Jane Goodall in 2011 - and having her sign my copy of this wonderful book.

2) A Bright Shining Lie - Neil Sheehan
Pulitzer Prize winning expose on the history, politics and personalities of the Vietnam War. A challenging read, especially in light of current events and the conduct of another unwinnable war.

3) Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
Actually, any Winton book would fit my top 5, but Cloudstreet IS the great Australian novel. If you haven't read it, you're doing yourself a great disservice. And if you want to ease yourself into the main menu, try reading Winton's Breath as an appetiser.

4) Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
Superb, expressive, brilliant. The inspiration for Coppola's Apocalypse Now. The dark heart of Africa and the darker heart of men. My only criticism is that it's too short.

5) The Little Red Writing Book - Mark Tredinnick
Fancy including a text book in your top 5! But this is no ordinary text book. It is the most superbly written writing book you can imagine. If you aspire to being a writer of any worth, and if you haven't read this book - or it's overseas equivalent Writing Well, you need to get a copy this week.

There are plenty of worthy short-listers: Cormac McCarthy's haunting The Road, Kate Grenville's tragic settlement tale - The Secret River, Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang, Philip Roth's agonising and funny Portnoy's Complaint, E.Annie Proulx's icy and evocative The Shipping News, Keith Richards' autobiography Life, Michka Assayas' conversations with Bono on Bono and Mark Tredinnick's exquisit landscape memoir The Blue Plateau. 


  1. Nice choice Coachwood

  2. It's often more fun to disagree, but in my less than humble opinion, Cloudstreet IS the great Australian novel. More than just that, it changed me too.
    And Mark Tredinnick's book is changing me right now.
    Great post Coach.