"The rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. They don't have to be in order of importance."So why pick those books? Looking at the list the next day, some of them surprised even me. Most I read as a child or teenager, the first time I clicked with a special author, but others are more recent:
- Fire and Hemlock – Diana Wynne Jones. A remarkable, wonderful book, where reality is pulled out from beneath your feet so gently that you hardly notice at first.
- Star Trek 10 – James Blish. Featuring "Galileo Seven" and "The Empath", two of my favourite of Blish's adaptations. "The Empath" gave me nightmares for years.
- The Eyes of the Overworld – Jack Vance. One of my very favourite books.
- The Final Programme – Michael Moorcock. I could have picked half a dozen Moorcock books, but this one made me realise how free a writer could be.
- The Duelling Machine – Ben Bova. Like The Final Programme, this features two characters that ultimately merge into one. I read this as a teenager and it was one of my favourites for a long time, perhaps because it was one of the best books I've read about gaming.
- Planets for Sale - A.E. van Vogt and E. Mayne Hull. I just loved reading this with a packet of Hobnobs. I loved it so much I worked my way through all van Vogt's other books: I've come to believe I should have been looking for something by E. Mayne Hull instead.
- A Blackbird in Silver – Freda Warrington. Strange one this – it's not one of my favourite ever books, but there was something about the way you saw the things floating in the sky, and wondered if you would get to go up there in the story, and then you did, that made a huge impact on me.
- Telzey Amberdon – James H. Schmitz. A book I stopped reading because it was so close to what I wanted to write, but I couldn't stay away. Also: the source of my younger daughter's name.
- Way Station – Clifford D. Simak. I'm not sure I even remember it properly – I'm probably mixing it up with some of Simak's other rural stories – but I've always thought this would make a great film – a great Tom Hanks film.
- The Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas. I read it in French, and learnt to read French properly through it. At the beginning I was reading it at a rate of ten pages an hour, by the end I was up to thirty.
- To Your Scattered Bodies Go – Philip Jose Farmer. The epitome of high concept.
- The Man Who Japed – Philip K. Dick. More high concept. More dashing of reality. More dual personalities. The first time I realised how special Philip K. Dick was.
- Book of the New Sun – Gene Wolfe. One of the greatest reading experiences of my life.
- McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales – ed. Michael Chabon. I don't think I'd even finished reading the introduction before I started planning Theaker's Quarterly Fiction. I still haven't actually finished it, but it had a colossal impact on my life.
- Doctor Who Annual 1979. I would end up reading a couple of hundred Doctor Who books, but this was (I think) the first.
I imagine that if I'd taken another 15 minutes I'd have ended up with a slightly different list (possibly a less honest one!). I'm disappointed to have forgotten about Flaubert's Bouvard et Pecuchet, which I think about a lot. But this is a good snapshot...