Unlike music, where my favourite song changes more often than a lady of the night changes her underwear, my favourite books always remain favourite books.
Today being World Book Day, I thought I’d give you my faves. I have three, I quite simply cannot place any of them above the other, thus, in alphabetical order, here they are.
1. The Endurance, by Caroline Alexander.
2. Papillon by Henri Charriere.
3. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.
The thread running through the three books is how, with an indomitable spirit, man can survive.
For anyone who hasn’t read any of them, a very brief synopsis of the three.
1. Endurance: Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to try and reach the South Pole, subsequent shipwreck, a Herculean row across some of the worlds roughest seas before going back to collect the remainder of his party, waiting for him on Elephant Island. It was said, back in the day, that if you wanted guaranteed success for your expedition, go with Scott, but if you wanted all of your team to come back alive, go with Shackleton. A giant of a man.
2. Papillon: A small time criminal wrongly accused, and found guilty of, the murder of a prostitute. Sent to Devils Island, French Guyana, where he spent the next few years planning and finally executing his escape. After having spent time in Venezuela and protesting bitterly to have his conviction overturned, he was finally pardoned and returned briefly to France. Although the book is actually an amalgamation of escape stories, it still shows how his perseverance to prove his innocence won through. The publication of this book totally changed the French penal system and within a very short time Devils Island was closed as a penal centre, and no further French prisoners were ever sent abroad.
3. Unbroken: A very talented athlete pre WW2, Louis Zamperini joined the US forces, was shot down over the Pacific, was captured and went on to suffer the most hideous abuse at the hands of his Japanese captors. Hillenbrand writes the story so well its almost too difficult to read at times. He survived, suffered PTSD well before we really knew it existed, but came through the other side. He was scheduled to meet his main torturer long after the war but at the last minute it was called off after the Japanese jailer had a change of heart.
As you will have seen, there are no fiction books in my top three, I read very little fiction, but even if you are fiction readers, I urge you, if you haven’t already done so, to read the above three. If you’ve seen the films, and liked them (for 2 and 3 at least) you will be absolutely spellbound when reading the books, they are so so so much better than the books.
Happy World Book Day one and all.