A couple of things should become clear when browsing this list of my all-time favourite reads –
(1) I’m not what anyone would call a prolific reader of novels (only six books on the list are fiction).
(2) My go-to genres for reading pleasure are true crime, military history and biographies/autobiographies.
Many of these listed titles I have come to think of over the years as being akin to something approaching the status of old friends. Given the not entirely light nature of some of the events described in these books one might be inclined to remark “With friends like those who needs enemies?” Yet given that some faint echo of the experience of reading these books has lingered in my sub-conconscious for this long, I’ve come to accept, at least in part, the idea that not only do we choose books but to some degree the ones we call ‘great’ also beckon and choose us.
And so it was with the door-stop sized volume occupying the #1 spot on this list. I remember it like it was only yesterday (slow dissolve to explanatory dream sequence). The year was 1981. I was waiting on the grey concrete platform of Toowong railway station, under a cloudless August sky, for a friend who was already 30 minutes late. We’d made arrangements to go to the ‘Ekka’ (Brisbane’s annual 10 day long ‘country meets city’ fair) together the previous day and it was now beginning to dawn on me my path this day might be leading in a somewhat different direction then planned.
Finally deciding to bring an end to constructing all the scenarios in my head as to why my mate hadn’t shown, I started slowly walking back up the steel-cage-enclosed (at least that’s how I remember it) platform stairs and out onto Sherwood Rd to return home. Passing a newsagent on the way, and with an unspent paper $20 note still burning a whole in my pocket, I decided to venture in and see what I could see.
In a spending spree born partly out of a desire to restore life’s balance after the dissapointing no-show, I emerged several hours (that’s right, several hours later) laden with comic books, magazines, fold-out fan megaposters (most likely of KISS) and assorted other bits of to-be-discarded-less-than-a-week-later junk plus a 600 page plus book written by a lawyer that would turn out to be the most fantastically conceived and mesmerizing work of printed word genius I had ever, and would ever, read. Looking back, that day certainly turned out to have it’s compensations!
Each of the books on this list has a backstory behind it as to how, from the hundreds of millions of books in circulation, it came first to my notice and then proceeded to weave an unforgettable magic square into my personal soul quilt. They are stories for another time. For the moment, it is the occasion to unveil, in all its remembered-by-me glory, the complete list of my favourite 50 reads.
Would be eternally grateful for anyone’s help identifying the name of this novel.
I stumbled across it, of all places, on the shelf of a communal living room inside a ‘Gaigin House’ (foreigner’s shared accommodation) I was holed up in during my three-year stay in Tokyo, Japan in the early 2000’s.
I read it across about a week and the story (but not the title!) has stayed with me all this time. It concerned a malevolent super-computer-controlled skyscraper killing off the main characters of the book one by one via a series of hi-tech methods such as electrocution, squishing them between hermetically sealed doors, causing lifts to plummet and a seemingly endless variety of other devilish means. I remember it had a black and red cover, if that’s any help!
It’s definitely not Ira Levin’s SLIVER and James Kisner’s TOWER OF EVIL can also be ruled out. Any clues you might have please drop into the comments box at the bottom and help solve this near two-decades-old mystery.