Top Ten Tuesday: the books made me do it

Top Ten Tuesday bannerTop Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created and hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, in which we all talk about a bookish topic and have fun making lists. This week we’re looking at things a book made us want to do or learn (ooh er. BEHAVE).

How often do you read about someone doing a certain thing or behaving a certain way and find yourself wishing you were like that? Honestly, it probably happens to me less than it used to, but it still happens. More often, it makes me wish I could go to a certain place in space or time, but still – today we’re focusing on things we would like to do.

The Unit – Ninni Holmqvist

I talked a bit about this book last week too (sorry!), but if there’s ever been a book that made me more intent than ever on paying attention and voting, this was it. I’m big on voting anyway – but this is a book about what happens when you just sort of let the world slide by and then realise you’re in the hand basket on the way to hell with the rest of the country.


The Mists of Avalon – Marion Zimmer Bradley

This book made me keen to learn about wicca and pay more attention to the natural world. It’s years since I read it, but I still recall a scene in which Morgaine re-attunes herself after years at court, feeling the tides and the phases of the moon like a second heartbeat. I didn’t pursue my interest beyond reading, but I still like the idea of living harmoniously with the world.


Orkney – Amy Sackville

To be honest, any book about Scotland makes me want to go back to Scotland – I love that Orkney captures how remote the islands are. It’s a tiny poem of a book about a literature professor who marries his student and for their honeymoon takes her home to the small island she was born on, where reality and myth merge in the mists. But I could have chosen Night Waking, Stargazing, Under the Skin or even Temeraire – they all make me long to return north of the Wall!


The Secret History – Donna Tartt

I’d never really considered how to get away with murder before – no, I’m kidding. I was studying Latin already, but this brilliantly dark dissection of student misdemeanours made me feel I was missing the boat by not learning ancient Greek. Having read Homer and some plays in translation, the urge subsided as they left me cold. Plus I nearly threw a fit when I got to the bit in the Iliad where Aphrodite flees a battle because she’s broken a nail. WTF Homer. WTAF.


The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

It was 50/50 here between The Secret Garden and Watership Down, but they both make me wish I could identify the birds (and birdsong), flowers and trees of the British countryside. One of my yearly delights is a long weekend with a good friend tramping around a green place fishing out binoculars and trying to work out what we’re looking at. I’m learning, slowly!


The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

There’s lots of reasons to like The Hunger Games, but one is that it plays to an old desire to learn to handle a bow. I’ve always liked archers (even before I mis-spent some of my youth playing Diablo) – this is probably Robin Hood’s fault originally, but it’s another point in Katniss’s favour for me.


Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey

I’m not that brave, I’m afraid, so I didn’t have the urge to become a spy or a courtesan – but this is one of those few books that made me think maybe there was a world in which I’d get a tattoo as the marques are so very beautiful. I didn’t, because I’ve never had an idea / image I liked enough to carry for the rest of my life.


Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay

I focused my dissertation on post-Roman Britain, but this was my first brush with Byzantium and I fell in love. Lots of books make me want to read up on historical context / inspiration, but this drove me to read more history than any other. If Leontius intrigues you, pick up Robert Graves’s Belisarius; for the Victory Riots and Justinian/Theodora, try John Julius Norwich (this period is in the first volume, but all three are fascinating). Years on, and I’m still learning: I’ve got The Laws of Justinian on my shelf and I’m yet to go to Istanbul – after reading this book, I have to see the Hagia Sophia.


The Privilege of the Sword – Ellen Kushner

Even more so than Swordspoint, TPOTS made me think about learning to fight with a sword. In the past, I’ve always preferred the idea of the broadsword, but Ellen Kushner’s descriptions of Richard St Vier’s style and Katherine’s lessons made me think I’d be absolutely terrible at it, but wouldn’t it be an awesome thing to master?


Contact – Carl Sagan

When I was very small, I said that when I grew up I wanted to be an author or an astronomer. Reading Contact and The Sparrow both made me regret not studying astronomy. Sadly, I never got comfortable with physics, so I’ve had to settle with picking up a passing familiarity with the stars and being intensely interested in what my space scientist friends get up to.


Has a book ever made you (want to) do or learn something?