David Astle has written two novels,†Marzipan Plan†and†Book of Miles, plus three non-fiction works:†Puzzled,†One Down, One Missing†and†Offbeat Australia. Between books, he drives the world to delight and despair as Friday's crossword setter, appearing in both†The Sydney Morning Herald†and†The Age. David is a features writer and also reviews books for Radio National. His latest book, Cluetopia, has just been released.
David joins us today to select his five most influential books.
THE WIZARD OF OZ by Frank L Baum
The original quest novel, where a flawed group of companions is so much stronger for the road trip they donít need the ultimate prize, which turns out to be a hoax anyway. Sorry, spoiler alert. But thatís why this book is so vital Ė you know it, even if youíve not read it. From Pink Floyd soundtracks to Wicked musicals, Baumís dream pervades us.
CITY OF GLASS by Paul Auster
Imagine a writer of detective fiction being woken in the dead of night by a phone call. The voice on the other end says something that compels our hero to play a real detective, trying to track down some guy called Paul Auster. In the hands of an amateur, this book would topple under its own smart-arsery, but Austerís charm and restraint, plus the vast engine at the base of the idea, keep this neo-noir sharp.
FLAUBERTíS PARROT by Julian Barnes
Hang on, is this a novel, or a memoir, or a travelogue, or a bunch of essays? Itís all and none, which is why this book thrills me. Barnes was born to toy with genre. His book is a fey experiment where we shadow a retired doctor across Europe, as he tries to establish which stuffed parrot once belonged to the French genius. It didnít hurt that I adored Flaubertís †Madame Bovary. (Can I make that book #6?)
BELOVED by Toni Morrison
If people wonder why Toni Morrison won the Nobel Prize for Literature, I have a one-word answer: Beloved. Flood-bound in Honduras, back in 1994, I found the paperback and read it in one breath. If any other author entrusted a ghost to be the narrator it would be an epic fail; this is a haunting epic about race, family, and the inheritance of pain.
STASILAND by Anna Funder
My Top 5 List needed an Aussie Ė and a non-fiction title. Both matter in my reading, and Funderís exposť of East German life before the Wall fell meets the double brief with flair. Communism, secret police, human resistance Ė these are just words on the page. Funderís gift is to animate them, make each story of escape and treachery as white-knuckle as any airport pap. If I close my eyes I can still see the Puzzle Mothers, trying to realign the Stasiís shredded documents in a warehouse of confetti.
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