My life in books

4th February 2011 at 00:00

Russell Harris is an English teacher in London.

What I'm reading

The Mammoth Book of Best New SF

Edited by Gardner Dozois

I picked this up impulsively, more in hope than expectation - and I'm now hooked. Inventive, imaginative and at times frightening, these writers create sci-fi worlds eerily like our own, populated by bizarre yet believable characters. A young space-farer who becomes one with an organic starship, a protagonist who falls in love with his virtual love-mentor and a journalist who refuses to feed the ever-hungry online maelstrom. Who would have thought sci-fi could be so varied and so exciting?

The book I loved as a child

Wuthering Heights

By Emily Bronte

For a wide-eyed teenager, this has everything: passion, forbidden love, violence, horror and a large dollop of the supernatural. The bleak moors, the nervous narrator, the gothic farmhouse, Heathcliff's uncertain parentage and darkly dangerous looks - not to mention his unbridled fury when Catherine marries another - combine to produce a lasting imprint on young and romantic readers. The image of Heathcliff in the graveyard (naturally it is night and there is a storm raging) clawing away the soil to hold Catherine's decaying body is with me still.

Read this before you die

A Time of Gifts

By Patrick Leigh Fermor

This memoir recreates a journey across pre-war Europe, undertaken on foot and alone by the writer as an 18-year-old. The prose is poetic and descriptive, and the elegantly constructed sentences are evocative of a time now past. Above all, the portrayal of central Europe through a 1930s winter is striking: there are icy, meandering rivers and imposing mountain ranges to complement the author's detailed passages on architecture and music. For the scholarly, curious young narrator, the journey is one of both physical and spiritual importance - a cultural awakening.

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