A Few Favourites

These pages are about  “a few of my favourite things” which is why you will definitely NOT find The Sound of Music listed here. Instead, a few lists of books dramas and films I’ve enjoyed,  most either from or about Asia in one way or another. Let’s start with


Lord of The Rings/The Silmarillion
I first read LotR when I was 7, then read it another 17 or so times before Peter Jackson destroyed it on film. It was the book that set my heart on fire for languages and linguistics, and every time I read it, I lingered, rapt, in the appendices. It’s for that reason I love The Silmarillion too – even more focused on the construction of the worlds and their words than LotR . The other REALLY great thing about The Silmarillion? Peter “what’s an editor?” Jackson DOES NOT have the rights to it, so it won’t be bloated, butchered and buggered onscreen, as tragically happened to LotR and The Hobbit. Thank goodness!


The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
My twitter handle, “Max” comes from Adam’s masterpiece of SF comedy, although I first fell in love with it listening to the radio series in bed on Sunday nights. The first four books are the best, with Adam’s satirical observation and often genuinely brilliant turn of phrase providing me with decades of pleasure and quotable quotes. If you haven’t already, please read, then SHARE AND ENJOY. Also, try to find and listen to the radio series. It’s hoopy!

The forty or so books in Terry Pratchett’s series are all worth reading but my favourite is Small Gods. The other book in the series which really stunned me was The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents. The series as a whole, though, is simply superb and Pratchett’s DEATH is one of my top five fictional characters. Humour, satire, political commentary, fancy, science-fiction, and the greatest librarian ever, Discworld has it all.

It’s popular to hate on Kipling for his colonialist and imperialist views, but he loved the land of his birth, and the Hindustani which was his mother tongue for his first five years. That shines out of this book, a book which I love for my own sentimental reasons. Kipling’s tales of North India remind me of my father’s tales of North India. Enjoying Kipling may be a politically incorrect thing to do, but Kim is a fun read, one I am not ashamed to include in my favourites.

The Count of Monte Cristo
The fattest page turner I’ve ever read. Even in translation, this book is an amazing achievement. If you haven’t read it do yourself a favour and make sure you read the unabridged version. 1400 pages might sound like a lot, but Dumas makes then fly.

No God But God
I read Reza Aslan’s book not long after reading Small Gods, and was struck by the similarities. Aslan’s book examines how a faith becomes a religion, and the consequences thereof in a way which echoes the theme of Pratchett’s satirical commentary on the same process. In this increasingly Islamophobic world, No God But God provides refreshing counterpoint.

Penguin History of New Zealand
Patriotism is a pernicious, psychopathic form of idiocy.” “Nationalism is an infantile thing. It is the measles of humanity.” Those quotes from George Bernard Shaw and Albert Einstein sum up my personal view of the concept of the nation-state. Michael King’s excellent history of the nation-state which governs the islands I call home filled in a lot of embarrassing blanks in my knowledge about where I come from, and confirmed that this nation-state is definitely no better than any other. If you want to learn something about the last major landmass on the planet to be permanently inhabited, King’s book is an excellent place to start.

The Unfolding of Language
I love Guy Deutscher’s book. Written by a linguist for non-linguists like me, it makes his subject come alive. Fun, fascinating and full of love for the constancy of change which is the heart of every language. Language lives and evolves and grows, and Deutscher’s book explains how and why in a way that is entertaining and easy to read.

The Omnivore’s Dilemma
Like language, food is a fundamental of human existence, and like Deutscher’s book, Pollan examines this fundamental feature of life with insight clarity and enthusiasm. If food is more than fuel for you, I’m sure you would enjoy this book.

A Suitable Boy
Vikram Seth’s magnum opus is in my opinion quite simply a must read for anyone interested in the subcontinent. I raved about here, so all I will say here is, please, read it!

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass
Lewis Carroll’s famous classics need no introduction, but deserve constant recommendation. A mathematician with a real gift for language and humour, I hope that his books will always be read no matter how many cinematic or televisual adaptations are made. If you haven’t yet read them, do try to read a copy with Tenniel’s original illustrations!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *