30 Novels: The Clocks Were Striking Thirteen

In celebration of National Novel Writing Month, as well as just for the heck of it, each day this month I’m going to talk about a novel that has shaped my life in some important way. Each day I’m going to tell a brief story about a timeless book.

Thirty days, thirty novels. Books that opened new worlds for me as a reader. Books that expanded my consciousness, sometimes in painful or scary ways. Books that turned me into a writer.

I’m not going to describe the plot of each book. Instead, I want to describe a moment of wonder, mystery, fear, or transformation. Thirty unforgettable moments in the life of a reader.

A couple of points to note at the outset: the books I talk about this month might not all be novels. And there will probably be one imaginary book among them (see if you can spot it).

I also hope to get at least one guest post, so if there’s a novel that matters deeply to you and you’d like to share your passion for it with others, drop me a line.

I’m going to start the month with George Orwell’s 1984.

A terrifying story, and yet there was something strangely appealing about Orwell’s dystopian vision of the ultimate police state, where one’s every action and thought is under scrutiny. It was a dramatic magnification of my own world. As a teenager I felt surrounded by watchful eyes and powerful voices, voices telling me who I was and who I was supposed to be. My secret inner life of dreams and fantasies often seemed completely at odds with this image of what society said I was, and what mattered.

Reading 1984, I could imagine pitting my own will and cunning against the watchful eye of Big Brother. I was sure that if it was me in the story instead of Winston Smith, I could fool the Party and survive.

And I loved the clunky, steam-driven novel-writing machines.


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