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Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World

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There are only three authors I can think of who’ve always had a consistent positive effect on my mental health. Three writers, across three genres, who fill my heart with warmth and joy whenever I crack open one of their books.

Today, in the first of a three part series, I look at an author who defined my childhood. Whose books introduced me to the magical world of writing, provided me with endless memories and taught me vital life lessons we should all live by.

Given today is Roald Dahl Day, it shouldn’t take much to work out which author I am focussing on today. So, here are my twenty favourite books from his magnificent body of work:


 ~ 12 ~
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More

I hated this book when I first read it. At eight years old I wanted odd Chocolate Factory owners, gigantic stone fruits and wily foxes; not farmers finding Roman Treasure, hitch-hikers and captured sea turtles. However, when I returned to this collection later in life, I found my younger self to have been somewhat hasty, as it is a beautiful collection of inspirational writing.

~ 11 ~
George’s Marvellous Medicine

One of my strongest memories of non-Enid Blyton bedtime stories is my mother reading this book to me. At six years old it was always so wonderful being cuddled up in her arms as she read this masterpiece to me night after night.

~ 10 ~
Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories

Between ‘Matilda’ and ‘Esio Trot’ I was suffering from Dahl withdrawal. After re-reading several of his books I came across this in the local library and checked it out – duly scaring the crap out of my young self and causing several sleepless nights! Monumental in that it these were the first ghost stories I ever read.

~ 9 ~
My Year

This is a little known gem that should be much wider read. A charming collection based on the diary entries from the final year of Dahl’s life. Inspiring, beautifully illustrated by long-time collaborator Quentin Blake and essential reading for all Dahl aficionados. When I think of this book I think of Scotland, in particularly the Isle of Skye, where I read this whilst sitting overlooking Portree Harbor.

~ 8 ~
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Yes, I love the Gene Wilder starring movie. Yes, I hate the Johnny Depp starring movie. Yes, I adore this book as it was the first Dahl I can remember reading on my own, followed swiftly by its underrated sequel.

~ 7 ~
Going Solo

Although not holding the same appeal as ‘Boy’ – most likely because at the young age I read it I couldn’t relate to it as much as the former – this is a wonderful book for all Dahl fans, as well as anyone with an interest in the lives of inspiring, great individuals.

~ 6 ~
James and the Giant Peach

This book used to scare the bejesus out of me. When I was five we had a giant spider living in our house, an arachnid easily as big as a Yorkshire terrier. On one occasion it trapped me on the toilet, on another in the bath, in fact it seemed to have a disturbing fetish for attacking me when I was most vulnerable! The giant insects in this book brought back many memories of this traumatizing period of my life, but fortunately not enough to make me dislike the book which, in all honesty, is impossible.

~ 5 ~
Danny the Champion of the World

One of several celebrities I’ve met in my life is Jeremy Irons, who played the father of the titular character in the 1989 film adaptation of this book. When I met him it I mumbled something about loving this film as I served him coffee. As film adaptations go it’s one of the better ones – but nowhere near as good as the source material.

~ 4 ~
Switch Bitch

If you’re not familiar with this book, I recommend not reading it to your little ‘uns, as it’s a collection of short stories originally written for Playboy magazine in the 1960s. When I first read this book I wasn’t aware of this – not that my thirteen year old self complained all that much!

~ 3 ~
The BFG

Another memory of bedtime stories are my parents reading this in tag-team fashion over the course of a week. One night, mum would whip off a couple of chapters; the next night would be dad’s turn. I also have very fond memories of the animated film that was made of this book, but again, it was nowhere near as good as the source material, which is easily one of the best children’s books of all time.

~ 2 ~
Boy

This was the first biography I ever read and at eleven years old, one of the most compelling and frightening books I’d ever read. Although I’ve read it many times since, the chapters which stand out in my memory are those detailing the corporal punishment Dahl received as a child. Being of similar age to when Dahl first received the cane, I was left quite glad I lived in an era when corporal punishment was no longer used in schools for I would surely have been on the receiving end of it more than once!

This is one of the most wonderful books ever written and an essential read for any literature lover. it would easily have scored my number one slot if it weren’t for the fact that he also wrote one of the greatest books of all time…

~ 1 ~
Matilda

For those who know me, and for a large number of those who don’t, this will come as no surprise. To this day I can still remember the utter excitement that coursed through my body as I tentatively held the heavy hardback version of this book on the day of its release, my parents only too aware of my love for Dahl’s work and how much I would enjoy it. When they gifted me that book all those years ago did they know it would become one of my favourite books of all time? That I would fall in love with Matilda and make birthday wishes that one day I would have a teacher as lovely as Miss Honey?

I guarded my first edition copy of Matilda for many, many years until the great sell-off of my possessions following my breakdown. Listing it on Ebay was one of the hardest things I’d ever done, but I have no memory of what happened to it. For my soul, I hope it found its way to a home that will love it as much as I do.

Upcoming Posts in this Series
George Mackay Brown, A Poet’s Magic (Thursday, 20 September 2012)
Charles De Lint, Writer of my Heart (Thursday, 27 September 2012)

 

To honor Roald Dahl Day, do you have any personal favourites or memories of his books? I’d love to know :)

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5 thoughts on “Twenty of the Best: Roald Dahl, Champion of the World

  1. He has so many amazing stories doesn’t he! I have several on my shelves, but until my son began reading them for school I had forgotten how wonderful they are. And must say I had never heard of Switch Bitch before! Might have to check it out!

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    • Thanks for the comment – and happy Roald Dahl Day :)

      It’s easy to forget how many brilliant books Dahl wrote in his lifetime. As I perused his bibliography before writing this post there were several I’d forgotten about and having to excise some from the list was incredibly difficult!

      Because of his prolific work in children’s fiction his adult books and screenplays (he co-wrote the adaptation of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as well as Bond movie You Only Live Twice) are often overlooked, which is a shame, as they are just as beautifully written and addictive as his children’s writing.

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  2. Pingback: Ronald Dahl Day – Sept. 13th | Twisted Branch Blog

  3. Pingback: Roald Dahl Day - Geek Ergo Sum

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