The best books you have ever read? | AccountingWEB

The best books you have ever read?

Steve Holloway started a great thread in Any Answers last week when he asked which books members rated in their top three. We thought it would be great to continue what he started in this group, where there's a bit more space to discuss your preferences and debate the merits of the contenders.

Here's a very rough summary of the most popular choices (basically titles that were suggested by more than one person). Feel free to add your own, and argue the case:

  1. Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkein
  2. Atonement by Ian McEwan
  3. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (highly contested)
  4. 1984 by George Orwell
  5. The Day Of The Jackal by Frederick Forsythe
  6. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkein ("So much better" than LotR, says number3)
  7. The Green Mile by Stephen King
  8. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
  9. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  10. The Road by Cormack McCarthy

I know... I know, it's impossible. But if there's enough enthusiasm on this thread, we could separate the survey into Fiction, Non-Fiction and perhaps even a genre section or two (Crime, Thrillers, Fantasy, Children's).

Already I've picked up a few good suggestions for my summer reading list. If coming up a definitive list has too many problems, perhaps we should work towards each making a single suggestion (What book would you recommend AccountingWEB members for their holiday readying?).

I'm also beginning to feel a Born Dull?! urge brewing... no one has mentioned the role of accountants in literature yet!

Becky Midgley's picture

I would add...

Becky Midgley | | Permalink

Shantaram, Gregory David Roberts - loved by me, also endorsed by Taxhound.

Brave New World and Island, Aldous Huxley - If I am to manage this group then they have to be on the list :)

Seriously though, I'll create the poll: If you could only recommend one book, which would it be?

My top 3 books

jonkaye | | Permalink

An impossible task to limit my favourite books to a list of just 3, but, if forced to do just that, I would have to say:


1) Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee - simply beautiful.

2) The Remains of the Day by Kashuo Ishiguro - exquisite English prose at its best.

3) Captain Scott by Ranulph Fiennes - this book caused me to cry on several occasions whilst reading it; such a very sad and moving account of ill-fated men who so nearly made it back to safety.


So many more great books to read, so little time to do so these days.

ShirleyM's picture

Ebook Clubs

ShirleyM | | Permalink

Can anyone recommend a good e-book club?

I have been browsing the internet and there are masses to choose from, but many look like they haven't been updated in years (ie. NEW for 2008!) or just have the 2,500+ books that you can get for £1 on EBay.

AnnaKournikovasKnickers's picture

The best books you have ever read?

AnnaKournikovas... | | Permalink

Being an accountant with lots of cash trader clients, I am used, of course to having two sets of books to read. So, it can get very expensive as  Amazon doesn't give discounts.

Nigel Hughes's picture

My favourites

Nigel Hughes | | Permalink

I go along with Lord of the Rings rather than The Hobbit

I like the George Smiley triology - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley's People by John Le Carre

I still think the Gormenghast Triology by Mervin Peake is something special.

Guilty pleasure is the John Craig series by James Munro who also wrote the Callan TV series - 4 books The man who sold death, Die rich, die happy, The money that money can't buy and The innocent bystanders. Shame they're not available on Kindle.

The Harry Potter series is also worth a mention for its impact on young people's reading habits and the fact that to sustain such quality over 7 books is a remarkable achievement.

clprince's picture

Best books

clprince | | Permalink

I'd recommend the Shardlake series by C J Sansom to anyone who loves crime and /or historical novels.  Top spot though has to be a tie between Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief and the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

Sorry, but I strongly disagree with that one.

jpcc1 | | Permalink


Having read with interest this and the more extensive thread from which it derived, I have agreed with many of the choices but I'm afraid I must strongly disagree with one of the selections above. I’d endorse Nigel Hughes’ selection of Le Carre novels but he has described the Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervin Peake as “something special”. I’ve only read the first book “Titus Groan” but it is pretentious drivel.
It is written by a schoolboy imagination limited by impoverished characterisation and plot. I would not read the other two for all the tea in China.  Please do not waste your time reading this rot there’s so many much better books out there.


chatman | | Permalink

There are loads of free ones at . All the old out-of-copyright ones are free. 

My best reads

dougc99 | | Permalink

My best reads have been

The Lord of the Rings (Trilogy), CJ Sansomes Shardlake series, Jonathan Livingston Seagull and Cider with Rosie.

The books recommended so far all have merits and are all different - which is the point about reading, so to rant on about the Gormenghast series was in my view a bit much. There are lots of books I have not enjoyed - but I'm not going to go on about them. - lighten up for crikeys sake!

Excellent idea anyway and brings back some great memories and as said some excellent suggestions for further reading.


Nigel Hughes's picture

Ah but...

Nigel Hughes | | Permalink

It's not a bad thing to get passionate about books and music!

Best wishes

Becky Midgley's picture

OOoo - another one I've remembered

Becky Midgley | | Permalink

I was sat in bed reading The Road (loaned to me ages ago but recommendation in previous book thread prompted me to actually get on and read it) and thinking about our 'book club/group' and about how many books I've read over the years. In many ways, I wish I had kept a diary - the titles, the authors, how I felt about the book, how easy it was to read, how it compared to the authors other books, etc. And I remembered a book I read recently that at the time I thought was possibly the best book I had ever read. It was 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel. A most delightful, compelling, imaginative allegory if ever I read one. This might be my contender for the 'One Book I Would Recommend'.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

About time I chipped in ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... but first, Cider with Rosie, please! We were forced to read that at school, it was the biggest load of self indulgent twaddle I have ever read, but that is just my opinion :o).

IMVHO, the greatest book ever (apart of course from the Bible) is Dune by Frank Herbert, combining a ripping yarn with detailed alternative worlds, and even more pertinent than when it was written by carrying a warning for today, set as it is in a world where computers are banned following bloody revolution against them and their enslavement of mankind!

I apologise for loving J K Rowling, which I do because they are just an entertaining read, but do I think have great depth, and each time I re-read you pick up more of the clues, they are a very well woven set of books, undeservedly dismissed as light weight by many, who have probably not read them right, like many good things (such as the muppets) they work on many levels.

Anything by Terry Pratchett is worth reading, he has a similar view on the world to me and even though the later disc world books are somewhat darker they have lost none of the magic of the early ones.

Stephen Donaldson is worth a read, being American he has a tendency to use 1000 pages when 3 or 400 would do, but his books are good, and the GAP series very brutal and offers quite a chilling view of the human psyche.

If you want a bit of light relief (and a lesson in English Grammer) you can't beat Wodehouse.

My latest find is David Farland and his rune lord series. The main premise of this world is that people can transfer attributes to each other, and the use and abuse that can happen as the donor is left vulnerable and the donee empowered, creating a complex dependency between the two, as the power is lost  if the donor dies. It explores interesting some concepts.

Another light read is Robert Rankin (not to be confused with Ian). His Brentford Trilogy (currently on book 8!) is most excellent with such wonderful titles as "The Sprouts of Wrath" and "The Brentford Chainstore Massacre"

I make no apologies for prefering the Science Fiction/Fantasy genre, I read to escape the mundane, not get absorbed in it. I contend that good writers in this genre are without equal, not only do they have to understand human emotions, interactions, motives and actions, they also have to create a plausible world in which to set them, which if you think about it is not easy.

Final author is Ellis Peters and her Cadfael series, wasn't keen on the TV series, I saw him more Roy Kinnear than Derek Jacobbi but RK was unavailable for obvious reasons. The books are a delight though.

I am a late comer to poetry, but it needs to be mentioned. Amongst my favourites are the Romantics, led by Coleridge, but, without peer in my opinion is Masefield. I have found over the last two or three years that writing poetry is a great release and a good way to de-stress, and I think Masefield has had the biggest influence on my style.

I will finish by saying, The Hobbit is far superior to LOTR, which although great in parts does have some exceedingly dull chunks that need great determination to slog through.

PS. Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently books are quite exceptional.



On unforgettable books

gailpurvis | | Permalink

Am in awe of 'The City & the City' by China Miéville.  Gail Purvis

Hear Hear

jpcc1 | | Permalink


First I’d just like to say that I can’t see any post by the Old Greying Accountant without thinking of the TV programme that sustained me through my youth – “The Old Grey Whistle Test ”.                                                                                                       Secondly, many of the authors he highlighted above: Frank Herbert; Stephen Donaldson; JK Rowling; Douglas Adams and especially Terry Pratchett, have sustained me through either my youth or my subsequent slide down the slope of increasing senility!I also can still remember the awe and amazement I felt on reading “The Hobbit”, having discovered it in the public library forty years ago.Escapism at its very best!  I read widely and indiscriminately (still needing that escapism). Classics, modern fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, poetry, plays, biography etc. At the beginning of 2009 I made a New Year’s resolution that I would read 100 books in the year. I started to record the books, in much the way Becky suggested above: the titles, the authors, how I felt about the book, how easy it was to read, how it compared to the author’s other books, etc.  Being an accountant I kept the record in a spreadsheet!I’ve found this to be really useful as I keep the record chronologically but also rank the books as I read them in a table in the order in which I’ve enjoyed them. This forces me to think about the reasons I have enjoyed each book and why (the style of writing, the subject matter, the interest or tension etc).  Looking back it seems that the three authors who have brought me greatest pleasure in the last three years have been Cormac McCarthy, Graham Greene and Rudyard Kipling.And the thing they have in common is the ability, with very few words, and no pretensions, to bring characters to life and convey atmosphere so imply yet subtly.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

On Cider with Rosie ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... I should have said, I don't think the less of you for liking it - the world itself would be old and greying, not just me, if we all liked the same things.

One other recommendation, not reading the Times or The Sun I had not come across Jeremy Clarkson's writing until I got a copy of "How had can it be?" in the secret Santa last year. Being a compilation of his newspaper column it is the perfect companion for the smallest room (may be that should be a new thread - recomendations for said room!). The bad news, I've nearly finished it, but the good news is I found two more volumes in charity shops on holiday in Suffolk recently.

Old Greying Accountant's picture

May be ...

Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

... we should have a favourite book quotes thread.

Myself, I find the litany of fear in Dune inspiring.

However, jpcc1 at least should understand why, when my the name of my son's maths teacher (Mr Diamond) is mentioned, I feel compelled to blurt out "he shines".

Having read all the posts again, it was late last night and I missed some, "Titus Groan" - the clue is in the title - There are good books and bad books, but this actually made my head ache reading it, and when I got to the end all I felt was why? But as I said above, each to his own.

Expanding on Harry Potter, I think JK did more than sustain the quality, but improved it with each book. Also, in each the main characters are aged apopropriately so the books "grow" with Harry, which is quite an achievement.

Coming at it from the other direction, what books really disturbed or upset you, and why?

When I was in my early teens my mother bought me a book called fireweed, about two children in the blitz. It really freaked me out, especiallyat the end. Having been brought up to respect books, and it having been a present from my mum, I could not destroy , lose or otherwise divest myself of it so I had to hide it behing other books as such where the negative feelings it inspired I couldn't even look at it.

I think I must have been destined for accountancy, because even earlier Dr Seuss always gave me the heeby jeebies, must have been that they were so against the natural order of things, the stuff of nightmares. (that has just reminded me of when I took my son to see "Monsters Inc", a cinema full of screaming petrified children bawling their eyes out).

Apart from the ubiquitous Blyton, Compton et al I used to love the BB books, especially the Bill Badger series. I later found out BB is Denys Watkins-Pitchford. Unfortunately they are hard to get hold of, but they did reprint Little Grey Men which I have, and also Brendon Chase.


RebeccaBenneyworth's picture

Cider with Rosie

RebeccaBenneyworth | | Permalink

Coming from about 2 miles from Laurie Lee's home, I discovered this lovely book at the age of 25 on bus journeys from Paddington to my office in the Aldwych. So immersed was I in the images of my own childhood that on looking up to check whether I was near my stop I was completely mystified by the shops in the Strand outside the bus window - I had expected the fields and trees of the Slad Valley, to which I had been transported. This was 30 years ago, and I have never forgotten the feeling of shock as I raised my eyes from the page! What brilliant writing. But what a beautiful place!

Old Greying Accountant's picture


Old Greying Acc... | | Permalink

its a book for girls or big girl's blouses

If the body count is less than the page number it's not worth the effort  - :o)

FeeSynergyUK's picture

Patrick O`Brian

FeeSynergyUK | | Permalink

For me, any of his are superb and I would back his historical fiction as good as anything. Is it just me who is surpised that his is omitted? as good as the rest are.

Then, for good measure, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Or, am I just old fashioned?

Thanks, Mike


AnnaKournikovasKnickers's picture

Best novels

AnnaKournikovas... | | Permalink

What! No Dickens in the bicentenary of his birth. As accountants he should get your vote on at least two bases: He is dystopian (like your profession) and his work output and the consistency of it.

My top three books of this year

Lilac1 | | Permalink

My top three all time books would be different from the top three books that I've read this year and at the moment the top three books of this year are more easier to remember.

So book 1, would be The Submission by Amy Waldman. I cannot say enough as to how much I've enjoyed this book. It's about designing a memorial for the 9/11 victims and the dilemma of choosing an architect for it.

Book 2 would have to be Gin O'clock. To be honest I'm not quite sure who wrote it but it's meant to be the Queen of England and her 'real' view of the world and her family antics. This book is quite funny and an expansion on what the Queen tweets.

Book 3 would have to be My Tiny Little Wife. It's more of a fable than a proper book and it can be read in a couple of hours but it has a lot of morals to the story.

I will have a think about my top three books ever though. I have read Cider with Rosie but I can't remember what it's about so it can't have had that much of an affect on me unlike Lord of the Rings or To kill a mockingbird.

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Group: AccountingWEB Book Club
An informal group where members can review and discuss books.