The ABC will tonight be announcing the results of a nationwide poll conducted over the last few months to find "Australia's Favourite Book". The announcement will come as part of a 90-minute special beginning at 7.30pm. I'm going to make a dull prediction and say that "The Bible" will get up.
I missed out on voting in the poll, so to make up, here is my personal choice of my five favourite books of all time, counting down in reverse order. There are four fantasy fiction works and one non-fiction.
5. Ten for 66 and All That - Arthur Mailey I have a large soft spot for books about cricket, and Mailey's 1958 autobiography is the best of them all. An account of the life and playing career of the Australian leg-spinner who was also a talented journalist and cartoonist in later life. His whimsical retelling of his childhood, early playing days and selection for Australia are about as sublime as sports writing could ever be. He paints an evocative picture of a suburban Sydney long since gone - try crossing the sandhills when walking from Waterloo to the SCG today. If that's not enough, he makes an uncanny prediction of Packer's World Series Cricket, which erupted twenty years after this book was written and more than a decade after his death in 1966.
4. Dune - Frank Herbert A rich sci-fi epic, published in 1965, which creates an interplanetary world of environmental politics that is scarily echoed by 21st century reality. This ranking does not include any of the sequels or rip-offs.
3. Animal Farm - George Orwell It's not a Disney cartoon. Orwell's allegory of the Bolshevik Revolution and the ensuing dictatorship over the proletariat is a devastating satire that shades out "1984" for qualification for this list on the strength of its sheer audacity. Under Australian copyright law, "Animal Farm" has been in the public domain since 2001 and can be read on-line in full. If you live in the USA or the European Union do not, repeat not, click here.
2.The Lord of the Rings trilogy - JRR Tolkien January 1976 saw two cultural events that left their mark on my teenage years: the first time that I heard "Bohemian Rhapsody" and the first time that I read "The Lord of the Rings". As complex and rewarding a series they may be, they still don't make number one on my list. That honour goes to...
1. Frankenstein - Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley A brilliant allegorical thriller from the mind of nineteen year-old Mary Wollstonecroft. None of the 20th century movie incarnations can even remotely do justice to this classic, my favourite book of all. (In the public domain in all jurisdictions, it can be read on-line.)