This week on YA from My Youth, I’m pleased to welcome Richard Kurti, author of Monkey Wars. I’ve added a book summary, so you can read about this brilliant book.
First the shameful confession: as a teenage boy I was not an avid reader. I didn’t devour classic after classic, and I spent more time in record shops than bookshops.
What a thing to confess to on a book website!
But (if you’re still reading and haven’t clicked away in disgust) those books I did read, I chose carefully and read very thoroughly. And often they changed the way I saw the world.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
On the surface it’s such a simple book, but the implications of the story are so profound and troubling, the fate of the characters so moving, the tone so understated and controlled.
As a teenager I was very idealistic and political, and this was a warning to me about the damage done by ideologues.
The Spire by William Golding
On the other hand, in many ways this book is a celebration of obsession. I’ve always been fascinated by mad people with a dream, who refuse to give up… maybe because when I was a teenager I was driven by crazy dreams (still am).
This is a haunting story about one man’s determination to build the spire of Salisbury Cathedral at any price.
The gap between his dream and the twisted reality is such a great metaphor for life, the destruction caused by his willpower so shameful… and yet, despite everything, the spire was built… and still stands.
2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C Clarke
Such a great movie, that is complemented and enhanced by the book. A real cosmic mind bender. I love those mind games you can play when you step further and further back, realising how tiny and insignificant you are, until nothing seems to matter at all. This book does that for me… which was especially useful when I was flooded with teenage hormones and prone to get things out of proportion.
OK, now it starts to get a bit weird…
The Problems of Philosophy by Bertrand Russell
Not very romantic, but very practical. For a teenage boy, life was all about trying to find solutions rather than love. Strange but true – am I weird or is this how most men felt as teenagers?
A short, beautifully written book that turns your mind inside out, making those apparently intractable problems melt away, and creating new problems where none existed before.
Life Library of Photography
These books really did shape my teenage years. I was a very keen photographer (taking pictures is how I made sense of adolescence) and this series became my bible.
17 books that came through the post, one a month, filled with the world’s best photographs and tips about how they were taken.
I spent countless hours poring over these books, trying to learn by imitating the masters… and inevitably failing. But it was so inspiring to see the world through their great eyes.
Reading this blog back, I realise that it’s a pretty strange list, but it was only at university that I became a really avid devourer of fiction. When I was a teenager there was nothing like the YA market there is today, you had to move straight from kids to adult. That’s my excuse anyway.
Despite the above, I grew up to be a pretty normal bloke!
When the Langur monkey troop rises to power on the dusty streets of Calcutta, it is at a price. A brutal massacre drives the Rhesus troop out of the place they called home and forces them to embark on a dangerous journey. But one Langur monkey, Mico, is prepared to stand up to the tyrannical Langur regime and fight for truth, friendship and love. As Mico uncovers the secrets and lies at the heart of the corrupt Langur leadership, he quickly realizes he is playing a dangerous game. And when monkeys turn on each other, there can be no survivors...