Have you seen the Writer's Table feature which Waterstone's are running? At the moment, it's Philip Pullman's selection, and I saw him talking about it in the Times last weekend. It's a sales gimmick, of course, but I always welcome opportunities to broaden my reading and find new things (well, almost always).
Pullman's selection was a particularly interesting one, I thought. Of the 40 books he was allowed, I would say at least six of the authors represented could well have been on my list - not that W's are likely to ask me - Kipling, Le Carre, Burton, Dawkins, Mann, and Rilke, though only in the case of Rilke would I have chosen exactly the same book (Duino Elegies, a marvellous, spellbinding series of poems, even in translation). Several other books I would very much like to read - Hogg (Justified Sinner), the Woodhouse and the H G Wells, and the Penrose book of science too.
A couple of books caught my eye immediately - Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys was on the list, with this description -
Powys evoked the English landscape with an almost sexual intensity. Hardy comes to mind, but a Hardy drunk and feverish with mystical exuberance.
Well, I loathe Hardy, but this sounded as if it had to be read, and anyway, an author who dares call his hero Wolf demands attention. So I brought it from the library, finding in the process that Powys wrote a very full diary of a couple of years living in Dorset, so I got that too. See, the list has already worked its magic.
And Kolymsky Heights by Lionel Davidson might be worth a look: "The best thriller I've ever read, and I've read plenty. A solidly researched and bone-chilling adventure in a savage setting, with a superb hero. "
Other books on his list I can take or leave - the Kleist (Marquis of O) for example, which never gripped me, or Musil's Man Without Qualities, or all the childrens' books.
But there's one book not on his list, because it's not in print in the UK. He wanted to include The Balloonist by the American novelist MacDonald Harris; I looked for this in the library, but could only find Screenplay. I have never heard of this author, but I'm looking forward to giving this a go. Normblog has an intriguing essay with more information - he's got Pullman on Harris.
So a very intriguing list, which took me in a number of unexpected directions. While I was at the library, I got some pre-reading for my next holiday, and a novel about the Norman Conquest by Hope Muntz, called The Golden Warrior - so the "read me now pile" is toppling over!