Cecilia Danell, visual artist, songwriter
A Wizard Of Earthsea by Ursula K Le Guin
IF YOU want to forget about our current situation for a while, I highly recommend an escape to the world of Earthsea, where a young wizard named Sparrowhawk goes to wizard school to learn about magic (the book was published 30 years before Harry Potter ).
Through pride and hubris, he tries his hand at spells far too advanced for a wizard in training, and unknowingly releases a terrible shadow upon the world, which he must hunt down in order to restore balance again. This brings him on a fantastic adventure where he has to tame a dragon and sail across the ocean in pursuit of what, in a nod to Jungian psychology, is essentially a dark aspect of his own Self.
The world Le Guin brings to life is ancient and contains much beauty and hope, as well as terrible darkness and evil that needs to be faced and overcome. Written for children and adults alike, this coming-of-age story, originally published in 1968, is the first book in a series of four, where each also serves as a freestanding work.
Le Guin teaches timely life lessons about the interconnectedness of the world, and how it takes courage to face up to, and accept, one’s dual nature of darkness and light. The theme of duality is also explored in her excellent work for adults, The Left Hand of Darkness, published a year later.
Steven Sharpe, singer-songwriter
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
IS THIS the most obvious book to pick? Honey badger don’t care!
So how did a little semi-illiterate dyslexic hot mess like me get through Moby D? I was living in a house with no internet for two months so I used my ex-boyfriends WiFi to download it as an audiobook the week before I broke up with him (he had it coming ).
The novel is in the public domain so it was free to download from Librivox (get the version read by Stewart Wills ), a website with a mission "to make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet". Clocking in at 24 hours and 37 minutes it is a leviathan of a listen! This book has everything. ‘Straight’ lads spooning, bad-ass amputee representation, Shakespearean supernatural apparitions, a ton of biology, and my favorite - a big whale in all white who is not here to play with you. Check it out.
If you get bored you can skip the whale history and biology chapters, but they are so beautifully written, why would you? Whales are fierce the house down momma, get into it.
Lastly if you are like myself and had tickets to see Laurie Anderson in St Nicholas, Moby Dick appears a lot on her 2001 album Life On A String, featuring songs taken from her show, Songs and Stories from Moby Dick. It is also one of Laurie Anderson's favourite books.
Alan McMonagle, novelist and short story writer
The Book Of Embraces by Eduardo Galeano
THIS IS the book I give away most often. It is something to do with the way Galeano receives and perceives the world – a particular mashing of humour, wonder, awe, and celebration of the everyday stuff of life – that makes me want to share this remarkable writer with others. Plus, every time I give this book away I get to experience the joy of seeking it out all over again.
The book itself is a confectionary of story, dream, parable, paradox, memory, reflection, anecdote, and observation, all delivered with Galeano's singular humour and wonder. It is replete with affirmation of what it is to be alive, of what it is to feel, and look, and touch, and hear. It is mysterious and revelatory, familiar and surprising, contradictory and reassuring; a testament to the power of the imagination and to human possibility. Above all, it is a book that will put a smile on your face, an ideal tonic for these strange and uncertain times.
Galeano has written some of my favourite lines in all of literature. Alas, too many to include here, so I will limit myself to one: “We are all mortal until the first kiss and the second glass of wine.” Here's to a fabulous writer and wonderful spirit.