Alan Kennedy was placed first in our short story competition in April last year, with his story The Storyteller’s Gift, which was also published in our first print anthology. (We still have a handful of HALF PRICE copies available here.) Today he continues our On The Shelf series, with his selection of five of his ‘must have’ books.

Over the past twenty-five years, he says, I have changed house, town, even country several times and with each change I have reduced my personal library. Also, several years ago I suffered a macular haemorrhage in the left eye, which makes reading for long periods tiring. For that reason, my present ‘library’ tends to be on audio. I have about 200 audio books some of which I listen to again and again.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig

This one I have in print version. I first read it when I was 20, a young hippy dropout, a bit lost. It was recommended by a workmate. It made a great impression on me from the beginning as I had always been a bit of a philosophy freak. This is a book I have read several times and at several periods in my life. Apart from the romantic air of being on the road, etc, I liked the way that he introduced the idea of focusing on what you have in front of you and not to focus too much on planning for the future. As the Bard said, ‘The best made plans o’ mice and men gang aft a-gley.’

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

I have always loved Hesse and even visited his hometown a few years ago. This was another book from my youth which I have read several times throughout my life, the last time in German. Although the main character is a middle-aged man, I identified a lot with him feeling like an outsider. When I read it again recently, I identified more with the circus people and found the main character incredibly straight laced.

The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

When I lived in London in the 80s, many people were raving about this author, but I never got around to reading any of her works.  I discovered Angela Carter only a few years ago when I started my (still unfinished) MA in Creative Writing. I have both the audio and print versions. I love her use of metaphors and the vividness with which she writes. The innovative way she twists the fairy tales is wonderful and the descriptions are very inspiring.

Jellyfish by Janice Galloway

Again when I was doing my post grad, I realised I didn’t know many Scottish writers, and especially no female Scottish writers at all. I have read / heard quite a few now but the voice I identify with most is Janice Galloway. Her way of writing is fresh and funny. This collection of short stories is perfect in its simplicity and use of language.

The Art of Character by David Corbett

Like most people who take writing a bit further than just a hobby, I have several ‘how to write’ books. Many of them are useful but their ideas can be gleaned by one reading. This manual by David Corbett is the most thumbed book on my bookshelf. Every time I start a new story I have a look at one part of it and try to include its ideas into the new character.

You can read Alan’s author profile article – which he did for us earlier this year – here.