Best Books I Never Wrote: Fiona Sussman
The Roald Dahl Assortment
When my brother and I were very young, my parents read to us every night before bed (The Wind in the Willows; The Secret Garden; The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . . .). However, the Roald Dahl box set of books would be the first I can recall reading myself.
What a glorious feeling that sudden realisation of empowerment and endless possibility. I'd wake at five every morning, arm myself with a sound supply of snacks, then slip into Dahl's imaginary worlds.
No peach in real life has ever tasted quite like the luscious one described in James and the Giant Peach. As for 'Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight' of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory fame, if anyone knows where I can get my hands on some . . .
Lord of the Flies, William Golding
I first read this book at secondary school. The story of how a group of young British boys survive a plane crash and coexist on a remote uninhabited Pacific island until their rescue had a profound impact on me.
Without adult authority to regulate their behaviour, the boys' social order quickly collapses, giving way to savagery and bestial lawlessness.
Golding's work, with its unflinching realism and effective use of allegory, was my introduction to the full force of fiction as a tool for social commentary.
Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela's autobiography is a remarkable book because of the remarkable life it reflects.
Having grown up in South Africa under the appalling apartheid regime, the book proved a very emotional read for me. It lifted a scab on the atrocities of the era and filled in many gaps in a life that was hidden from us all for so long.
I will ever be in awe of Mandela's ability to rise above hatred and look forward.
I Shall Not Hate, Izzeldin Abuelaish
I heard Dr Izzeldin Abuelaish speak at the Auckland Writer's Festival some years ago. The auditorium was packed, yet you could hear a pin drop, so affected was the audience by this man's profound humanity.
A dedicated physician who, despite having suffered personal tragedy in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, has not allowed hate or revenge to corrode his life, he continues to work for peace and reconciliation in the troubled region of Gaza and is a beacon of hope for all mankind. This book is a must read.
Fiona Sussman's new book, The Last Time We Spoke, (Allison & Busby, $33) is out now.