The following is a transcript of an article that appeared in Sydney’s Sun Herald newspaper on September 12. It details the tomes that altered my perception as a writer, reader and member of the human race…What are yours?
THE BOOKS THAT CHANGED ME: DARREN GROTH
‘Jaws’ by Peter Benchley
I read this when I was in grade 8. It was one of the first books I saw when I wandered wide-eyed into Brisbane’s Marcellin College library during my first week of “grown-up” high school. I took it off the stand, sat down and started reading. There was a naked chick and a shark attack barely a step into the story. I thought it was the greatest book ever written (I might’ve even shared this revelation with the librarian and random students at the shelves). And there was still about 300 pages of nudity and gore left to awe my testosterone-addled mind. Sadly, it didn’t quite meet with those adolescent expectations (however, there was plenty of blood in the water). A terrific read, though.
‘Zigzag Street’ by Nick Earls; ‘Strange Rain’ by Venero Armanno
I put these two books together because both shaped and influenced me about the same time and in the same way. The real attraction for me about both works – apart from the fact they were written superbly – was they were penned by Brisbane authors. The stories were local but they read like the exotic. There was a universal nature to their themes; neither was hamstrung by a sense of the parochial. They represented writing of the highest order and the authors responsible lived in view of the Story Bridge. Subsequently, I had the great good fortune to work closely with both Nick and Veny. I still consider them to be “mentors by example”.
‘Chronicle of a Death Foretold’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
My brother, Sean, urged me to read this when I was about 18 or 19 years old. Such a sad, beautiful, brilliant little tale. It really changed the way I looked at reading and writing. It enabled me to see that small lives and their associated pathos could be utterly compelling. I haven’t read this book again in the 20 years since and I have no intent to in future. I’m happy enough to have savoured the first-time magic this work conjured.
‘I’m Not Scared’ by Niccolo Ammaniti
I am very partial to quality fiction that features young protagonists. I believe there is a certain alchemy associated with great, youth-imbued stories that can’t be achieved by a fictional world occupied only by grown-ups. I’m Not Scared was at the forefront of shaping this belief. The book is a tour de force, with so many elements to fire the imagination – from the stifling-hot setting in rural Italy to the horror of the discovered crime to an ending as devastating as anything put to print. However, it’s the young characters who really carry the day. The kids are all right? They’re the best.
Darren Groth is an Australian novelist living in Canada who writes young-adult and adult fiction. His most recent book, Kindling (Hachette, $24.99), is about a single father raising his autistic son in a small Australian town threatened by bushfires.