Today is World Book Day and having written a few words last year on National Story Telling Week, in 2016 we decided for find out which books our team holds most dear. Here’s the top four picks:

Garry Dix, destroyer of walls, B2B tech team

It’s not just a book that has stayed in my mind, but the first line of said book especially. The Gunslinger, the first of Stephen King’s self-proclaimed Magnum Opus, the Dark Tower series, opens with the line, ‘The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.’

When I read this line back as an early teen, and even more so now as somebody working in communications, I can’t think of a better opening line to a book. Who is the man in black? What exactly is meant by a ‘gunslinger?’ Is this a real-world desert or somewhere that we can only dream of through fiction? Most importantly, is the man in black fleeing as the line suggests, or does he have a plan up his billowing sleeve for his pursuer? The power of that opening, opaque and insistent that the reader continues, is something that I have yet to see be bettered.

The books have been described as far too broad in scope, and like many of King’s works, potentially in need of a stricter editor. But I am always drawn to read them once more, and it is the power of that killer first line which compels me to do so. It’s a good reminder that if you are looking to tell a story, how you initially look to capture your audience can make all the difference.

Nicole Lombardo, FS super whiz based in our NYC office

Oscar Wilde has forever been my favourite writer. The work he created knows no bounds and makes the reader examine life from alternate perspectives. My all-time favourite book is, The Picture of Dorian Gray. Science fiction is my go-to genre and this book is the reason. I enjoy viewing the world at its most extreme and at the time of its publication in 1890, Dorian Gray portrayed a character that was immoral and unfit for society. 

Oscar Wilde was ahead of his time and created a character that exaggerated themes in life that still ring true today. I first read this book in 2010 – 120 years after its publication – and I was able to make parallels to our current society. The main theme throughout the book is the predominance of beauty and vanity. People hold themselves to such high standards and allow their need for acceptance to rule their actions in life. Dorian Gray’s life was fuelled by the acceptance and praise of his society. The more they were talking about him, the more they loved him and the more they did to please him made him pleased in his warped vision of life. This of course led to his demise and this theme teaches the reader that this path of life will damage society rather than save it, which some people believe.

The perception of life in this book is what I love most. When a story makes me examine life differently and re-evaluate my understandings I appreciate it more. For me, sci-fi will always offer the opportunity for this. Creativity and imagination are a driving force in everyday life and this book, in my eyes, became standards for writing and perception.

Matthew Sheahan, US content genius

My favourite novel of all time is John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, one of the funniest novels you will ever read and a brilliant satire of life in New Orleans, Louisiana. New Orleans is an unusual and dangerous place, even by American standards, and its long history in the possession of the French leaves it with a culture all its own. But even if you’ve never visited New Orleans, Toole’s novel is a brilliant examination of human foibles with an eccentric protagonist intellectually brilliant on matters of medieval philosophy but completely inept at all other matters of life. The story of the novel’s publication is inspiring as well. Toole died when the manuscript was unpublished and it took his mother more than a decade to get it published. When it finally saw the light of day, it won the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for fiction. 

Daniel George, content and strategy guru

Okay, okay. I admit it, my choice – Stoner, by John Williams – has become a bit of a cliché. But I stand by it. It’s an exceptional read.

Stoner is the story of an average guy, with an average life. Years after the protagonist’s death, his peers will hardly remember him. He’s born, he goes to work, marries the wrong woman, raises a daughter and dies.

Nothing particularly exciting happens. There are no feats of derring-do to be found here – the climactic sequence is a mere performance review meeting. There’s not even really much of a plot. But I think it’s rather beautiful.

In essence, the message I took from it was that life is hard and a bit rubbish. And that’s the same for everyone. But if you find something you really love and care about, it’s probably worth it.

I suppose you could say that’s a little depressing, but I don’t think so. It reminds me when times are tough, to keep in mind that every life (and not just the grand ones) has meaning – even if it’s just to the person living it.

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