In 1930 [aged 13], I came under the spell of a considerably more literate influence, when I discovered W Olaf Stapledon’s just-published Last and First Men in the Minehead Public Library. No book before or since ever had such an impact on my imagination; the Stapledonian vistas of millions and hundreds of millions of years, the rise and fall of civilizations and entire races of men, changed my whole outlook on the universe and has influenced much of my writing ever since. ”
– Arthur C Clarke
in essay titled ‘Of Sand and Stars’ (1983)
Among his 80 solo books and over 20 co-authored works, did Arthur C Clarke have a favourite title? And what books by other authors did he particularly like?
For a long time, he avoided answering these questions. In December 2007, on the eve of his 90th birthday, he said: “I struggle to choose a favourite…After much reflection, I settle for Childhood’s End (1953) and The Songs of Distant Earth (1986) – though for different reasons. Not all my readers might agree with this choice, but I’m glad to have given them enough choice to argue about!”
In the same reflection, published by Locus magazine (January 2008 issue), he wrote: “In my youth, I used to read a book a day – we were the last generation that could absorb all the good books that came out. I hesitate to compile a personal list of the best books I have read, but no other book had a greater influence on my life than Last and First Men (1930) by Olaf Stapledon.”