Of late I have become an obsessive listener to Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. Clever, famous (not necessarily the same thing) and interesting people are interviewed and asked to choose eight records they would like to have with them on a desert island. I wanted to get to know some of my readers a little better, so thought it would be fun to feature readers and their favourite reads. This spawned the rather natty, although probably not originally named "Reader's Reads".
If you would like to be featured, please contact me via the email button (bottom left of the main page) and I'll email out the bits and pieces to you.
Each reader has a comfy seat, anywhere in the world, real or imaginary, a beverage and snack of their choice and a bookcase which will only hold eight books.
Today we have Richard, the bold founder of our local book group, his patience in putting up with my ever increasingly bizarre suggestions for book club reads is endless. Over to you Richard!
Beverage of choice: Kir - For me, drinks go hand in hand with places and settings, and what might be a perfect marriage in one setting could easily be a nightmare combination in another. My drink of choice has therefore largely been dictated by the location of my comfy chair and bookshelf. If the chair were to be in an English garden on a summer’s afternoon, then I would have to go for a pot of tea or maybe a Pimms. Similarly, if it were to be by the fireside on a winter’s evening in a Scottish castle, then a single malt would be the obvious choice. As it is, Kir is the perfect fit for where I would like my chair to be, bringing back many happy memories of time spent in the brilliant southern French sunshine.
Snack of choice: A bowl of ‘posh’ crisps - Whilst I can take chocolate or leave it, I am a complete sucker for salty, savoury snacks. A bowl of Kettle chips or similar at my side would be the ideal accompaniment to my Kir and chosen reading material!
Location of comfy chair and bookshelf: On the terrace of a villa, overlooking the sea in the South of France - I have a mental image of my dream home, which is on a hill in the south of France, overlooking the Mediterranean. The sun is blazing in a cloudless sky, and my deckchair has been judiciously placed in the shade of an umbrella on the terrace, giving an unbroken view over the sparkling sea. The chilled Kir and the crisps are waiting for me on a small table beside the chair, along with the stack of books and the much needed hat and sunglasses. Perfect.
The one which kick started your reading habit: Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
One day when I was six years old, my dad came home from work with this book for me, - the first in the Famous Five series. The book was a total revelation to me, being my first “real” book, with text rather than pictures. I found the book wildly exciting and very quickly worked my way through the entire series of 21 Famous Five books. I took great pride in having them all lined up in order on my bedroom shelves.
Although it is now easy to criticise Enid Blyton for painting an outdated and idealistic view of the world, I would defend her skills as a children’s story teller, and for me there is no question that my love of reading was triggered by the Famous Five.
The one which changed your view of the world: Roots – The Saga of An American Family by Alex Hailey
Having been brought up in a very conventional “middle England” environment, I spent my early life blissfully unaware of many of the terrible injustices which blight the history of what we consider today to be civilised nations Roots and its sequel Queen gave me a much needed wake-up call in terms of my understanding of the horrors of slavery. I was a little too young to see the famous 1970s TV adaptation, but the books made a powerful impact on me when I read them in early adulthood.
The one you go back to again and again: The Collector by John Fowles
If there is one book which I wish I could have written myself, it is this one, - for me it is literary perfection. Dark and disturbing, and with the interesting technique of presenting the same set of events from the perspective of two protagonists, this short novel contains one of the biggest shock moments I have come across in any book. The fact that it is John Fowles’ debut novel makes the achievement even more impressive.
The one you comfort read: Christine by Stephen King
My guilty pleasure is horror or psychological fiction, - possibly a legacy of the James Herbert novels which were furtively passed around between classmates in the fourth form at school! There are many examples of the genre which I could have picked, but Christine is one which I found particularly unnerving. The idea of a possessed car sounds ridiculous in the abstract, but works only too well in this case.
The one which you had an unexpected response to: Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos
Les Liaisons Dangereuses was a set text on the curriculum of my degree course. An epistolary novel made up of letters sent between French aristocrats in the 18th century was never going to have much appeal for a 20 year old British male student in the late 20th century, and I put off reading it again and again. How wrong can you be?! The depth of intrigue, sexual tension, sophistication and sheer malice at the heart of this novel is simply breath-taking, and stands comparison with anything that could be written today. I was utterly gripped when I first read it, and have since gone back to it several times, as well as having seen the stage and film versions. It is a real pleasure to be able to include in my list of all-time favourites a work which I had initially so easily dismissed.
The one you wish you had time to read: War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The sheer size of War & Peace, along with some mixed experiences of Russian literature, have meant that I have never had the courage to tackle this. Everyone I know who has read it says it is brilliant, and I have a permanent ‘note to self’ telling me that I really should grasp the nettle and plough in. Proust’s In Remembrance of Things Past is very much in the same category.
The one with sentimental value: Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
A previous partner of mine was a big fan of Thomas Hardy and it is on her recommendation that I read Tess, along with many of the other Hardy novels. I find the storyline in Tess absolutely heart-breaking, and the novel contains some of the most poignant lines that I can think of. I am not ashamed to say that this is one which always brings tears to my eyes. Absolutely beautiful.
The last one you read: The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz
Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy is right up there on my list of all-time favourites, and I had mixed feelings when I saw that someone had been commissioned to continue the series after Larsson’s death. Happily, David Lagercrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s Web has met with generally positive reviews, and I completely agree that he has not made a bad fist of it at all. It was always going to struggle to achieve the heights of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, but then what could?!
Thank you Richard! This is a wonderfully diverse list of books, a few of which have ended up on my "would like to read" list!