A couple of days after sending our latest issue to the printers (finished on a day of broken boilers, school and playgroup runs, a restless dog and other deadlines), we realised that we could really do with a new literature feature on our website. So with a few hours to go before the May issue hit the streets we decided to ask our contributing writer's for a list of their five favourite books...
1984, George Orwell A book that not only changed the world, but predicted it. Love Orwell’s easy but intelligent writing style. Which leads me to…
Animal Farm, George Orwell As above. A writer way, way ahead of his time and yet always, even now, so relevant and modern.
To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee A story that, when I read it as a teenager, broke my heart and fired my will to write about the wrongs in the world. A legend.
Thumbelina, Hans Christian Andersen Ok, more a story than a book, but I have to include it here, as it’s the first story, at the age of five, I recall inspiring me. I re-wrote the whole thing with paint and scribbles.
All The Light We Can See, Anthony Doer Love this one. The poetic prose, the ease of the read, yet the eruditeness of it all. He fully deserved the Pulitzer Prize he won for it in 2015
Absolute Beginners, Colin MacInnes A wonderfully written book about London in the 50's and a great evocation of the race riots at the end.
I'm Not Really Here, Tim Allen Great book by the voice of Buzz Lightyear which finishes with a comparison of particle physics and Buddhism.
Kipps, H G Wells One of my favourite writers and the book that inspired Half A Sixpence is a great slice of Victorian life.
Puckoon, Spike Milligan Spike was always a hero and this is probably his best book.
Adventures in the Screen Trade, William Goldman Wonderful Hollywood anecdotes from the writer of Marathon Man and The Sting amongst many others and an ideal guide for anyone who wants to write scripts.
Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl Utterly enchanting for a boy growing up in the country. The gypsy caravan, the garage, the derring-do plot to get all the pheasants... just fantastical. I read it to my daughters last year and was utterly engrossed all over again.
What a Carve Up, Jonathon Coe A brilliantly funny and observational author. Although probably not his best known work, What a Carve Up is a satirical masterpiece, it's hilariously over the top and will make you nearly wet yourself in several places... within the book that is, rather than upon yourself. I can't say more as it would be a crime to give any of the plot away, so just read it instead.
Fatherland, Robert Harris This is edge of your pants stuff, never mind your seat, from an author who, in my opinion, has failed to match the dizzy heights since. It's not a literary classic but it's the definition of a un-put-a-down-able book. I read it in 24 hours, forgetting to sleep.
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver Just a brilliantly written and highly original novel. The story, as well as the narrative, is engaging and, having lived in Africa for a couple of years, the grim idealism shown by the missionary family is spot on. It's a brilliant portrayal of family dynamics in an unusual setting, and a testament to Kingsolver's ability to research her novels meticulously.
The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins I have to put this book on the list, as it is the one that probably had the biggest influence on me. I basically chose my university degree on the back of this book. Forget that Dawkins can often come across as a pompous academic, The Selfish Gene - from start to end - is mind-blowingly simple in its argument, and yet it challenges your perspective on, well, everything.
Oryx & Crake, Margaret Atwood Diverse author flexing science fiction muscle with believable and fallible characters.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou A book which sits in my heart and began my love affair with Angelou and her work.
All the Light We Cannot See, Antony Doerr Beautifully written, thought provoking look at the Second World War.
Birthday Letters, Ted Hughes I will always remember as the first book of poetry I bought myself. I read it all the time. It's beautiful and haunting.
The Catcher in the Rye, J D Salinger Showed me another side to literature when I was at an age of pure Bronte and Austen. Opened my eyes to the entire American Beat Generation which I devoured - and still do.
Getting the Joke, Oliver Double As your comedy correspondent I thought I’d start off with a couple of books about stand-up. This is the definitive guide to the history and inner workings of stand-up from an academic who has got out there and done it.
How I Escaped My Certain Fate (The Lives and Deaths of a Stand-up Comedian), Stewart Lee The best book on stand-up by a stand-up. The entire transcript of a stand-up show exhaustively analysed and examined. Superb insights into writing and performing comedy.
A Heart Breaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggars Sticking with the comic theme this is my novel pick. I loved this book for its post-modern, meta, self-referential clowning around and it’s got a moving story at its heart. Got to admire the cheek of the title too.
It’s Here Now (Are You), Bhagavan Das On a different front, this is the memoir of an American counter-cultural icon about his time as a wandering sadhu in India. A fantastic evocation of sacred India with a plethora of saints and yogis. He introduced the wider world to guru Neem Karoli Baba who has recently been named as an inspiration for Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.
Help! I am a Prisoner in a Toothpaste Factory, John Antrobus Back to the comedic, by a collaborator of Spike Milligan, this is my favourite childhood book and one that definitely influenced by own comic endeavours. Would love to read it again to see what I think of it as an adult. I see Amazon (genuinely) has a second hand copy for £0.01 and a new copy for £999.11. Which seems fitting for such a bonkers book.
Look out for pt.2 (coming soon) as we ask the remaining pool of Good On Paper writer's!