We become better writers by reading widely, so which books have coloured our lives? Which are our favourites, which inspire us and which do we wish we had written? As we’re approaching Christmas, which books will we give and which would we like to be given? I wish I had written Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson, a brilliant evocation of post-war northern England which transports me back to my childhood and rekindles innumerable memories.
I’d like to give I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, to any teenage girl of my acquaintance. This funny and poignant coming of age novel begins with the line, ‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.’ What’s not to like?
I’ll never give away Any Human Heart by William Boyd, which spans the 20thcentury and explores how public events impinge on individual consciousness. I loaned this to a friend once, and had to buy another copy. Moral: never lend a book you want to see again; you probably won’t.
The book that inspired me to write was Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. This tortured tale of romance and revenge appealed to my teenage self and it has never slackened its grip. If I could create something even approaching it I would be a very happy woman.
I’d like to be given Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey, to compare the circumstances of living with an aged relative with Dementia with my own situation.
I wish I’d never read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, by Louis de Bernieres, amongst many others. I used to think, I’ve started, so I’ll finish. These days, time is moving on and there are so many books still to read. I don’t waste time ploughing through stuff that hasn’t grabbed my attention by page 50, regardless of what others think.
On my desert island I’d like Remembrance of Things Past, by Marcel Proust, Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell and Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantell – I will get to the end of them all.
My guilty pleasure is Jack Reacher. Lee Child has created a great hero in these books and I’m steadily reading them all.