Sunday, October 17

Chris Packham: “I read Brave New World at 13. Found it scary but empowering” | books

The book I am currently reading
I just finished Dale Vince’s Manifest. He is the person behind the green energy company Ecotricity, and he is interested in encouraging people to secure a happier, safer, healthier and more sustainable future.

The book that changed my life
I read Aldous Huxley’s Brave new world when I was 13 and I found it scary but empowering. I identified with John the Savage and with the oppressive nature of that world and its dystopian future.

The book I wish I had written
The philosopher and the wolf by Mark Rowlands. On the surface it is the story of a philosopher who decides to get hold of a wolf. I have two miniature black poodles and they are about to join two more. I can tell you that four poodles would give any wolf a run for its money in terms of the dramatic impact they have on your life. It is a fascinating account of their relationship, comparing the social life of canids and primates.

The book that most influenced my writing
By Aldo Leopold A Sand County Almanac. The romance of his writing and the way he describes the landscapes are amazing. There is a section called “Escudilla” and it is one of the most beautiful and ultimately tragic passages in a book that I have read. I struggle to read it without crying.

The book I think is most underrated
The sound of a wild snail eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. No one seems to have heard of him. It is an amazing book that portrays a woman who is incapacitated by illness; she is lying on the bed, she cannot move, and someone brings her a flower in a pot and on it is a snail. It’s about your relationship with that snail. It may not be Thomas Hardy or F Scott Fitzgerald; narrative content is limited. But what he does with it is incredible.

The book that made me change my mind
Ten trillion by Stephen Emmott, on human overpopulation. By the time I get to the end, I should be terrified and think about what I might be doing to make sure there aren’t too many of us.

The book that I couldn’t finish
There is only one. If I start something, I have to finish it, so there is only one movie that I came out of, Shirley valentine, and a book I couldn’t finish, Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet. I read all of his brother’s stuff as a kid, so I learned it thinking this was going to be great, and I found it regrettable. I got very angry with myself, I never get rid of the books, but it is one of the few that I have given away because I did not want to keep remembering it as the one that beat me.

The book I would most like to be remembered for
I haven’t written any yet. I can’t do anything by halves, it’s Asperger’s thing, so if I’m going to write another book, my intention has to be for it to be the best ever written in that genre. Obviously that sets the bar unbelievably high, but I can’t go in thinking this will be the 15th best nature book written this year, otherwise I wouldn’t bother lifting the laptop screen. I think I’m about to jump in and get started.

• Back to Nature: How to Love Life and Save It, by Chris Packham and Megan McCubbin, published by Two Roads (£ 20).

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