The book I am currently reading
Strange rebels by Christian Caryl, an account of five events in 1979: Deng Xiaoping’s market reforms in China; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the election of Margaret Thatcher; the visit of John Paul II to Poland; and the Iranian revolution. I found it in Shaun Bythell’s wonderful bookstore in Wigtown in Scotland and I am engrossed.
The book that changed my life
The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Ephesians, or as I described it in my widely unread thesis, not by Saint Paul, is not an epistle, and it has nothing to do with Ephesus. That said, it is one of the most fascinating and challenging explorations of what it means to be a Christian. Once I was captivated, I tried to mince it with the techniques of textual criticism, but it only became more fascinating and mysterious.
The book I wish I had written
Writing a perfect novel and nothing else would be wonderful. So maybe The leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, which I adore. For me, an old regime that collapses is like Disneyland.
The book that most influenced my writing
Elizabeth david’s French provincial cuisine. If I want to see what a carefully modified sentence looks like, hear how it sounds and resonates, I read this. There’s no point trying to write like that, because it would come out bowed, stiff, and awkward, but she inspires me to keep trying.
The book that I think is most underrated
I cannot understand why the novels of the Scottish writer Robin Jenkins are not better known south of the border. I once resolved to do a studio opera with The cone gatherers, but the idea of the stage machinery necessary to make it work defeated me.
The book that made me change my mind
By David Olusoga Blacks and british. I read it locked up, sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests, and realized that despite all my commitment to racial equality, from Rock Against Racism in the late ’70s to the overthrow of the Edward Colston statue in 2020 I’ve never given up on anything , he never willingly gave up anything, to create fairer actions for blacks, and he should do something about it.
The last book that made me cry
I just read susie boyt’s Loved and missed in test (to be published in August). It’s about loving an addict and the costs involved. I had to quit twice. Write wonderful prose, infinitely tender and steely.
The last book that made me laugh
Raymond Blanc’s Homemade Recipe Book, Simply Raymond. He writes as he speaks, with a French accent and unwavering enthusiasm, so that sometimes the text explodes in excited exclamations: bubble, bubble !, gentle gentle! They made me laugh out loud while I cooked. The recipes are great too: simple, but with delicious touches that make a difference.
The book that I couldn’t finish
I often run away in book three of a trilogy. Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, for example, or from Dante The Divine Comedy. Maybe I want a greater sense of resolution, or a different resolution than what is given.
The book that I am ashamed of not having read
I have not read Jane Austen’s Emma. There are no excuses.
The book that I give you as a gift
I love the nature writing of BB (Denys Watkins-Pitchford), who grew up in a vicarage near mine in Northamptonshire, and I keep every copy of Brendon chase I find it in second-hand bookstores.
My first memory of reading
Ant and bee by Angela Banner. I think I can remember the words that started to come together on the page and I was suddenly reading.
My consolation read
Julian of Norwich, the 14th century anchor of East Anglia. Everything will be fine and everything will be fine.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism