My favourite books...
Judges for The British Book Awards 2017 share their favourite books, libraries and bookshops, their first memories of reading, and more.
I remember my mother reading us The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. She was doing an Open University course and the reading would be our reward for playing nicely together and letting her get some work done.
Apparently I was never much interested in toys but would gum on one of those cloth A-Z books as though I knew that books were going to be very important to me.
I’ve got a wide range of books I recommend, but probably Moon Tiger by Penelope Lively. It’s short but so rich.
For comfort, anything by Georgette Heyer.
I would maybe take In Search of Lost Time by Proust to a desert island in the hope of finally getting past the first chapter.
Ha! I have loads of favourite bookshops. I was just at Booka in Oswestry which I adore. I’m often to be found loafing in all the central London bookshops, especially Waterstones Piccadilly, Foyles, Hatchards and the London Review Bookshop. My Cornish local is the Falmouth Bookseller. The first thing I do when I get anywhere is head for the bookshop. The most important thing is always the booksellers who work there.
My parents read lots of Beatrix Potter to me. I remember asking for The Tale of Samuel Whiskers to be read to me over and over again. All of Beatrix Potter's stories are nasty but this one stars a pair of particularly sadistic rats and I loved it.
I also have a very distinct memory of being read Mog by Judith Kerr by the local librarian at storytime, and have never forgotten the refrain: "Bother that cat!" It's a classic now but it was quite new when it was read to me.
It's impossible to pick one book that made me fall in love with reading. I was an obsessive, constant reader. But I loved series - the children's book versions of DVD boxed sets I guess - where you could binge on one book after another: Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Moomins, the Famous Five, Swallows and Amazons and all the following Arthur Ransomes. Although I never got on with Narnia for some reason.
Because of my job, my recommendations change by the day. At the moment, Fathers & Sons by Howard Cunnell. A memoir I recommend very often is Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. And I quite often suggest that people who have read Charlotte and Emily but not Anne Bronte read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. I think it's better than either Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights.
PG Wodehouse or EF Benson's Mapp and Lucia stories are among my comfort reads. Or actually, any of the Moomin books.
I would take the latest edition of The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World to a desert island. I love maps and this would provide endless hours of study and absorption.
My favourite library will always be the long-gone local library in the small Leicestershire village where I grew up. Nowadays I use Stroud Library most often. And I love the British Library - great shop and excellent exhibitions as well as the stock!
Bookshops I love: in Gloucestershire, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: both branches in Tetbury and Nailsworth because Hereward who runs them always has some quirky or unusual title on display that I haven't come across, or hadn't realised I wanted, but then I do want. In London, I love the Persephone Bookshop for its 20th century vintage ambiance and its gorgeous dove grey stock. Stanfords because I love maps. And I also have a soft spot for Hatchards because I used to work from an office on the top floor.
I was dyslexic as a child and attended speak therapy. I remember having to read through the Thomas the Tank Engine books.
My Great Aunt Doris made me fall in love with reading - she had a cabinet full of Jean Plaidy paperbacks and I devoured them all.
I recommend The Madness of a Seduced Woman by Susan Fromberg Schaeffer the most. I read it when I was 17 and it had a profound effect on me. I've read it five or six times since. It’s utterly brilliant and the closest book I could compare it to is Margaret Atwood’s Alias Grace.
I still have a strong affection for the gothic romances I read from about 10-14 years old, so anything by Victoria Holt. My favourite is The Shivering Sands.
I'd like to take The Confession of Katherine Howard by Suzannah Dunn to a desert island. Dunn is such a beautiful writer; I would quite happily read her shopping list! I often find myself re-reading the first few opening pages of this exquisite and bewitching novel.
I love Palmers Green (North London) Public Library. As soon as school finished I would run up there and I spent most of my Saturday’s there too. It was my Aladdin's Cave.
Being read to by my mother is one of my earliest memories, and we read our way through the classics, from E Nesbit to Pippi Longstocking, Noel Streatfeild and beyond. But Watership Down was the most memorable; Hazel and Fiver are forever entwined with memories of mum.
I read voraciously and uncritically as a child but nothing captured my imagination in quite the way that Narnia did. I've reread them over the years (most recently to my daughter) and see their many limitations but honestly, I love them unconditionally.
The book I have gifted most in recent years is A First Book of Nature written by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mark Hearld, an exquisite celebration of the natural world. In adult books, I've been pushing Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for years and in 2017 it's more of a must-read then ever before.
Every December I indulge myself in the winter magic of children's classics The Dark is Rising, The Box of Delights and The Children of Green Knowe.
Libraries have been part of my life wherever I've lived, but my childhood library of Walmley (in the West Midlands) is the special one. I spent hours there every Saturday, and it's very much where I became a reader.
I can't pick a favourite bookshop – I find something to charm me in every bookshop I visit - but am always awed by the vastness of Waterstones Piccadilly; a cathedral to books.
My mum taught me to read before I started school using ancient, battered copies of the Ladybird Peter and Jane series from the 1960s she picked up second-hand. I remember staring at the words, desperate to crack the code, and also really wanting a yellow cardigan like Jane's.
The first book I remember reading over and over again was Noel Streatfeild's Ballet Shoes. I was reading it once a week at one point, and knew big chunks off by heart.
Generally the book I've just finished reading is the one I recommend most! I read a huge amount for my day job and right this moment I am recommending George Saunders' debut novel Lincoln in the Bardo to anyone who will listen. My friends are quite fed up with me recommending stuff that isn't published yet though, as I read so far ahead.
I would have choose two comfort reads, both by Nancy Mitford; In Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate. She is one of the finest English comic novelists I think.
I'd probably take the largest anthology of contemporary poetry I could find to a desert island. You can't race through poetry the way you can a novel so hopefully it would last me a while.
I love Foyles on the Charing Cross Road, I could easily lose a day there. But I am unable to walk past any bookshop without going in "just to look", and then buying something either for myself or one of my children.
My dad read me and my sister The Hobbit when we were younger.
Almost certainly a Charles Dickens' book made me fall in love with reading. I'll go with my favourite, A Tale of Two Cities.
I just read Insomniac City by Bill Hayes, published by Bloomsbury in 2017. It's a warm, funny, intelligent tonic to the increasingly grim world around us.
My comfort read is any PG Wodehouse.
For a desert island, I'd have to push it to a cycle of books, something large that I haven't read: A Dance To The Music of Time or In Search of Lost Time.
My favourite bookshop is Waterstones Deansgate. I worked there for five years as an angry young man and it probably saved my life. My heart soars whenever I'm in there.