My earliest reading memory
My mom read Terry Furchgott’s Phoebe and the Hot Water Bottles to me when I was four or five. That’s how it is a cheerfully illustrated book, approx -one little girl whose widow leaves his home alone while at work and one night the house burns down and Phoebe extinguishes it by using hot water bottled water. Which is to say, in terms of picture books, things were a lot darker back then. Gosh, I loved it.
My favorite book when I was growing up
Although I was read too infinitely when I was little, I absolutely refused to read when I came to school, preferring to draw. Sunshine by Jan Ormerod is the only book I remember going to alone, perhaps because it has no words, only illustrations of a family rushing to get ready one morning. I was so fascinated by it: the house, the portrayal of the domestic, mothers, fathers, an observant daughter and the inherent humor. Which is all my worries as a novelist, so it definitely went pretty deep.
The book that changed me as a teenager
My resistance to reading lasted all the way through my teenage years; I struggle to name a single book in that time. But in my final year of school, I moved countries and was instantly without friends – I had nothing to do but read. When I came to Jane Austen’s Emma, I finally understood what everyone had been talking about – that there really is such a thing as reading for pleasure.
The author who changed his mind
When I set out to write fiction, I was desperate to be literary, and I thought it meant keeping everything very gloomy and not letting any “jokes” get into things. But in the consequently unhappy time, I went on vacation and took a dark, difficult novel and Paradise Lodge by Nina Stibbe. Eventually I could not look the first one in the eye, and read Stibbe twice instead. Realize then that if that’s what I want as a reader – humor and pathos together – why should I go out of my way does not to write that way.
The book that made me want to become a writer
It was bookstores more than any single author; wandering places like Daunt in Marylebone when I lived in London in the early 20s, imagining what it would be like to see his own book on a shelf. (It feels like going to a stranger’s lovely house and seeing your own damp bathing suit in a heap in the corner of the living room, confused and confused as to how something so intimate of you has ended up there, is the answer.)
The book I came back to
There are favorites I go back to once a year, but I never went back to anything, I took a passionate set against the first time because as such a late starter I read with a permanent sense of being behind and feeling, that there is not enough time for other attempts at things.
The book I reread
I’ve had a copy of Fox 8 by George Saunders within reach in my writing shed since I first read it, in 2013, in a state of stunned, revealing joy. I pick it up and read a page most days. It’s perfect. it is so Perfect. I can not explain it.
The book I could never read again
I was completely wiped out by Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels, and thought I would keep coming back to them, but I have never done so, anxiously I think that if it is not the same whole and perfect reading experience as it was then, will remind of it be. destroyed.
I discovered the book later in life
I do not know how I managed not to discover the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard until last year. When I did, it was like attending a party and finding all your friends there already. They are as wonderful as everyone says. But it’s also true that you should swing number five if you do not want your heart broken with a hammer.
The book I am currently reading
One day I will surprise the world, brand new and perfect Stibbe. As soon as I started it, my camera roll became exclusively screenshots of the best lines, even if they are all the best lines.
My consolation read
Nancy Mitford’s The Pursuit of Love, which I reread so often, I’m afraid it might one day lose its effectiveness when it comes to comfort. For that reason, I’m trying to alternate it with I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. It’s just that in so many situations, only Mitford will do it.