Reading pile ... & great books I've known
Reading and writing
Authors are often asked what they're reading. To be a good writer, you need to be a reader (though not the reverse).
Reading teaches you what is possible, what you should avoid, what you like and what you don't.
I don't read when I'm writing a first draft – it's easier not to have more than one story in my head. But when I'm editing, I read, and once each novel is finished – done, dusted, edited, page proofed and out of my hands – I binge.
My current reading pile contains:
Daemon Voices, Phillip Pullman
The Secret Life of Nature, Peter Wohlleben
With them through hell, Anna Rogers
Top recent reads:
Wilding, Isabella Tree
Eddy, Eddy, Kate de Goldi
Boy Swallows Universe, Trent Dalton
The Silence of the Girls, Pat Barker
Circe, Madeline Miller
The Old Ways, Robert Macfarlane
France, John Julius Norwich
The Seven Trees of the Somme, Lars Mytting
The Running Hare, John Lewis Stemple
Hero of Empire: the making of Winston Churchill, Candice Millard
Being Mortal, Atul Gawande
Everyone has books they love for all time, that they keep going back to, or that stood out as important at the moment they first read them.
Sometimes it's just a book, sometimes it's an author. Sometimes they're 'comfort' books, sometimes they're seminal.
Everyone's list will be unique, but I like reading a few from other people's lists – it helps you understand who a person is. You probably won't be able to figure out why that book, or when this one mattered – but you'll still get to connect on a whole new level.
Great books on my list include:
The Outsiders by SE Hinton
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
The Changeover by Margaret Mahy
Even Cowgirls get the Blues by Tom Robbins
Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut
All from my early years, in the order I discovered them. Each has stood the test of time – as have many more...
Reading for research
The next batch of classics
Research for my novel, Evie's War opened the door to a new reading arena. My top picks for books about WW1 include:
For younger readers:
Zero Hour – ANZACs on the Western Front by Leon Davidson
Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo
Dark Journey by Glyn Harper
Vernacular voices of WWI:
Last Post by Max Arthur (I bought this in a flea market in Cambridge, UK; one of the best couple of quid I've ever spent)
The Other ANZACs by Peter Rees (far better than the TV series based on it, which saw the book rejacketed as 'Anzac Girls')
Regeneration by Pat Barker (together with all her WWI titles. No other writer of WWI fiction comes close!)
For more on writing Evie's War, from on-the-ground research and photos to notes on the process and books to come, click here.
Recent additions to the 'Great Books' list (only time will tell, but I'm confident) include:
All the light we cannot see, Anthony Doerr
Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Chris Cleave
Traitor, Stephen Daisley
H is for Hawk, Helen MacDonald
Chappy, Patricia Grace
Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey
Bring up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel
Boneland, Alan Garner
A God in Ruins, Kate Atkinson
We are all Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler
Eyrie, Tim Winton
Notes from an Exhibition, Patrick Gale
Click on a cover to view a book page