26 recommends…

This month, in addition to other recommendations, I asked what books you return to again and again. It might be to cheer yourself up, or find new meaning, but at times when we can’t catch up with friends in person, there can be something comforting about returning to old friends of the literary variety.

Personally, the books I’ve re-read tend to have a link with my childhood. Spurred on by a Dark Angels exercise a couple of years ago, I revisited Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy and it was like travelling back in time. The closing chapter of The Subtle Knife was every bit as tense as when I first read it many years ago—despite knowing what would happen next. It took me back to nights of staying up far too late for a school night with the glow of my bedside lamp for company.

Alastair Creamer also thought back to childhood:

“When we were young, my Dad wrote a story for us — The Mystery at the Mill.  He read it to us every summer holiday in the evenings. I think we probably demanded it!  The family in the story was similar to us (elder daughter, middle son, baby boy and a mum and a dad) but they had different names. The elder daughter was called Dim, which my sister hated. The middle boy (me), was named Pug which I rather liked. I’ve got a memory of Dad playing down any similarities between the families, so it was left to our imagination to put ourselves in the shoes of these kids.  I’m re-reading it again this year after a sizeable gap. Somehow it seems the right thing to do. I might even paint the odd picture for it!”

And Andy Hayes’ book to return to had a touch of nostalgia too:

“When I was younger, I read Kerouac’s On the Road four times. It was hugely influential on me, not only stylistically but also thematically: the rush of restlessness, the search for meaning, and the joy of living in the moment. I might read it again, but these days I’m far happier in my slippers.”

Now, on to the rest of your recommendations…

On Beauty by Zadie Smith, a great example of character writing and Read Me by Roger Horberry and Gyles Lingwood which has some interesting and moral-investigating exercises so far. Films? Only thing I’ve watched recently that compelled me is One Night in Miami.

– AJ Morris

Consolations of the Forest by Sylvain Tesson

A true lockdown read! French travel writer Tesson fulfilled his dream to spend six months alone, secluded in a Siberian log cabin. He packs a trunk full of books and pasta. The loneliness is crippling, and he starts recording his impressions in his notebook. He’s a surprisingly old school adventurer-philosopher but his humane prose allows the hidden, wounded individual to be glimpsed.

– Philip Parker

Just loved William Nicholson’s fabulous film Hope Gap on Netflix. Nighy being Nighy, Benning being extraordinary. Death of an old marriage in south coast Seaford. Cinematographic miniature updated Chekhov. So tightly written. Gorgeously sad.

– Nielsen Dinwoodie

I just finished The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Penman. It’s both old and famous already, but a friend of mine sent it to me when I said I might finally read Wolf Hall, telling me in no uncertain terms how much better it was! She was right, it’s superb. I’ve also recently got into diary hunting, so am also reading the diary of a 24-year-old lady from Eastbourne in 1883. So far it’s lots of going for walks and having tea with her Aunty. Strangely captivating. 

– John Sills

I’ve recently been introduced to The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. It’s had huge success since being published in 2019. Handwritten, beautifully illustrated, and with the simplest of stories, peppered with questions and musings, it’s a delight for anyone from 8 to 80. However, for me, the real joy came in hearing Charlie Mackesy read it. You can canter through it yourself in 15 minutes should you wish. He takes around 50 minutes to read it. He gives it space, allowing Max Richter’s music to waft through. It’s like a meditation. It should belong in the Slow Movement – Slow Food, Slow Walks and now Slow Reading. Perfect for these times.

– Alastair Creamer

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