World Book Night: writers and other literary-types discuss their favourite reads
Sara Sheridan, Kirsty Logan, Margot McCuaig and Kirstin Innes reveal their bookshelves prized volume
On Thu 23 Apr, book lovers and bibliophiles from all over will be taking part in World Book Night, an annual celebration of reading and books that invites people to share their love of literature. With that in mind, we asked a keen bunch of writers, booksellers and other literary-types to tell us all about their favourite books. Since you asked, mine is The Collector by John Fowles, because it is unsettling, captivating and impossible to forget.
Sara Sheridan, author of the Mirabelle Bevan mysteries (@sarasheridan)
Water Music by T C Boyle. I revel in the way Boyle captures the dark heart of Georgian life. His use of language is extraordinary – it just bubbles with hearty but dangerous detail. It was the first historical novel I read which was like travelling back in time.
Kirsty Logan, author of The Rental Heart and other Fairytales (@kirstylogan)
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I first read this aged 19 and I adored it. My love has not diminished over the past 12 years, because every time I re-read this book it's just as wonderful as I'd remembered. It's lush, repulsive, immersive, and utterly gorgeous.
Peggy Hughes, Dundee Literary Festival (@HughesPeg)
A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride, because it impresses and mind boggles and kicks you squarely in the flapping heart all at once. [It is a] rare feat in a book to be unique, syntactically gymnastic, unforgettable and to have the emotional impact of a fist to the face, but it does.
Margot McCuaig, author of The Birds That Never Flew (@MargotMcCuaig)
The Accidental, by Ali Smith. Stunning, poetic, believable POVs. Astrid is in us all. A book reminding us the impossible in writing is possible.
Lynsey May, Edinburgh-based writer (@LynseyMay)
The Driver's Seat, by Muriel Spark. Such a short, sharp and relentless piece of writing. Leaves the reader with an uncomfortable sense of exhilaration.
Lindsay Corr, the Scottish Storytelling Centre (@ScotStoryCentre)
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. A reclusive old man’s notebook is found in a cluttered apartment… full of twists and turns both psychologically and physically, this immersive book will have you rotating pages and scratching your head at Danieleswki’s warping of space and character. A 700-pager so addictive, you’ll want to devour in one sitting!
Derek Parkes, Director of the Scottish Writers’ Centre (@ScottishWriters)
If there’s one book that I know I can turn to that will lift my spirits and make me laugh, no matter how many times I read it, it’s ‘Unreliable Memoirs’, the first volume of Clive James’ autobiography. Self-deprecating, laugh-out-loud funny, with a hint of self-examination, an understated masterpiece.
Richard W Strachan, writer and reviewer (@richstrach)
In a Free State, VS Naipaul. Formally inventive, this is a brutal & unsentimental portrait of decolonisation from one of post-war British literature's greatest prose stylists. All young writers can learn something about form and narrative control from it.
Ryan Van Winkle, poet (@rvwable)
Sombrero Fallout: A Japanese Novel by Richard Brautigan. This novel contains two concurrent story-lines, an inexplicably cold sombrero, a bad break up, and a cameo from Norman Mailer. Written in Brautigan's addictive style there's a sense of humour and of sadness often in the same sentence. As a writer, however, it is the following passage which has stayed with me: 'She was never going to go out with another writer: no matter how charming, sensitive, inventive or fun they could be. They weren't worth it in the long run. They were emotionally too expensive and the upkeep was complicated. They were like having a vacuum cleaner around the house that broke all the time and only Einstein could fix it.'
Sasha De Buyl-Pisco, Scottish Book Trust (@sashadebuyl @scottishbktrust)
Ghostwritten by David Mitchell. [This] was the first book to make me sit down and think about what the novel can do and why it would even bother. It’s full of humanity and compassion and at its heart, it’s a glorious piece of science fiction writing. What’s not to love?
Phil Miller, author of The Blue Horse (@PhilipJEMiller)
Elidor, by Alan Garner. I read Elidor at school and, like the shadows of men from that mysterious land – which appear on the inside of child Roland's eyes – it has remained imprinted, beautiful and terrible, in my memory ever since. Garner's tale straddles the world of the real and a land of the dead with grace and terror.
Kirsten McKenzie, author of The Chapel at the End of the World (@kirstenmckenzie)
The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aitken gripped me as a child and an adult. With strong female characters, a compelling narrative, and an evocative setting, it had my own girls looking over their shoulders for wolves when I read it to them round a campfire twenty years later.
Carol Marr, librarian at Edinburgh’s Central Library
My favourite book has to be Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. For me the weaving of time, place and Scots language paints a picture in my mind which soars above the visual. If you read this one at school, revisit it, the passing of time in our own life allows you to see things differently.
Kirstin Innes, author of Fishnet (@kirstininnes)
Looking For The Possible Dance, by AL Kennedy, because it was one of the first adult books I read as a teenager, just because my mum had it in the house. It was completely unlike anything I'd read before: Scottish and fragile and grown-up in ways I didn't quite understand: the way the language seemed to be leading me somewhere else. I hadn't realised till then that books could be about ordinary people, in Scotland, just in their families, and still be beautiful, meaningful things.
Michael Pedersen, poet and Neu! Reekie! founder (@ScribePedersen @NeuReekie)
My most recommended book of the past few years is Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon. A 15 year-old, working-class, female protagonist who taunts, terrifies and charms in equal measure; supported by a gaggle of superlative tragedies and tear-aways is a righteous read. The hopeful and hopeless beware – it's a turbulent ride.
World Book Night 2015 is on Thu 23 Apr.