The first book I remember reading
Noddy and the Magic Boots. I had no interest in Noddy as a small child until he left behind the safety of Toyland and entered Be Careful Wood. This was a place of darkness and danger, one which helped me to understand that the world contains not only love but cruelty as well.
The books which shaped my childhood
As a child I didn’t read much fiction. Instead, I spent hours poring over illustrated histories of the world and fat encyclopedias. I loved ghostly tales, mythological beasts, cross-sections of castles, ancient battles and so on.
The books I read as a teenager
Like many teenagers, I read and re-read The Catcher in the Rye again and again, convinced I was the only person who understood it. I was very taken with G K Chesterton’s Edwardian metaphysical adventure The Man Who Was Thursday. The other-worldly short stories of M R James and H P Lovecraft were also favourites.
The first book which made me want to be a writer
Listening to Bob Dylan led me to the collected poems of Dylan Thomas. Thomas introduced me to the raw power of language and left me wanting to use it.
The book which changed my view of the world
I was very influenced by D H Lawrence’s The Rainbow. For all its faults, the central theme of the book struck a chord with me. In sensual, lyrical, almost biblical language, Lawrence gives voice to the idea that we are all seeking individual fulfillment and that this is becoming increasingly difficult the further we distance ourselves from the land.
The book which will always have a place on my shelves
The Sun Also Rises is a sublime, flawless novel, and a great introduction to Hemingway. If you want to be a writer, then you must read Hemingway. I can think of few other writers whose style helped transform the landscape of fiction forever.
The books I tell everyone else to read
Welsh fiction is often wrongfully overlooked. I would recommend that anyone read the brilliant One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard, which was winner of The Greatest Welsh Novel. I’m always telling people to read anything by the fantastic Mid Welsh authors Cynan Jones and Tom Bullough.
The book I didn’t finish
I really don’t like abandoning books partway through, so I try to be very discerning when I commit to reading a book. I can remember enjoying Don Quixote at the start, but I hadn’t the stamina to stick with it.
The book I am reading right now
Anna Karenina. I like to have one fiction and one non-fiction book on the go at any one time. I alternate between contemporary and classic fiction. The classics are classics for a reason. Luckily, so many have accumulated over the centuries that there are more than enough to read in one lifetime.
The book I turn to for comfort
I think most good books are challenging in some way, rather than comforting. That said, like many people, I find re-reading The Little Prince very comforting.