04 June 2016

A Passage to India by E.M.Forster

A Passage to India was one of the first pieces of mandatory reading at school that I really enjoyed. Stuck in a Wiltshire classroom on a rainy afternoon, I was utterly engrossed by Forster’s depiction of the mythical Malabar caves, the heat, the crowds and the sheer exoticism of a country I could only imagine.

The Tesseract by Alex Garland

The Tesseract is a very clever, well-researched book that gives a fascinating insight into the Manila underworld. A tesseract – and I never knew this – is a 3D interlocking geometric formation of cubes, a construct that Garland uses to interweave several stories together. Not such a blockbuster as The Beach but in some ways even more intriguing.

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John Le Carre

Well, obviously. The initial description of the Cold War spy waiting at Checkpoint Charlie for the MI6 contact to cross over from the East is iconic. Years later, as a gap year backpacker, I walked through that same checkpoint into East Berlin and Le Carre’s description came alive in the blank faces of the guards who asked me for ‘my papers’.

One for My Baby by Tony Parsons

One for my Baby is a wonderful, touching story of love lost and found, sex and relationships set against the mundane backdrop of a London language school. Parsons is a master at observing human relationships and laying them bare.

Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy

Another A level set book but one which really got me thinking. What must it be like to be trapped in a loveless marriage, living somewhere you don’t want to be and all because your family has fallen on hard times? 

(Because I couldn't keep it to five...)

Arabian Sands by Wilfred Thesiger

For me, this will always remain THE definitive book of Arabian adventure travel, an inspirational description of the author’s epic journeys across the Empty Quarter of Arabia in the late 1940s. Years later, after I had met Thesiger, I accompanied him to a meeting with Sheikh Zayed of Abu Dhabi. The two old men recounted how they had been so hungry on one expedition that when the sheikh threw a rabbit carcass to his dog Thesiger had snatched it back and eaten it himself.

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