Riders by Jilly Cooper, chosen by Clare Pooley
When we were in the midst of the first lockdown, and I wanted to be reminded of simpler times, I turned to Jilly Cooper’s Riders, which I originally read as a teenager, furtively and under the covers. Rupert Campbell-Black, with his sneering mouth and muscular thighs, was my first true love.
It’s impossible to be miserable in Rutshire, a place where everyone speaks in puns and double-entendres, unless they’re quoting Shakespeare and Byron. All problems can be solved with a cooked breakfast, a gin and tonic or a hearty bonk in a bluebell wood or loose-box. Rutshire men are cads, bounders and terribly politically incorrect, but by God they look good in a pair of tight white jodhpurs.
In Jilly Cooper’s world, no one ever takes anything too seriously, except for their horses and their dogs. It’s the very best place to spend a pandemic.
Clare Pooley is the author of The Authenticity Project.
The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent, chosen by James Bailey
I came to Jean-Paul Didierlaurent’s The Reader on the 6.27 late, but I think I read it at just the right time: when I needed cheering up amid all the doom and gloom of 2020. The novel, translated from French, tells the story of Guylain Vignolles, who works at a pulping factory. Every day he sits on the 6.27 train and recites aloud the pages he has saved from the pulping machine. One day he discovers the diary of a woman who feels as lost in the world as he does, and he sets off on a journey to find her. This is both a love story, and a story about a love of language and literature. It is funny, uplifting, and hopeful. I don’t often read books more than once, but this is one I’ll definitely be keeping on my bookshelf for the next time I need a pick-me-up.
James Bailey is the author of The Flip Side.