Stuart Maconie's reading list

Photo: Stuart Simpson / Penguin Books

Writer, broadcaster and journalist Stuart Maconie cut his teeth as a pop culture journo and critic for music mags Q Magazine, Mojo and the NME . His dulcet northern tones can currently be heard on BBC 6 Music where he presents his show The Freak Zone.

But it’s not just music that is his passion: he’s an author too, with previous works and bestsellers including Cider with Roadies, Pies and Prejudice and Adventures on the High Teas. His latest is another foray into non-fiction, The Nanny State Made Me, where Stuart shares his story of growing up in the North and how Britain's welfare state impacted him. It’s a timely and passionate read in which he makes his case for a fairer society.

Here's what he’s been dipping into lately.  

The Complete Short Stories of Lydia Davis

I love the concision and mystery of short stories. I love how much is unsaid and how you’re left looking around the edges of the page for the full story, which is only glimpsed. Also – and this is not as facile a point as it might appear – I like the fact that they’re short. In much the same way that life’s too short for that seven-season box set, it’s certainly too short for a doorstop novel about some made-up people I don’t care about. Lydia Davis’ stories are sometimes only a few lines long – perfect for bus stops and shop queues – but they send ripples of meaning and thoughts outwards from their first tiny splash.

Leaving the Atotcha Station by Ben Lerner

Having loved and devoured both of Sally Rooney’s books, I’m on a self-imposed mission to keep up with contemporary novelists even though my natural inclination is towards non-fiction, short stories and poetry. And I’m loving this, the debut from Ben Lerner (he’s a poet, interestingly). There’s a lightness of touch and a charming wit but a melancholy too about this hapless, brilliant young man and his life as an outsider in Madrid. A Holden Caulfield for the Instagram generation.

The Ministry Of Fear by Graham Greene

Greene and Ian McEwan are my favourite novelists and they have much in common, I think. They are brilliant on love, sex and relationships. They are properly engaged with the world of politics, history and science. They are that rarest of things (see also The Beatles, Abba, The Simpsons, Clive James, Vaughan Williams, etc.) both dazzlingly accomplished, skilled and intelligent and hugely popular and enjoyable. I’m trawling through the corners of Greene’s back catalogue at the moment and this is a charming, creepy wartime soufflé.

Collected Poems by RS Thomas

I’m back on a Thomas jag thanks to a brilliant Twitter account that quotes choice lines from his work. Thomas, as the few press shots of him where he looks miserable in an abandoned outhouse in a duffel coat will attest, was a dour and austere man, a clergyman endlessly wrestling with doubt and despair – but he was still somehow hopeful. He’s the fave poet of my friends Manic Street Preachers and you can hear the same flinty Welsh beauty and power in both of them.

The Second World War by Anthony Beevor

Having glared at me challengingly and disapprovingly from the shelf for a few years, I’m slowly picking my way through this grave and magisterial study of this extraordinary chapter in human history – it lives on the table in the conservatory, waiting for me to pass through. This is old-school history, linear and factual, but it is completely compelling.

The Ruins by Mat Osman

It is a truth universally acknowledged that pop stars shouldn’t act, launch clothing labels or write novels and poetry. But then along comes Mat from Suede and confounds this. His first novel, just out, is a beautifully lyrical noir-ish thriller about identity, music and family. 


The Nanny State Made Me by Stuart Maconie is out now. 


  • The Nanny State Made Me

  • 'He is as funny as Bryson and as wise as Orwell' Observer

    It was the spirit of our finest hour, the backbone of our post-war greatness, and it promoted some of the boldest and most brilliant schemes this isle has ever produced: it was the Welfare State, and it made you and I. But now it's under threat, and we need to save it.

    In this timely and provocative book, Stuart Maconie tells Britain’s Welfare State story through his own history of growing up as a northern working class boy. What was so bad about properly funded hospitals, decent working conditions and affordable houses? And what was so wrong about student grants, free eye tests and council houses? And where did it all go so wrong? Stuart looks toward Britain’s future, making an emotional case for believing in more than profit and loss; and championing a just, fairer society.

  • Buy the book

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