Sarah Perry The book that ...

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The book I am cur­rently read­ing

I am go­ing through an Alan Garner phase – again. I am about to read The Owl Ser­vice, and hope to be thor­oughly spooked in that com­fort­ing, au­tum­nal way he does so well.

The book that changed the world

Cer­tainly one book that changed the world – not nec­es­sar­ily for the bet­ter – is Foxe’s Book of Mar­tyrs. It’s a se­ries of riv­et­ing nar­ra­tives, was wildly pop­u­lar, and ar­guably did much to form the English con­scious­ness. I’m not say­ing John Foxe is en­tirely to blame for Brexit, but there’s some­thing about it that helped fos­ter a kind of sus­pi­cious English iso­la­tion­ism, al­ways keep­ing an eye out over the chan­nel for ma­raud­ing Euro­pean forces ...

The book I wish I’d writ­ten

Ei­ther JL Carr’s A Month in the Coun­try, or Fred Uhlmann’s Re­u­nion. Both are tech­ni­cally peer­less works, ex­quis­ite in style and in struc­ture, seem­ing very small but con­tain­ing mul­ti­tudes. I read them and feel like an ap­pren­tice car­pen­ter look­ing at a Chip­pen­dale desk.

The book that had the great­est in­flu­ence on my writ­ing

I wish I could name a book that I chose, so I’d feel I was in con­trol of what in­flu­enced me most – but the truth is that it was the King James Bi­ble. Grow­ing up, it was read aloud at meal­times and pri­vately in our rooms, re­cited at Sun­day school, and de­claimed at enor­mous length from the pul­pit. It formed my idea of what good prose can and ought to be.

The book I think is most un­der­rated

Dan Rhodes’s When the Pro­fes­sor Got Stuck in the Snow is a comic mas­ter­piece to ri­val Jerome K Jerome or PG Wode­house. Like the best com­edy, it’s also deeply se­ri­ous.

The last book that made me laugh

Amanda Craig’s The Lie of the Land, which is part Trol­lope and part Jilly Cooper, and as sat­is­fy­ing a novel as I have read in years. It is a wickedly ob­ser­vant com­edy of man­ners, very alert to the way we live now.

The book I couldn’t fin­ish

Jack Ker­ouac’s On the Road. What can I tell you? It felt like some­one was hit­ting me over the head with a plas­tic spoon.

The book I’m most ashamed not to have read

I shud­der to con­fess so great a sin, but I – of all Hilary Man­tel fans, the most ar­dent – have twice failed to read Wolf Hall. In my de­fence, it is so be­wil­der­ingly good that it makes me want to set about my hard drive with a lump ham­mer, which is not a use­ful im­pulse when you have a work in progress.

The book I most of­ten give as a gift

Kather­ine by Anya Se­ton, which I buy in sec­ond­hand book­shops when­ever I see it, ready to give away to the next per­son who needs it. Kather­ine was a low-born girl who mar­ried John of Gaunt, and Se­ton’s novel is alive with politi­cal scheming, for­lorn love, am­bi­tious women and the Black Death.

The book I’d most like to be re­mem­bered for

I hope one day I’ll write a book worth re­mem­ber­ing.

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