The book that ...

The Guardian - Review - - Review - Fran­cis Spufford

The book I am cur­rently read­ing I’m never only read­ing one book. I’ve just started Ali Smith’s Girl Meets Boy , as part of my read-all-of-Ali-Smith cam­paign, but I’m also en­joy­ing David Ky­nas­ton’s ex­cel­lent 1950s so­cial his­tory Family Bri­tain , for re­search rea­sons, and tak­ing reg­u­lar bed­time sips from Wal­ter Scott’s as­ton­ish­ing Old Mor­tal­ity, about a doomed fun­da­men­tal­ist up­ris­ing in 17th-cen­tury Scot­land. Only sips, be­cause I have to read the di­a­logue to my­self in my pa­thetic im­i­ta­tion of a Border-Scots ac­cent, to fol­low what’s go­ing on. The books that changed my life

Ap­s­ley Cherry-Gar­rard’s melan­choly po­lar epic The Worst Jour­ney in the World turned me into a writer, by giv­ing me a book-sized ques­tion to an­swer. James Buchan’s es­say about money, Frozen De­sire, showed me what a beau­ti­ful and cur­sive line you could trace, even in non-fic­tion that had a lot to di­gest and re­port. From very dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions, Kim Stan­ley Robin­son’s Mars tril­ogy and Pene­lope Fitzger­ald’s The Blue Flower taught me that there might be a kind of novel I could write. The book I wish I'd writ­ten

Ei­ther Michael Chabon’s The Yid­dish Po­lice­men’s Union or the great New Zealand YA writer Mar­garet Mahy’s The Trick­sters. They aren’t books that do the big­gest things, but what they do, they do al­most per­fectly. The book that had the great­est in­flu­ence on my writ­ing Can I at least have one a decade? 0-10: the Nar­nia books. 11-20: Ur­sula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Dark­ness. 21-30: Alas­dair Gray’s 1982, Ja­nine. 31-40: AS By­att’s The Vir­gin in the Gar­den. 41-50: Fitzger­ald/Robin­son, as above. 51+: ask me at the end of the decade. The book I think is most un­der­rated Two SF mas­ter­pieces: Gy­wneth Jones’s Life, a riff on aca­demic bi­ol­ogy and fe­male ex­pe­ri­ence; and Adam Roberts’s The Thing It­self, the only pulp-hor­rorKan­tian the­ol­ogy mashup in the world. The last book that made me cry/laugh

Cry: Mar­i­lynne Robin­son’s Gilead se­ries. Laugh: Cather­ine Fox’s Lind­ch­ester se­quence. The book I couldn't fin­ish

Proust, Proust, bloody Proust. I made a new at­tempt to climb Mount Mar­cel last year, and got de­feated all over again. It’s the end­less de­scrip­tive pointil­lism, dif­fuse rather than pre­cise, at­mo­spheric rather than vivid. I’m too com­mit­ted to the il­lu­sion that you can say things once, richly, and stop. Henry James eludes me for the same rea­son. The book I'm most ashamed not to have read Cough Shake­speare’s Son­nets cough. The book I most of­ten give as a gift

Re­cently, Jo Baker’s Long­bourn and Me­gan Whalen Turner’s YA se­ries The Queen’s Thief. The book I'd most like to be re­mem­bered for Re­mem­ber me, please for the un­writ­ten book in which I do some­thing tran­scen­dently amaz­ing. And not for the one after that, in which I fall flat on my face.

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