His­to­rian and na­ture writer

Daily Mail - - Friday Books -

. ..are you read­ing now?

LE GRAND Meaulnes, while sit­ting in ex­actly the France pro­fonde in which Alain-Fournier’s 1913 com­ing-of-age novel is set. It’s half fa­ble and half re­quiem-in-ad­vance for lost ide­al­ism — the author him­self was killed in the Great War. And it is wholly fab­u­lous.

...would you take to a desert is­land?

DELPHI’S The Com­plete Works Of John Clare, the tri­bune of the English coun­try­side. I love, with the ado­ra­tion of a dis­ci­ple, Clare’s ten­der words to­wards his fel­low crea­tures.

. ..gave you the read­ing bug?

BB’S The Lit­tle Grey Men. It’s im­pos­si­ble now, I sus­pect, to get 11-year-old boys to read about the last gnomes in Eng­land. But it was BB who en­abled me to see the iri­des­cence in the mag­pie’s tail feath­ers, the per­fect curve of the ear­wig’s pin­cers. I read BB books to this day.

. ..left you cold?

EV­ERY thriller by John le Carre from the last 30 years, though I do keep try­ing. They are un­trou­bled by au­then­tic char­ac­ters, un­moved by gen­uine in­sight. Yes, even the gods fall. Still Water, by John lewis-Stempel, is out now (Dou­ble­day £14.99).

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