WHATBOOK..? JOHN LEWIS-STEMPEL
Historian and nature writer
. ..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).