Books & Literature

Book Review: What Writers Read: 35 Writers on their Favourite Book, by Pandora Sykes

NON-FICTION: In this love letter to reading, curated by Pandora Sykes in aid of the National Literacy Trust, bestselling and beloved writers share their favourite books: the ones they hold most dearly, that they return to time and again and that helped make them the writers they are.

An unmitigated delight in support of a vital cause.

Feature image credit: Kimberly Farmer (via Unsplash)

Most readers have their favourite books and/or writers. But what are the favourite books of those writers? What are the works that have been important in their development as people and/or writers? What story turned them on to the world of books?  

Journalist and broadcaster Pandora Sykes asked this question of 35 writers, and collated their eclectic responses into the delightful little book What Writers Read.  At only 180 large-font pages, this is a day’s read on a summer holiday, or the perfect tome for quick-dip reading like the loo, or the waiting room. Contributors include such luminaries as Nick Hornby, Lisa Taddeo, Damon Galgut, Elizabeth Strout, and Jojo Moyes. Sykes has ensured a diverse range of voices are heard, in terms of gender, race, nationality, and writing field. And although the title refers to “favourite” books, many of the contributors talk more about a seminal book, the one that made them love reading, or made them into a writer, or changed their life. Some of them include: Pride and Prejudice; Cold Comfort Farm; Moon Tiger; The Murder of Roger Ackroyd; and even the Spider-Man comics.

What Writers Read is a lovely meta-book, providing the reader with a reintroduction to some much-loved titles, and some new works (I certainly bunged a couple on my online bookshop wish list!). And each of these short essays is in itself a little slice of memoire, as writers recall their childhood story love, or the moment in young adulthood that turned them onto a certain book or writer. For example, Caymanian-British writer Sara Collins says of her choice, first read when she was 21, a single mother, and a law student:

Bridget Jones’s Diary was exactly the book I needed, at the very moment I needed it. It was as if Bridget herself had sat down beside me on the bus and started whispering in my ear about her insecurities and secrets.”

Most importantly, this book was put together, not just for the sheer joy of it, but as a fundraiser. All the profits and royalties from this book go to the National Literacy Trust (UK) which supports disadvantaged children and young people to develop literacy skills. So buy this book. Give it to everyone you know. Read it. Enjoy it. Be grateful for the literacy skills you have. And help give someone else the key to the extraordinary world of reading and books.

Reviewed by Tracey Korsten
Twitter: @TraceyKorsten

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Bloomsbury
Released: January 2023
RRP: $32.99

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