Writers are a diverse group. Some plot meticulously, others redraft freely. Some collaborate with others; some write in complete isolation. But what do many successful writers have in common? They read. And if they don’t have much time to read now, they probably did when they were younger. Our visiting authors are often asked in Q&A sessions which books inspired and enthralled them. Our newest Bookablog feature, ‘Three to Read’, gathers the answers from our authors, showcasing the books that inspired their writing.

Independent Bookshop Week has given us a fantastic opportunity to start this new feature. We had six authors visit us over five days, and lots of great recommendations. The books selected are an exciting mixture of the obvious and unexpected. Perhaps you will find a new read among them, or realise that you share a favourite novel with an author.

Kirsty Wark’s Three to Read

Wark joined us on Tuesday 18th June to discuss her new book The House on the Loch. Her three to read were all published in the last 20 years.

Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, (2018) is a coming of age novel set in London at the end of the Second World War. When their parents depart to Singapore, 14-year-old Nathanial and his sister Rachel are left in the care of an enigmatic man called The Moth, who draws them into his sinister post-war circle.

The Long Take, Robin Robertson, (2018) is a noir vision of post-war America. This novel follows traumatised D-Day veteran Walter as he returns to his home and the country he has been fighting for. As he struggles to define his identity, the US itself is trying to establish its own history, and future.

No Great Mischief, Alistair Macleod, (2001) has narrative woven through different layers of history. It charts the story of Calum MacDonald, driven out of his native Scotland for Canada in 1779, and his descendant Alexander MacDonald who in the 1980s, sets out to discover his own story.

Mick Herron’s Three to Read

Herron visited Booka on Thursday to discuss the latest instalment in his Slough House series, Joe Country. His three to read had a definite spy theme:

A Treachery of Spies, Manda Scott, (2018). A murder of a striking elderly woman in Orleans, France, leads detective Picaut on a dangerous trail which has its origins in the second world war and the resistance to the Nazis, and leads to a person still prepared to kill 70 years later.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy, John le Carre, (1974). Classic Cold War espionage following the adventures of spymaster George Smiley as he attempts to reveal a Soviet mole hidden inside British Intelligence. Le Carre, who worked in MI5 and MI6, brings a critical realism to the unfolding drama.

Sweet Sorrow, David Nicholls, (2019). We are allowing books that are still to read, as well as must read! Nicholls Sweet Sorrow is published on 11th July and Nicholls is actually coming to Booka on the 17th July to discuss this very book! Come and join us for an evening with the prizewinning author. You can book tickets here.

Ed Docx’s Three to Read:

Docx spent time with us on Friday 21st leading a very well attended aspiring writer’s workshop. The event was rounded off with typewriter cupcakes in celebration of our Public Typewriter, which has been busy all week with your contributions. Docx’s challenging recommendations are:

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantell, (2009). Booker Prize-winning, historical epic charting Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in Tudor England. Cromwell is a divisive figure, but Mantell’s nuanced and sympathetic portrayal of his rise to power won her critical acclaim.

Disgrace, J.M. Coetzee, (1999). Another Booker prize winner, this time set in turbulent South Africa. David Lurie is an English professor whose life spirals out of control when his mistakes catch up with him. He takes refuge on his daughter’s farm, but danger follows him with devastating consequences.

Sabbath’s Theatre, Philip Roth, (1995). Not for the faint-hearted and dubbed “distasteful and disingenuous”, this novel about an out of work puppeteer who treats the people around him like the puppets in his act, won the US National Book Award for fiction and was a finalist for the 1996 Pulitzer Prize.

So, quite a few interesting choices there from our very first Three to Read’! Our earliest recommendation was no earlier than 1974, and the most recent, not even published yet. Honourable mention also goes to Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson (2001) recommended by Katherine Rundell. This book, she explained, inspired her visit to the Amazon, following in the footsteps of the book’s heroine Maia. Rundell’s experience there inspired the setting of her bestselling children’s book The Explorers. Not surprising that she should recommend a children’s book, given her message that we should all be reading children’s books.

If the message of the importance of reading children’s books has spoken to you, and you want to find a new read for yourself, or a child in your life, we can definitely recommend ‘The Guardian Guide to the Best Kids Books‘ featuring reviews for all ages from babies to 12+.  Reviews have been written by lots of different Independent Booksellers and we actually reviewed the books for babies’ section. You can get a copy in Booka, or as always, our staff are always very happy to make a recommendation.

A highlight among many highlights for us this week was Becca’s Crafternoon on the 16th June, featuring ‘Lulu and the Sea Monsters’. The fantastic creations are still on display in our children’s section. If you missed out this time, don’t worry, we have a brilliant program of events to keep our younger visitors busy in the summer holidays, starting with an inspiring creative writing experience for 7+ on the 7th August. More details to come!

Like many independent bookshops up and down the country, we have had a fabulous week. We want to thank everyone who supported Booka during Independent Bookshop Week and spent time with our visiting authors, our public typewriter and our shelves. It was lovely to talk to so many of you when you came into Booka and as always, we really welcome your thoughts, messages and stories.

If you would like to keep up to date with everything exciting happening at Booka, please subscribe and we will let you know about all our latest news, reviews, events and posts.