Peter Kirk has tagged me with a meme, challenging me to name which one book I would choose to save if all of my books were being burned. The Bible is excepted – which is a shame, because I rarely use a paper Bible, tending to use the one on my phone, PDA or laptop – does this mean I can have an extra book?
Peter disqualified the Lord of the Rings on the grounds that it was three books not one (can I be picky and say that it is six books?) which makes life difficult as that would have been my easy first choice. Like Lingamish, I’m tempted by the Complete Jeeves – though I’d prefer the complete Blandings Castle series if I were to choose PG Wodehouse.
However, let’s be scientific about this: the book I would want to save has to be:
- Easy to read in bed without needing to develop a shot-putter’s forearm to hold it. Sadly this rules out The Oxford Book of Humorous Prose: From William Caxton to P.G.Wodehouse – A Conducted Tour (Oxford Paperbacks).
- Fascinating and interesting enough to read over and over again. This rules out a lot of theology and linguistics books.
- Capture something of my life and experience – this rules out lots and lots of books.
- Cut across more than one domain.
With these parameters in place the choice is now easy: I would choose to keep The Art of Captaincy by the great Mike Brierly. This book is special to me because it’s one of the first that Sue ever bought me, it talks about the England cricket team of my late teens and early twenties, it is a great read and it covers sport, humour, nostalgia and good leadership advice. In a distant second would be The Shield Ring (Puffin Books) by Rosemary Sutcliffe. My brother Phil bought this for me shortly after my Father died and the book has followed me everywhere since. It’s a story for children, but it captures the feeling of the Lake District fells in a way that only Wainwright can match. As a teenager mourning my dad or a homesick Bible translator, a mental escape into the hills was a huge comfort. Does anyone have a bus ticket for Keswick?