Years ago I had a list of books I thought I’d take to space with me if we had to leave the planet. The list stood no chance of staying intact.
What have I read recently that would make it into orbit?
Colin McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth made me want to snap my pens. Mingarelli’s A Meal in Winter left me feeling like I’d heard some huge structure give way in the distance. The finale of A.M.Homes Music for Torching brought an extraordinary physical tension as I read it.
Much of the list would stay. Steinbeck’s The Wayward Bus, and his short story collection The Long Valley. Books perhaps less read because of the weight of his more lauded work. Georgina Harding’s The Solitude of Thomas Cave.
Other classics make it on simply because it took me until now to read them. John Le Carré’s The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Treasure Island, The Count of Monte Cristo. Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle.
Then there’s just astounding, pitch-perfect writing. Per Petterson’s Out Stealing Horses. Ron Rash The World Made Straight. Katie Kitamura The Longshot. J.L.Carr’s A Month in the Country.
If you’re thinking I’m going to tell you how many books I’d be allowed to take, think again. Space is infinite. That doesn’t excuse slack writing though.
You are what you read in the same way you are what you eat. If you want to write well, you have to read well.
Cynan at Word Factory:
Cynan Jones was born in Aberystwyth, Wales in 1975. He is the author of four novels, The Long Dry (winner of a Betty Trask Award, 2007), Everything I Found on the Beach (2011), Bird, Blood, Snow (2012) and The Dig (winner of The Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize 2014, 2014), a chapter of which was shortlisted for the 2013 Sunday Times/ EFG Private Bank Short Story Award. His story, ‘Aberath’ is available on the Wales Arts Review website. He lives in Aberaeron, Wales.