1. Your childhood favourite
I think The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier is probably one of my favourite childhood books, a more profoundly moving piece of children's fiction I have yet to read. Based on fact, it follows the journey of the Balicki children as they journey through war-time Europe searching for their family. Brilliant.
2. Your current favourite
This is a difficult one to answer as there are so many I really do love. I think my current one, of the moment anyway, is The Crippled God by Steven Erikson, final book in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series. A more fitting end to such a vast, sprawling, complex, intense, humorous and detailed series you will not find. Superb stuff.
3. Your top five authors
I have so many to chose from, but if I have to…
All of them are intensely inventive, dark, humorous, with wonderfully realised characters and worlds. And for me they all explore the nature of humanity in ways that many others cannot quite match.
4. Book(s) you’re reading now
I always have some 40-odd books on the go at any one time. Current highlights are my re-reading of Gormenghast; plus EJ Newman’s From Dark Places, First among Sequels by Jasper Fforde, The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson, 1Q84 by Huraki Murakami, Roman Warfare by Adrian Goldsworthy and Japan Through the Looking Glass by Alan MacFarlane.
5. Book(s) you’ve pretended to read
I don’t think I have ever done this, as I would get caught out. There are books I have pretended NOT to have read, despite having done so. And no, I am not going to tell you what they are.
6. Book(s) you’ve bought for the cover
I buy a lot of books for their covers, particularly science-fiction and fantasy novels from the 1960s, ‘70s and early ‘80s. I have a thing for the artwork of this era, which can be inspired, awful and eyebrow raising, often all at once..
7. Book you’re a champion for
The Napoleon of Notting Hill (GK Chesterton) is one of the greatest books I have ever read, and is one I would consider a must-read by anyone and everyone. Detailing the events of a futuristic London, the elected King of England plays a grand practical joke on his nation. His humorous vision inspires a young man to believe in his idea, not realising it is a joke, and thus a cascade of events takes place. It is a book about ideas, about faith and about the corruption of both. It is a brilliant, brilliant book.
8. Book that changed your life
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein, for better and for worse. This book very much inspired my love for fantasy and science fiction (the good), which precluded reading more widely at one point (the bad). It was vast, epic and heroic, despite the odds. All despite the weird Tom Bombadil bit, which I hate. Everything else was wondrous.
9. Book you most want to read again for the first time
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville. Thoroughly absorbing, incredibly inventive and wonderfully detailed, this book humbled and astounded me both as a reader and a writer. I wish I could read it again for that continuing sense of awe and that wonderment when it was finished.
10. Book you turn to for comfort
Mortal World by Deborah Pope is a collection of poems that are simply sublime. I love poetry, and was profoundly impacted by this collection. Mortal World explores her Pope’s relationship with the world, her partner and her children, and it is gentle, heart-breaking, traumatic and up-lifting. It taught me much about emotion, about detailing those and the world around us with the simplicity of words. It is simply a superb collection of poems.
11. Favourite line from a book
I don’t really have one, so I am going to cheat and use the quote that China Mieville wrote in my signed copy of Embassytown:
“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug.” - Kipling