THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE
As a child, I found the idea that a piece of drab furniture used to store clothes was also a gateway into an alternate universe deeply impactful. The Christian allegory at the heart of this story was completely lost on me. Instead, I was swept away in a tale of high adventure, talking animals, unforgettable characters and a memorable villain. It is a work of wonderful imagination.
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD
John Le Carre
Le Carre’s classic was so accurate a portrayal of espionage in Berlin in the 1960s, that East Germany’s counter-espionage chief, Markus Wolf, believed the author had acquired information about the situation inside East Germany’s Ministry of State Security. It is an immensely thrilling tale of human lunacy, tragedy and shifting morality. It is the spymaster’s best book and represents a high point in Cold War literature. I read it every couple of years.
THE SECRET RACE
Tyler Hamilton and Daniel Coyle
As a rule, I don’t like sports books. They are generally full of names, hyperbole and endless statistics. You’ll find this book on the sports shelf in book stores, but don’t be fooled. The Secret Race is an insider’s account of the greatest sports scandal in history and the disastrous choices one man made in his quest for glory. It is a tale of intrigue, fallibility, power, greed, corruption and complicity – themes as old as storytelling itself.
Few authors have Dave Eggers’ skill at writing a work of narrative non-fiction. On first reading this book, I was reminded that spare prose and a stripped-back narrative is usually the best way to tell complex and thematically rich stories.Zeitoun’s fateful decision to remain in New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina reveal that a big storm and burst levy are all it takes to unravel civilisation.
THE CRUEL SEA
My father insisted upon me reading this book about ordinary men fighting the elements and the enemy in the Battle of Atlantic when I entered adulthood. For that alone, I feel towards him a great debt of gratitude. It was the beginning of my fascination in history’s greatest crisis, World War II. The Cruel Sea also taught me about a generation of young males who entered manhood through a passage marked with fear, violence and loss.