In this beautifully curated “love letter to reading”, some of writing’s most powerful voices today share the books they hold most dearly – which have shaped the writers they’ve become. From poignant stories of solace and freedom, to laugh out loud postpartum hangovers, the collection gives a compelling insight into the writers’ lives and personalities – as well as a dream list of recommendations for your holiday reading and long after.
All profits and royalties from the book will go to the National Literacy Trust, which works to end literacy inequality – shockingly, over 413,000 children and young people in the UK don’t own a book. The National Literacy Trust works with schools and communities to give disadvantaged children the literacy skills to succeed in life, as well as “a means to escape”, argues Sykes – “into a fantasy world from which they are able to better understand and navigate ‘real’ life”.
Whatever your age or background, escaping into the realms of a fictional world is priceless. We’ve chosen five books, recommended by five authors, to give you a taste of the collection – and suggested five special reading spots in and around Watergate Bay to lose yourself for a few precious hours.
What Writers Read, and all 35 of the books recommended inside it, are now available in the Living Space snug for you to borrow and read while you’re here. We also strongly recommend you buy a copy and support the National Literacy Trust’s important work.
“Being in the same reading space that your favourite author has dwelt in is a lovely sort of alchemy,” says Sykes.
WHY? “This is a book that will always stay with me. I urge every one of you to pick it up. It will change the way you look at love, at rivers, at beauty, at children, at marriages, at men, at women, at death. It will change the way you look at yourself. It will change the way you want to change the world. Roy breathes life into language in every single sentence.”
WHERE? Perched on the clifftop, in a sunny nook just off the coast path, facing south over the silver sea. Fill yourself with Arundhati Roy’s wonder as the birds swoop above and below.
WHY? “A book of profound emotional depth that makes the reader bark like a seal. The world is full of books capable of scaring me to death or moving me to tears. There are no end of titles that can educate me in matters I know nothing about. But books that make me laugh out loud are rare.”
WHERE? In bed on a lazy morning, preferably looking out over the ocean. Ann Patchett talks of reading Sorrow and Bliss in bed, laughing out loud, then reading excerpts to her husband, who even laughs too – “those books are scarce”. So get the kettle on and embrace the belly laughs.
WHY? “The Great Gatsby taught me what I love most about literature – the writing, the ability to put sentences together in a way to evoke feelings you’ll never have words for, and that’s okay, just to let the impression and music of the language marinate and make you feel: excited, impressed, sad, jealous.”
WHERE? On a sofa in the Living Space snug, as the late afternoon light turns golden and the bar starts to hum with the sound of cocktails being mixed. Let the words “marinate” to the promise of the evening ahead and the beats of the Altaura soundtrack, as you slip into the myth of Gatsby’s world...
WHY? “I had always been haunted… by the idea of time. The past had been the present once. This present, which was fitted so tightly around me, and seemed so irrefutably real for as long as it lasted – where did it go? [...] The rooms of the houses I knew had been lived in once by other people…been the scene of their pleasures and their dramas. [...] And as that moment passes and is left behind, the best books and films and paintings continue to hold its shape.”
WHERE? A window sofa in the ocean room, as the shifting weather and tides change the view outside. One of our guests’ favourite (and most photographed) haunts, soak up the present and lose yourself across threads of time, in a space filled with memories of others who’ve sat there before…
WHY? “I read to escape, to live for a while in the world that’s created on the page, but I also want to feel something… That connection is the biggest joy a reader can experience and the highest compliment a writer can receive… As Maya Angelou puts it, ‘People won’t remember what you said, but they’ll remember how you made them feel.’ The details of The Beach have become blurry, but I’ll never forget the fear, the excitement, and the beating of my heart.”
WHERE? On a sun lounger on the Swim Club deck, to the sound of the waves, the smell of suncream and the feeling of warmth on your skin.
Read these author recommendations in full in What Writers Read, which also features 30 more recommendations from writers including Monica Ali, David Nicholls, Kit de Waal, Elif Shafak, Nick Hornby, Benjamin Zephaniah, Deborah Levy, George the Poet, William Boyd and many more.
You can also donate directly to support the National Literacy Trust’s work.
What Writers Read
35 Writers on their Favourite Book
National Literacy Trust
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