Co-author of Why Join a Trade Union? David Seymour tells us about his favourite book and more, in Brought to Book.
What is your favourite book?
If ever I was on Desert Island Discs, the problem wouldn't be choosing eight records but one book. Even eight books is a near-impossible choice.
So I am going to cheat here and name not one favourite but eight: The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov (Doestoyevsky). The most fantastic story-telling and impossible to choose between them. Bleak House. My favourite Dickens. Never tire of reading it. Peter Guralnick's two-volume biography of Elvis. Lovingly detailed and heartbreaking emotion, almost too painful to finish. Love In The Time of Cholera and A Hundred Years of Solitude. Again, can't choose between these magnificent Marquez stories. Don Quixote. So wonderful I drove my children mad reading them excerpts over breakfast. My Secret Garden. May be a children's book but I still cry every time I read it. And finally Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man. The most incredible telling of Siegried Sassoon's journey from young country boy to the trenches of World War One.
What was your favourite book as a child?
No contest. The Famous Five, from Five On A Treasure Island through the whole incredible adventures. No childhood should be without them. Even today.<!--more-->
What book did you take on holiday this year?
You expect the man behind The Wire to produce a great book but Homicide is even better than that. It is the story of his year spent with the Baltimore homicide detectives. Wonderful writing, extraordinary stories and then the final kicker - not only is it all true, the detectives are real including their names. Went from that to Trollope's first Palliser novel, Can You Forgive Her? Have read one or two of the series before but picked up all six for £5.95 in Guildford's brilliant Oxfam bookshop recently so they are my new project. If I finish it before my holiday ends (I am still away at the time of writing this) I will carry on with my current project, Casanova's My Life. Up to volume 11. Totally wonderful.
What is your favourite political book/biography?
In third place, the autobiography of Judge John J. Sirica. From log cabin to the Chief Justice who broke the Watergate scandal. The ultimate example of what is remarkable about the American dream. Runner-up, Tony Benn's diaries. Real history and real politics as it was dictated every night, including him washing his socks in a crummy hotel room at 2am after a hard day on the campaign trail. But the winner, to the shock and dismay of my friends, is Margaret Thatcher's The Downing Street Years. And not only because my greatest journalistic triumph was pinching it from under the nose of Andrew Neil when he was editor of the Sunday Times and had paid £3 million for the pleasure of publishing it exclusively. This is authentic political autobiography, no punches pulled, the wings plucked off her rivals with icy disdain, but compassion and concern shown for those who worked with her (how unlike our own recently departed prime minister).
What do you think is the most significant book of past decade?
Difficult, as in my opinion it hasn't yet been written. Has to be about the unfolding disaster of New Labour. So will give it to Andrew Rawnsley's double expose of what went on in government. I had hesitated, but when Ed Balls accused Rawnsley of being entirely reponsible for the "fictional" rift between Blair and Brown, I felt Andrew deserved it.
Which literary character would you like to be?
Is Casanova allowed? Probably not. He was a real person. Besides, I am not sure that the undoubted pleasure was worth the pain of the STDs that followed regularly. So how about Prince Lev Nokolyevitch Myshkin, the idiot in Dostoyevsky's book of that name. He was no idiot at all. In fact, he was an insightful, thoughtful sympathetic man who people considered stupid because of his simple approach to life. The attitude of a child, in fact. Seems to me like a perfect description of a good journalist, writer or politician.
Why Join a Trade Union? is available from the Biteback website, priced £6.99