Kate Silverton is the host at the launch event on 25th January.
Do you read books a lot, and what genre do you like best?
I used to read voraciously, I confess though now being a mum to two small children means I tend to have a stack of books by the bedside that I only have time to dip into before I either fall fast asleep or we are disturbed by either one little person joining us or on occasion two and then I am either reading about bears, tigers or unicorns or else telling them a story in the hope they will drift off to sleep again! But I genuinely love books and am inspired by most genres. When I was younger and even today I adore Wilbur Smith – his factual accuracy meant I learnt a lot about history and Africa in particular and he was my main reason for travelling to Africa as a teenager. I had the privilege to meet him last year after he heard we had named our son after him! I like crime stories too – at present I am also very inspired by non-fiction especially books around parenting perhaps for obvious reasons but also as my BSc degree is in Developmental Psychology and I hope to study for a Masters in Psychotherapy and Developmental Psychology later in the year.
What are you currently reading, and do you have any favourite authors?
I am currentlly reading Anatomy of a Soldier by Harry Parker. I am interviewing him for the Barnes Literary Festival at the OSO Centre in South West London. Harry is a former soldier who lost both his legs after being blown up in Afghanistan. It is a stylistically ambitious novel based on a character Tom Barnes – but it is in essence Harry’s journey. I have reported from the frontline in Afghanistan and Iraq and have lived alongside soldiers like Harry, tremendously courageous young men many of whom have now had their lives changed by war. My husband is a former Royal Marines Commando and I continue to have a deep affinity for and admiration of the military – even if I might not always agree with the politics behind the missions.
The Specsavers Bestseller Awards celebrate the best known books of the 21st century, but what is your favourite book of all time?
Without doubt My Friend Flicka by Mary O’Hara – I read this beautiful novel written in 1941 about the son of a rancher and the incredible relationship he had with his horse Flicka. The boy, Ken is a daydreamer and angers his parents after he fails his grades at school. His son tries to get him to take responsibility for something and decides to give him a horse to look after. He chooses the one horse that has a strain of mustang in her and she resists all attempts to be caught and trained. During one escape she is severely injured and I remember still to this day the description of this horse, beautiful but broken, lying in a stream with her blood running away. Ken effectively rescues her, saves her life but in doing so he endangers his own. I still cannot get it out of my mind thirty odd years on.
How important to our sense of national culture do you feel it is to celebrate books and literature generally?
It is everything – absolutely everything. I cannot conceive of a day when books don’t form a vital part of our national culture. We must celebrate reading, books and literature always and at every opportunity. I literally cannot wait to introduce my children all the classics. We read together every night and what a joy it was to introduce Clemency and wilbur to Alice in Wonderland recently – reading the same book my mother read to me. It is a bit battered and torn but they are captivated by the story and pictures.