Read Like a Writer features bestselling authors including Matt Haig, Sarah Perry and Gina Miller.
There’s something fascinating about learning which books are beloved by famous authors. Joan Didion once told The Paris Review that she never starts a novel without first rereading Victory by Joseph Conrad, and JK Rowling was a huge fan of CS Lewis’ Narnia series as a child – an influence that’s clear in her Harry Potter books. Gillian Flynn, meanwhile, returns frequently to And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. Inevitably, an author’s favourite book gives more than a glimmer of insight into their own work.
Similarly, hearing authors talk about their favourite bookshops feels like getting the ultimate insider recommendation. Knowing that Mary Beard loves Hatchards in Piccadilly, for example, might make one more likely to pop in next time you’re in central London – because if Beard rates a bookshop, you know it’s good.
Picking authors’ brains about their favourite books and bookshops is the premise of a new fortnightly podcast, Read Like a Writer, the first episode of which was released on 15 August.
Over the course of at least eight episodes, writers including Matt Haig (Reasons to Stay Alive, Notes on a Nervous Planet), Sarah Perry (The Essex Serpent) and Gina Miller (Rise) discuss their favourite books, from their most cherished childhood reads to their ultimate classic novel.
The authors also discuss their favourite local independent bookshop, and the role it has played in their life.
The podcast is hosted by Stylist’s very own associate editor (and lifelong book lover) Anna Fielding.
“I don’t think it’s possible to be a good writer without being a great reader – writers often have very varied reading habits and hold quite passionate views about books, as you’d expect. So Read Like A Writer is a brilliant chance to pick up recommendations that go beyond the usual best-of lists,” she says.
“We also talk about each author’s favourite independent bookshop. The indie bookshop is a place every reader loves, so it’s quite easy to recognise someone else’s enthusiasm, but they also need our support more than ever – so I hope Read Like A Writer can provide that too”
According to the Booksellers’ Association, the number of independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland has dropped by more than 1,000 in 20 years. This decline has been chalked up to a number of factors, from the dominance of online platforms such as Amazon to rising business rates and rents.
There is a sliver of evidence that things might be improving: 24 new independent bookshops opened in the UK in 2017, the first sign of year-on-year growth since 1995.
But if they’re going to survive, they need customers. Jamie Byng, CEO of publishing house Canongate, describes the Read Like a Writer podcast as a celebration of “the crucial work booksellers do in bringing great books to readers”.
Listen to the first episode of Read Like a Writer, featuring Matt Haig, here.
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