‘On Fiction,’ Sebastian Faulks
‘All The President’s Men,’ Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
‘Bad Blood,’ Colm Tóibín
‘The Brief And Frightening Reign Of Phil,’ George Saunders
‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma,’ Michael Pollan
‘Trainspotting,’ Irvine Welsh
‘Noah Barleywater Runs Away,’ John Boyne
‘Is The Internet Changing The Way You Think?‘ ed. John Brockman
‘Breaking The Spell,’ Daniel.C.Dennett
‘Creating A World Without Poverty,’ Muhammad Yunus
‘Expo 58,’ Jonathan Coe
‘Mr.Lynch’s Holiday,’ Catherine O’Flynn
‘The Braindead Megaphone,’ George Saunders
‘The Hunters,’ James Salter
‘Jerusalem,’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
‘Titans Of History,’ Simon Sebag Montefiore
‘Skullduggery Pleasant,’ Derek Landy
‘Philosophy Of Life,’ Jules Evans
‘Mack The Life,’ Lee Mack (x2)
‘The Shape Game,’ Anthony Browne
‘The Looking Glass War,’ John Le Carré
‘Maggot Moon,’ Sally Gardner
‘The Woman Who Changed Her Brain,’ Barbara Arrowsmith-Young
‘Finding Moonshine,’ Marcus du Sautoy
‘The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas,’ John Boyne
‘A Delicate Truth,’ John Le Carré
‘A Little Book Of Language,’ David Crystal
‘The Yellow Birds,’ Kevin Powers
If I am anywhere in or around the continent of Europe in late May, I do my darnedest to end up at the Hay Literature Festival, and this year I had the good fortune of accidentally booking my return flight from Guatemala to coincide with the opening day of the book-bonanza on the Welsh/English border. The fact that I only had time to read one book in the week I was there, (John Boyne‘s beautiful ‘Noah Barleywater Runs Away‘), will tell you how busy I was there.
Mornings began in a small B&B a 7am before I dashed off to the venue site to don my luminous yellow stewards jacket, knock back some croissants and muesli for breakfast, and spend the next 10-14 hours tearing tickets, seating citizens, marshalling microphones around various venues and generally sitting on the sidelines whilst dozens, possibly hundreds of authors, poets, illustrators, entertainers, comedians, statesmen, Nobel laureates and musicians filled my mind, (and the minds of apparently 250,000 ticket buyers).
This year’s line-up wasn’t quite as star-studded as previous years, (and my arrival direct from Heathrow airport via train, rain, bus and foot was an hour too late to catch one of my planned highlights, childhood hero illustrator Quentin Blake, most famous for his collaborations with Roald Dahl). But with a dozen hours a day of people presenting their ideas, this merely meant that there were more new novelists to discover, (as if I didn’t have enough to read already): highlights included former Children’s Laureate, Anthony Browne, whose ‘Shape Game‘ allows children to be artists whatever their level, (and provided the perfect birthday present for my hilarious niece); George Saunders, (‘the new David Foster Wallace‘ and one of the nicest people I have ever had the fortune to meet at the fest); and the Iraq war modern classic, ‘The Yellow Birds‘ by Kevin Powers, the book which came garlanded with the most recommendations by friends working at the festival and which proved to be up to the praise, as I had finished it by the time I had returned home.
There was the chance to meet a few authors of books I have long loved, such as the ‘Trainspotting‘s wonderfully Scottish Irvine Welsh; and to learn a little more about music, (being treated to an incredible hour-long performance from minimalist composer Philip Glass); meet legends of journalism like ‘All The President’s Men‘s Carl Bernstein, and food campaigner Michael Pollan; and hear a fascinating talk on consciousness by New Atheist philosopher and cognitive scientist, Daniel C.Dennett.
But as often happens, the show was stolen by new ‘young adult’ authors who had been recommended by friends working at the festival: firstly I was introduced to John Boyne, whose occasional collaborations with illustrator Oliver Jeffers makes his books as beautiful as they are deep and un-childlike, (hence me refusing to label them ‘kids’ books’): he is most famous for the excellent ‘The Boy With The Striped Pyjamas,’ the story of a Nazi concentration camp told from the point of view of the innocent young son of a Nazi Commandant. Even more powerful was the masterful ‘Maggot Moon,’ by Sally Gardener, the tale of a dystopian 1950’s dictatorship, part Nazi part Communist part ‘1984‘, which hopes to convince the world that…well, read it for yourself, due to the author’s childhood English teachers forcing her to read a certain number of chapters each day, she keeps them wonderfully short, making this an eminently readable parable.
So, a couple dozen more signed books consigned to the depths of The Cupboard, (although, as you’ll see in the forthcoming Books Bought & Read, June 2013 entry, I managed to knock a fair few of them off before I fled the grey UK shores again), and another incredible ten days spent in the world capital of books, Hay-on-Wye. Join me there next year?