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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

My favourite reads: Clare Dight 

The National's features editor and former editor of The Review picks five books that have an exalted place on her bookshelves

The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre. Courtesy Hodder & Stoughton
The Honourable Schoolboy by John Le Carre. Courtesy Hodder & Stoughton

The Honourable Schoolboy (above)

by John Le Carre, 1977

Unforgivably, I read Le Carre's Smiley novels out of sequence after picking The Honourable Schoolboy off my father’s bookshelves. It didn’t matter that I had not read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Somehow denigrated as “spy novels”, I would dare anyone to write with as much grace and assurance as Le Carre in his plotting and characterisation.

All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac McCarthy, 1992

I cannot remember why I picked up McCarthy’s first novel in what would become his Border Trilogy. I’d always been a fan of American authors who said more with less but even so, All the Pretty Horses made a lasting impression. McCarthy’s ability to convey the jogging pace of life on horseback and yawning landscape is singular.

The Virgin Suicides

by Jeffrey Eugenides, 1993

A story about the suicide of five teenage girls in one family is not the kind of drama that would usually have me rushing to the tills, but Eugenides’ 1993 novel is narrated with such extraordinary nostalgia that even the 24 year-old me understood what is lost in the process of growing up.

The Leopard

by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, 1958

With prose as beautifully embossed as the furnishings in the Prince of Salina’s 19th century palazzo, Lampedusa evokes an age of political and social change. “Each word has been weighted up” as the author explained to a correspondent. My reading of it explains many holidays wondering small islands in the Mediterranean.

The Abominables

by Eva Ibbotson, 2013

The reason that no-one has ever managed to track an abominable snowman, according to Ibbotson, is that their feet are on back-to-front, making the creatures look like they are coming, not going. At 256 pages, this is by far the longest book I have ever read to my children. From their rapt attention, there are many more happy bedtime reads to come.