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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

My favourite reads: Liz Cookman

Sometimes you read a book that gets in your brain in a way that makes you feel like the universe understands you afterall. It is an amazing feeling but incredibly frustrating at the same time as you wonder why you didn’t write it? These reads made me want to write a book one day.

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The Grass Arena by John Healy (1988)

It’s slightly embarrassing to say I feel an affinity with the autobiography of a once-homeless alcoholic who, after many years spent down and out, discovers redemption in prison in the form of competitive chess, but I do. This could be a heavy read but is instead amusing and honest, with a strong narrative drive that makes reading feel more like having a conversation with someone.

Kasper in the Glitter by Philip Ridley (1994)

This children’s tale of adventure and friendship is delightfully bizarre. It’s an urban fairytale, full of eccentric characters and contrasting imagery of both the breathtaking excitement of a city, or The Glitter, and its scary, seedy side, The Gloom. At a young age, navigating growing up in London, I felt like Ridley had created a parallel world just for me.

The Rings of Saturn by W G Sebald (1995)

When this book was published in English (translated from German) The New York Times wrote: “This is a hybrid of a book – fiction, travel, biography, myth and memoir – that obliterates time and defies comparison.” It’s a wander through the hidden narratives found on a walk along the Suffolk coast that makes writing about whatever random thing you feel like seem not only possible, but intelligent.

Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths (2007)

A woman’s seven-year search for wilderness, both in a philosophical and a physical sense. From living with Peruvian tribes to cure her depression with ayahuasca, to coming to terms with the inescapably wild nature of hormonal cycles, this book blew my mind. The language is wild and wonderful and Griffiths is unafraid to expose the deepest and darkest parts of herself.

Karate Chop by Dorthe Nors (2014)

I am very much a fan of a lean, perfectly coiffured and short-short story – I blame being force-fed Raymond Carver at writing school. Translated from Danish, these small moments are barely stories and are more scene or character sketches. Yet they are sharp and funny, and still grapple with big issues in a way that leads you to find a feeling or idea still ticking over in your head hours later.

Liz Cookman is The National's assistant national news editor