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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

My favourite reads: Mustafa Alrawi

I’ll pretty much read anything that catches my eye; classics, non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies, children’s books, self-help, business titles - you name it and I’ll give it a go

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Books
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien. Courtesy Houghton Mifflin Books

I’ll pretty much read anything that catches my eye; classics, non-fiction, biographies and autobiographies, children’s books, self-help, business titles – you name it and I’ll give it a go. I re-read my favourites and find something new and beautiful every time.

The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis (1973)

I discovered this sharply written and witty novel, Amis’s first, when I was roughly the same age as the lead character, 19-year-old Charles Highway, who thinks he is rather clever. Naturally I saw a lot of myself in him as he chases after ‘older girl’ Rachel. I re-read this so many times that I even wrote my first novel Creating Rachel as a kind of homage. The original is superior in every way.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012)

While I am smitten by how Mantel’s brilliant retelling of history brings to life Thomas Cromwell, advisor to England’s King Henry VIII, in both this and the first instalment, Wolf Hall, it is the captivating writing that keeps me coming back to it, time after time. There is always another poetic turn of phrase to be discovered and I am awestruck by her writing talent.

The 39 Steps by John Buchan (1915)

I love the provenance of this book as much as main character Richard Hannay and the rip-roaring thriller itself. Buchan wrote it for a convalescing friend in the style of the cheap, popular adventure stories of the time but it became a classic in its own right, completely overshadowing the genre that inspired it. Written during a time of colonial thinking however, it can be very un-PC, shocking modern sensibilities.

The Godfather by Mario Puzo (1969)

Again, the mythology around this book is as important to me as the story within it, of one of the best-known fictional crime families. While it has been much imitated, this is a starkly original novel. However, it wasn’t meant to be. Burdened by gambling debts, Puzo was desperate for cash and so abandoned his artistic endeavours to cynically write a bestseller. But there is much artful writing and storytelling here.

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien (1954)

Mythology for our times, this book – or four if you count all three volumes and The Hobbit – is arguably responsible for the fantasy genre as we now know it. While I adore the heroic main characters, the evil villains have so much allure and with every reading I find the underlying themes become more relevant for our times. Tolkien’s take on good and evil is remarkably complex and layered.

Mustafa Alrawi is an assistant editor-in-chief at The National

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