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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

My favourite reads: Paul Stafford  

Here are five books that I hope my son will read one day at some stage in his life

A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines.
A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines.

I could not come up with my five favourite books if I was threatened with death. So I’ve thought about the books I hope my son Dinny, 10, will read at some stage. Hopefully the messages and characters will make it easier for him to become the man he wants to be.

A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines (1968)

Young working-class boy Billy Casper escapes the gritty grind of life in a mining town when he finds and trains a hunting kestrel. The ending is bleak, but the themes of occasionally soaring to brilliance, accepting that those different to you have other talents – along with a brutal anti-bullying message – still hold their place. It’s a beautiful, stark, human tale that young men should be told.

The Odyssey by Homer (2014)

I introduced Dinny to Marvel movies in the hope he would be drawn to stories such as that of Odysseus and his comrades returning from the war in Troy. There are crossovers. But thanks to Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, a Harry Potter-style series swapping wizards for the sons and daughters of demigods, he now knows more about the ancient deities than I do.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)

Brilliant, witty language ­– “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way as bricks don’t” – and the hilarious characters and situations that follow Arthur Philip Dent’s removal from his Islington home, and Earth, would suit Dinny to a tee. But most of all, I’d like to be around when he first reads the name “Slartibartfast”.

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving (1989)

The story of John Wheelwright and his friend Owen, a boy, then man, who believes totally that he is an instrument of God as seen from his Anglican perspective. His acceptance of his place in life and his sense of fate, compassion, tolerance and sacrifice set up a remarkable story that carries through to an ending that would make a gargoyle cry.

The Shipping News by E Annie Proulx (1993)

There are few male characters more appealing than Quoyle, whose philandering, overbearing wife dies in a car crash and leaves him with two little girls and the need to start a new life. An aunt convinces the socially awkward, emotional Quoyle to move to his ancestral home in Newfoundland. It’s a tale that teaches hope and eventual self-belief.

Paul Stafford is chief sub-editor at The National

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