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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

My favourite reads: Russel Murray

To an ageing lapsed reader, these are still-loved books that, each in their own way, guarantee reward when I do make the effort. Regardless of their literary worth, returning to them is much like the pleasure of visiting old friends

Russel Murray is The National's assistant foreign editor

Down Under by Bill Bryson. Courtesy Penguin UK
Down Under by Bill Bryson. Courtesy Penguin UK

Keep The Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (1936)

A tale of a struggling young poet who would rather live hand to mouth than cave in to the system and peddle his talents for a bourgeois existence, symbolised here by the aspidistra plant beloved of middle-class English households. Orwell is well known for his description of the soul-destroying implications of poverty, but this time there is a happy ending, of sorts.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (1837)

Dickens’ humanitarian concerns make his books great reading for Christmas-time, the season of goodwill to all men. The adventures of benevolent and wealthy old Samuel Pickwick and friends fits this theme and time perfectly, with plenty of humorous episodes to provide good cheer and make it well worth ploughing through some rather maudlin passages.

The Art of Coarse Acting by Michael Green (1964)

A hilarious send-up of amateur theatre, covering every aspect from casting to costumes. Along with the laughs Green offers guidance for newcomers to the stage, such as how to put one over pretentious directors and achieve the coarse actor’s ultimate goal: hogging the spotlight, even when playing disgruntled serf No 3.

Right Ho, Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (1934)

The entire Wodehouse canon provides a wonderful, side-splitting escape from the cares of daily life in prose that never fails to inspire awe, but this Jeeves and Wooster novel is a particular treat for the school prize-giving address given by an unwittingly inebriated Gussie Fink-Nottle, Bertie’s newt-fancying pal. Considered one of the finest passages of comic writing in the English language, the anticipation of reaching it only adds to the pleasure of revisiting this book.

Down Under by Bill Bryson (2000)

All of Bryson’s travel books are delights, but very few places have offered his eye for the odd, the alarming and the downright silly as much scope as Australia. He expertly weaves in history and social commentary to present a full and vivid picture of a place that, for all its contributions and development, remains peripheral in most people’s minds.

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Read more:

My Favourite Reads: Aarti Jhurani

My Favourite Reads: Mo Gannon

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