I don’t have five favourite books, but these are five of the reads that have had an impact on me. The list is ever-changing and time is a bias – I revisit things I forgot I enjoyed, and sometimes question reads that once had pride of place.
My favourite reads: Gareth Browne
Gareth Browne is a correspondent in The National’s London Bureau
'Hitch-22' by Christopher Hitchens (2010)
Hitchens’s eloquence is unmatched, his humour can be subtle or crass – sometimes both in the same sentence. These traits are evident as he relives his university days and starts out as a young journalist in London. I only became aware of Hitchens’s work after he died in 2010, and since then I have devoured his lectures and essays. He is an author I feel I know closely.
'The Junior Officer’s Reading Club' by Patrick Hennessey (2009)
I read this while I was in Iraq covering the battle against ISIS in Mosul. I was experiencing war for the first time. This book helped me to see it through a different lens. It’s a lucid memoir of the banalities of war and, at times, I felt we might have been in the same streets, watching the same battles. Riveting.
'Enduring Love' by Ian McEwan (1997)
Undoubtedly McEwan’s best piece of work, the strength of this book lies in its use of an unreliable narrator. Written in the first person, halfway through the reader is forced to doubt everything. That said, the protagonist Joe and the apparent collapse of his reliability is agonising to read. There is a lesson in this – never take things at face value.
'Money' by Martin Amis (1984)
Amis has written plenty of political commentaries, but all of his fiction work is a political statement in one way or another, and where his best work lies. Money is a thrilling critique of the excesses of capitalism and runs like a steam locomotive, slowly at first but then speeds up. It’s packed with Amis’s best one-liners, like “If time is money, then fast food saves both”.
'Sir Vidia’s Shadow' by Paul Theroux (1998)
Paul Theroux and Sir Vidia Naipaul have a long list of literary accolades between them. This memoir details Theroux’s take on their relationship, a peculiar one that began in Uganda in the 1960s. After a few years, the relationship soured and the two engaged in one of the fiercest literary feuds of the 20th century. This is a stand-out account of the perils of friendship.