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First of all, some of the current writers I love to read are: Meg Cabot, Louise Rennison, Sarah Webb, Joanna Nadin, Cathy Cassidy, Derek Landy and, on a more serious note, Meg Rosoff, David Almond, Rainbow Rowell, Eva Ibbotson and John Green.

My perfect bookshelf would also include …

Flowers for Mrs Harris, by Paul Gallico

Daddy Long Legs, by Jean Webster

Party Frock, Ballet Shoes, White Boots and Ballet Shoes for Anna, by Noel Streatfeild (yes, I did want to be Noel Streatfield when I was growing up. I still do.)

Anything about Blandings, Psmith or Bertie Wooster by P.G. Wodehouse

Trash. Quite a lot of trash. By which I mean books that just make you want to turn the pages, but aren’t remotely trying to be literary masterpieces. I read every Nancy Drew mystery I could lay my hands on when I was in my teens, and lots of nurse and pony books, and adventure stories and thrillers. If you are ‘only’ reading these type of books, and people keep telling you to read ‘proper’ ones – please don’t worry. You’re a reader! It’s a habit you’ll keep with you for life, and it will cheer you up when you’re down and keep you sane. Trashy books are wonderful. Treasure them too. Also …

Lisa & Co, by Jilly Cooper

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants, by Ann Brashares. This should probably be compulsory for teenage girls.

Short stories by Roald Dahl and Saki. Creepy!

How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran. Please read this book! It’s important. It’s also very funny. I was at the Edinburgh Festival, talking to Sarah Manning (whose books I also highly recommend) and we both ended up telling our audience to read How to be a Woman. It’s all about feminism in the twenty-first century, and why it matters – but it’s also about growing up and making mistakes and falling in love and getting married and letting your talent shine. Everything that girls need to know, in fact. Did I say please read it? Oh yes, yes I did.

Fermat’s Last Theorem, by Simon Singh. (It’s years since I was any good at maths, but Simon Singh makes it sound so easy. And fascinating. He’s the only man I know who can tell a gripping, anecdotal story about maths. Oh, and I was about half a mile away from the lecture where the theorem was solved. Kerlanggg. Yes, really! So I was practically there.)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, by Mark Haddon. I can heartily recommend this book to adults or young people. It’s extraordinarily beautiful, painful and uplifting. And it has a mystery and lots of maths problems in it, which (see above) I love. I found there were times I could really identify with Christopher Boone, although his world at first seems so different from the one the majority of us experience. Perhaps you will too. Oh, and Christopher says there will be no jokes, but it’s often very funny. Which reminds me: lots of bad language from adults who are exasperated by Christopher. Be warned.

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli. (The pink cover is THE BEST COVER EVER.)

All the Harry Potters, except the Order of the Phoenix. (Some people – not many – don’t think they’re totally inspired. I’m with the vast majority who do. And like most girls, I am Hermione Granger.)

The Queen’s Clothes, by Robb Edwards and Anne Roberts. (Totally wonderful. The story of some of the Queen’s state outfits, with close-up photos of the fabrics, showing the detailed, symbolic embroidery. Special book.)

How to Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell. (If you have an eight year-old boy in your life, you’ll understand.)

The Waste Land, The Lovesong of Alfred J Prufrock and The Four Quartets, by TS Eliot.

One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. (And yes, I had to check the spelling of both names about four times. Great book, though.)

Vast quantities of detective stories, especially anything by Dorothy L. Sayers featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Murder Must Advertise is fantastic.

A bunch of French and Italian stuff. Especially anything by Petrarch or Robbe-Grillet.

Oh yes, and I also love the spoken word. Particularly if there are lots of them, and they are funny. I love listening to David Sedaris reading from his work for the New Yorker and elsewhere, and also Bob Newhart (so funny it hurts), Monty Python (grew up with them), Woody Allen (my husband wooed me by telling me the Moose story and the Bullet story, which is short but perfect), Eddie Izzard and Mitchell and Webb.

And finally, writing for TV. Yes, TV, folks. It’s where the best writing is these days. My favourites include Phineas and Ferb and The Big Bang Theory. Sheer genius, both of them. Pick any episode and marvel. Then try writing your own …


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