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The Faber Book of Children\’s Verse
Janet Adam Smith (Faber 1963)
I still have my copy of this book with my childish ten-year-old’s signature written in it. It was the book that introduced me to poetry and I used to devour it in my room. I would recite it over and over again – poems by people like Lord Macauley, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Hilaire Belloc, William Blake, Shakespeare, among so many others. The primary school I went to had a poetry competition every year. You had to learn a poem and I thought if I learnt the longest poem I could find they would have to give me the prize. So I spent hours learning the whole of The Revenge by Tennyson and can still quote most of it to this day. ‘At Flores in the Azores Sir Richard Grenville lay …’ I didn’t win the prize, no doubt on account of me making everyone listen to something for such a long time.
Hergé (Le Petit Vingtieme 1929-1983)
This is probably not a very politically correct book to have listed in a publication like Red Pepper but I wasn’t aware of the implications of Hergé’s politics when I read it. The thing about it was that I read it in French and it was a brilliant way to learn the language because the pictures were such vivid illustrations of the words and it was always a cracking good yarn. When my sons were very young I read the stories to them, in English, and, similarly, it was a great way for them to learn how to read. I read all the stories, many times over, to all three of them. I could probably walk away with the Mastermind prize with Tintin as my subject.
Crime and Punishment
Fyodor Dostoevsky (Penguin Classics 1866)
I was knocked out by this book when I first read it. It revolves around the murder of a hated female moneylender by an impoverished student Raskolnikov, who struggles to justify his act on the grounds that he is a superior being, and by killing the old woman he is doing the world a service. The murder occurs early in the story and the main body of the novel examines the delirious state of Raskolnikov’s mind and the psychological battle with the detective trying to solve the case.
Burnt Norton, one of The Four Quartets
T S Eliot (Faber and Faber 1935)
To me this is the greatest attempt by any English writer to communicate the ideas of eastern, particularly Buddhist, religions of living in the present. He plays about with Time in a beautiful, profound, poetic way, always coming back to the notion that the only real exisitence is in the Now. But he doesn’t merely do it in an intellectual way, he somehow manages to give you a glimpse of the physical feeling of what it is like to truly live in the moment, even while acknowledging that there aren’t really the words to describe an experience that is, essentially, beyond words. ‘What might have been and what has been point to one end, which is always present.’
Harold Pinter (First performed in 1960)
I think I can fairly say that seeing The Caretaker for the first time in 1960 was the most memorable evening I’ve ever had in the theatre. Suddenly, for the first time, someone was creating characters who spoke in a way that I recognised from the street. They were real to me in the sense that they faltered, they hesitated, they weren’t always articulate, they were inconsistent. There was poetry in their everyday speech. And above all they were hilariously funny. I got hold of a text as soon as I could, and in the course of time have played all three of the characters in the play. I’ve performed in several of Pinter’s other plays and its been a rare privilege to have got to know and work with someone who had such a massive impact on me as a student.
The London A-Z
The A-Z Map Company
This might seem a flippant choice but in fact I’m a bit of a map obsessive and I’ve probably spent more time looking at this one than any other, by virtue of the fact I live in London. I love poring over maps and planning routes, almost to the extent that I prefer it to actually going there. Somehow its just as interesting to me to see that contour mark on the Ordnance Survey as to actually experience it. There’s something about a map that promises all kinds of possibilities that aren’t neccessarily always fulfilled when you get there.
The Magical Child
Joseph Chiltern Pearce (Plume 1992)
This is a seminal work that was something of a bible for my wife and myself when we were bringing up our children. Essentially it’s a book that acknowledges the innate intelligence of a baby before and after birth and encourages the parent to let the child develop its abilities at an appropriate pace, to trust in its own instinctive survival mechanisms and to explore the physical nature of the world without fear.
The Collected Works of William Shakespeare
I used to give puppet performances of Shakespeare as a child and he’s been a friend to me ever since. I’ve been wrestling with the infinite complexities and subtleties of the iambic pentameter and I’m always going back to the ones I love, and to the sonnets. I’m still surprised at how many of his phrases and sayings have become a staple of the English language.
Roger Lloyd-Pack is perhaps best known for his roles as Trigger in Only Fools and Horses, Owen Newitt in The Vicar of Dibley, the evil John Lumic in Dr Who and Barty Crouch in Harry Potter. He is currently working on a new comedy.
His selections can be purchased here.
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