Whatever cross-section of books I choose from the hundreds that have inspired me, something critical will be overlooked. However, here is a random list as it occurs to me on a Friday morning in October. Early on, anything by Ray Bradbury: I cut my teeth on him, and the first short stories I began banging out on my mother’s Underwood typewriter from the age of nine were all science fiction. Once at University, Tom Robbins for his playfulness (particularly Still Life With Woodpecker), and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, which reassured me that someone felt just like I felt (until I discovered the author had killed herself). I also ploughed through the works of Graham Greene, with The Heart of The Matter touching me the most deeply. Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina knocked my socks off in my twenties. There was an Ian McEwan phase and an Anne Tyler phase; half a shelf given over to each. Just before putting the finishing touches to The Marlowe Papers I read Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, and despaired at its brilliance. My friend Catherine Smith’s collection of short stories The Biting Point also held me fascinated. Recent joyful discoveries have included the short stories of Lorrie Moore and the Patrick deWitt’s extraordinary and gripping The Sisters Brothers. In connection with my other passion I can’t recommend too highly Richard Paul Roe’s The Shakespeare Guide to Italy and Diana Price’s Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Biography.
Ros at Word Factory:
Ros Barber’s verse novel The Marlowe Papers won the Desmond Elliott Prize 2013, jointly won the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and was long-listed for this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction. She is currently teaching on the creative writing MA at Goldsmiths and is visiting fellow at the University of Sussex.
Visit Ros online at: rosbarber.com