Six books that made me

Six books that made me

Just Recruitment editor Tim Gibson identifies six books that made him want to be a writer

By Tim Gibson

The premise of this recurring feature is simple: we ask members of the Just Recruitment team to name their all-time favourite things, in any category of their choosing. Could be movies, albums, cookery writers, TV shows. You name it, they can select it.

    Tim Gibson (Just Recruitment editor,...) identifies six books that inspired him to make a living out of words.  

This time, Tim Gibson (Just Recruitment editor, freelance journalist, university lecturer and award-winning writer) identifies six books that inspired him to make a living out of words.

1. James Herriot, If Only They Could Talk

James Herriot is my favourite author, period. I read his books as a child and spent many years thinking I wanted to be a vet.

But as it turned out, veterinary skill wasn’t the thing I admired about Herriot. It was his skill as a writer: not one who constructed complex sentences to display his literary genius, but a storyteller who wrote plainly, evocatively and in a way that connected with a huge audience.

Herriot’s beautiful books made him a global publishing phenomenon, and the TV show they spawned was a huge hit. With Channel 5 airing an updated version of All Creatures Great and Small this year, his work looks set to reach a whole new generation. Amen to that.

Six books that made me2. Mark Wallington, 500 Mile Walkies

Know what I said about loving crisp, clear writing that’s not trying to show off? Mark Wallington’s book about walking the South West Coast is an exemplar. It’s hysterically funny, too: the first book that made me laugh out loud as a too-cool-for-school teenager.

Wallington has a deft touch, which can be seen across his writings. But 500 Mile Walkies is the book that made his name: a surprise bestseller that established a template for other humorous travelogues to follow.

Published now with its sequel in a collection entitled Travels With Boogie, this is a book I return to time and again. If ever I lose my way as a writer, it’s to Wallington that I look for inspiration.

3. Jack Higgins, Eye of the Storm

Everyone loves a good thriller, and before the leaden heft of Dan Brown or the stylised (and stunningly good), split sentences of Lee Child came one of the masters: Jack Higgins.

    Eye of the Storm is by far my favourite. I’ve read it about 100 times...  

I started reading Higgins as a kid. Used to hide beneath my covers with a torch for hours after being sent up to bed. He created worlds of such richness, drama and intrigue that I couldn’t resist.

Eye of the Storm is by far my favourite. I’ve read it about 100 times and don’t let a year pass without picking it up. It’s a fictional account of the mortar attack on Number 10 Downing Street in 1991. A truly stunning book. Best. Thriller. Ever.

4. W. Somerset Maugham, Of Human Bondage

Somerset Maugham’s books were the first novels of anything approaching literary merit that I could say I genuinely enjoyed reading. Other authors ­ – Hardy, Dickens and Austen among them – were to be slogged through for the sake of form, though I’ve come to appreciate them all in later life.

Maugham’s caustic wit and deft storytelling kept me transfixed, and they have done ever since.

Of Human Bondage is a semi-autobiographical account of one man’s journey from trainee doctor to literary hero. It’s heart-shatteringly bleak in places, hilariously funny in others, and all the time written with the expert control that made Maugham the highest-earning writer of his generation.

5. Bear Grylls, Facing Up

We all dream of achieving something amazing, and at the age of just 23, a little-known Old Etonian called Bear Grylls did just that. He reached the summit of Mount Everest, becoming the youngest Brit ever to achieve such a feat.

His first-hand account of the climb is one of the best mountaineering books I’ve read. It made a huge impression on me as a young man trying to find my way in the world. Grylls wrote with modesty, humour and profound grace.

If you find his contemporary persona of over-dramatic adventurer hard to stomach, I’d urge that you to take a look at Facing Up. I like to think it’s a truer reflection of Grylls the man. And either way, it’s a beautiful read.

6. David Nobbs, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

I didn’t think books could be as funny as television comedy until I read The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. I remember sitting outside our family caravan in a field in South Wales and guffawing my way through this brilliant novel.

It’s another volume that I read pretty much annually. Nobbs is a fantastic comic writer, but the humour belies real substance. All three of the Reggie Perrin books have genuine literary heft.

I’ve never tried to write comedy, and am pretty sure I’d fail miserably if I gave it a crack. But Nobbs’s work taught me how to construct a sentence with a pleasing pay-off. That’s a pretty good skill for any writer to develop.

© 2019 Just Recruitment Group Ltd

Published: 13 January 2020

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