Frank Cottrell-Boyce: ‘I read Adrian Mole every year, it gets funnier each time’

The author and screenwriter on why Lord of the Flies is overrated, and the most beautiful words ever written

The book I am currently reading
Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold – the story of how a piece of stage magic might have led to the death of President Harding. It’s spectacular.

The books that changed my life
Ursula K Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea. And The Gospel of Luke. Words a child could understand but which could still enrich and enchant the oldest head.

The book I wish I’d written
Truckers by Terry Pratchett: dizzying, brilliant. A relentlessly inventive, funny and wise story about some gnomes who believe a department store is the universe.

The book that most influenced my writing
True Grit by Charles Portis. The voice of Mattie Ross speaks straight to your heart.

The books that are most under- and overrated
The most overrated book is unquestionably William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. An enjoyable romp that people have taken as a revelation about human nature, which could not be more wrong. And it may seem odd to say this considering what a huge impact it’s had on all our lives and the fact that it forms the basis of the best Muppet movie, but I think A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is always underestimated. It’s boldly innovative but utterly controlled. Maybe that’s part of its greatness. Unlike many great works of art, it is the opposite of intimidating. It throws its pages open and says, “Come in.”

The book that changed my mind
Anne Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy, which made me realise how unthinkingly tribal I’d been in my fiery youth.

The last book that made me cry
Luke chapter 15, the prodigal son. Hemingway said these were the most beautiful words ever written. It gets me every time.

The last book that made me laugh
I read Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend every year. It gets funnier each time.

The book I give as a gift
I’ve been handing out copies of AJ Lees’s Brazil That Never Was to anyone who comes within two metres of me.

My earliest reading memory
My mum borrowed Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak from Kirkdale library, Liverpool. Didn’t see it again until I was grown up. Thought I’d dreamed it. It is still part of me.

My comfort read
A Small Pinch of Weather, an anthology of short stories by the peerless Joan Aiken. And The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin – the holiday memoirs of a huge brain.

  • Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s latest book, Noah’s Gold, illustrated by Steven Lenton, is published by Macmillan Children’s Books, £12.99. To support the Guardian and the Observer buy a copy at Delivery charges may apply.


Frank Cottrell-Boyce

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