13 February, 2013
Which modern book has meant the most to you? Heywood Hill, the bespoke Mayfair bookshop, has asked some of its discerning customers – from Anna Wintour to the Provost of Eton - to nominate a single affecting title published in English since the shop opened in 1936.
The result is the Heywood Hill One Hundred – a ready-made library of powerful contemporary books chosen by real readers, many from among the great and the good.
Ben Scott from Heywood Hill says, ‘This is just the start. We hope many more customers and Evening Standard readers will nominate titles for others to enjoy. Our intention is to create the ultimate library of powerful modern books from among customers’ and our own favourite books, whether in print or not. The first 100 titles are on display in our Curzon Street shop.’ If you would like to receive the list e-mail Ben via firstname.lastname@example.org
Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour trilogy was chosen by some notable soldiers and others including General Sir David Richards, former Chief of the Defence Staff, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, the military historian Sir Michael Howard OM and Lord Fellowes, former Private Secretary to HM The Queen.
General Sir Michael Rose chose John Masters’s The Road Past Mandalay, “It taught me about the true realities of war”. Maj. Gen. Mark Carleton-Smith nominated Primo Levi’s If This is a Man, as it reveals “the triumph of hope over despair and the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit”.
Actors & broadcasters
Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time was nominated by numerous customers including Joanna Lumley who said it is a book that ‘I re-read every year like painting the Forth Bridge. I am under the spell of his writing’. Stephen Fry chose Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry, because it offers ‘a depth and an intensity that repays almost every other British novel since 1936’.
Loyd Grossman chose C P Snow’s The Masters ‘probably the best depiction of institutional power broking since The Warden’.
Raleigh Trevelyan chose a late 1930s edition of Keats’ Poems ‘I had it in my pack everytime I went to the trenches at the Anzio Beachhead in 1944’. Artemis Cooper chose Gerald Durrell’s My Family And Other Animals because, ‘the book exploded in my head and its characters have never left me’.
Among other writers Flora Fraser chose Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie. Simon Sebag Montefiore nominated Cormac Macarthy’s Blood Meridien. Dame Antonia Fraser chose Cecil Woodham Smith’s biography of Florence Nightingale. Lord Archer chose Malgudi Days by R K Narayan. David Gilmour and Mirabel Cecil both nominated The Leopard by Guiseppe di Lampedusa, Collins & Harvill. Hugh Cecil chose The Inheritors by William Golding.
John Julius Norwich chose Garrett Mattingley’s Defeat of the Spanish Armada because it ‘showed me how a book of serious history could be amusing as well as accurate’. Colin Thubron chose Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana. He writes, ‘This is the modern travel writer's bible: a brilliant collage of sensory description and witty vignette. Robert Byron's travels structured as a random diary, move at will between scholarly history, absurd anecdote and some of the most precise and beautiful architectural descriptions in the language. This is a classic which generations of travel writers have sought in vain to equal.’
Harry Mount chose Ronald Searle and Geoffrey Willans’s The Compleet Molesworth as it was ‘Given to me as a child and still overwhelmingly funny’. Justin Marozzi chose Rose Macauley’s The Towers of Trebizond. Paul Torday chose Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell calling it, ‘A wholly original novel about magic and depression, beautifully written, especially when evoking the Pennine landscapes’.
Sir Mervyn King chose E H Gombrich’s The Story of Art for ‘making the reader accessible to art, rather than art accessible to the reader’. Anna Wintour chose David Hare’s play Judas Kiss. Algy Cluff chose Field Marshal Alanbrooke’s The War Diaries because he was Britain’s ‘master strategist’ during the Second World War. Sir Sherard Cowper Coles nominated David Gilmour’s Curzon, ‘The best biography I have ever read’. Sir Crispin Tickell chose Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel which ‘caused me to think differently at the time’. Lord Waldegrave, Provost of Eton College, nominated Simon Gray’s The Smoking Diaries. Ralph Townsend, the Headmaster of Winchester College, chose Patrick White’s Riders in the Chariot. Rt Rev Richard Chartres, The Bishop of London, chose Lewis Hyde’s The Gift.