In this occasional series, members of Rugby Cafe Writers talk about the books which have made an impact on their lives. Today, it’s the turn of Steve Redshaw. Steve has spent most of his life as a Primary School teacher, a thoroughly rewarding career. A late change of direction was taken in 2007 when he, and his wife Sue, bought a B&B and Tea Room business in West Sussex, at the foot of the South Downs. Now retired, he lives on his narrow boat, on the Oxford Canal, which skirts the northern fringes of Rugby. He has always been an avid reader and particularly enjoys children’s books (all good children’s books were really written for adults!) and short stories. He discovered Rugby Cafe Writers fairly recently and values the camaraderie and encouragement to read and write. He is hoping that shared experience, advice and writing insights will rub off and improve his own efforts at writing.
The book I am currently reading
This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein – Penguin Sept 2014. An incredibly in-depth and informative book about the clash between capitalism and sustainability – and the actions which the author maintains we need to take in order to avert climate catastrophe. This book is meticulously researched and the arguments convincingly presented. It is also very positive and inspiring, written with passion and emotion as well as being factual and logical.
My earliest reading memory
The Blue, Green and Red Series of stories I read at Primary School. Fiction and Non-fiction, presumably graded, included folk stories, history tales (British of course!), and poems. They were good quality hard-backed books too! One historical (or possibly mythical) account I particularly remember was of the sunken Bosham Bell. Stolen from Bosham church by marauding Vikings, it fell overboard as they sailed away and can still be heard tolling from beneath the waters of Chichester Harbour to this very day! I remember enjoying these books so much as a child.
My comfort reading during Lockdown
Life with no Breaks by Nick Spalding – Notting Hill Press, 2013. Written (the claim is) in one continuous sitting of 30 hours. This is humorous writing at its best. Typical Nick Spalding style – informal, chatty, self-effacing, engaging.
The book I wish I had written
The King of the Copper Mountains by Paul Biegel – Young Lions, 1971. A children’s book that I have read to several of my Primary school classes over the years. It tells of how the aged King of the Copper Mountains is kept alive by being told stories, while the Wonder Doctor searches for the Golden Speedwell, the only plant that can be used to prepare the necessary rejuvenating elixir. A string of unlikely travellers call in at the King’s castle to relay their tales. This is a charming collections of short stories, cleverly set within an over-arching plot which creates a tense and engaging atmosphere.
The book(s) that made me laugh
Any of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. I have read them to my children at bedtime, I have had whole classes of mine in stitches when I have read them these stories, and of course I have read them for my own pleasure.
The book that made me cry
The Beekeeper of Alleppo – Christi Lefteri. This book was born out of the author’s time working as a volunteer at a Unicef supported refugee centre in Athens. It is a heart-wrenching story of one family’s desperate and dangerous journey from war-torn Syria to the UK. The ending is so emotional I just found my tears flowing. Beautifully portrayed characters and so descriptive.
The book that changed my life
Sophie’s World by Jostein Gardener. A book on Philosophy, presented in a very engaging, relevant and entertaining way. I found it quite fascinating to explore philosophy through the ages, from Ancient Greece to the 20th century.
My favourite series of books
I don’t tend to be attracted to series of books, but Ben Elton’s 12 best-selling novels published from around 2000 on, really gripped me and I had to read them all. Very clever, biting satire and observation on our society and the possible directions we may be heading.
The most beautiful or treasured book I have
A Song for Every Season by Bob Copper, Heineman, 1971. The reminiscences and family history of the Copper family from Rottingdean in Sussex. Bob Copper was a renowned Folk Singer and Folk Song Collector. This book explores the patterns and practices of rural farming from the 18th to the early 20th centuries through the lives and the family songs of four generations of the Copper family. The cycle of the seasons, with their community celebrations, together with the collection of traditional songs, included in this book, are aspects of history I find quite fascinating.