A Rainbow of Books: Martha (selection I)

I love books and the places where you find them. I love the Dewey decimal system and the beautiful order that comes from it but I also love books in colour order. And as a lover of all things colourful, I generally know my books by colour anyway. I thought it would be great to run a series of ‘My Rainbow of Books’, looking at the favourite books of The Colour File’s followers, from red through to violet. I’ll kick it off here (I have many more favourites – here’s just one selection) but I’d love to hear what yours are….

‘Stick It Up Your Punter!’ by Peter Chippindale & Chris Horrie
I worked at The Sun as deputy health editor for a couple of years and loved the addictive buzz of the place. It has its critics but The Sun is where ‘tight and bright’ copy prevails. It’s where I truly learned the importance of putting your point across in just a handful of words and paragraphs.

‘The Joys of Yiddish’ by Leo Rosten
I’m a massive fan of reference books – dictionaries, Thesauruses, encyclopaedias, atlases. Can’t get enough of them. I know pretty much everything is available online now but there is nothing more satisfying than a row of reference books that you can just pick from for the ultimate analogue fact-finding experience (I think I inherited the love of this from my scientist father). This book is a dictionary of Yiddish terms bought for me when I was 16 by my friend Alice Feinstein, BBC Radio 4 supremo, because of my love of Yiddish terms. Funniest definition is of ‘chutzpah’.

‘My Turn to Make The Tea’ by Monica Dickens
I can’t remember how old I was when I read this but from the scrawled name in the front of the book, I suspect I was about 11 or so. It’s about being a local newspaper reporter and I thought it sounded like excellent fun. When I decided to train as a hack after university, I thought back to this book and how it must have lit some kind of spark in me.

‘A Book of English Poetry’ (The Penguin Poets)
I grew up with this book on my Mum’s bookshelf. She loved poetry – especially Gerard Manley Hopkins (she would often talk about her love of ‘sprung rhythm’) – and inspired me to love it, too. Although she is no longer here, when I touch this book I feel enervated by the memory of her love of free verse.

‘Selected Poems’ by Lord Tennyson
Maybe it’s because I am an old romantic but I just adore the poetry of Alfred Lord Tennyson and have done since I was 16. One of my very favourite poems is The Lady of Shalott, which I’ve always meant to learn by heart (I’ve only cracked the first two verses so far – not impressive). I went to school round the corner from Tate Britain and would go there at lunchtimes as a teenager to look at the pre-Raphaelite paintings, including The Lady of Shalott by William Holman Hunt, and immerse myself in the beauty of it all.

‘The State, Political Processes & Identity: Reflections on Modern India’ (ed. Hasan, Z et al)
When I was 18, I spent six months in India, working in an orphanage in Tamil Nadu and traveling across this amazing sub-continent. It was this trip that truly cemented my love of colour, as well as prompting me to study politics at university where I learned about Indian politics. I always say I left a bit of my heart in India and I’m always plotting how I can get back there. Any ideas?…

‘Death of a Salesman’ by Arthur Miller
I’ve loved theatre (though not musical theatre – sorry if you do. As Voltaire once said, ‘Anything too stupid to be said is sung’.) ever since school. From ‘Death of a Salesman’ for O Level English through to King Lear for A Level (I saw Anthony Hopkins playing Lear at the National and that was it – my love of theatre was crystallised), I think it’s hard to beat a brilliantly written play.




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