By Keshini Naidoo.
IT by Stephen King: I’ve loved horror as a genre and as a child, reading horror fiction was my escapism. While the other children enjoyed tales of midnight feasts at Malory
Towers, I curled up with the Losers Club as they tried to escape the evil lurking in their hometown of Derry, Maine. This 1,000-page book is, in my view, King’s finest work; a tale of friendship, adolescent love and a truly terrifying clown called Pennywise.
Anita and Me by Meera Syal: Growing up in the 1980s, with very few Indian people in my small northern hometown, there were not a lot of people of colour to view as role models in the media. Thank goodness for Meera Syal! Anita and Me, although set in the 1970s, reflected my childhood, caught between two identities, that of my Indian heritage and of my English friends.
Love Invents Us by Amy Bloom: This is probably one of the most achingly beautiful books I have ever read – Bloom’s economy of language and characterisation really makes you fall in love with every single word on the page. Elizabeth Taube’s relationships, first with Max Stone, an older man, then with the charismatic, soulful Huddie Lester, really encapsulate the feeling of all-encompassing love, with all its difficulties and highs.
Silent Scream by Angela Marsons: Uncompromising, headstrong, yet with a vulnerability buried deep within, detective inspector Kim Stone is an incredible lead protagonist and this first book in the long-running Kim Stone detective series introduces her and her similarly charismatic squad. Set in the West Midlands, Angela Marsons’ books have been international bestsellers, selling over three million copies, and working with her has been one of the biggest privileges in my career.
The Little Book of Hindu Deities by Sanjay Patel: My children are of mixed Indian and English heritage, and often ask me about certain aspects of Hinduism. This book, which
is written and illustrated by the Pixar animator Sanjay Patel, has bright cartoon-like pictures of various gods and goddesses, as well as explanations of texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, all written in an easy-to-understand language. It’s a great book to
show to my children and has taught me a lot too.
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis: This satire of 1980s American ‘Yuppie’ culture is bleak, horrifying and (whisper it), often hilarious.
Patrick Bateman is a businessman who spends his days running mergers and acquisitions and his nights murdering innocent people, or, does he? This 1990s’ book skewers the
vacuum of feeling that often accompanies the pursuit of wealth, but be warned, you need a strong stomach.
Tiddler by Julia Donaldson/Axel Scheffler: As a mother, over the years I have read a lot of bedtime stories, but Tiddler is a book I find myself going back to over and over again. The rhyming couplets are so pleasant to read aloud and the story of a little fish who tells
tall tales to his unbelieving classmates has a wonderful payoff. I think I’ll be quite sad when my children are too old for it.
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla: It’s hard to put into words the impact that The Good Immigrant has had in the two years since its publication.
I’ve worked in publishing for years and sat through many meetings about ‘diversity’, but until this came out, it felt like all the talk of inclusivity was just box ticking. Now, we’re
seeing real change and publishing is a better place for it as a result.
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger: I first read this coming-of-age novel as a child and immediately felt an affinity with Holden Caulfield, the disaffected, classic outsider teen of American literature. While today there are many books for young adults, in the past, Salinger’s classic was one of the first that seemed to really understand teenagers struggling
with finding their own identity in a confusing, scary, adult world.
Indian Delights by Zuleika Mayat: My parents are South African Indians and although I was born and raised in the UK, I regard South Africa as my second home. Growing up, Indian Delights was a staple of all Indian Durban homes, so I was delighted when I received my copy. Full of delicious recipes, this book is indispensable and even has instructions on how to cook biryani for 800 people – although I haven’t attempted it!