Reading with... Joanna Cannon

photo: Philippa Gedge

Joanna Cannon is a psychiatrist with a degree from Leicester Medical School. She lives in England's Peak District with her family and her dog. The Trouble with Goats and Sheep (Scribner, July 12, 2016) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

I have a new book to read tonight, so I haven't yet started it, but on my bedside table is a proof of The Museum of You by Carys Bray. I absolutely loved Carys's first book, A Song for Issy Bradley, and I'm really looking forward to this one. One of the (many) amazing things about being an author is that you're sent so many advance copies of wonderful novels!

Favorite book when you were a child:

I had many favourite books as a child, but the one I took out of the library every week, without fail was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. As an only child, I loved reading about siblings and sisters, and Little Women will always hold a special place in my heart.

Your top five authors:

Goodness me, this is a tough one! I tend to love books, rather than particular authors, but five of my most-read writers would have to be Ruth Rendell, Stephen King, Alan Bennett, Alice Hoffman and Oliver Sacks. At first glance, it's quite a mixed bag, but they all write about seemingly ordinary people who turn out to be not quite as ordinary as we might imagine.

Book you've faked reading:

I've not done that in a long time, but for many years, I pretended I'd read Pride and Prejudice. I just couldn't face the shocked reaction it seemed to produce when I admitted to it. Now I shout it from the rooftops. I have tried and given up four times. I think I've earned the right to be honest!

Book you're an evangelist for:

If I love a book, I like to tell the whole world, but one of my more regular evangelisms involves Things We Have in Common by Tasha Kavanagh. It has the most perfect unreliable narrator, and one of the best last lines in a book I have ever read.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't think I've ever done this. I'm definitely more of a word person than a visual person. I really don't mind what a cover looks like, and I know pretty much from the first paragraph whether I'm going to buy the book or not!

Book you hid from your parents:

Again, I don't remember doing this. My parents were completely non-judgemental, and they were happy as long as I was reading something I enjoyed.

Book that changed your life:

I think Talking Heads by Alan Bennett was the one piece of writing that truly changed my life. Up to that point, I had no idea about the power of words and their ability to change someone's perspective. I was only 10 or 11 at the time, and his writing completely blew me away. I knew then that if I could harness even a small amount of the power he has, I would be very happy with myself.

Favorite line from a book:

There are so many, I couldn't possibly choose, but I recently read a wonderful line from Harriet Lane's Alys, Always: "my mother, glazed with fear and hairspray."

From just five words, I know exactly who that woman is. Perfect storytelling.

Five books you'll never part with:

There's only one book I wouldn't part with, and that's a copy of A Christmas Carol, which my grandfather gave to me when I was six. I love all the books I own very dearly, but I hold on to the words in my mind, rather than wanting to hold on to any tangible form of them. My grandfather's book, though, has huge sentimental value for me.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

This would have to be Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. I remember the first time I read it, I had to continually put the book down because I was laughing so much. To think it was written at the end of the 1800s is quite extraordinary!

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