Pico Iyer, author of The Half Known Life: In Search of Paradise recommends a super set of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out Pico's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
The Brain-Dead Megaphone, by George Saunders. Saunders is rightly celebrated as a master of fiction, always original, startling and deeply compassionate. But his book of essays from 15 years ago is not only a perfect guide to the modern world, as seen by an uncommonly kind and open-minded soul, but most of all a defense of reading and a reminder of how and why smart-thinking books are the only way in which we can bring intimacy, attentiveness, nuance—and soul—into our short-attention lives.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
Burning Man, by Frances Wilson, is a dazzlingly wild, penetrating and often crazy meditation on D.H. Lawrence, as impenitently all-over-the-place as its subject and unremittingly witty and wise. I fell completely under its grip until reading it became an experience of almost delirious joy.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
My hero for many years was Paddington Bear, and I never get tired of reading his well-mannered and always well-intentioned adventures. A few years later I came under the spell of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy, and I would recommend those graceful and deeply classical wisdom tales to anyone of any age.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
I’m afraid I can read only on paper. To me listening to an audio-book is like hearing about a painting; it engages with exactly the wrong part of my brain.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
I have too many. But wonderful Chaucer’s in Santa Barbara, California has sustained me for almost half a century, I always love Elliott Bay in Seattle and on my current book I’m visiting such irreplaceable Californian temples of words as Vroman’s in Pasadena, Kepler’s in Menlo Park and Book Passage in Corte Madera. Growing up in Oxford, of course I bowed daily before the incomparable Blackwell’s.
Image Copyrights: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (The Half Known Life, The Brain-Dead Megaphone, Burning Man), Penguin Books Ltd (Earthsea).