A Life in Books - Cathy Bolton, Director of the Manchester Literature Festival

Cathy Bolton is Director of the Manchester Literature Festival which runs from October 14th to 25th in various venues around Manchester. We asked her about the books she has by her bedside table

What are you reading at the moment?I’m reading Beatles by Lars Saabye Chistensen who’s appearing at this year’s Manchester Literature Festival.  Set in Oslo in the 60s and 70s, it’s a really entertaining coming of age book about four boys who model themselves on the Fab Four. Despite the difference in gender, age and culture I can really identify with their adolescent antics and dilemmas, and it’s full of understated humour.

What book are you looking forward to starting?Laurie Moore’s A Gate at the Stairs . Her lyric language is not to be rushed so I’m saving it for a post festival treat. I love her witty and evocative short stories, and I’m really looking forward to relaxing with a longer narrative offering.

What was the first book that got you hooked on reading?It was The Wind in the Willows. I was completely captivated by the adventures of Toad - there’s one particular image of a gypsy caravan setting off into the sunset that’s still emblazoned on my imagination to this day. It’s the first time I remember disobeying the time-to-sleep curfew, reading by the dim glow of my bedside lamp so as not cast any tell tale light onto the landing - this developed into a regular habit that I blame for my terrible eyesight!

Do you have a favourite beach read?The kind of novel that transports you to an unfamiliar world or culture - that way you get to experience a double escape. Some of my most memorable holiday reads have been Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake, and more recently Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna and Monique Roffey’s The White Woman on a Green Bicycle - they’re all great examples of books that both entertain and provoke reflection.  Who is your all time favourite author or book?It’s hard to choose just one, but I think I’ll have to go for The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. I love her fresh and quirky descriptive style of writing and there’s an underlying optimism to this particular novel - that even the most damaged and dysfunctional of people can find love.

Also, I’m a great sea lover and the novel’s atmospheric sense of place - the desolate, windswept coast of Newfoundland - really takes my breath away.Is there a book that changed your life?I don’t know about changing my life, but the book that made the greatest impression on me as a teenager was Doctor Zhivago. As well as being a terribly romantic saga, Yuri Zhivago’s moral conflict about whether he should devote his life to medicine or poetry made me really think about the role of the artist in society, and how the  individual can best serve the wider good. The book you least like?In my former job I had to read a lot of unpublished manuscripts, including several tedious espionage thrillers that have all blurred into one happily forgettable clich�.

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