Filmed by James Sandy and Petros Gioumpasis; Edited by Oliver McGuirk
My book of the year is No Turning Back by Rania Abouzeid. It's an important book. It's about Syria. Many readers, I think, find Syria a bit of a turn off because it's complex and it's a painful subject. But this book triumphantly brings it to life by telling it through the stories of individual participants. How the war has affected their lives, the terrible decisions they've had to make. It has a sort of novelistic quality that makes it compelling and also important.
My favourite book of the year so far is Weight in the Water by Tracy K Smith. She's the current US poet laureate, and reading this book, you can understand why. It's incredibly broad-ranging, it's moving, it's magical. And mainly, she's just a wonderful company to carry with you wherever you're going this summer.
My recommended summer read is City of Devils by Paul French. It's a gripping tale. It falls in the genre of true crime and it tells the story of two men, one who ran the slot machines, the other the nightclubs of Shanghai in the 1930s. And gives you a portrait of this city that is somewhere between different worlds, delivered by war and then a communist revolution. But it's before then when Shanghai was quite a sort of wild, even lawless place.
My choice of the year so far is White Houses by Amy Bloom. This is the exquisitely told story of the decades-long love affair between First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok. Amy Bloom has delved really deep into this archive of letters between the two women to bring their love affair to life in all its tenderness and passion. It's a really refreshing portrait of love in middle age and a brilliant re-imagining of the 1930s. You can practically smell the rose water and talcum powder.