Nation’s favourite authors reveal the books that changed their lives

Dolly Alderton, Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory, Paula Hawkins, Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, and Tara Westover are some of the nation’s best-selling authors who today reveal the books that changed their lives. All are donating books to Oxfam to boost sales in Oxfam shops and raise money for the charity’s life-changing work fighting poverty to beat it, for good.

They are joined by more of the biggest names in the book world including Margaret Atwood, Germaine Greer, Mark Haddon, Victoria Hislop, DJ Greg James, Judith Kerr, Marina Lewycka, Jojo Moyes, Lisa Williamson, and TV presenter Alex Jones.

The campaign #BooksChangeLives was launched Wednesday 30 May at the Hay Festival by the author Eric Ngalle Charles. Festival goers, authors and members of the public are invited to share the book that changed their lives using #BooksChangeLives, and donate any unwanted books to their local Oxfam shop.

Mark Haddon, best known for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time chose The Selected Poems of R S Thomas 1946-68. He said: ‘The opening of the first poem was just a bunch of ordinary words arranged in the right order. How the hell was it done…? I’m still trying to answer that question.’

Dolly Alderton author of Everything I Know About Love picked The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. ‘It taught me so much about men and women – about love and relationship dynamics and the myths we’re fed about romance,’ she said.

Paula Hawkins who wrote the blockbuster The Girl on the Train chose The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. ‘It was one of my A level set texts and to my eighteen-year-old self, it was a revelation. The first overtly feminist novel I’d ever read…. The TV show is great, but as ever, the book is better.’

Tracy Chevalier, best known for Girl with a Pearl Earring opted for Restoration by Rose Tremain. ‘It was the first modern historical novel I read that made me think, Hey, history IS relevant to today! I’ve been writing historical novels ever since,’ she said.

Nick Hornby selected Anne Tyler’s Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant. ‘I read the first few pages in a bookshop, and suddenly realised that I wanted to try and write prose like that, as opposed to whatever it was I’d been trying to write before,’ he said.

Philippa Gregory, picked Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. Philippa said: ‘I love this book, which is really a long essay, almost a letter, for the endearing and thoughtful narrational voice, and for the topic, the limited opportunities for women. I can remember when and where I read it – on a camping holiday in the Highlands – and I was transported to Woolf’s Cambridge and into her wry and amused compassionate mind.’

Greg James said: ‘A book that changed my life was Michael Palin’s Hemingway’s Chair. Not an obvious choice, I grant you, but for me, he is my ultimate hero. I not only love the story he’s told, but more than that this book made me realise that you don’t have to just stick to one thing in life.’

These authors are joined by publishers Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette UK, Faber and Faber, Bloomsbury, Pavilion, Pan Macmillan, Profile Books and Sort of Books, and authors Ruth Jones, Neil Gaiman, Robert Webb, Kate Garraway, Marcel Somerville, Jensen Button, Father of Daughters and Scummy Mummies. Together they are donating thousands of books to Oxfam shops.

Andrew Horton, Oxfam Trading Director, said: ‘Oxfam is so grateful for this overwhelming show of support by so many talented and generous people in the book world. We estimate that the thousands of books donated to Oxfam by our friends in the publishing industry could raise over £25,000 from sales in Oxfam shops. The authors have also donated thousands of books personally. Book donations are vitally important to Oxfam, because they raise millions of pounds for our work helping the world’s poorest people escape the daily grind of living with dirty water and hunger. These valuable book donations and the sales they generate, really will change the lives of people who desperately need help for good.’

All profits from sales at Oxfam change the lives of the world’s poorest people who have either lost everything, or have very little to start off with. The money raised from Oxfam books sales bring clean water, food and shelter to people living in refugee camps. It sends girls to school, fights for women to be paid a fair wage in decent working conditions, and helps men and women farmers acquire the skills and materials they need to feed their families and work their way out of poverty.

Andrew Franklin, Founder and Managing Director, Profile Books, said: ‘Oxfam has many friends in the book world, who support Oxfam’s essential work in some of the most difficult environments on earth. It is a noble organisation delivering life-saving aid like clean water to the world’s most profoundly disadvantaged people. That’s why Profile Books, along with other publishers, has donated thousands of books to Oxfam to sell in its shops and raise much needed cash. I’m glad we can demonstrate our support for Oxfam in such a practical way. And we will continue to do so as long as the need is there.’


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