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WHAT BOOK would novelist, journalist and broadcaster Elizabeth Day take to a desert island?

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…are you reading?

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart. I’ve yet to read his Booker Prize-winning debut album, Shuggie Bain, but thought I’d start with his second. I’m against the current like that.

Young Mungo is atmospheric and skilfully structured. It’s set in post-Thatcherite Glasgow and I think Stuart has a real talent for visceral directing. I can imagine everything so clearly, it’s like I’m actually there. It’s a rare and valuable skill for a writer.

Elizabeth Day (pictured) would take Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan quartet to a desert island

Elizabeth Day (pictured) would take Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet to a desert island

…you would take to a desert island?

The Neapolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante. Technically four pounds, sure, but hopefully there’s room. I love this gripping, beautiful, and nuanced story about a 50-year female friendship.

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It is full of love and complexity that such friendships between women involve, but they do not often attract attention in classical literature. Reading this felt completely revolutionary and feminist the first time around. I would cherish the opportunity to read it again and again.

…gave you the reading bug first?

Meg And Mog by Helen Nicoll and illustrated by Jan Pienkowski. I remember being completely spellbound by this book – both the story and the tangible object with its bright colors and glossy pages.

My mother read it to me. She taught me to read and write before I started school. One of my earliest memories is of her sitting next to me watching me form the curved line of a capital C. I wanted to be a writer from the age of four, and I think that’s why.

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I feel extraordinarily privileged to have had parents who encouraged and supported my love of writing.

Elizabeth remembers reading Meg and Mog as a child

Elizabeth remembers reading Meg and Mog as a child

… left you cold?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. Reading it felt like browsing through a Pinterest board full of Live, Laugh, Love quotes. Still, it’s sold over 150 million copies, so I highly doubt he cares what I think.

I interviewed Coelho once for a Sunday paper many years ago. During our conversation, he told me he freaked out when he wasn’t allowed to smoke a cigarette on a long-haul flight.

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The plane was on the tarmac during a layover and Coelho insisted on leaving in order to smoke in the airport, which delayed everyone else’s flight.

There was a fracas between Coelho and the steward when he returned and Coelho said he insisted the airport manager be called in to arbitrate.

He then wanted someone to write him a letter of apology because he couldn’t fly to London with “bad energy” on his shoulders. I have never been sure of his books since.

  • Elizabeth Day is the author of Magpie, now available in paperback from 4th Estate for £8.99.

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