Brought to Book
What is your favourite book?It is Gilbert Gurney. Out of print for more than 170 years, it is the hilarious autobiography of Theodore Hook, great practical joker and the English language's only true ‘improvisatore'. He composed instant comic songs on any subject given to him and sometimes whole operettas. Now forgotten, he was hugely famous in London in the 1820s.
What's your least favourite book?How to rank the many books that I could not finish? Perhaps Edward George Bulwer-Lytton's Paul Clifford whose opening line has been voted the worst in history: "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents - except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which...".
What is your favourite political biography?Barack Obama's autobiography Dreams From My Father. It is moving and illuminating. He could have been a great writer if he had not found another occupation.
Name the most signifi cant book in the last 10 years?Probably too soon to say. Either Guy Verhofstadt's book De Verenigde Staten Van Europa which won the first Europe Book Prize four years ago (in English, The United States of Europe), or Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah which won this year's prize, because it describes from the inside the spreading of cross-border organised crime about which we are doing much too little because the shocking scale of it is kept hidden.
What's your favourite holiday read?War and Peace. It is incomparable and endlessly re-readable, especially when it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn as Natasha and Henry Fonda as Pierre in King Vidor's masterpiece film.
What was your favourite children's book?The Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. They are as good today as ever. Kipling was a truly great writer whose revival, I think, is long overdue. But in politics you can never say when things will happen.
What is the most inspiring book you have ever read?It might be Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is gripping, mystifying and finally very moving. No wonder she has won both the Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes. If only it could inspire me to write one-tenth as well as her.
What fictional character would you be?The equivalent of Lanny Budd. He was Upton Sinclair's ubiquitous hero, and was closely involved in every major world event in the fi rst half of the twentieth century.
Bill Newton Dunn is the Liberal Democrat MEP for the East Midlands