The Book That Changed Me

Episodes

EpisodeTitleFirst
Broadcast
RepeatedComments
01Afua Hirsch on 'Wide Sargasso Sea'20180402Journalist and writer Afua Hirsch discusses "Wide Sargasso Sea" by Jean Rhys, the story of the forgotten first wife of Mr Rochester in Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre. Encountering Rhys's novel aged 14, Hirsch detested her account of a Creole girl growing up in 1830s Jamaica. Re-reading it much later in life, she came to believe that "it is one of the most perfect books ever written in the English language. The sparsity of Rhys's painfully meticulous sentences, which so alienated the teenage me, touches me now - a writer myself - as the work of a genius." The novel helped shape her thinking on Britishness. "Race is everywhere. Its legacy is real and traumatic. You can't opt out of it or - as so many people in contemporary Britain attempt to do - claim not to see it."

Producer Smita Patel
Editor Hugh Levinson.

How journalist and writer Hirsch changed her view of Jean Rhys's novel.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

01David Simon20161031Creator of the TV series The Wire David Simon on the book Let us Now Praise Famous Men.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

02Henry Marsh on 'War and Peace'20180403Neurosurgeon and writer Henry Marsh on how "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy began a teenage love affair with all things Russian. "I burned the plastic coating off my NHS spectacle frames to reveal the revolutionary intellectual steel inside. And bought a young Communist League badge which I could wear on my black polo neck pullover." Marsh later drove across Europe to begin the first of many stints as a volunteer surgeon in Ukraine. "My life might easily have careered off in an entirely different direction if it had not been for Tolstoy," he says.

Producer Smita Patel
Editor Hugh Levinson.

Neurosurgeon and writer Henry Marsh on the influence of Tolstoy's epic novel.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

02Jude Kelly on Little Women2015012020160815 (R3)Jude Kelly of London's Southbank Centre discusses Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

02Pauline Black20161101Singer Pauline Black discusses Harper Lee's book To Kill a Mockingbird.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

03Ben Anderson20161102Journalist Ben Anderson explains how The Autobiography of Malcolm X inspired him.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

03Zarah Hussain on The Arabian Nights20180404Zarah Hussain explains how The Arabian Nights inspired her as an artist. On discovering the book as a child, she found "the book was absolutely beautiful...There was a border of pink and blue arabesque flowers and a central image of a King wearing a gold crown and beautiful robes in conversation with a Queen similarly bedecked in robes. The floor and walls were covered in repeating geometric patterns. ...they came from a different world, a faraway place, but a place that was somehow familiar to me."
Producer: Smita Patel.

The artist describes the inspiration of these legendary tales.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

04Alastair Campbell on 'Madame Bovary'20180405Tony Blair's former spokesman, on how Gustave Flaubert's novel gave him a lifetime love of French culture. "It is a love that has endured. I like reading French, speaking French, listening to French. Every year of my adult life, I have spent a part of it in France, and the older I get, the more freedom I seem to have to go there, and so the more I exploit that freedom."
Producer: Smita Patel.

Tony Blair's former spokesman on how Flaubert inspired his love of French culture.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

04Tacita Dean20161103Artist Tacita Dean on how Marguerite Yourcenar's book Fires changed her life and art.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

05Inua Ellams On Terry Pratchett20180406The poet and playwright describes how he was influenced by the comic novel "Pyramids". "When I opened the first few pages...it is no exaggeration to say my whole world changed," he recalls. As a twelve-year-old Nigerian migrant to London, Ellams found that Pratchett's hilarious fantasy world helped him in his transition to his new homeland. "If I could give myself and belong so completely and entirely to his world, which mirrored Britain, then perhaps I could belong to Britain itself."
Producer: Smita Patel.

The poet and playwright on the fantasy comedy 'Pyramids'.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

05Sir Paul Nurse on Conjectures and Refutations2015012320160817 (R3)Geneticist Sir Paul Nurse discusses the book Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Popper.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.

05Sir Richard Eyre20161104Director Sir Richard Eyre on how he was inspired by Angus Calder's book The People's War.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond.