Books that changed my life: Jenny Eclair

Jenny Eclair is a British comedian and novelist. She will be at Cheltenham Literature Festival on October 10. Inheritance by Jenny Eclair is out now (Sphere, £14.99)

Monty Python's Big Red Book

I received the paperback version of this for Christmas in 1972. The book was blue and said “Special hardback edition” on the front—which I thought was hilarious. I was 12 at the time and my parents weren’t keen on me watching the show, so I think this might have been a present from my older sister. 

It was possibly one of the first indications that comedy was something I could get serious about. As I grew older I stopped finding the Pythons as funny as I had when I was 12, possibly because I started to want something more feminine that I could really identify with.


The L—Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks 

This is a classic and the first properly grown up book that I read when I was 14. Up until then I’d only read the dirty bits in my mother’s copy of the The Carpet Baggers. It contained all the things I was interested in, nice girls gone wrong (accidental pregnancy) and London (a bug infested boarding house in Fulham to be precise). It also tackled issues such as loneliness, race and ultimately finding love in unlikely places. I was a pretty sheltered teenager from the North when I read this in the mid-1970s and I still think it should be required reading for all teenagers today.


Summer with Monica by Roger McGough 

This isn’t a book, it’s a poem—it was published in Cosmopolitan around 1979-80 when I was at drama school. I have no idea why. Most of the articles in Cosmo back then were about oral sex and I can’t say poetry in fashion mags ever caught on. 

We were having an end of term show and everyone had to do something. I didn’t want to do anything traditional, so I read this. A year or two later, I had become a performance poet myself—I will always have Roger and Monica to thank for that, it was the start of my career. 

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter