Books that changed my life: Peter May

Reader's Digest Editors

Scottish novelist Peter May’s books have sold over 2 million copies in the UK alone. His latest book, a political thriller titled The Man With No Face is out now, published by Riverrun

The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé

The Tintin adventures had everything, but above all, comedy. It was present in the characters’ relationships, weaknesses and foibles, and their faces conveyed it all. Hergé could create a character’s expression with a single line. Then there were the exotic settings. There I was in my bedroom in Glasgow and these stories took me across every continent, and even to the moon. They inspired me to travel and tell stories set in exotic places—and to take readers with me!

 

The Beastly Beatitudes of Balthazar B by J P Donleavy

I was about 18 when I read this and it changed all my preconceptions about writing. I’d never read anything like it before. Being the son of an English teacher who wrote a text book on grammar, I was brought up believing that if you wanted to write, you had to follow the rules. But J P Donleavy wasn’t bound by anything like that. He used language and sentence structure in a way that I’d never seen before, and it was beautiful to read. It gave me permission to break the rules.

 

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

When I was an aspiring novelist, this book meant a lot to me. It’s the story of Hemingway’s life in 1920s Paris, when he was trying to establish himself as a writer. He was living in freezing flats, writing in cafés to keep warm, and yet it had an exotic feel to it and certainly contributed to my attraction to France. It was an extraordinary era. I took heart from the thought that in spite of the potential for misery and poverty, you could live an interesting life, and perhaps even become a success as a writer.