Sarah Millican's Recommended Reads
As she presents her wickedly funny new book, How to be Champion, Sarah Millican recommends some of her favourite reads alongside tips on what you can (and can't) learn about life as an author from reading Misery and The Shining.
Frank Skinner’s is the first autobiography I’ve read that I absolutely loved. LOVED. The sequel On the Road is like a guide to how to be a comedian, so I adore that one too, but his first will always have a special place in my heart. I was on holiday with someone who was reading it and I would constantly look up from my all right novel and ask what was so funny. I’d get a paragraph read aloud to me, we’d both laugh and I’d go back to my 'blah' novel. It’s told in a non-linear way, which I found very inspiring when it came to writing my own autobiography How to be Champion earlier this year. It’s also utterly hilarious, obviously.
Bill Bryson’s Notes from a Small Island is a book I’ve read multiple times. Before that I’d read his books about America with open-eyed wonder. But when he turned his pen (laptop?) on us, that’s when I was hooked. A very funny American’s opinion of our daft British ways was a breath of fresh air. Yes, we are ridiculous, Bill. But only you are allowed to tell us.
JoJo Moyes’ Me Before You is surely a book that everyone has read by now. I’m a workaholic and I’m generally good at starting books but I give up, lose interest, get stuck into work and don’t come back to them very often. That’s probably why most of this list is non-fiction. Much easier than fiction for dipping in and out of or exclusively reading on the lav. But I stuck with this. The characters were so well written and I was rooting for them from the get go. Also, I bloody love crying and this one facilitated massive bouts of snot covered bawling. I remember sobbing while reading it in the bath at one point. Which is quite practical when you think about it.
One of the books I’m reading at the moment is Rae Earl’s It's All In Your Head: A Guide to Getting Your Sh*t Together. I think it’s meant for young adults. I’m 42 so just edging out of that age group. I’ve loved Rae Earl for a good while. Her TV series My Mad Fat Diary was brilliant and I got to meet her recently when we had her on the Standard Issue podcast. She was smart, funny and so open about everything she has and does go through. I touch a little on mental health issues in my book, and think it’s great that we’re all being more open about these things. I, for one, feel a bit more normal because of it.
A book I’ve read a couple of times is John Colapinto’s About The Author. When I wanted to be a writer, I went through a phase of reading books and watching films about writers. I read this and Paul Auster’s Oracle Night and watched The Shining and Misery. Overall, it wasn’t a great vision of the future but regardless, I persevered. Colapinto's is a fast paced thriller. A proper page-turner and at 250 odd pages, quickly doable via poos and baths. It’s dark and exciting.
Now that I’m an author myself, I can say my life is a lot like these books and films. I have stayed in cold hotels (The Shining), I do love new stationery (Oracle Night) but thankfully I have never plagiarised, blackmailed, had my ankles broken or hacked through a bathroom door with an axe. Though I did once get trapped in a toilet and would have welcomed Jack Torrance then. Luckily, the venue manager just worked his way through a giant set of keys.
Nora Ephron was such a glorious writer and sorely missed. I Feel Bad About My Neck is a collection of essays that speak to me like an aunt who pulls you aside to tell you about the peri-menopause or piles. She has such a back catalogue of crazy good work that I feel like I’ll always have one of her books on the go. That way I can convince myself she’s still here.
The other book I currently have my head in is Robert Webb’s How Not to Be a Boy. It’s wonderful. It’s funny, as you’d expect, but also occasionally horrific and hugely insightful. I sometimes have to shut it and have a little think.