William Fiennes on His Favourite Books

This Christmas we've asked our authors lots of questions about books they love and hate, the year just passed and the one to come.

01/12/2012
5 minutes to read
Open hardback book on white table in front of bookshelves

William Fiennes, author of The Snow Geese and The Music Room, a mesmerizing, heartstopping tribute to his older brother and the house in which they grew up, shares his thoughts on books new and old.

William Fiennes, author of The Snow Geese and The Music Room, a mesmerizing, heartstopping tribute to his older brother and the house in which they grew up, shares his thoughts on books new and old.

2012: A year in books

What is your favourite book of the year?

Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers - a page-turner, an eye-opener, a heart-bruiser.

Deborah Levy's Swimming Home - so eerie, citrus-sharp, big with undertow...

Ben Lerner's Leaving the Atocha Station - so funny.

Leanne Shapton's Swimming Studies, especially its autobiography-in-swimsuits chapter...

David Thomson's The Big Screen - occasionally dotty, but something brilliant and twinkling in every paragraph.

And great things from Picador, of course: Paul Farley's The Dark Film; Jackie Kay's Reality, Reality; Belinda McKeon's Solace, Carmen Bugan's Burying the Typewriter - I loved all those books.

What is your favourite Picador book ever?

Blood MeridianCloudstreetWaterlandNights at the CircusIn the Skin of a Lion. Not all of those are Picador any more, alas. And I grew up with those black-spined Picador Classics - Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano; Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game...

What is your favorite blog or who is your favourite tweeter?

Wonderful dovegreyreader for books...

The almost pathologically interesting Maria Popova, aka @brainpicker. And @jonronson (of course!). And @pentametron, which searches Twitter for tweets that are perfect iambic pentameters and retweets them in rhyming couplets...

What is the book you recommend most?

The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino

What is your favourite poem?

Impossible question. But I'm in awe of Les Murray's verse-novel Fredy Neptune

One book that changed your life?

Moby-Dick, when I was about nineteen...

One book you have read more than once?

The Transit of Venus, by Shirley Hazzard

What is your favourite party in literature?

Picador has been brilliant at parties recently - I'm thinking of the one with Princess Margaret in Edward St Aubyn's Some Hope, and the house party in Alan Hollinghurst's The Stranger's Child, which is just a tour-de-force... But my favourite has to be the Morkan sisters' annual dance in James Joyce's "The Dead": unforgettable.

The Snow Geese

by William Fiennes

Book cover for The Snow Geese

With an introduction by Robert Macfarlane

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and winner of the Hawthornden Prize.

I had attached myself to the birds. I couldn't move on until the birds moved on, and the birds couldn't move on without the spring.

One winter, after an enforced period of recuperation, William Fiennes finds himself restless and yearning for adventure. He travels to Texas, where he begins a quest to trace the million-strong flocks of snow geese making their spring flight thousands of miles north to the Arctic tundra. On his epic journey he meets people from every walk of life, from ex-nuns to train fanatics, and their stories resound with the longing to arrive at the right place in the world.

Shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and winner of the Hawthornden Prize, The Snow Geese is a poignant and lyrical paean to the richness and wonder of the world around us. A unique blend of autobiography, travel and nature writing, this is a classic tale of belonging and the inescapable lure of home.