WHAT BOOK would managing director of Conde Nast UK and author Albert Read take to a


WHAT BOOK would managing director of Conde Nast UK and author Albert Read take to a desert island?

…are you reading now? 

It is a joy to find a book that makes you laugh out loud — and I’ve just found one. Michael Frayn’s 1967 novel Towards The End Of The Morning is set in the dying embers of old Fleet Street. John Dyson, editor of the crosswords and nature columns, dreams of respectability and making it big in television (failing spectacularly). 

His colleagues’ lives chiefly consist of grumbling, filing fictitious expenses and eventually turning out 1,000 words of sparkling copy after a long lunch at El Vino’s. One old-timer is thought to be asleep at his desk and it is some time before anyone realises he is dead. 

As well as connecting with the flaws and delusions of the immensely sympathetic characters, one smells the ink and feels the thrill of the printing presses thundering daily into action in the basement. 

Albert Read (pictured) is reading Michael Frayn’s novel Towards The End Of The Morning. The managing director of Conde Nast UK and author would take Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time to a desert island

Albert Read (pictured) is reading Michael Frayn’s novel Towards The End Of The Morning. The managing director of Conde Nast UK and author would take Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time to a desert island

…would you take to a desert island? 

Marcel Proust’s In Search Of Lost Time requires, for its full reward, patience and careful reading that is increasingly illsuited to the modern distractions of Instagram and TikTok. 

But everyone should at least try it once to experience a rendering of life in words that is quite unlike anything else I have ever read. It reveals itself most fully when you read only a few pages at a time to absorb its richness and complexity. 

It is, one could say, high-definition prose — wonderful for its intricate observations on memory, music, nature, place and every minute flicker of human behaviour. One sentence is nearly 500 words long. Perfect for a desert island. 

The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas first gave him the reading bug

The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas first gave him the reading bug

…first gave you the reading bug? 

The Count Of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Edmond Dantes is thrown into prison for unfounded crimes of treason concocted by jealous rivals and is forced to abandon his love, Mercedes. After 14 years he escapes, stumbles across treasure on the island of Monte Cristo and uses it to take revenge on his enemies. 

Revenge is such a seductive theme and never better told than here. I read it in a few long sittings lying on a sofa at perhaps 14 years old. I still remember this first utter absorption in storytelling. I went on immediately to Dumas’s The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. 

…left you cold? 

For all its political significance, I wilt under the symbolism of The Master And Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. 

I know it’s important — a classic of 20th-century Russian literature and all that — but I’m afraid I return, with renewed love and appreciation, to the luminous worlds of the great 19th-century novels: Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Turgenev. 

  • The Imagination Muscle: Where Good Ideas Come From (And How To Have More Of Them) by Albert Read is published on March 23 by Constable at £20. 



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