WHAT BOOK would Adrian Edmondson take to a desert island?

…are you reading now?

Weirdo by Sara Pascoe. When comedians write novels they generally knock out a thinly disguised first draft of a drama series they’re trying to get commissioned. Weirdo is not like that. It’s a real novel. And a brilliant one.

Sophie, the paranoid and deeply unhappy central character, is having an existential crisis while working in a pub. She works through hundreds of different ‘what ifs’ for every moment she finds herself in, including, quite frequently, whether she might just be a brain in a jar experiencing this life in her imagination.

I couldn’t believe we were still in the bar so far into the book, that so much was happening in her head, and in her memory, and in her own distrust of that memory.

I’m in awe at the structure. Sophie’s favourite writer is Albert Camus — mostly because she likes to correct people on the pronunciation — and I think Camus would love this book.

If he were to be stranded on a desert island, Adrian Edmondson would take War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy

If he were to be stranded on a desert island, Adrian Edmondson would take War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy 

…would you take to a desert island?

War And Peace by Count Leo Tolstoy. I’ll admit I never read it until I played a part in the 2016 TV version of the book. It’s the butt of so many jokes, usually about being too long to read, or about people pretending to have read it to appear more cultured than they actually are.

Indeed, Rik Mayall and I made these exact jokes about it in our sitcom Bottom — Richie tries to read it, but eventually gives up, and while looking at the cover, remarks: ‘Count? Well they spelt that wrong didn’t they?’

But hey — you’re on a desert island, you need a long book, and the brilliant thing is, when you finally get round to reading it you’ll discover there’s no one who writes better about falling in love than Tolstoy. It’s absolutely delicious.

He’s also laugh-out-loud funny — the old Count Rostov is one of the most warm-hearted but ridiculous characters in literature. And as a history of Napoleon’s failed attempt to conquer Russia it’s really bloody good. With the emphasis on bloody.

…first gave you the reading bug?

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. A bit like Alice In Wonderland or The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, it follows a bored kid called Milo into the magical world of rival cities Digitopolis and Dictionopolis.

It’s full of puns and wordplay, and explores the literal version of idioms like ‘killing time’ and ‘jumping to conclusions’.

The bit that really got me hooked was when Milo crashes his pedal car into the market stalls selling words and letters, and for the next couple of paragraphs the words are all jumbled up.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster first gave Adrian the reading bug

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster first gave Adrian the reading bug

It’s where I first started to understand how words work.

…left you cold?

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. I tried to read this book to my kids when they were small. I found it impenetrable. I think of myself as a good reader of bedtime stories (my BFG is better than anyone’s and I’m willing to prove it), but there was something about the sentence structure in The Hobbit that just wouldn’t flow inside my head.

I was reminded of learning German at school and searching for the verb. I think all writers have a rhythm and I can’t dance to Tolkien. I never got beyond the maps in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy either.

  • Berserker by Adrian Edmondson (Macmillan, £22) is out now.

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