Last week I learned that my young adult novel, The Reckoning, has made it onto a government-sponsored list of 250 books for teenagers. Every secondary school in England will receive their choice of 15 titles from the list, free, as part of a scheme to encourage reading among an age group whose aversion to it is notorious.
To make it easier for school librarians to choose, the titles are arranged under themed headings: boggle, experiment, explore, fast forward, fear, go wild, imagine, indulge, investigate, laugh, look back, play, spy, survive, think, train. Mine, a thriller, comes under ‘survive’.
As I looked at the list, I found myself picturing the study in an executive home, as described to me by someone who had once been into one. It contained an empty desk and chair, an exercise bike, and a bookcase with two books in it: a computer manual and something along the lines of Marketing Made Easy. Today it might also have housed The Da Vinci Code.
It’s easy as a lifelong reader to be dismissive of non-readers, when there are plenty of other equally valuable ways of passing your time. But I can’t help thinking that if more people in the business world read good writing, they might become better at it themselves.
Picture Lord Mandelson dreaming up a similar scheme for British business. The list of headings would, in fact, be remarkably similar to the one for teenagers: experiment, explore, fast forward, fear and so on. And the titles themselves? I’d welcome suggestions (leave a comment), but under ‘survive’ I would certainly want to include Hilary Mantel’s magnificent, Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall. It’s a tough but enthralling read and, as a study of self-preservation, persuasion and the relentless pursuit of power, without equal. I’m sure the Business Secretary would heartily endorse it.