2001. Stanley Kubrick’s interstellar voyage is one of those very rare things: a film as good as the book that spawned it. But that isn’t why it’s on my list. It’s here because, as a piece of work in its own right, it is perfect. What the film lacks in dialogue, it makes up for with its mesmerising visuals, intriguing past/present/future plot and incredible soundtrack. I have watched it over and over again, and have never once been bored. *NB: Other films that stand up to their papery counterparts, in my opinion, include The Shawshank Redemption, The Shining, Fear and Loathing, and, more recently, The Life of Pi.
Crime and Punishment. Despite paragraphs that last forever and the confusion caused by each individual character possessing a bewildering array of names, persevering with Dostoyevsky’s masterpiece is one of the most rewarding literary missions you can undertake. As the novel crackles towards its climax, Dostoyevsky somehow manages to make you feel every gut wrenching twist and turn as if you were the one with blood on your hands. It is incredible and highlights how powerful the written word can be.
George Orwell. No award for originality here but Orwell is probably the main reason I wanted to be a writer, and at least a contributing factor to my becoming a full-time smoker. As a teenager, reading books like 1984, Down and Out in Paris and London, Animal Farm and the less-frequently lauded Coming Up for Air, it felt almost impossible to want to do anything in life other than aim to become a lesser version of George Orwell.
Jarvis Cocker. Though my Sheffield roots make me slightly biased, I think Jarvis Cocker is one of the greatest writers of his generation. He is the perfect antidote to pretentiousness, highlighting on album after album that pragmatism and wit are more effective than longwinded snobbishness. I thoroughly recommend his collected lyrics book, ‘Mother, Brother, Lover,’ to anyone not entirely convinced of Cocker’s earthy genius.
Surrealism. There’s nothing in literature I like more than an unreliable narrator. And I think the art world’s closest matching version of this comes from the surrealists. Though frequently starved of praise from the higher brow members of the artistic community, I love the freedom present in the work of people like Dali, Ernst and Magritte. I have always imagined the stories that could be set in their otherworldly locations, particularly in those weird endless deserts.