Mark Haddon

Mind-expanding reading from the novelist’s bookshelf.

Mark Haddon captivated readers worldwide with his eclectic mystery The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. His playful new novel, The Red House, follows one family’s weekend in the countryside with explosive results. It’s a bittersweet, funny, and heartfelt performance from a storytelling wizard. This week, Haddon points us to three mind-expanding favorites.

Books by Mark Haddon

The Odyssey

By Homer, translated by Richmond Lattimore

“I guess the majority of people who’ve grown up in the West, like me, think of themselves as living in a Judaeo-Christian culture. And that’s half-right. But we forget how much we owe to Ancient Greece. Reading The Odyssey (and its prequel, The Iliad, but I’m going to let you off reading that for the moment) gives me a clearer sense of who I am and where I’ve come from than do the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, both of which feel very alien in parts and frankly crazy in others. The Odyssey, on the other hand, feels oddly familiar, not just superficially (Sirens! the Cyclops!) but in a very profound way. My ideas about home, about travel, about loyalty, about deceit, about honour…I can feel them all starting here. It’s also an unexpectedly entertaining read.”

Guns, Germs, and Steel

By Jared Diamond

“One of the few books which have fundamentally changed my view of the world and, coincidentally, one of the most solid and irrefutable anti-racist texts you’ll ever lay your hands on. It’s a compelling argument about why certain nations and certain ethnic groups have ended up running the planet; a result not of any inherent superior qualities but by accidents of geography and biology: the small number and uneven distribution of domesticable species of animal, the ease of migrating East and West as against the difficulty of migrating North and South, the fact that only some people are immune to smallpox, the vanishingly small chance of finding Australia in a canoe…”

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood

By James Gleick

“I’m reading this right now and unless it goes rapidly downhill in the second half it’s a masterly work, one which links the iPad, Mac, or PC on which you’re reading this article right back to the cuneiform markings on the clay tablets of Babylonian Uruk. Information is fast becoming the major commodity in which we trade and the substance out of which our lives are constructed. But what is it? Seriously. Think about that for a moment. What is information? How do you identify it? How do you measure it? How do create it? How do you destroy it? If you don’t know the answer to these questions then you are walking through the world blindfolded. To roll out the rather shopworn phrase, a genuinely mind-expanding book.”