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Nation's favourite authors reveal the books that changed their lives

30th May 2018

Dolly Alderton, Tracy Chevalier, Philippa Gregory, Paula Hawkins,  Nick Hornby, David Nicholls, and Tara Westover are some of the nation's best-selling authors who today reveal the books that changed their lives.  All are donating books to Oxfam to boost sales in Oxfam shops and raise money for the charity's life-changing work fighting poverty to beat it, for good.

They are joined by more of the biggest names in the book world including  Margaret Atwood, Germaine Greer, Mark Haddon, Victoria Hislop, DJ Greg James, Judith Kerr, Marina Lewycka, Jojo Moyes, Lisa Williamson, and TV presenter Alex Jones.

The campaign #BooksChangeLives will be launched Wednesday 30 May at the Hay Festival by the author Eric Ngalle Charles. Festival goers, authors and members of the public are invited to share the book that changed their lives using #BooksChangeLives, and donate any unwanted books to their local Oxfam shop.

Mark Haddon, best known for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time chose The Selected Poems of R S Thomas 1946-68. He said: 'The opening of the first poem was just a bunch of ordinary words arranged in the right order. How the hell was it done...? I'm still trying to answer that question.'

Dolly Alderton author of Everything I Know About Love picked The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Banks. 'It taught me so much about men and women - about love and relationship dynamics and the myths we're fed about romance,' she said.

Paula Hawkins who wrote the blockbuster The Girl on the Train chose The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. 'It was one of my A level set texts and to my eighteen-year-old self, it was a revelation. The first overtly feminist novel I'd ever read…. The TV show is great, but as ever, the book is better.'

Tracy Chevalier, best known for Girl with a Pearl Earring opted for Restoration by Rose Tremain. 'It was the first modern historical novel I read that made me think, Hey, history IS relevant to today! I've been writing historical novels ever since,' she said.

Nick Hornby selected Anne Tyler's Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant. 'I read the first few pages in a bookshop, and suddenly realised that I wanted to try and write prose like that, as opposed to whatever it was I'd been trying to write before,' he said. 

Philippa Gregory, picked Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Philippa said: 'I love this book, which is really a long essay, almost a letter, for the endearing and thoughtful narrational voice, and for the topic, the limited opportunities for women. I can remember when and where I read it - on a camping holiday in the Highlands - and I was transported to Woolf's Cambridge and into her wry and amused compassionate mind.'

Greg James said: 'A book that changed my life was Michael Palin's Hemingway's Chair. Not an obvious choice, I grant you, but for me, he is my ultimate hero. I not only love the story he's told, but more than that this book made me realise that you don't have to just stick to one thing in life.'

These authors are joined by publishers Penguin Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette UK, Faber and Faber, Bloomsbury, Pavilion, Pan Macmillan, Profile Books and Sort of Books, and authors Ruth Jones, Neil Gaiman, Robert Webb, Kate Garraway, Marcel Somerville, Jensen Button, Father of Daughters and Scummy Mummies. Together they are donating thousands of books to Oxfam shops.

Andrew Horton, Oxfam Trading Director, said: 'Oxfam is so grateful for this overwhelming show of support by so many talented and generous people in the book world.  We estimate that the thousands of books donated to Oxfam by our friends in the publishing industry could raise over £25,000 from sales in Oxfam shops. The authors have also donated thousands of books personally. Book donations are vitally important to Oxfam, because they raise millions of pounds for our work helping the world's poorest people escape the daily grind of living with dirty water and hunger. These valuable book donations and the sales they generate, really will change the lives of people who desperately need help for good.'

All profits from sales at Oxfam change the lives of the world's poorest people who have either lost everything, or have very little to start off with.  The money raised from Oxfam books sales bring clean water, food and shelter to people living in refugee camps. It sends girls to school, fights for women to be paid a fair wage in decent working conditions, and helps men and women farmers acquire the skills and materials they need to feed their families and work their way out of poverty.

Andrew Franklin, Founder and Managing Director, Profile Books, said: 'Oxfam has many friends in the book world, who support Oxfam's essential work in some of the most difficult environments on earth. It is a noble organisation delivering life-saving aid like clean water to the world's most profoundly disadvantaged people. That's why Profile Books, along with other publishers, has donated thousands of books to Oxfam to sell in its shops and raise much needed cash.  I'm glad we can demonstrate our support for Oxfam in such a practical way. And we will continue to do so as long as the need is there.' 

For more information and interview requests, contact Harriet Hernando, PR Officer, on 01865 472 217 / 07557 077 008 / hhernando1@oxfam.org.uk or  Emma Fabian, Senior PR Press Officer on 01865 47 2193/07825 503 274, efabian1@oxfam.org.uk

ends

Notes to Editors: 
Authors and their full quotes, listed in alphabetical order:
• Dolly Alderton, best known for Everything I Know About Love. Dolly said: 'The book that changed my life was The Girl's Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank. It taught me so much about men and women - about love and relationship dynamics and the myths we're fed about romance. And I fell wildly in love with Melissa Banks' narrative style, humour, character formation and voice - it had a huge effect on how I try to tell stories through my writing.'
• Eric Ngalle Charles, best known for Asylum, picked Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.  Eric said: 'When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. This quote kind of underlines the persistent quest by nations for weapons of mass destruction and geopolitical expansion.' 
• Tracy Chevalier, best known for Girl with a Pearl Earring, picked Restoration by Rose Tremain. Tracy said: 'It's an historical novel about the restoration of Charles II, told from the point of view of a dissolute doctor. It was the first modern historical novel I read that made me think, Hey, history IS relevant to today! I've been writing historical novels ever since.'
• Philippa Gregory, best known for The Other Boleyn Girl, picked Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Philippa said: 'I love this book, which is really a long essay, almost a letter, for the endearing and thoughtful narrational voice, and for the topic, the limited opportunities for women. I can remember when and where I read it - on a camping holiday in the Highlands - and I was transported to Woolf's Cambridge and into her wry and amused compassionate mind.'
• Mark Haddon, best known for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time chose The Selected Poems of R S Thomas 1946-68. Mark said: 'I was obsessed by science as a child. I was particularly hungry for those periodic moments of revelation when my understanding leapt forwards and the world became suddenly bigger and stranger than I'd previously realised. I must have been twelve when we were given the book. This is the opening of the first poem, A Peasant

"Iago Prytherch his name, though, be it allowed, 
Just an ordinary man of the bald Welsh hills, 
Who pens a few sheep in a gap of cloud…"

'It gave me the same feeling I sometimes experienced when reading about Neanderthals and moons of Jupiter. But it was just a bunch of ordinary words arranged in the right order. How the hell was it done...? I'm still trying to answer that question.'
• Paula Hawkins, best known for The Girl on the Train chose The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Paula said: 'It was one of my A level set texts and to my eighteen-year-old self, it was a revelation. The first overtly feminist novel I'd ever read, it depicted a terrifying and wholly believable dystopia with a memorable protagonist at its heart - Offred is funny, sly, romantic, rebellious, hopeful and fully human. Although the novel was first published more than thirty years ago, it remains strangely, starkly, frighteningly relevant. The TV show is great, but as ever, the book is better.'
• Victoria Hislop best known for The Island picked Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Victoria said: 'I read it when I was fourteen and it was a revelation!  It was the first adult book that I enjoyed - full of passion and drama.  It is largely about volatile adolescents, so is ideal teenage reading material.  The way Bronte describes location and the power of the elements had a huge influence on me.' 
• Nick Hornby best known for About the Boy said: 'The book that changed my life was Anne Tyler's Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant. I read the first few pages in a bookshop, and suddenly realised that I wanted to try and write prose like that, as opposed to whatever it was I'd been trying to write before.'
• Greg James, Radio 1 DJ and author of Kid Normal said: 'A book that changed my life was Michael Palin's Hemingway's Chair. Not an obvious choice, I grant you, but for me, he is my ultimate hero. I not only love the story he's told, but more than that this book made me realise that you don't have to just stick to one thing in life. He is well known for acting, directing and also writing and is held in equal high esteem for all these talents. He's a great example of someone who works incredibly hard and manages to only do projects he's truly passionate about. I love him.'
• Alex Jones, TV presenter and author of Winging It said: 'Very early on in my life The Diary of Anne Frank had a profound effect.'
• Marina Lewycka, best known for A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian said: 'Many books have changed my life - a good book lets you experience life through someone else's skin, and to notice things you have seen many times, without really seeing them. I would like to nominate The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, first published in 1998, which made me think about the effects of our selfish or ill-informed choices on the lives of poor people in faraway countries. In fact, I seem to remember I bought my copy of this book in my local Oxfam shop!'
• David Nicholls, best known for One Day said: 'Great Expectations undoubtedly changed my life. It was the first 'proper' book that I read, and I was amazed not just by how accessible it was, but how closely I identified with it; one hundred and thirty years ago, someone had managed to write down exactly how I felt.'
• Chris Stewart, drummer and founding member of Genesis, and author of Driving Over Lemons, chose Laurie Lee's As I walked Out One Summer Morning. He said: 'I must have been 18 when I read this. It was the first and greatest turning point in my life: Laurie Lee taught me that the road of conventionality was not the only way; that to follow your heart down that grassier, less trodden way, to stick your neck out and be bohemian, and, more specifically, to set out with your guitar on your back and head for the wilder parts of Spain... that was a pretty reliable way of finding a life of rich fulfilment.'
• Tara Westover, best known for this year's Number One New York Times bestseller Educated selected Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5. Tara said: 'Before I read Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse 5, I had never thought much about war in general, let alone the specific war of World War II, let alone the specific bombing of a specific town. There was something transporting in that text, in the way it slipped through time, forcing the reader to confront counterfactuals, to ask, What if there was no war? One of my favourite passages is about a movie of a bombing that was played backwards: 

"The formation flew backwards over a German city that was in flames. The bombers opened their bomb bay doors, exerted a miraculous magnetism which shrunk the fires, gathered them into cylindrical steel containers, and lifted the containers into the bellies of the planes. The containers were stored neatly in racks. …When the bombers got back to their base, the steel cylinders were taken from the racks and shipped back to the United States of America, where factories were operating night and day, dismantling the cylinders, separating the dangerous contents into minerals. … It was their business to put them into the ground, to hide them cleverly, so they would never hurt anybody ever again."
Tara Westover is the author of Educated, published by Hutchinson and out now.
• Lisa Williamson, best known for teen hit The Art of Being Normal said: 'Lots of books have changed my life, particularly those I read as a child and teenager. One that really sticks out is Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume. It explores friendship, puberty and religion in a truly unique, accessible and joyful way. Judy has a real talent for making her young characters feel utterly real. She never condescends or sugarcoats and reading her books, I always felt completely understood.' 

The authors quoted above, and listed below, donated books to Oxfam for #BooksChangeLives: 
Robert Webb; Father of Daughters; Neil Gaiman; Margaret Atwood; Jensen Button; Ruth Jones; Scarlett Moffatt; Kate Garraway; Marcel Somerville; *Germaine Greer. 

*Germaine Greer is donating thousands of books from her home library to the Oxfam shop in Saffron Walden.

Publishers donating thousands of books to Oxfam for #BooksChangeLives: 
Penguin Random House; Harper Collins; Hachette UK; Bloomsbury; Pan Macmillan; Faber & Faber; Pavilion; Profile Books, Sort of Books.

About Oxfam:
• Last year Oxfam's bookshop at the Hay Festival raised £65,000, which could send 6,000 children to school. 
• The first Oxfam bookshop opened in 1971. 
• More than 50,000 books are listed on the Oxfam Online Shop. Six hundred of Oxfam's high street shops sell books. There are more than 140 dedicated Oxfam bookshops across the UK. Oxfam shops are supported by a workforce of 23,000 volunteers. You can donate books to Oxfam via your local shop or in dedicated Oxfam book banks in supermarket car parks, find your nearest donation point at www.oxfam.org.uk/shopfinder.
• Book donations are key to helping Oxfam raise the £1.6 million in donated book sales each month. We sell a brilliant selection of donated books; including fiction and crime, art and history, children's, academic texts, cookery and travel to name a few. 
· Oxfam is a global movement of people all working towards the same goal - an end to the injustice of poverty. Together we save and rebuild lives in disasters, help people earn a living, and speak out on the big issues, like inequality and climate change, that keep people poor. And we won't stop until we get there. Join us!