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Adventures, romance, and trains: book lovers reveal their passions; IT'S ALL ABOUT PEOPLE echo2 It's Give A Book Week across Wales this week. So VICTORIA RICHARDS asked seven very different readers what book they would choose to pass on to a friend or relative.


'Something to get into'

Radio presenter Magi Dodd, 30, is from Pontypridd but now lives in Grange town, Cardiff. She presents BBC Radio Cymru's C2 show Monday to Friday, at 8pm.

"My favourite book has to be America's Queen by Sarah Bradford," she said.

"It's a biography of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and started the love affair I have with the former first lady. Jackie O's life was so incredible, it's almost like a work of fiction. It's got everything - glamour, love, tragedy, hope. I found it inspiring - she was a strong woman - and a perfect example of 'behind every great man, there's an even greater woman'.

"My favourite Welsh book is Cysgod y Cryman by Islwyn Ffowc Ellis, which I had to read for my GSCEs. I hated it at first because we had to read aloud in class and, believe it or not, I'm very shy! But I read it at home after the exams were over and loved it. I was completely mesmerised by it. I fell in love with the characters, the way of life, the farmhouse Lleifior - everything. The sequel, Nol i Leifior, is fab as well.

"If I was to give a book to somebody, it'd be He's Just Not That Into You by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo. It's for anyone who has been dumped or been on a date and haven't heard from him since. We've all been there and this book is the answer.

Trust me - I've tried and tested all the self-help type books - but this one is ace!

"As a child, I loved Esgidiau Newydd Ifan Bifan (Ifan Bifan's New Shoes.) Even when I was little I was obsessed with shoes. I also loved Cinderella - again with the shoes!"

'More languages the better'

Radio DJ Chris Needs has an army of fans and friends with his late-night cult Radio Wales show. The 53-year-old presenter and comic lives near Porthcawl.

"I love anything to do with travel or geography," he said.

"I've spent more than half my life abroad. I've lived and worked in 16 countries and I also like Spanish newspapers and TV because I also speak it.

"If I was to give away a book, I would like to give a book that had more than one language in it.

Languages are wonderful. I'm about to give my godson Sama Welsh/English book about animals.

"My favourite childhood book has to be Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends - I still love it!"

'A rite of passage...'

Novelist Lynne Barrett-Lee, 48, lives in Lisvane, Cardiff.

"It's not that hard to pick my favourite book," she said, "but I would have to choose two! Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy was the first book that I fell totally in love with. The second would be Martin Amis' The Rachel Papers, which was published when he was 26.

He was the Kingsley Amis of my generation, and it's the book that made me want to be a writer. It's a real rite of passage.

"If you asked me which book I'm giving away this week, then I'm giving The Outcast by Sadie Jones to my best friend Rose.

"It's just been published and I could not put it down.

"As a child, I loved Bambi, but not the Disney version - the original by Felix Salten. If a book makes you sob then it's obviously going to be brilliant. I also loved Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls-Wilder, it's the forerunner to Little House on the Prairie and I went on to read all three."

'Big trains and Wapping ideas'

Richard Houdmont, 54, is director for Wales of The Chartered Institute of Marketing, and chair of Poetry Wales Press Ltd publishing.

"My favourite book of all time is Liberation and the Aims of Science by Brian Easlea," he said. "It was published in 1973 and displays its post-flower-power legacy. The sub-title says it all; An Essay on the Obstacles to the Building of a Beautiful World. The author ranges from the Copernican Revolution through Newton, Einstein, Keynes and the Russian Revolution to the present day and I love it because Brian Easlea was such an inspiring lecturer at Sussex University.

"I can still hear him speaking from the pages..

"The book is just as relevant today, if not more so - does science liberate us or is it guilty of creating monsters?

"I would give away Memories of Wapping 1900-1960 by Martha Leigh. The redevelopment of the docks has transformed the area and the rich oral history was in danger of being lost until local GP Martha Leigh came to the rescue. This delightful book provides an important legacy of an age which has now vanished and a community which has changed forever.

"My favourite childhood book was Thomas the Tank Engine. I lived near a railway line and remember running to the railway bridge as the Master Cutler - at that time a steam engine - sped from Sheffield to London.

As the train passed below, the smoke billowed around the bridge.

An unforgettable melange of sight, sound and smell."

'I want to tell you a secret'

School governor Paula Dauncey, 35, is a marketing manager for Cardiff web agency Imaginet. She lives in Barry with her husband Chris Gentle, children Holly, four and Kate, 18 months, and step-daughter Emma, 14, at weekends.

"My favourite book would have to be A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens," she said.

"The book has it all - love, war, conspiracy, even humour. It is a fantastic story following a range of wonderfully vivid characters before and during the French revolution in London and Paris. There are some incredibly moving sections, such as when Dr Manette and his daughter are reunited after 18 years of his incarceration in the Bastille. I was moved to tears on more than one occasion, particularly the end scene, which is just wonderful.

"If I was to give a book away, however, it would have to be Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate With Your Baby, by Tracy Hogg. I've already loaned this to three of my friends who were about to become mothers and think it is an essential read for anyone entering parenthood. As a child, I loved Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak because of the fantastic illustrations and simple story. I now read this to my four-year-old daughter and she loves it too. I also loved The Magic Porridge Pot Ladybird book; it just had the most wonderful illustrations of a big black pot of porridge overflowing everywhere. It was brilliant."

'Like digesting 100 copies of Heat'

Golley Slater PR account executive Elin Thomas, 24, lives in Pontcanna, Cardiff.

"Picking my favourite book is a tough question - but it'd have to be either Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or the Harry Potter series," she said. "The former is beautiful, with a now classic storyline that reminds us how far women have come. And of course, everyone loves a wizard.

Both let you escape into different worlds but also tell you something about humanity and how people interact socially.

"If I was giving a book to somebody, it'd probably be Piers Morgan's The Insider. I shouldn't, as its just like digesting a hundred copies of Heat magazine.

"But it's a fantastic insight into the world of celebrity and all the scandals uncovered by the great British tabloids. It's also one of the many reasons I took up journalism and then PR.

"As a child, my favourites were The Magic Faraway Tree and Mallory Towers by Enid Blyton - they're vividly imaginative books starring the kind of rebellious kids that I aspired to be!"

'True survival story is full of real drama'

John McFall, 26, who lives in Cardiff, is one of Britain's hottest medal hopes at this year's Beijing Games.

The Paralympic athlete is a strong hope for a podium place in the 100m sprint.

"Touching the Void is a true story by Joe Simpson about his near fatal and dramatic attempt to climb a mountain in the Peruvian Andes with his friend Simon Yates. It has to be my favourite book," he said.

"At the crucial point, Simpson has to make the awful decision to cut the rope his friend is hanging on off a crevice in order to save himself.

Amazingly, both men survived.

"The spirit of adventure and the gutsy ideas that these two young guys had really appeals to me. It's also a tale of survival and what can be achieved if you really put your mind to it - something I can identify with.

"If I was to give a book away, it would be a similar book of adventure and survival called Close to the Wind by Pete Goss - it's inspirational. I think it's a male thing but I prefer autobiographical books to novels.

"When I was really young, I loved the Dr Seuss books - Cat in the Hat and Fox in Socks !"


Radio presenter Magi Dodd; Radio DJ Chris; Novelist Lynne Barrett-Lee; Richard Houdmont; John McFall; School governor Paula Dauncey; Golley Slater PR account executive Elin Thomas
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Copyright 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 8, 2008
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