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Culture vulture

The Welsh Assembly's Jane Davidson has a library by her bed

Best book ever

I'm a voracious reader. My husband counted 32 books beside my bed last night. I've read everything by Doris Lessing; The Golden Notebook changed my life. As a socialist she has clear ideas about equality in society. She was brought up in Zimbabwe, which is where her Children of Violence series begins, and so was I, so the life of Martha Quest, Lessing's heroine, was very much mine.

Now reading

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, an extraordinary novel about the American South. It's about a little girl who is brought up on a peach farm.

Her black nanny goes off to vote, is beaten up and put in prison. The girl gets her out and they run away, rather like Huckleberry Finn. I heard about it from the women's reading club in my village. I never get time to go, but I read all the books.

Favourite music

I love Puccini; Madame Butterfly is so sad. I like Joss Stone (pictured), a white 17-year-old from Devon with a voice like a 50-year-old black woman, and Eva Cassidy's "Fields Of Gold". I'm a real fan of Welsh bands: Catatonia, the Manics, Stereophonics.

Best on screen

Cabaret is the most completely successful musical film of all time, because it tells a story that needs to be told, the music is absolutely aligned with the story and Bob Fosse's choreography builds such menace. I couldn't speak after seeing Blue Velvet; that had the greatest impact on me of any film. I loathe horror or anything screamy, but I like a good psychological thriller. I still don't know exactly what happened in Mulholland Drive, but I'm going to watch it again and find out.

Treat in store

I like challenging plays: David Mamet's Oleanna, for example, about whether or not a student was sexually exploited by her tutor. I'm looking forward to Kiss Me Kate, the first show at our new Millennium Arts Centre in Cardiff. We haven't had a stage big enough to take West End productions until now, so it's a definitive moment for us.

Jane Davidson, a former English and drama teacher, is education minister in the Assembly of Wales. She was talking to Karen Gold

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