TES books editor Geraldine Brennan on the inside track
Authors who tire of talking about their own books on the litfest circuit can often get their second wind by tackling books they admire. Jake Arnott, Fay Weldon and Giles Foden opened the Cheltenham Festival of Literature's Graham Greene Day with their appreciations of his work. A mother in the audience asked how she could persuade her non-reading teenage son to pick up a Greene. Weldon recommends The Heart of the Matter and A Burnt-Out Case (also Foden's favourite). Arnott advises not trying to pitch books too hard to teenagers; he reached Brighton Rock in his youth ("I thought it was a sharp thriller, but it was so much more") via John Buchan and Edgar Rice Burroughs ("then I found out that he hadn't written The Naked Lunch").
Doris Lessing thinks The Fifth Child goes down well with young readers but is in quiet despair about the future reading public in general and about conditions in Zimbabwe, where she grew up. On a recent visit she met a seven-year-old who stole a physics textbook because he wanted to own a book.
The Cheltenham children's programme is thriving and continues at 6pm today with The Moral Maze, in which Tim Bowler and Kevin Brooks debate whether books for young adults need to be good for you. Full programme, tel: 01242 227979; www.cheltenhamfestivals.co.uk.