My life in books

18th March 2011 at 00:00
Joe Davies was appointed master of Haileybury School in Hertfordshire in 2009

What I'm reading

The Radetzky March

By Joseph Roth

The Radetzky March is a piece by Strauss - a stirring, imperialistic tune, associated with the Austro-Hungarian empire. This book is a family saga about that empire. It's about getting older and how you become increasingly alienated from the world around you. It's full of metaphors for disintegration. Everyone, as they are growing older, thinks the world is getting madder. Anyone who thinks the current world is falling apart would be advised to read this book.

The book I loved as a child

The Children of the New Forest

By Frederick Marryat

This is an adventure about kids in a forest, having to adapt to a new life and learn to survive without their parents. I don't know if it has any literary merit, but it was very exciting. It was a thriller, and it took you into another world. Of course, as a child I would have loved to live in a forest without my parents. In fact, we go camping all the time as a family now. So maybe it had more impact than I realised.

Read this before you die

Birds Without Wings

By Louis de Bernieres

This is about a village in the Ottoman empire at the start of the 20th century and how the coherence of village life is split apart, down Christian and Muslim lines, in the lead-up to the First World War. It is about how people can live together with sympathy, despite different religious and cultural backgrounds. But if the pressure is put on, it is very hard to keep that kind of community together. I don't know why the book hasn't had more acclaim. My four kids, my wife and I all galloped through it on a two-week holiday. We were fighting for it.

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