Sandi Toksvig is a comedian, novelist, actor, broadcaster, activist and, of course, Bonafide national treasure. You have probably seen her present key or until the current series in the famous bake out tent along with Noel Fielding.
Her latest book, Toksvig’s Almanac 2021, is a collection of remarkable women of history, from pirate nuns to astronauts. She is also preparing for a tour of her one-woman show the National Trevor in spring next year.
Here, Sandi Toksvig shares some of the books that inspired her varied career and chooses the top titles to put on her fancy bookshelf.
She shares the next book on her reading list, as her parent’s inspired her own writing and a career highlight voicing the Pooh’s beggar.
What is your favorite book growing up?
Harriet the spy of Louise Fitzhugh. Finally, there was a girl in literature with whom I could identify. Determined, independent and given to observing the world. This made me hope that I was not alone.
If you could give one book to each child to read, what would it be?
There are so many but the “paper bag princess” of Robert Munsch. This is the most wonderful princess and dragon story with complete role reversal. I also want to carry a paper bag.
Who inspired your own writing?
My father inspired me. He wrote books but also journalism, so I learned to write for a term. He has written a book entitled Edited Reality about how difficult it is to distill what is happening in the world into bite-sized chunks. He was concerned about the duty of the honest journalist to inform without trying to convince.
Is there anything you read that influenced your look at your career?
Emily Dickinson’s poem I am Nobody has had a huge effect on how I look into the public eye. It is about the absurdity of fame and was a guiding light in a celebrity obsessed world.
If you could go back in time and convince the author of a book to change one event in their history, what would it be?
Why really why could Dr. Zhivago not have a happy ending? Spoiler alert But the last sentence tells us that Lara was “forgotten as a name without a number on a list that was later misplaced, in one of the countless mixed or women’s Concentration camps in the north. “I mean it’s a great read to end this horror.
Who would be your dream character to tell in an audiobook?
I played Tigger once in an audio drama by Winnie the Pooh and I’m not sure I will ever do better.
Are there stories that you wish there were more books about?
I would like to have a wide range of general literature where lesbians are just characters and not serial killers or mad or both.
Which book have you studied the most or have you thought about something else?
Oddly the Ashley Book of Knots has a huge impact on me. It is an encyclopedia of knots that eleven years wrote and has thousands of illustrations about what one can do with a piece of rope.
It made me think about making all the things – food, writing, decisions – first consider what you want to make and then take the time to find the pattern that achieves this. The same piece of rope can result in a lot of outcomes.
What is the best reading recommendation you have ever received?
Janet and John by Mabel O’Donnell and Rona Munro. The best because this was the books that taught me to read, although I never felt Janet came to the pass as a rather rounded character like John.
What’s next on your reading list?
Paris: The Secret Story of Andrew Hussey. This is one of several books about Paris history that I am reading for a new project. Mostly I read factual research for one job assignment. Unfortunately, I mostly miss the time for fiction.
Sandi’s new book Toksvig’s Almanac 2021 is out now and she will be touring the UK in spring 2021 with the National Trevor Tour. For details on the book and tour, visit www.sanditoksvig.com
Read Sandy Toxwig’s fantasy bookshelf
Harriet the spy of Louise Fitzhugh
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munch
The edited fact by Claus Toksvig
Hope is the thing with feathers: the complete songs of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
Dr. Zhivago of Boris Pasternak
Winnie the Pooh from AA Milne
The Ashley Book of Knots by Clifford Warren Ashley
Janet and John by Mabel O’Donnell and Rona Munro
Paris: The Secret Story of Andrew Hussey