Book Club / Enrichment of Other | TOAST Team
As part of our campaign this season we are celebrating the ways in which books have enriched our lives. Below we ask the TOAST Team about the books that have enriched them…
Orlando Gough – Writer
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
The subtitle of Judith Schalansky’s gorgeous book Atlas of Remote Islands is Fifty Islands I have not visited and never will. And that is why it appeals to me so profoundly, tentative traveller that I am, living in the city where I was born. It’s not a travel book. The islands are real enough, but it’s a book of the imagination. Each of the featured islands is described by its position, its population (often zero), a timeline of its discovery, a mysterious, poetic, often violent story, and an exquisite hand-drawn map. Reading the book is like making the most ambitious journey of all time without leaving your kitchen.
Neil Hobson – Head of Retail
Kalevala by Elias Lönnrot
I have always been fascinated by the fantastical and the origins of folklore; how stories were passed from generation to generation by way of the spoken word and song. This book is the story of the Finnish creation myth in the form of an epic poem that was collated by Elias Lönnrot on field trips across northern Finland during the 1830s. The book went on to inspire writers such as Tolkien and CS Lewis. I love Tolkien and Lewis so reading the book gave me a deeper understanding of their work as well as transporting me to another place and time entirely – the hallmark of any great piece of fantastical work in my view.
Helen Clarke – Head of Sourcing & Product Development
Let my people go surfing by Yvon Chouinard
A wonderful thought-provoking book. I was gripped from the beginning and often refer back to it for inspiration. Yvon Chouninard (founder of Patagonia) talks about his unconventional business model, but one that shows real passion, integrity and responsibility. Encourages you to think outside the box, a truly heartening read!
Jessica Adams – Product Developer
As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning by Laurie Lee
I read this book as a teenager, at a similar age to Laurie Lee in this memoir. Full of youthful optimism, he left his Gloucestershire home on foot and crossed England heading for Spain which was on the cusp of civil war. Once there he wandered the country for a year and the vivid descriptions of the people he meets, the smells, the food and his many adventures filled me with wanderlust. His day to day accounts are filled with nostalgia for a slower more innocent time. He busked for his money, slept under the stars, in stables or in the homes of kind strangers. As you read you fall in love with Spain through his eyes and the sense of freedom is captivating.
Ridi Santilal – Junior Product Developer
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
This book tells the story of a shepherd boy named Santiago as he steps away from his monotonous life on a journey to see the world. By reading the book I was able to reflect on my own journey and on the different phases in my life. While in Lisbon recently, I read this novel in Portuguese, the original language of the text, allowing me to engage even more deeply with the story.
The Box of Delights by John Masefield
The Midnight Folk and its sequel, The Box of Delights, were published between the First and Second World Wars. They tell of the adventures of Kay Harker whom we assume, though it is never overtly stated, to be an orphan. In the first book he is living with a wicked governess, Sylvia Daisy Pouncer, and seeking the lost treasure of his seafaring great-grandfather; in the second he is living with a kindly governess, Caroline Louisa, and battling for possession of powerful magic box. Although, in his adventures, Kay flies on broomsticks and magical horses, sails the high seas, changes size, talks with animals, swims with mermaids and so on, the magic never feels contrived – perhaps because, firstly, the narrative holds together so well and, secondly, the magic feels as though it could be rooted in the reality of a lonely young boy’s imagination. Nothing that takes place seems absurd. The wickedness is just frightening enough while the magic delights. I first came across the books as a very young boy – four or five years old – when they were read to me by my father. I read them myself a few times as a child and then have reread them a couple of times as an adult – never with any of the sense of disappointment that rereading a childhood favourite might bring. Why do I love them so much? Because they opened the door for me, at a very early age, to the thrilling, unbounded possibilities of the unfettered imagination; and to the gorgeous mysteries of nighttime.
Claire Robinson – Senior Offline Marketing Manager
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Atonement is not only a novel about love, class and war but also about tragedy and forgiveness. What I learnt from this novel is the power of words and how they can be wielded to distort the truth.
Francesca Wade – Writer
Wise Children by Angela Carter
Carter’s last novel is a glorious paean to life lived cheerfully ‘on the wrong side of the tracks’. Spanning the 75th birthday of twin sisters and former chorus girls Dora and Nora Chance, it explores the tangled web of their showbiz family (the highbrow Hazards and the illegitimate Chances). It’s bawdy, brilliant, and infectiously life-affirming up to the exuberant final line: ‘What a joy it is to dance and sing!’
Emily Mears – Copywriter
Great Works: 50 Paintings Explored by Tom Lubbock
A collection of Tom Lubbock’s weekly essays on a single work of art, written for The Independent from 2005 to 2010. As an art critic and philosopher Lubbock invites you to question what you see, to go beyond the obvious and to delve a little deeper. His writing is lucid, profound and illuminating. Reading his essays changed the way I look at paintings – now I always stop and wonder…
Lara Smrtnik – Senior Marketing Manager
Garden Cookbook by Sarah Raven
A book that has enriched my life (and my kitchen) has to be Sarah Raven’s ‘Garden Cookbook’. It is without a doubt my go to book whenever I want to try something a little more interesting and every recipe I have ever created from this book works a dream. Each week I collect my veg box, which usually has some delightful and interesting vegetables that I have never encountered before, so I use my ‘Garden Cookbook’ to identify theme and try out some new recipes. It has made cooking and eating in my house far more interesting and delicious!
Louisa Thomsen Brits – Writer
Poems & Prose by Gerard Manley Hopkins
I mucked about at school. Endlessly. Until I left the confines of a convent and went to a tutorial college where I discovered Gerard Manley Hopkins. At almost 50, I still keep a dog-eared Penguin edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins Poems and Prose (selected and edited by W.H.Gardner) next to my bed. Some of the poems are almost illegible beneath my A level annotations but I regularly revisit them for comfort and inspiration.
Reading Hopkins for the first time, I discovered a new language that expressed my sense of place and belonging. Ironically, given that Hopkins was a Jesuit priest, his words liberated me from the constraints of Catholicism and invited me back into the fields behind our house. His capacity to describe the delicate beauty and intrinsic quality of natural phenomena has enriched my life and led me to an appreciation of the patterns and rhythms that unite and define all living things.
Matt Collins – Writer
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin
As a young gardener this posthumous publication of Deakin’s diaries was a ground breaker for me, in both senses of the word. Not only did the book introduce me to a wealth of brilliant nature writers, but it altered my approach to gardening more generally. It changed the way I observe the living world, opening my eyes to the less conspicuous subplots of nature’s great story.
Words by the TOAST team and contributors. Illustrations by Jessica Creighton
As part of our campaign this season we are celebrating the ways in which books have enriched our lives. Join in the conversation here or visit a TOAST shop to share a book and take one in return.