Richard McHugh’s first novel, Charlie Anderson’s General Theory of Lying, was published to great acclaim earlier this year. Richard is a lawyer as well as a writer and lives in Sydney with his partner and four children. We asked Richard what books he think every bloke should read. Here’s what he thinks:
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. There are many stories to persuade you of the thinness of civilisation’s veneer: for me this was the one. Marlow takes a river-boat up the Congo looking for ivory and Mr Kurtz, whose — “let us say — nerves, went wrong”.
Or you could try Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Left to their own devices on an island post-apocalypse, these boys don’t have much civilisation to lose.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It’s not a bad effort when you invent a genre, gothic science fiction, at the age of 20.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Glamour, corruption, beauty, money, hope and disappointment. It should have been set in Sydney.
Persuasion by Jane Austen. OK, you may struggle with this one, but I think it’s worth it. Most of Austen’s novels are concerned with the self-absorbed mistakes of pretty young women starting out in life. Persuasion, her last completed work, is a bit different. Anne Elliott, aged 27, has “lost her bloom” in this story of the rise of the new rich.
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming. Fleming described his brutal first Bond as a “blunt instrument”: he’s a long way from the over-the-top dandy of the Roger Moore era movies.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard. It’s a play, but it’s a good one. Anyone who had to read Hamlet at school should find a lot to like in this absurdist tragicomedy from the 1960s.
Harry Potter (the whole series) by J.K. Rowling. A huge imaginative universe, great storytelling and accessible language. It’s no surprise (except to the string of publishers who rejected The Philosopher’s Stone) that she’s the most successful author of our time.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It’s hard to believe a book with such confronting subject matter — disease and death among prisoners of war working on the Thai-Burma railway — could be so beautiful. But it is.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This one’s got everything: it’s cinematic, pacey and violent, the narrators are unreliable, and the characters are horrible narcissists. Not to my taste but, let’s face it, this is a book for today.