Blake Morrison’s chosen books: ‘mostly life writing’
This Boy’s Life by Tobias Wolff. A brilliant childhood memoir in which the author and his Mum move west across the US ‘to get away from a man my mother was afraid of and to get rich on uranium’. A compelling story of grit, deception and self-realisation.
Bad Blood by Lorna Sage. With diaries to help her, Sage recounts the tale of her libidinous, deceitful vicar-grandfather, tensions with her parents, and her own mysterious teenage pregnancy. She’s beautifully attentive to ‘spots of time’.
The Three of Us by Julia Blackburn. An extraordinary family memoir, less about the author’s father (a poet) than about her voracious mother (a painter), whose lodgers were also her lovers, an arrangement that fell apart when one of them took a fancy to the teenage Julia.
The Journal of a Disappointed Man by W. N. P. Barbellion. The gloomy pseudonymous early 20th-century diaries of the entomologist Bruce Cummings, who died of multiple sclerosis aged 30 but whose reports on the natural world – and on love, ambition and solitude – are gloriously life-enhancing.
Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart. A boy’s loving, exasperated story of his alcoholic mother – and of his working-class Glasgow upbringing. Bleak but tender, it’s a book I learned and took comfort from when writing about my sister’s heavy drinking and premature death.