WHAT BOOK would Wilbur Smith take to a desert island?
- Wilbur Smith revealed that he’s currently reading The Egyptian by Mika Waltari
- He would take My African Journey by Winston Churchill to a desert island
- He said King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard gave him the reading bug
… are you reading now?
The Egyptian by Mika Waltari, which was first published in English in 1949. It has long been a favourite and is always worth revisiting.
I love reading about ancient Egypt, both fiction and non-fiction, and Waltari captures the culture with great historical accuracy. He follows the life of a foundling child, Sinuhe, who rises to become the Pharaoh’s personal physician, from Thebes to Crete, Babylon to Jerusalem, encountering people from all parts of society.
Waltari believed that the basic characteristics of human beings never change but relationships do.
Wilbur Smith (pictured) revealed that he would take My African Journey by Winston Churchill to a desert island. Writer also shared the book that sparked his interest in reading
I prefer books that take me on a journey, whether it’s across vast distances and epic landscapes or one that twists and turns and surprises me with what happens on each page. Lynda La Plante is excellent for that.
I recently finished Backlash and I believe she is a master of suspense. I read a lot. This is vital for any novelist. It keeps the mind fresh and flexes the muscles of imagination.
… would you take to a desert island?
My African Journey by Winston Churchill. We forget to recognise all of Churchill’s skills and talents, many eclipsed by his time as Prime Minister. He wrote My African Journey when he was a young man in his 30s, as a log of his travels in East Africa in the early 1900s, and he really captures the natural beauty of Africa, the wilderness and the people.
He was an Under Secretary of State at the time and he discusses his development ideas as well as documenting his travels. He was an insightful man. I would enjoy spending time on my desert island comparing Churchill’s journey with my own experiences in Africa.
… first gave you the reading bug?
Wilbur said that King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard, is one of the greatest adventure stories of all time
King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard. I still consider it to be one of the greatest adventure stories of all time.
My mother used to read to me as a child, even when ‘too much’ reading was frowned upon for a young boy growing up on his father’s ranch in Northern Rhodesia.
At that age I was especially attracted to explorers and their adventures. I admired courageous people and I still do.
King Solomon’s Mines is a quest filled with danger and great bravery, particularly in the face of the unknown, and it showed me heroes other than my father and grandfather.
Haggard was a real storyteller. He gets you in his grip and you cannot escape.
… left you cold?
As a writer, I look at it another way. I am constantly impressed by other writers and their work, and those whose books I’m not impressed by I can still learn from.
If a book doesn’t capture my imagination, I try to decipher why. What is it that I did not appreciate?
I’ve learnt something from every novel I’ve read. Evaluating it in this way is research for my own writing. I always finish a book.
The Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize is open for submissions of published and unpublished novels until March 2, 2020. £15,000 or publication can be won. Find out more at wilbur-niso-smithfoundation.org