Peter Lilley MP is the Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, and has been an MP since 1983. He was a Cabinet minister in both the Thatcher and Major governments, and today talks to us about Waugh, Tolstoy, and his quest for timeless literature.
1) Which book is on your bedside table at the moment?
The Road to Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe by Roger Penrose
2) Which book would you read to your children?
I think I would read them the Chronicles of Narnia, I am told they’re very good.
3) Which literary character would you most like to be?
Alyosha in The Brothers Karamazov.
4) Which book do you think best sums up ‘now’?
I don’t quite understand what that question means and I’m not sure that I am terribly interested in ‘now’ – as it were – when I’m reading books. I look for things that are timeless, like The Brothers Karamazov, which is set in a particular time and place but is written about ancient battles of good and evil, and things like that.
5) What was the last novel you read?
HHhH (or Himmlers Hirn heisst Haydrich, Himmler’s Brain is Heydrich) by Laurent Binet.
6) Which book would you most recommend?
I would have to say Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, since I’ve already used up The Brothers.
7) Given enough time, which book would you like to study deeply?
Alice in Wonderland. I am told it’s full of analogies and allegories and philosophical ideas.
8) Which books do you plan to read next?
I’m trying to read mostly in French, and I always try to look out for good French thrillers.
9) If the British library were on fire and you could only save three books, which ones would you take?
I am assuming somebody has already got The Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare ready on a desert islands somewhere. I’d certainly take Brothers and The Complete Poems of T.S. Eliot and Resurrection by Tolstoy.
Give something clever this Christmas – a year’s subscription to The Spectator for just £75. And we’ll give you a free bottle of champagne. Click here.