My favourite reads: Stephen Nelmes

Here are five books with interesting details that opened the world to me

Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley (1998)
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Novels have a tough time competing with reference on my bookshelf. I’ve always been a facts and stats kind of guy. I like to see the details and fill in the blanks and escape. Here’s my mix of what reads informed and opened the world to me.

Middlemarch by George Eliot (1871-1872)

Victorian Britain’s most polished novelist and world builder. George Eliot is my hometown’s most famous daughter, so I’m a little biased. Her greatest work is a heavy inspection on women’s status, politics and religion in provincial life. Middlemarch is usually thrust upon young English literature students at their behest. I hated it, now I love it.

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)

Unlike Middlemarch, I found this more accessible and instantly enjoyable. It’s probably not Wilde’s greatest work, but the novel where a young handsome middle-class man wishes on his portrait for eternal beauty at the expense of his morality is a sharp tale of hedonism. The themes of dupilicity and bad friendship ensures it stands the test of time.

Have a Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks by Mick Foley (1998)

I don’t think I had read an autobiography that shattered my entire perception and built a new one. I was 12 at the time of reading Foley recounting his wrestling career, so I was at that in-between stage of knowing the sport was fixed. However, Foley detailing his bloody and battered rise to the top gave an appreciation of almost dying for your art.

The Oxford Dictionary of the World (1995)

The title of this book is a little misleading. This is a young anthropologist’s almanac – or as I later found out – a quiz-night essential for the geography round. From Aalborg to Zurwarah, the world and its people were at my fingertips. My 1996 edition barely left my bedside table for much of my schoollife. It sparked my love of travel.

Wisden Cricketers' Almanack (1864)

I don’t think I have ever read an edition of English cricket’s annual cover to cover since I’ve started collecting them over the past decade. It’s packed with detailed coverage and scorecards of first-class to club and school cricket. It’s commentaries on controversies and obituaries are highly-regarded and a must-read every April.

Stephen Nelmes is the chief homepage editor for The National