As a proud nerd, it can come as no shock to people that I am a fan of TV quizzes, my favourite being the fiendishly challenging Only Connect, which – if you’ve never seen it – involves finding the connections between supposedly unrelated clues, often by use of lateral thinking and having a huge reservoir of general knowledge to call upon. I was thrilled, therefore, when I managed to source not only a mere contestant but a winner of the show. Lydia Mizon was the captain of the Escapologists, the team that won the thirteenth series of the show earlier in 2018. Along with her teammates Frank Paul and Tom Rowell, she stormed to victory, surpassing the twenty-three other teams with her love of puzzles and trivia, as well as the charm and humour exhibited by her and her fellow quizzers.

Lydia, who works in university admissions when not quizzing or honing her skills in an escape room, kindly answered my questions this month on her likes and dislikes. Her hobbies include dog walking and “making Spotify playlists and never listening to them”, but she’s also a keen reader, and it turns out we have a lot of overlapping tastes. Here is what Lydia had to say about the books that have made her who she is.

What are you reading at the moment?
Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger. It’s a non-fiction outlining scandals and secrets of Hollywood from the 1920s to the 1950s. One of my favourite podcasts, You Must Remember This is currently running a series fact-checking it, so I thought I’d read along. The stories are fascinating but usually not entirely accurate, and there’s some wonderful pictures of old Hollywood.

Can you describe your ideal reading set up? Where, when and what?
Holidays are when I get a lot of reading done. My best ever reading setup last year, on a poolside sun lounger in a French villa, with a nice glass of wine and my Kindle. I read A Brief History of France by Cecil Jenkins and the first Dirk Gently novel. It was quiet, warm and we all just sat around reading and drinking. Bliss.

What book do you think you’ve read more than any other?
The Book of Lists by David Wallechinsky. As a child I was obsessed by facts and lists (which has served me quite well in the end), so many rainy weekends were spent on my parents’ bed reading through this book. I still go back to it occasionally – I have a copy in my house now. It’s very dated but you can just dip in and out.

Which fictional character would you most like to go for dinner or drinks with?
I’d go for a lot of drinks with Moira, Offred’s best friend, from The Handmaid’s Tale. She’s the kind of friend you’d want on a night out, rebellious and strong willed and loads of fun.

Can you tell me about a book that made you laugh?
Everyone probably says this- but the Adrian Mole series, especially The Cappuccino Years. The first time I read the first novel I was younger than Adrian is supposed to be, and a lot of the jokes went over my head. I went back to it a decade later and realised I probably identified a little too much with him at that age…

Have you ever seen a film that was better than the book it was based on?
The Wizard of Oz. The film is wonderful, like a warm hug. We were read the books as a child and I remember being disappointed- it felt so colourless.

Can you tell me some of the books on your ‘to-read’ list?
CAN I?! Sara Pascoe’s Animal, which I know is amazing but haven’t got round to. Persuasion, which is the only Austen book I haven’t yet read, and Norman Ohler’s Blitzed about the use of drugs in Nazi Germany. Also I think I need to get round to reading some Wodehouse at some point- every time I see any extract of his work I always think it’s brilliant but I’ve never sat down and committed myself to it.

Can you tell me about a book that taught you something, either about yourself or the world?
Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed really left an impression on me and made me think more critically about the way I use social media. It’s such a destructive environment sometimes, especially Twitter – someone makes a bad joke, it gets retweeted a bunch of times, and someone thousands of miles away calls their boss and gets them fired. Then that stays on the Internet FOREVER.

Also reflecting on it, The Witches really helped teach me about death. The boy gets turned into a mouse, and doesn’t get changed back at the end. He and his elderly grandmother ruminate that they both only have a few more years to live and will die around the same time, and they’re okay with that. It was the first book I ever read where death wasn’t presented as frightening.

Do you judge a book by its cover?
I don’t think so, although it can contribute to the mood of a book. If I read a book, fall in love with it a bit, and then see it somewhere else with a different cover it always feels a little strange- like a friend has had a drastic makeover.

The impossible question: what is your favourite book?
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I can’t find enough superlatives to describe how much I love it. From beginning to end, it is perfect.


Lydia can be found on Twitter, Instagram, or navigating her way out of an escape room near you.

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