Stevyn Colgan is the perfect man to have to write an introduction about. At 57, he has lived enough lives for several people over. In his time he has been a policeman, public speaker, artist, novelist, and researcher for QI and The Museum of Curiosity. I’ve come to know Stevyn a little recently as we’ve both published our latest novels via Unbound, and he’s genuinely a really lovely chap.

His books include Joined-Up Thinking, a trivia book that theorises (and proves) that all facts are connected, and the utterly hilarious A Murder to Die For. He’s also recently become a podcaster and the first episode of his podcast, We’d Like A Word was released earlier this month. He presents the podcast about words, writing and reading with Paul Waters.

Based in the area of Britain where Midsomer Murders does most of its filming, Stevyn found a moment among the countless demands on his time to answer a few of my questions about his favourite books.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m currently on a mission to read as many ‘forgotten’ comic novels as I can find. Some real treasures have turned up including Eric Morecambe’s Mister Lonely and W E Bowman’s The Ascent of Rum Doodle.

What genres do you prefer?

I love literary comedy across all genres so will happily read Tom Sharpe, Jonathan Coe, Stella Gibbons, Douglas Adams, Sue Townsend, Terry Pratchett, David Nobbs, George MacDonald Fraser, Helen Fielding, John Niven…

What factors are important to you when choosing a book?

The world can be a sad, tragic and miserable place. I want to read things that are uplifting and/or joyful. I want to learn. I want to go “Wow!” I want to feel better after reading. I want to smile and snigger and chuckle.

What were your favourite books growing up?

The Uncle books by J. P. Martin. Edgar Rice Burroughs’ various adventure stories on Mars, Venus or at the Earth’s core. Down with Skool and all the other Molesworth books by Willans and Searle. Asterix the Gaul. Any books with dinosaurs in them.

Have you read any books translated from a foreign language and how did you find them?

Probably not enough. On the whole it’s been a positive experience from the Asterix the Gaul books (the late Anthea Bell was a genius translator) to Jonas Jonasson’s The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared. Or should I say, Hundraåringen som klev ut genomfönstret och försvann?

Which author, dead or alive, would you most like to meet?

I’m lucky that I’ve met most of the authors who influenced me. But top of the list of people I haven’t met and would have most liked to is P. G. Wodehouse.

Hardback, paperback, eBook or audiobook?

I love the feel and smell of physical books and have a library of over two thousand. But it’s the words that count and I read more than I could ever find storage for, so a Kindle is a godsend too. If it’s a book I love it doesn’t matter what form it takes

Can you tell me about a book that taught you something, either about yourself or the world?

Pretty much all of them. I read maybe two or three books per week in the ratio of 2:1 non-fiction to fiction. I’m always learning and always smiling. It’s hard to single out any particular books but Sir Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds was amazing, as was Dubner and Levitt’s Freakonomics, and Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

Can you describe your ideal reading set up?

Somewhere quiet, warm, comfy, well-lit, with a big mug of hot black Earl Grey and a thick slab of fruit cake.

The impossible question: what is your favourite book?

No idea. Maybe Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams and Mark Carwardine. The most perfect blend of humour, travel writing and pathos.


You can find Stevyn all over the Internet: on Twitter, on Unbound and on his podcast’s website.

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