My Life in Books: Charles Pignal

Charles Pignal

Welcome to My Life in Books, a weekly series where readers, writers and content creators share how books have shaped them over the years.

Charles Pignal was born and raised in Paris, and has now lived in Asia for the last ten years. He developed a  love of reading at a very young age which was amplified by some great English teachers at school. He shares his reading recommendations on his popular Instagram account, creates Spotify playlists for some of his favourite books, and also has a great YouTube channel where he interviews authors.

Charles Pignal

What’s your earliest memory of reading?

The first book that really awed me was “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl. I remember devouring the rest of his work very swiftly…

Do you have a favourite book from school?

Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. It was the first book where I understood that a really challenging read can be the most rewarding. I hated it so much as I was reading it and then at the end, I understood how all of that fit together to propose a much deeper message.

How often do you read now?

Every day for an hour or two a day. If I’m on a plane, I can read for six hours straight.

What are you reading at the moment?

Victoria, by Knut Hamsun

Is there a book you’ve always wanted to read but haven’t yet?

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. I’m embarrassed that I’ve never read Tolstoy….

Is there a book you’d recommend to almost anyone?

Anything by Sally Rooney. Nobody can come back and say that was too hard, or too much of a slog. And yet no-one can say that it lacks depth.

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What book didn’t live up to its hype?

Recently, I read The Magician, by Colm Toibín. It’s a fictionalized biography of the German writer Thomas Mann. I’ve read a couple of books by Thomas Mann and find him to be a challenging-but-rewarding writer. I’d heard so many good things about this biography, my expectations were really high. The book turned out to be as deep as a puddle.

Do you have a favourite character from literature?

Maurice Conchis, from The Magus, by John Fowles. He’s a worldly, manipulative and sinister puppeteer and it’s never quite clear where the truth lies with him. It makes him strangely charismatic.

Is there a book you often re-read?

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Do you have a favourite author?

David Foster Wallace. A master of modern prose.

Do you have a favourite classic?

The Count of Monte-Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas.

Favourite non-fiction?

The Years of Lyndon Johnson, by Robert Caro.

Is there a book you think everyone should read?

Animal Farm, by George Orwell

Feeling inspired? Shop Charles Pignal’s favourite books below…

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