Dodie Smith was far more famous for writing 101 Dalmatians, and if you've only ever seen the Disney films then do read it because it's an absolute delight. Better still, read it to a child as it really is the most magical childhood reading. But I Capture the Castle is simply the most wonderful coming of age story. It should be pressed into the hand of every girl at 13 and indeed everyone else, male or female, at any age. There are few books more likely to evoke what it's like to be working out who you are and falling in love for the first time than I Capture the Castle. Also, in my opinion, one of those few books which isn't actually let down by the film!
If you just want to read more troubled coming of age and unrequited love stories try: By Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Elizabeth Smart, The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides, Oranges are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson (which is recommended by the estate and featured in the back of the WBN edition), How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
If you loved I Capture the Castle for it's individual voice and eccentric family try: The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman, Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson
If you're interested in reading more 'consciously naive' narrators try: The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford, Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery,
If you want more gorgeous stories that evoke the same period try: The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson, Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
And our off the wall suggestions are:
Atonement by Ian McKewan
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
One Day by David Nicholls
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
(other books that Romola Garai has starred in the adaptations of)
Two more authors' choices today. Markus Zusak & Audrey Niffenegger currently both have books in the top 10 (The Book Thief at number 4 and The Time Traveller's Wife at number 9). Markus' choices are listed in alphabetical order and Audrey's chosen to pick her favourite books from the current top 100.
Markus Zusak’s choices (supplied in alphabetical order)
Wonder Boys: Michael Chabon
The Half Brother: Lars Saabye Christensen
The Commitments: Roddy Doyle
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape: Peter Hedges
To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee
The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath
Green Eggs and Ham: Doctor Seuss
I Capture the Castle: Dodie Smith
Maus: Art Spiegelman
Old School: Tobias Wolfe
Audrey Niffenegger’s choices (from top 100 list)
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell – Susannah Clarke
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
Catcher in the Rye – J D Salinger
American Gods – Neil Gaiman
Persuasion – Jane Austen
Possession – A S Byatt
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
Captain Corelli's Mandolin – Louis de Bernieres
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
Tomorrow choices from two of this year's World Book Night authors, Kate Atkinson and Mark Haddon.
As a bookseller you get used to the frequently asked question ‘what’s your favourite book?’ or ‘if I should read just one book what would it be?’ – slightly more complicated ways of saying ‘I never know what to read and you should be able to help me’. For all that they were frequent questions they were still always surprisingly difficult to answer, there’s no one book cure all and even my favourite (The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford since you’re asking) I wouldn’t prescribe for all occasions. And even the act of telling someone your favourite book can be a surprisingly intimate thing to do, like admitting some secret crush on someone embarrassing. I know people who refuse to acknowledge a single favourite, others for whom it changes with their mood or the weather and some whose mind just goes blank when put on the spot like that.
For the first World Book Night booksellers, librarians, publishers and agents were asked to submit their favourite 25 books and an editorial committee of 25 people whittled it down to the final list. I both submitted my favourite 25 (which was so much harder than I expected) and was one of the editorial committee (which made picking my favourite 25 look like a walk in the park).
For the second World Book Night we wanted to get as many passionate readers involved in the choosing process as possible, but asking people to pick their 25 favourite books seemed a little too much. So we settled on asking for top 10s – the books you most like to read, share and give.
But when I came to choose my top 10 I really, really struggled whittling my favourite books down to just 10 and suddenly last autumn’s choosing process seemed like a ball. So we’ve devised a process that allows you to change your list as often as you want (believe me, I will be doing so constantly), you can drag and drop to re-order or just remove and add to your heart’s content*. All the top 10s will be compiled into a top 100 which ultimately help to inform the choice of this year’s editorial committee in choosing the 25 WBN titles.
And because I can, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share my 25 favourite books. I’ll be constantly re-ordering these over the summer to make up my final top 10 (though the top 3 will probably remain pretty constant)
The Good Soldier, Ford Maddox Ford
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Elizabeth Smart
The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, Maggie O’Farrell
Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger
Carter Beats the Devil, Glenn David Gold
Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Damage, Josephine Hart
Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro
Heat & Dust, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff
Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
Passing, Nella Larsen
26a, Diane Evans
Atonement, Ian McEwan
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
The Great Gatsby, F Scott Fitzgerald
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mark Haddon
The Pursuit of Happiness, Douglas Kennedy
The Secret History, Donna Tartt
Tales of the City, Armistead Maupin
God of Small Things, Arundahti Roy
LA Confidential – James Ellroy
* We’re going to be taking a snapshot of people’s lists at midnight on August 31, so you’ve got till then to be sure.
About the Book
'This book has one of the most charismatic narrators I've ever met' J K Rowling
‘I write this sitting in the kitchen sink’ is the first line of this timeless, witty and enchanting novel about growing up. Cassandra Mortmain lives with her bohemian and impoverished family in a crumbling castle in the middle of nowhere. Her journal records her life with her beautiful, bored sister, Rose, her fadingly glamorous stepmother, Topaz, her little brother Thomas and her eccentric novelist father who suffers from a financially crippling writer’s block. However, all their lives are turned upside down when the American heirs to the castle arrive and Cassandra finds herself falling in love for the first time…
‘Everyone I've passed it on to has found it a hit - it works every time, for absolutely everybody’ Nigella Lawson
What we think
'A classic coming of age story about what it means to grow up, discover your family aren't quite what you thought they were, work out what you want in life and experience the first pangs of love. Written almost 70 years ago but amazingly fresh and powerful with a cast of characters you'll completely fall for.'
What to read next...
Dodie Smith has chosen Jeanette Winterson's Oranges are not the Only Fruit as her recommendation. A sample of it is printed in the back of World Book Night editions for I Capture the Castle.
Where to get the WBN books
Read I Capture the Castle now – borrow it from your local library or buy it from your local bookshop. More details here.
Also by Dodie Smith
Novels: The Hundred and One Dalmatians, The New Moon with the Old, The Town in Bloom, It Ends with Revelations, The Starlight Barking, A Tale of Two Families, The Girl from the Candle-lit Bath, The Midnight Kittens
Memoirs: Look Back with Love: a Manchester Childhood, Look Back with Mixed Feelings, Look Back with Astonishment, Look Back with Gratitude
Dorothy Gladys 'Dodie' Smith was born in 1896 in Lancashire and she was one of the most successful female dramatists of her generation. Her first novel, I Capture the Castle, was written when she lived in America during the 1940s and marked her crossover debut from playwright to novelist. The novel became an immediate success and was produced as a play in 1954. She has written numerous other novels but is best known today for The Hundred and One Dalmatians, a story for younger readers.