What books did you read when you were a child?
I would read lots of adventure books, like The Lord of the Rings, but I also loved travelling back in time as well as beyond the horizon. I loved non-fiction about ancient civilisations like the Horrible History Books and - most of all - I read far too many books about dinosaurs!
If you could be a storybook character who would you be?
I’d love to be Phileas Fogg from Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne. Not only did he get to travel around the Earth, he did it in the nineteenth century - all by steamboat, sledge, and elephant!
What is the best thing about reading?
My girlfriend says that reading is the best way to get in someone else’s head, and she’s right. We’re all messy and a little bit weird on the inside which is why reading is so important – it showed me that ‘messy and a little bit weird’ is how everybody else feels too!
What is your all-time favourite book?
My favourite adult book is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. It’s a huge, beautiful work of art with characters that have so much to say about what it means to be human – a little bit like the rabbits in my second favourite book, Watership Down by Richard Adams.
Other than reading books what is the most important thing a parent can do to help develop their children’s communication skills?
Let them draw! The first communication skills I learnt were how to move the things in my head onto paper with images. As an adult scientist, it is extremely important for me to turn abstract thought into something real. So, in some situations, pictures can play as important a role in communication as words can.
How big a part did your parents play in encouraging your writing skills?
A huge part. If it wasn’t for my parents letting me take any book off the shelf to see if I liked it, I think I would have grown up with a much smaller interest in reading and writing. But I was never told that reading was ‘better’ than playing video games with my brothers, or than going for bike rides to the woods. It was just something else I did for fun!
How do you encourage your children or grandchildren to read, what books do you enjoy reading with them?
I’ve yet to become a dad! But I try to give my nephews books which strike that balance between stories I know they’ll like and books that will push them a little bit. My latest experiment is to see whether A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle is going to be a hit or not. It’s an adventure story, but an adventure across dimensions.
Nick is a biologist and writer who has worked at the Natural History Museum, the Zoological Society of London, and for the BBC. His latest book, The Amazing Animal Atlas was released in September by Flying Eye Books.
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