Andrew Pozzi reading (© Instagram / @apozzi93)
World indoor 60m hurdles champion Andrew Pozzi hails from the town of Stratford-upon-Avon – home to the great English playwright William Shakespeare. And, just like ‘The Bard’, the British hurdler has a passion for literature. Here he shares five of his favourite books.
The Midnight Library
This book was recommended by my girlfriend and I read it during the early stages of lockdown. It focuses on Nora, the central character, who has undergone mental health issues and commits suicide. However, in so doing she is taken to a place of purgatory – known as The Midnight Library. Every single book in the library contains a different version of her life – should she have made different decisions.
I really like the concept and I started to make comparisons with my life in athletics and wonder if I had made a different decision would it have led to a different outcome? There are a number of scenarios that the books talk about such as she could have been an Olympic swimmer or a rock star. However, without wishing to spoil the story, she actually prefers the version of her life she had experienced a few days before her suicide.
It is a philosophical read, which I like, and it does get you thinking about your own life, and maximising your current outlook on life. I really like the concept; I enjoy books which approach things from a different angle and the writing is very vivid.
A Clockwork Orange
This one is quite a controversial choice – simply because the subject matter in the book is so full on and graphic.
During the first few chapters I found the book quite bewildering because every few sentences it uses a form of Russian slang called Nadsat, which was initially difficult to understand. Yet over time I found myself drawn into the book and it became more engaging. It is set in a dystopian future centred on a young man, Alex, and his gang, the Droogs, who carry out ultra-violent acts. The heinous crimes they commit are unforgivable but there is a certain camaraderie in the gang that draws you in.
Alex is a terrible person who even mistreats his own gang. Later Alex goes too far, commits murder and loses everything. He is then given a choice of either going to jail for a very long time or undergoing a controversial psychological experiment to have the ‘badness’ taken out of him. Here he is exposed to some very graphic forms of torture. It is a difficult read in places, and it is not for everyone but I found it a compelling and interesting story.
This book was bought for me by my sister and it is lighter read, which can be enjoyed by people of all ages. It is centred on a young boy called Auggie who has a severe facial deformity. It focuses on his life at school and the challenges he encounters along his journey such as bullying and making friendships.
It is a reminder of what it is like to be a child, of what it is like to be a bit different and also how cruel school can be. It is very raw. You also see his struggle through his family and his older sister. For a long period she tries to distance himself from Auggie because she does not want to be associated with his struggle. You see over time her resentment at the situation and how she feels very forgotten about because her brother demands so much attention.
It is a feel-good story and his strength of character makes the book such a compelling read. I felt very invested in the main character and it made me think about my school years and the way kids can be.
Gregory David Roberts
This one is a 950-page epic that is loosely based around the author’s experiences. He’s an Australian and the book starts with him imprisoned in Victoria for a series of armed bank robberies only for him to escape to India. He is taken in by an Indian taxi driver and lives in an Indian slum – which he believes is the safest place to hide from the police. He faces a colony of lepers, people suffering from cholera and sets up a medical clinic because he has some experience of medicine in an effort to lead a better life.
It deals with a whole range of cultures, spiritual and philosophical matters. However, he ends up going to prison where he is abused and mentally tortured only to come under the protection of an Afghan mafia don and he is released from prison. He then starts working for the mafia don as a forger and gets sent all over the world committing many criminal acts – becoming the sort of person he didn’t want to become. The book ends with him heading to Sri Lanka to try and become a better person.
It is an epic adventure book with meshes a whole range of cultures into one book. It is a bit of a wild ride but it a great one. If you are travelling, it is good one to pick up and put down at any point.
The Memory Police
This is a Japanese sci-fi novel that has only recently been translated into English. It is a strange concept, set on an island where very little is explained and is open to interpretation. Everyone on the island periodically forgets things; whether that is associations with objects and animals. That memory is then taken from you by the memory police who then enter your house and remove that object or thing. This later extends to body parts – where if a person forgets what an arm or leg does, that body part is then removed.
Certain people on the island don’t lose their memory and are either put into hiding or try to escape, but ultimately when the memory police become aware that you are affected with this condition, then they are removed. People who retain their memory are a threat to the system. It is about power, authoritarian rule and compliance without question.
It is a little frustrating in that it explains so little, but this made it all the more interesting. It is a very atmospheric novel. The prose is very simple, but I found in very engaging. It constantly made me think, and after I finished the book I found myself rushing online to find out what other people thought about the book.
Steve Landells for World Athletics