Richard Herring is a comedian, writer and podcaster and the creator of BBC Radio 4’s comedy drama Relativity.
Here, Herring shares the significant books which have influenced his life and career and earn a place on his Fantasy Bookshelf. The comedian explains his parents’ disappointment in his early literary choices, the characters he most identifies with and why he should never be trusted with a chocolate factory.
If you could only save one book in the world, which would it be?
The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson. We might as well let the future aliens know we were funny.
As a child, which character would you say you were most similar to?
I think there was a little bit of Piggy from Lord of the Flies in there. Luckily I didn’t get stuck on an island with a load of public school boys, so I survived.
Your comedy drama Relativity draws on your own family. Was there anything you were inspired to read because of their influence?
My parents had lots of books and always wanted me to read as much as possible. They were disappointed when I bought Peanuts books with my book tokens.
My dad always wanted to read Swallows and Amazons to me and my siblings, but we didn’t like it as much as him.
I was a reluctant reader and pretended to have read every Doctor Doolittle book when I’d maybe made it through three. My parents still battled to get books into my hands though.
Which book has taught you the most?
Kurt Vonnegut’s books are so full of wit and wisdom and a disregard for the conventions of the novel. I think he is the greatest writer of all time and his jokes are top rate. His love of and fears for humanity despite our evils and faults are wonderful.
What was the last book you couldn’t put down?
The Real Great Escape by Guy Walters is a fabulous and fascinating, honest appraisal of the story we think we know so well.
What’s the next audiobook you can’t wait to listen to?
Adam Buxton’s Ramble Book. He’s one of the funniest men in the world and also one of the nicest. His comedic invention and honesty both dazzle me and I can’t wait to find out how he became the admittedly small man that he is.
Which book would you most like to see adapted for screen or radio next?
Limmy’s autobiography Surprisingly Down to Earth and Very Funny. He is a unique voice and a comedy genius but his story of his battles with depression and drink is moving and extraordinary. Too many writers come from the same basic background but Limmy is a one-off.
Can you think of a book which inspired your own writing, particularly comedy?
Jonathan Ames’ What’s Not To Love? showed me how you can write about your deep secrets honestly and with wit and make them universal, even when they are away from the supposed norm.
If you could claim to be the author of any book, which would you choose?
I’d love to pretend that I was Margaret Atwood. She’s the greatest living writer and I fear that nearly all her predictions for the near future are going to come true. Let’s say it was me who wrote Oryx and Crake.
Which character from a book can you see yourself in?
Willy Wonka. Don’t ever give me a chocolate factory or I will use it to torture bad children.
The third series of Richard Herring’s Relativity is on BBC Radio 4, Fridays at 11:30am and runs until 21st August. Available to listen to on catch up for 30 days after transmission on BBC Sounds.
Read Richard Herring’s Fantasy Bookshelf
- The Complete Far Side by Gary Larson
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- The Complete Peanuts 1963-1964
- Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
- Doctor Doolittle (The Complete Collection) by Hugh Lofting
- Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories by Kurt Vonnegut
- The Real Great Escape by Guy Walters
- Ramble Book by Adam Buxton
- Surprisingly Down to Earth, and Very Funny: My Autobiography, by Limmy
- What’s Not to Love? by Jonathan Ames
- Oryx And Crake by Margret Atwood
- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl