World Book Day - Xtra Mile artists talk books

- 6.03.13 - 

Reading makes life better.

It can reduce the time of a commute to nothing while you're wandering in a timeless world. It can teach you about life from perspectives you'll never experience or even dream of. It unites imagination and the physical world. It can make you laugh deeper than any comedian or television show. People who just see words on a page aren't believing enough and they certainly aren't living hundreds of lives in addition to their own, which is a shame.

Reading makes life make more sense, too.

There aren't many things better than a great book. Pretty much all of us at Xtra Mile are keen readers, and we only really hang out with those who read them (although, if you can't read, we'd be there to help you learn and you can join us that way). Books, and those who read them, are fun, sexy, smart, sensitive, excited by life, and naturally hilarious. Truth.

So, in celebration of World Book Day - which is today - we've gathered some quick comments from our bands, musicians, and team about their favoured reads, what they're reading now, and what reading means to them.

Barry Dolan (AKA Oxygen Thief):

"Books rule. I'm currently re-reading the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman because I first read them 10 years ago in a bit of a mad flurry of excitement, and I thought it was about time I went back and read them a bit more steadily. Also reading Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson and The Shock Of The Fall by Nathan Filer (who I went to school with, lost touch, then heard he'd won the Costa Book Prize, which is pretty cool).

My favourite books are 1984 (George Orwell) and The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy (Douglas Adams), both of which I read at least once a year. I'd also recommend House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski, The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart, and pretty much anything by Douglas Coupland (especially J Pod, Player One, and Generation X)."


Frank Turner

"Currently reading: War & Peace. It's long and heavy but I'm making progress. Recently been reading Paul Theroux, who is amazing and makes me feel like a dunce. My favourite book is Catch-22."

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Billy Pettinger (AKA Billy the Kid)

"When I was in grade two, my school held a competition that challenged each student to read 100 books within the school year. In true super-nerd/loner fashion, I had read something like 900 books by the time they went to print the congratulatory t-shirts.

It started with books by Dr. Seuss, progressed to Roald Dahl and ended up somewhere near The Hobbit. My summers were spent biking to the local market, where you could buy books for a quarter, and leaving with armloads of books which I would complete by the week's end.

I became obsessed with Salinger and Bukowski. Did you know that a series of Salinger books will be released starting in 2015? He worked feverishly in a little shack behind his house for his entire life, and didn't release a single thing after a certain point in his life. Now that's the kind of crazy I can get behind. Happy World Book Day!"

"An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s." - J.D. Salinger

Not only does Billy the Kid make excellent music (her new, Frank Turner-produced album will be out 26 May 2014 on Xtra Mile) but she also created a beautiful book for "kids of all ages". Check out The Smallest Small of All here

Kyle Evans (The Retrospective Soundtrack Players)

I first read The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), when I was about 16, and it is fair to say that it has changed my life since, quite considerably.  Up until then I thought all 'old' books were dusty relics from days of yore, and even the okay-ish ones we'd been made to read at school - To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Time Machine (H.G. Wells) - were only okay in a relative way, and what I really wanted to read was Trainspotting (Irvine Welsh) and similar books about shagging, drugs and booze. I am a child of the Nineties after all.

Here's an obscure fact - I only got Catcher out of the library because I was a fan of the band Miss Black America, whose singer gave himself the moniker Seymour Glass, after a character created by J.D Salinger. But in error I loaned a book, not about Seymour, but about Holden Caulfield: naive dreamer, hopeless romantic, my literary hero.

Reading Catcher was a watershed moment for me. I realised that there could be a character waiting in a book written some fifty years ago that seemed like they were speaking just to me: the scene when he doesn't want to sleep with the call-girl perfectly summed up my sexual insecurity at the time; his longing for his old school to remain the way he left it and not be covered in graffiti hit home instantly. I wanted to be Holden so badly, and I still think he is one of the all-time great literary creations.

I've read the book five or six times since then, and every time it delivers something different. The older I get, the more I see the humour in Holden's naive railing against the phoneys of this world (basically everything and everyone who isn't himself or his sister, Phoebe). But it's also a very sad book, essentially about a young man grieving his lost brother and coming to terms with the unfairness of the world. It's easy to forget the somewhat sinister did-he-didn't-he moment with Mr Antolini, an incredibly brave part to include in the book and a chapter that I have different feelings about every few years when I re-read. The next time I have a chance to read it, I will be a father and I'm sure I'll see Holden in a whole new light again. In fact, just writing this is making me yearn for one of my five copies at home. If I leave work now, I could have it finished by bedtime....


Darren Johns (Crazy Arm)

"I'd like to recommend pretty much anything by Kurt Vonnegut (stopping short of his specifically sci-fi works - not for me) to anyone with at least half a grasp on life and all its cruelties/absurdities. I started with Breakfast Of Champions, then Slaughterhouse Five: the big one. The most recent book of his that I read was Bluebeard. I'd also suggest Timequake, Player Piano, Cat's Cradle and Mother Night to the uninitiated. He never fails to upturn all conventional thinking while aiming straight for the heart.

Vonnegut died at the age of 84 in 2007, one of the last great post-war satirists."

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Dani Cotter (Xtra Mile Recordings)

"My favourite book would probably have to be 1984 by George Orwell. It still shocks me, scares me and has me glued to it all the way through even though I’ve read it a bunch of times and I know what’s gonna happen. It also staggers me that a book written in 1949 can be so relevant to this day – it resonates through everything.

The last book I actually read was Jack & The Flum Flum Tree by Julia Donaldson, she of The Gruffalo fame. Donaldson has written a tonne of children’s books all of which are wonderful read. You can practically sing them they have such a great flow.

There are some brilliant kids books out there but there’s something still wonderfully simple and mesmerising about The Very Hungry Caterpillar."

Best children's book ever.

Best children's book ever.

Grant McNeill (To Kill A King)

About Ham On Rye -

"Anyone who knows Bukowski's work is aware of the rawness of his adult life and terrible self inflicted suffering he's put himself through, but Ham On Rye shows you how he became that man, and what caused his bleak but poetic outlook."

The Catcher in the Rye, adolescence explored and explained.

 "I wanted to be Holden so badly, and I still think he is one of the all-time great literary creations." - Kyle Evans

Catcher in the Rye - RSP.png

The Catcher in the Rye by The Retrospective Soundtrack Players, available to buy here

Brad Barrett (Xtra Mile Recordings)

"Reading is my thing. Well, writing is. But reading is obviously the catalyst for that. I'm a massive advocate of reading to, and encouraging reading in, children of all ages, something I'm currently trying to do with my 2 year old cousin, who is fascinated with books but doesn't quite have the language skills (or patience) yet to read them herself.

I tend to read a few books at a time. I'm currently devouring Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, alongside the excellent Big Brother by Lionel Shriver. Both books deal with one of the darker sides of the human condition, addiction - alcoholism and gluttony, respectively. I also just went through a Neil Gaiman phase, after finishing A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, a satirical farce of the highest order.

My favourite book(s) are almost certainly 1984 and Catch-22 (both mentioned above). Both are highly influential in themes, language and story. Catch-22 remains the funniest novel I've read in public. People looked at me strangely as I read it. It's also a brutal indictment of war and bureaucracy. So not all belly laughs.

Same as Barry (up there^), I have big love for House of Leaves, which is hands down the most innovative and bizarre use of a tree and some ink that I've ever read. Read outside of your comfort zone. It's the best thing you'll do with your eyes."


"Ham On Rye shows you how he became that man, and what caused his bleak but poetic outlook." - Grant McNeill (To Kill A King)

Not the most pleasant man, Bukowski was still a killer writer. Ham On Rye is him at his best.

Not the most pleasant man, Bukowski was still a killer writer. Ham On Rye is him at his best.

Casey Cress (Cheap Girls' manager/Frank Turner's US tour manager)

"Because I’m a bit of a weirdo, I can’t just read one book at a time. Instead it averages three books at a time, one of which is usually a book I’ve already read and just go back to over and over.

Right now my three are: 

  • Double Cross, by Ben Macintyre; a non-fiction book about WWII and a little known spy network that was key in D-Day.
  • Paddle Your Own Canoe, by Nick Offerman; an auto-biography/advice on life by a very funny man. 
  • Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut; this is the fourth time I’ve read this book and I’m not going to tell anyone anything about it because if you haven’t read it by now, you’re a fool.

Normally I have at least one Neil Gaiman book in the mix, and it’s shocking I don’t. However, I will say this just to make sure I include him somewhere: Good Omens is one of the greatest books ever. He co-wrote it with Terry Pratchett."

Valerie Gritsch (Xtra Mile Recordings)

"The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, both by J.R.R. Tolkien, have owned my heart and soul in terms of favorite books. I first read them after I saw the films and instantly fell in love with the incredible worlds Tolkien created out of thin air, worlds with such depth and history that made them endlessly interesting to me. The books were and are a comfort, and I try to re-read some Tolkien work every year.

In at a close second would be The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It was an assigned reading my senior year in high school and it has left such a lasting impression on me. The story is about a boy who literally follows his dreams and ends up on the most remarkable journey. A main theme of the book is also one of my favorite quotes: 'When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it' - and that's something I strongly believe in!"

Take one of our recommendations if you want something to read tonight. Or carry on reading what you're reading. Just make sure you're reading a book. A good one. Alternatively, read to your little'uns. Or your brother or sister. Or your nan or grandad. Or your friends.

Reading helps make our lives make sense.

More info on World Book day here. Also, this seems like a good thing to put here too: National Literary Trust.

And just a quick shout out to the @WstonesOxfordSt Twitter account. Genuinely funny, and you can buy books from there, if you want. Remember: EVERYTHING IS BOOKS.