Life stories: Michelle Thomson
What was your favourite book as a child?
I was a very precocious reader. I read every single Enid Blyton book I could - that probably says something about the age I am - however, the reason I was precocious was I also read my mother’s university books.
She went off to university when I was in primary school, studying English literature and history. So I read some of her books too or attempted to. That had two outcomes: basically, I knew at quite an early age far more than was strictly necessary about the Plantagenets and Tudors of England. And I learned a lot of words that I didn’t know how to pronounce, as I’d never heard them used in context.
Which fictional character did you most identify with as a child?
There wasn’t a particular character more it was a type. She, because it was always a woman, was confident and knew what to do in any circumstance. I suspect she was probably rather jolly hockey sticks, my life in contrast was a bit more complicated.
Is there a book that got you into politics?
No, there wasn’t. I was arguably always interested in politics or the nature of change in society. Probably the first political book I actually read was Steven Maxwell’s Arguing for Independence: Evidence, Risk and the Wicked Issues.
Which book couldn’t you finish?
I’m still trying to finish The Break-Up of Britain by Tom Nairn. I regard him as a superlative writer and thinker. The reason I’ve struggled to finish it is that I literally read a paragraph and then I check the references and think I’m going to have to think about that a bit more.
It’s so good. It’s a compliment to him. I’ve been reading it for easily the past year. I will finish it, but it’s going to take me a long time.
What is your favourite novel and why?
I like fictional novels where the narrative grabs you from the start and the descriptions are good enough to taste in your mouth when you say them out loud. So I like Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things because of that focus on the narrative. The writing is superlative.
Is there a book you would recommend to other MSPs?
I don’t think that there can ever be one book because it always depends but all I would say is, read what you enjoy, and never be ashamed of it. If I were to choose a book it would be one to switch off and relax.
Which book would you be embarrassed about others seeing on your bookshelf during a Zoom call?
I suppose actually the one that people would immediately alight on - and it’s not mine, incidentally - is The Kama Sutra. Because I have the philosophy that you can never get rid of books, it sits there, unused.