Life Stories: Sarah Boyack MSP on the books that mean most to her
What was your favourite book as a child?
When I was at school, I used to read every Enid Blyton book I could get my hands on. I just loved that kids my age would go off and have adventures and would investigate crimes. I probably started off with The Famous Five, but moved onto lots of others.
As I got older and into secondary school, I moved onto Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters, partly because we studied them, and I just got massively into them. Around the same sort of time, I began reading science fiction authors like H.G. Wells and Arthur C. Clarke.
Which fictional character did you most identify with as a child?
For me, it was more about the idea of a good story that allowed you to switch off from life and just disappear into a new world. That was the exciting thing about reading.
Is there a book which got you into politics?
I got into science fiction in my teens and have read it ever since. One of the things that comes up a lot is the futility of war and the destruction of the planet. Reading science fiction probably made me more sensitive to global warming and the climate emergency. It makes you think about politics, human relations, travel, all of these things.
In my family, politics was always discussed in our household. But there were also books like George Orwell’s 1984 or Animal Farm which probably got me interested. I’m not sure what came first, the family interest in politics or books, but they both went together.
Which book couldn’t you finish?
That rarely happens with me. On occasion, I’m not in the right mood for a book, so I’ll put it down and come back to it. It’s very rare that I just don’t finish something and that’s probably because I’m quite choosy about what I’m going to read.
What is your favourite novel and why?
I rarely re-read novels. I did experiment with a tablet when going on holiday so that I didn’t have to take eight books with me, and it just didn’t work – I’d forget the things I’d already read. For me, it’s not a single book, but often a series of books by a particular author. I’ve still got one of Ian Rankin’s Rebus books from Christmas that I’m looking forward to starting. I’m currently reading a S.G. MacLean book, one of a series set in Aberdeenshire in the 1630s.
Is there a book you would recommend to other MSPs?
It would have to be sci-fi. Kim Stanley Robinson is a fantastic author. There’s a book of his called 2312 with climate change at the fore. I would suggest that as a way of escaping with a bit of reflection at the same time.
Which book would you be embarrassed about others seeing on your bookshelf during a Zoom call?
By sheer good luck, none of my bookcases are visible. The embarrassment factor for me is not the books I have, it’s the ones I haven’t opened yet. It’s quite often books I’ve bought for myself, political autobiographies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, for example, really interesting political books that I just haven’t got round to reading yet.