Life Stories: Donald Cameron MSP on the books that mean most to him
What was your favourite book as a child?
My favourites were the Chronicles of Narnia. Not only were they my favourites, but I take great pleasure in reading them to my children as well. I loved the The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle – those are probably my two favourites. They’re obviously written from a mid-20th century perspective where the morals and ethics of the day have moved on, but I still think they are wonderful stories that completely capture the imagination. Reading them to my children is an exercise in nostalgia for me.
Which fictional character did you most identify with as a child?
I don’t think there is one. I just love reading, but I don’t think I ever saw myself as a character or identified with one. I loved history, anything that took you back to the world of knights in armour. I got into Nigel Tranter’s books in my teens and I loved historical fiction. I also moved onto Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson as I got a bit older.
Is there a book which got you into politics?
My interest in politics didn’t stem from reading, but an interest in current affairs. History was my great love, so as I went through school and read history at university, I read a lot of nineteenth century political history and the political biographies of figures like Disraeli and Gladstone. My other great interest is American politics. I worked in Washington for a year after leaving university, so I really got into American history. I really enjoyed Primary Colors, it was the late 90s, the end of the Clinton era.
Which book couldn’t you finish?
There are many, but I only read one page of Crime and Punishment. I just remember putting it down and never picking it up again. With older novels you’ve really got to be committed to them in a way you don’t have to be with the latest spy thriller.
Is there a book you’ve read recently that you particularly enjoyed? I have young children and a very busy life so, sadly, reading has had to take a bit of a back seat. Books that I read now have to be quite easy. Over Christmas, I read Ben Macintyre’s The Spy and the Traitor about Oleg Gordievsky. It was fascinating – a history book that read like a thriller.
Which book would you be embarrassed about others seeing on your bookshelf during a Zoom call?
There are plenty. I’m not one of those people that collects a library to have behind me. I’ve got a few Dan Brown novels, but I’m not ashamed of them. I loved The Da Vinci Code. I’m not at all ashamed of ‘crappy airport novels’, as my father calls them.