Favourite Books of 2016: Eloise Carey chooses ‘If I Could Tell You Just One Thing’ by Richard Reed

By Eloise Carey

Failing to succinctly summarise the atrocities of 2016, it’s safe to say we’ve had a bit of a shocker. However, as my newsfeed candidly pointed out, the death of several well-loved celebrities, Brexit and Trump could not quite add up to 1665, in which several million died from the Black Death. My brother clearly sensed this, and for Christmas this year I received a particularly special book, one which quickly silenced the moaning around the dinner table. In recommending it, my only criteria would be literacy. The author who has managed to span this vast audience of ‘the reader’ is Richard Reed, and has achieved such a feat not with his own words, but with those of other people.

If I Could Tell You Just One Thing is a book compiled of pieces of advice from persons of note, whether celebrities, chefs, holocaust survivors, authors, poets, dancers, musicians… the list goes on. A concept that has arguably been done before, Reed creates a new take by drawing out each piece of advice and weaving around it a witty narrative of how he came to meet the person, their response to his questioning and a little about them. Each interview is accompanied by a beautiful illustration by Samuel Kerr, bringing the teller to life, and each section of the book demonstrates the vast diversity of the human voice. Only an author who has experienced such a wide and varied career as Reed could pull off such a feat, through co-founding Innocent Smoothies and later working in politics, the art and the media, he has had the unequivocal opportunity to meet some of the world’s greatest and most interesting talents. I thought Bear Grylls was a bit of an arse before I read his interview, and I knew Judi Dench was wonderful but had no idea of the strength and emotiveness of her views on Brexit. This book gives an insight into the human psyche that is unprecedented.

With the year we’ve had, and the unseen and unpredictable that is surely to come, If I could tell you just one thing was an incredibly refreshing reminder of the strength and toughness of human spirit, the unbelievable things people can live through and come out of  if not unscathed  with eloquence and grace. It was a heralding to what we can and should achieve, and will galvanise any reader to do more than just survive the next year, but to really live it.

Image: Canongate; Faye Chua

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