Petina Gappah, the Guardian First Book Award-winning author of An Elegy for Easterly, published her most recent novel The Book of Memory in September 2015. She shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now. 


1. Black Mirror 

I do not watch much current TV, but am happy to binge on DVD box sets and old series on Netflix, which means that I always discover TV shows two or so years after most people have already watched them. Charlie Brooker’s brilliant Black Mirror is my current obsession. I have watched three episodes so far, and I am tempted to watch all of them at once. But I am choosing the path of self-restraint: I have five more stories to write before I finish Rotten Row, my next story collection. For every story I finish, I will treat myself to a new episode.

2. The Broken Chair outside the United Nations in Geneva

I leave home for work every morning and get off the bus at the United Nations. On some days, particularly in the summer, I walk through groups of demonstrating protesters seeking to draw attention to human rights abuses around the world. Wherever they are from in the world, their passion is palpable, and the simplicity of the messages on their placards is both moving and eloquent: ‘Where are the missing?’ ‘Stop the massacres now’. ‘End police brutality’. With my friend Marina Cavazza who is a photographer, I am thinking about how to bring these stories to a wider audience. I am particularly interested in the protester who stands his lone daily vigil next to a banner that reminds the world of Chernobyl.

3. Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis

My son Kush, who is eleven, has started to learn Latin at school, and to make it more fun, I bought him this Latin version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It reminded me of the joy of first reading the Harry Potter books with him.

4. The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace

I attended a performance of this mass by Welsh composer Karl Jenkins at the Harare Festival of the Arts in 2013. I fell in love with his music and now listen to it all the time.  I particularly love the way he uses The Last Post and the muezzin’s call to prayer and mixes them in with traditional elements of a Catholic mass.

5. Friday the 13th: The Series

Last year it was Melrose Place, this year it is Friday the 13th: The Series. This is the DVD to which I do my weekly ironing. In this series, one of my favourites from my childhood, cousins Micki Foster and Ryan Dallion, assisted by their older and wiser friend, Jack Marshak have the weighty responsibility of tracking down antique objects that were cursed by their evil Uncle Lewis Vendredi. Each object confers a different power and rewards on its owner, but at a terrible, terrible cost, usually involving human sacrifice. In every episode, the three are either in danger, or they find themselves with love interests that will either have their brains drained out, turned into wax figures or scream protesting through the doors of hell. It is such fun, and I hope that someone makes a remake of it soon.


Photograph © Adrian Hu, Broken Chair, 2014

Greg Jackson | First Sentence
The Tattoo