The biographer, whose latest book is ''The Young H.G. Wells,'' valued reading aloud with her children : ''I learned poems with them, and my son learned French with me largely by us reading together.''

.- What books are your night stand?

Beside my bed this week is Anil Seth's ''Being You'' - a book about consciousness, which he describes as the ''continual process of prediction error minimization'' that takes place as your brain makes predictions while your senses inform you of what is actually there in front of you.

He also tells us about the Japanese roboticist who builds ''Geminoids'' - robots as similar to human beings as possible without, including one resembling himself, which delivered a 45-minute lecture to a large audience of students.

It is a brilliant book, and far above my level - so I have to be content with enjoying the parts I can just about manage to understand.

Atul Gawande's '' Better '' - a doctor writing about his work, with a special emphasis on the treatment of cystic fibrosis - is just a truly magnificent piece of descriptive writing. I was reminded of my experience with cystic fibrosis.

WHEN my son was at his first school he had a friend who suffered from it - Paul - who sometimes came to spend a day with us. Although I did a good deal of patting his back hard to make him more comfortable I had no idea how precarious his hold on life was. 

He died a few days after a visit.

I visited his family and then went to his funeral in a London cemetery, a large one with graves  among the trees and grass. And there I saw his mother in her grief throw herself down into the grave.

It was an act that seemed to me exactly right and I have naturally never forgotten her or Paul. But setting that aside, Gawande emerges from his own book as a great doctor - one would be happy to have one's child cared for by him.

.- What's the last great book you read?

I can't say what the last great book I read was - I live among my bookshelves and I constantly take out books to reread or check up on in some ways.

Tolstoy writing about his own early years is one I often return to. The complete poems of Andrew Marvell - and most of the metaphysical poets - and also Tennyson.

I have a pocket size selection of Wordsworth that I almost always take with me when leaving the house.

.- Describe your ideal reading experience when, where, what how.

Well, honestly I am as happy reading on the bus as anywhere else, although I grew up reading in the bath, which I used to do when my children were young  -the bath protected me effectively. 

I like reading by the fire at home, or in the garden when it is warm. I always take plenty of books to read on holidays, and I enjoy reading in trains and on hotel balconies.

.- You've written many biographies of canonical  British authors. As a reader, do you favor any of their work more than the others?

If I favor one of my biographical subjects it should probably be Thomas Hardy, great and long-lived poet and novelist of English country life.

.- Your latest biography is about H.G.Wells's  early life and career. What Wells books would you recommend to a beginner?

I'd recommend Wells's ''The Time Machine'' and ''The War of the Worlds'' - both long stories - and his novel ''Tono-Bungay,'' which is my favorite among his books. I also admire his pamphlet ''The Misery of Boots.''

.- Has a book ever brought you closer to another person, or come between you?

Reading aloud with my children was very important to all of us, I think, and brought us close. I learned poems with them, and my son learned French with me largely by us reading together in the first place -he is disabled and travels alone through France now very successfully.

.- What's the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?

I was very interested in  Atul Gawande's ''Better,'' from which I have learned a great deal about the practice of medicine in the U.S.A. - its excellence, and how expensive it is.

.- What moves you most in a work of literature?

Good writing moves the reader - finding that someone has been able to put words together in a way that is exact, involving, sometimes surprising, always informative.

Good writing moves me - I remember the wonderful shock of Alice Muroe's early stories, which shine out like a new dawn.

.- What's the best book you've ever received as a gift?

The best book I've ever received was the first ''The Tale of Tom Kitten,'' by Beatrix Potter, given to me by the nurse who looked after me in the hospital when I was nearly 5, I think. It is a great book.

.- Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

My favorite heroine must be Natasha in '' War and Peace '' - joined of course by Emma, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Marianne - well, that's enough. We all enjoy heroines who don't always behave themselves.

Among rogues I rather like Thomas Mann's Felix Krull, Heathcliff, of course.

The World Students Society wishes author Claire Tomalin, well and great.


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