Expert’s view

Sasha Swire: my five best books

The journalist and author chooses her six favourite diaries, from politics to nature

Sasha Swire

Sasha Swire’s Sunday Times bestseller, Diary of an MP’s Wife (Abacus £9.99) is out now in paperback.

1

edited by Simon Heffer (2021)

Henry “Chips” Channon: The Diaries (Volume 1) 1918-38

Henry “Chips” Channon: The Diaries (Volume 1) 1918-38

The best political diaries are witty, waspish, snobbish and gossipy. And they are often written by people not necessarily at the heart of power, but at its edge. Chips Channon is an absolute master at the form. His diaries are delicious, dangerous and utterly compulsive.

2

1966

The Harold Nicolson Diaries

The Harold Nicolson Diaries

Nicolson was an MP and a diplomat married to the poet and gardener Vita Sackville-West. Both were gay but devoted to each other and their famous garden at Sissinghurst. I’m as much a nature writer as a diarist, so share Nicolson’s concentrations and interests.

3

Alan Clark (1994)

Diaries: In Power

Like Chips, Clark had the flaws of vanity and lechery and crashing snobbery, but he was a natural writer of people, places and politics. Penned during a time when the bad behaviour of a politician was either ignored or dismissed.

4

1825

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

The Diary of Samuel Pepys

The diary of the 17th century naval administrator is perhaps the most famous of them all. Pepys’s writings reveal how life under the bubonic plague mirrors our own pandemic, including similarities in how people responded to the crisis.

5

Sean Borodale (2012)

Bee Journal

Bee Journal

This poem-journal chronicles the life of the hive, from the collection of a small nucleus to the capture of a swarm two years later. As an amateur beekeeper, I’ve found it to be something of a bible.

6

Roger Deakin (2009)

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm

Notes from Walnut Tree Farm book cover

A journal of sorts, but more a medley of musings, feelings and observations about the natural world of rural Suffolk. Deakin had a unique way of painting the humblest of scenes with the richest of prose.

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