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Simon Schama, Billy Bragg and more on the books that changed their lives

In the days before Amazon algorithms served up your next read, one of the joys of reading was serendipity. As writers assemble in Britain’s town of books, speakers at Hay tell us about a chance encounter in a library, a B&B or a second-hand bookshop that took them down an unexpected path

Hay Festival. Photo: Sam J Peat

Jacqueline Wilson: I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Simon Schama: Belle de Seigneur by Albert Cohen

Benjamin Zephaniah: Red Shelley by Paul Foot

Bill Bailey: An Intimate History of Humanity by Theodore Zeldin

Naomi Wolf: The Letters of John Addington Symonds

Kapka Kassabova: Quiet Flows the Una by Faruk Šehic

Peter Florence: Sansibar, oder der letzte Grund by Alfred Andersch

Melvyn Bragg: Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann

Billy Bragg: Who’s Buried Where in England by Douglas Greenwood

Michael Rosen: Poems by Li Po

Peter Frankopan: The Loom of Language

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