MAKING lists like your top ten favourite films, the eight records you would select for Desert Island Discs, or your top five books of all time can reveal more about you than you would imagine.

When I read Alan Johnson’s list for his five favourite books of all time, I could see if you took what you knew about him, his career and a little bit about his life, I felt if you put all the books he had selected together it would be like creating a jigsaw picture of the man himself.

The five he chose were: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray; The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin; Immaculate Mistake by Paul Bailey; Bleak House by Charles Dickens and Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout.

For those of you who have read the trilogy of Alan’s memoirs which are This Boy, Please, Mr Postman and The Long and Winding Road, will have a clear indication of what I mean.

For those who have not read them, I recommend you do, at least one, as the list of his favourite books gives you an insight into a man who lifted himself up from the slums of Southam Street in West London to the corridors of power in Westminster.

Speaking about his trilogy of memoirs he said: “Originally it was only going to be one book about my childhood memories (This Boy) covering childhood until I was 18-years-old.

“But readers were asking what happened next so I decided to do a second (Please Mr Postman) which took in the time I joined the GPO and the third (The Long and Winding Road) took in my time in Parliament right up to the end of my ministerial career.”

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One of the important aims for Alan was to keep the story going and moving forward.

He said he wanted to do things in the interest of the reader and to make sure they are not board.

Alan added: “I didn’t want to do a traditional political memoir where I would re-fight old battles.

“I wanted to give people an idea of what it was like to like to be an MP and a minister. That is why I covered this in 40 pages.

“I could not leave out Iraq. I was an MP and this was the first time Britain had gone to war as a result of a vote and not with a Royal Prerogative.”

Alan Johnson is a Modern man.

The Mod bit is important as it refers to his Mod history.

One definition says Mod referred to: “Any of the young people in England in the mid- 1960s noted for their emphasis on stylish dress, often as a symbol of their alienation from conventional society.”

Or as Peter Meaden who was a publicist and manager for The Who said: “Modism, Mod living, is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances.”

For Alan it is a case of ‘once a mod always a mod’.

He still lives his life as he has done in the past by buying good clothes which are stylish and which he can wear and look anyone in the eye and feel confident.

Now this confidence as a mod follower of fashion,has changed in creativity as Alan Johnson has turned himself from a politician into a many of letters, the creative type who writes books.

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He said: “Writing the books (memoirs) I do not know if I learnt anything about myself, what I did learn was it helped put my life into context on the road I have travelled.

“What I like about writing is it gives me a capacity to be creative.

“It can be very difficult to be creative in politics. You get elected on a manifesto and get to work. Whereas when I write I can be creative.

“I used to 50 years ago, write short stories and poems and send them to publishes but they were rejected as they were not very good.

“What writing these books showed me is I had stopped doing the things I enjoyed doing like writing and playing the guitar and sacrificed them for my working life.

“I like the solitary nature of writing as It means I am in control which you never are in politics as you are never in control of events.

“There is a certain tyranny of the blank page which can be difficult but I have to write 80,000 words a day.

“When I finished each book there was a little celebration as each had been hard work and each time there was a re-write but it felt like an achievement.”

When asked if he could meet his younger self what advice would he give him and would he listen to older Alan, he said: “I do not think he would listen.

“But what advice would I give him?

“It would be keep being creative, never stop doing what you enjoy “I love being creative and I am waiting to be discovered when it come to music and can’t wait to get out the Hofner bass (Johnson is a great fan of The Beatles and his hero is Paul McCartney).”

Taking this music theme forward and his love of music, Alan’s latest book which he is writing and will hand to his publishers in January will be all about music.

Each chapter will be about a certain piece of music for each year which is or has been important to Alan at one time in his life.

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And in a sense we are back where we started with lists.

Alan said he could have chosen different discs for Desert Island Disc but he had to make sure if he was going to spend so long on the island he better chose good ones He selected The Beatles -And Your Bird Can Sing; The Easybeats -Friday On My Mind; David Bowie- Drive in Saturday; Neil Young- A Man Needs a Maid -Artist: London Symphony Orchestra; Gustav Mahler- Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor - 4th movement (Adagietto) Orchestra: The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Conductor: Frank Shipway; Super Furry Animals- Cityscape Skybaby and Halima- Beneath The Sun.

And for his five favourite books, Alan said he would not change his selection and agreed (although he never thought of it like this) in a deep psychological way they could sum part of him up.

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You can hear more about Alan Johnson as he will be at the Taunton Literary Festival.

He will be speaking at St James’ Church in Taunton at 7pm on November 11.

Tickets cost £10.

Book tickets at Brendon Books, Old Brewery Buildings, Bath Place, taunton, tel: 01823 337742 or go onoine at

Alan Johnson’s The Long and Winding Road was originally published in hardback by Bantam Press ISBN 9780593076033 and was published in paperback in June by Corgi.