Tim Atkin is an award-winning wine writer and Master of Wine, with over 30 years of experience. His writing has been featured in a number of publications, including The World of Fine Wine, Gourmet Traveller Wine, Jamie Magazine, Decanter and many more. Tim Atkin is also the co-chairman of the International Wine Challenge, a rigorously judged blind tasting competition, known world over. On top of this, Tim has also won over 30 awards for his journalism and for his other passion – photography. Tim Atkin is sort of like the Simon Cowell of the wine world, having judged wines in the UK, Italy, France, the US, Argentina, Spain, South Africa, Chile and Australia! As something of a novice wine enthusiast, I was so excited to talk books with Tim. Please enjoy, my interview with Tim Atkin…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I say I’m a wine writer and taster who takes a few photos for fun.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am currently reading His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
The Chronicles of Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis. I enjoyed them at the time, but realised in later life that they were basically a form of Christian propaganda. So I’ve gone off them in adulthood.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a journalist or a film producer. So I’ve pretty much ended up doing what I wanted to do.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
He’d be surprised I still had all my own hair. But I’d like to think he’d smile and say “Wine: you call that work?”.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
Probably Les Essais by Michel de Montaigne. I read them when I was too young. But I keep dipping back into them in middle age.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I’m lucky enough to have a library at home, so that would be my first choice. But I travel a lot, so I’m always reading on the move. And at any time of the day.
There aren’t many wine books that I admire. But The Billionaire’s Vinegar: The Mystery of the World’s Most Expensive Bottle of Wine by Benjamin Wallace is a great read and opens a window on the fine wine world. I also liked The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of an American Wine Dynasty by Julia Flynn Siler.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
My Father’s Fortune by Michael Frayn is the best book I’ve ever read about a father/son relationship. It reminds me of my Dad in many ways, who is still alive and kicking at 85 years’ old.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
The book I’ve recommended most is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I like both, but I read more of the latter than the former.
Do you think reading is important?
Yes. But it’s pure pleasure above all.
The best book I’ve read in the past 6 months is The North Water by Ian McGuire.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Real. I love hardback books in particular. I’ve got a Kindle, but I rarely use it.
Name a book that you feel every human should have to read by law.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life?
Probably A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust, which I read when I lived in Avignon on my year abroad as part of my French degree. But The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is a close second.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
Five non-fiction books (or series) that I’d recommend are: Bury by the Chains by Adam Hochschild, Into the Silence by Wade Davis, Gallipoli by L.A. Carlyon, The Pax Brittanca Trilogy by James Morris and Stealing the Scream by Edward Dolnick. All wonderful works of history/journalism.
And five novels would be: The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov, Middlemarch by George Eliot, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee, Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez and L’Ecume des Jours by Boris Vian. And I’d also like to mention The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
I have very catholic tastes, so lots of things lined up. Starting with Keeping on Keeping On by Alan Bennett and a book about the famous Czech runner, Today We Die a Little by Richard Askwith. One of these days, it’s also time I got around to reading three of greatest novels ever written (or so I’m told): Ulysses by James Joyce, War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy and Don Quijote by Miguel De Cervantes. Maybe that will happen in 2017.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
This is Not a Dress Rehearsal.