One thing I’ve realised while compiling this list is that the quality that matters to me more than any other is delight – that is to say that the whole reading experience transports me on to a level of pure enjoyment. Not necessarily comedy – although comic novels probably do it more often for me. It’s about entering into a world where everything – story, character, dialogue, prose style – works together to make reading one of life’s greatest pleasures. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes epitomises this quality for me. Lots of people know the Marilyn Monroe movie, but I’m not sure how many have read the book – which is much funnier and much sharper. The faux-naive diary narrative is a hoot, of course, but scratch the surface and you’ll see why GPB has been described as ‘the greatest work of American philosophy ever written’. Indeed, I have often tried to live my life according to its precepts. The heroine, Lorelei Lee, is probably my favourite character in all fiction, and I often find myself writing and speaking in her voice. The sequel, But Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, is just as good.