Desert Island Books


Famed for his photographic portraits, from rock stars to royals, John Swannell shares the books that inspired his life and careers

EREBUS: The Story of a Ship by Michael Palin 

Michael Palin loves adventures, so who better to write about HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, two ships that set sail in1826 to the Antarctic to try and find the Northwest Passage. Just reading about Sir John Franklin and all the characters that accompanied him was fascinating; Palin’s attention to detail in this book and the amount of research is phenomenal. The maps of the ships’ route in the book is really interesting, it gives you an insight of their journey, which tragically ended in  disaster. I couldn’t put this book down.

Types and Shadows: The Roy Strong Diaries by Sir Roy Strong

My father wrote this book of his journey as an immigrant around the world, a biography of his life experiences and challenges, which he has always faced with a sense of calm, centred in peace and joy. His reflections offer a different perspective – basically, part of my life documented through his lens.

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Caine

I had dinner with Michael and his lovely wife, Shakira, last year. He turned up on crutches, so I asked him what happened. He said “I fell down the stairs, and badly damaged my foot and was laid up for six months, so out out of boredom I wrote this book and it went straight into The Sunday Times’ bestsellers list. Nobody was more surprised than I was.”The books really good and for any young actor starting out it’s like a mini bible; Michael covers everything and it’s a great read. 

The Yorkshire Shepherdess by Amanda Owen

The Yorkshire Shepherdess is about a girl who left the city life at 18 to get a job on a farm in Yorkshire as an alpaca shearer, cow milker, and to look after a flock of sheep. After two years she met a remote hill farmer called Clive Owen, 20 years her senior, and they married and had nine children. Also in their care were 1,000 sheep, four dogs, chickens, goats and three or four horses. The book is about her experiences over the last 20 years; it’s heart-breaking, traumatic, but somehow wonderful. If you love the countryside, as I do, this is a must-read.

Look Again by David Bailey

Bailey’s book is quite a tough read to take in one go. He’s dyslexic and tends to use very colourful language, but the book is very honest. He doesn’t pull any punches;
he’s always been like that, his opinions are set in stone and he won’t be moved.  I’ve known him for over 50 years and he’s never changed. That is why this is a good honest read by one of the greatest photographers this country has ever produced.