The writer, radio presenter and vicar, who was previously one half of the 80s synth-pop duo the Communards, selects five tomes he would take if he were cast away on a desert island.
French Provincial Cookery
by Elizabeth David

Elizabeth David’s classic partly to give some ideas about what to make of the ingredients to hand — I imagine a gratin dauphinois would be tricky — but mostly for her prose, which is marvellous. Also I live near where she grew up, so it would be a reminder of home.

The Book of Common Prayer

The highest achievement of the Church of England, up there with change ringing and those green tea cups you find in every Parish Hall. Cranmer, who supervised it, coming up with a prayer book that united a disunited church. Coverdale, who translated the version for the Psalms in it, is one of the greatest English poets.

The Mapp and Lucia Omnibus
by E.F. Benson

EF Benson’s novels about the intrigues of the fictional little towns of Riseholme and Tilling. The two protagonists, Mrs Emmeline Lucas and Miss Elizabeth Mapp, whom we would now call frenemies, are as familiar to anyone who knows small town life in England today as they were in 20s and 30s, when they were written.

by George Eliot

I think I would soon miss the excitement and challenge and surprise of society. There is simply so much of life in this, the greatest novel in English, ahead of Moby-Dick by a sardine’s nose. It is not only food for the mind and soul but nourishes our better natures too, in its clarity of thought and breadth of compassion. Also, it is based on Coventry, which could use some positive PR.

7,000 Years of Jewellery
by Hugh Tait

I love jewellery but wear none, and in the highly unlikely event of ascending a throne as sovereign or consort would be in the Jewel Tower like a terrier after a ferret. Better, perhaps, to content myself with this exhaustive and dazzling history of jewellery by Hugh Tait of the British Museum, one time president of the Society of Jewellery Historians. It has everything, from Celtic torcs to the most decorative creations of Faberge, and should my bleached skeleton ever be discovered this tattered volume would be clutched to my sternum.

See Reverend Richard Coles in Borderline National Trinket at the Shaftesbury Theatre on March 11. A Death in the Parish (W&N) is now out in paperback and also available in ebook and audio download.