Stig Abell on his inspiring book, blagging life and Shakespeare vs Radiohead

Virgin Radio

20 Nov 2020, 17:11


Most of us spend our commute dribbling into our coats and trying not to snore on the person sat next to us. Not journalist and Times Radio presenter Stig Abell. He put his travel time into reading three books, per genre, per month for a year.

Diarising his commuter reads, he's produced the all-inspiring book ‘Things I Learnt on the 6.28'.

The 40-year-old author joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky today and said: “The average time for a commute in the US and UK is 50 minutes so I thought, what would happen if I read a book for 50 minutes a day for a whole year? How much reading could I do and what could I learn?

“The whole point of life is to understand your vast ignorance and find ways, bit by bit, to top it up and reading is a great joy.

“What lockdown has taught me and a lot of people is that reading is a painkiller. It’s a place where you can go and find other things. 

“You can argue it’s one of the greatest achievements ever that we can see the world through someone else’s eyes. Reading teaches us empathy.


“I wrote this book one year BC (before coronavirus) but it’s the same now. You need to find ways to get away and give your brain a rest because it buzzes and roars and gives you difficulties.”

The author challenged himself to reading one genre a month including ‘crime, fiction, plays, poems, the lot.’

The inspirational bookworm said: “I love crime fiction more than anything else in the world. One major lesson is, if you’re not enjoying a book, put it down. Don’t waste your time.”


But it’s not just whodunnits that get him buzzing. He said: “I love Shakespeare. It’s hard, I’m not going to pretend it’s not. He’s one of the great figures in all humanity. 

“Never in human history have we had a combination of genius and hack. He was churning this stuff out for money. He never had to go off and be self indulgent. 

“I always think he’s a bit like Radiohead. The first three albums were massively successful, then they got more and more experimental. It’s probably true about Shakespeare. 

“You forget he was probably gay. The sonnets which get read out in church primarily are gay love poems, the greatest gay love poems ever written and I find it fascinating. Thousands of famous poets were.”


Stig said geniuses like Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Byron and Keats all died really young - and maybe that’s a blessing. 

He explained: “In some ways you’re lucky if you die young because you never get a chance to ruin it. Musicians and authors tarnish their legacy because they churn out rubbish in their last years. 

“One of the reasons we love Nirvana is because Cobain never got a chance to go weird and experimental. He did three or four albums and then he was off the stage, and we remember how he was at the beginning. Not everyone gets that.”


Stig insists it’s not ever too late to a) start reading or b) start blagging.

He said honestly: “No one knows anything. Everyone is basically blagging. You should always believe that. 

“Never feel down on yourself. Walk into a room, everyone is blagging it. Everyone is uncertain and no one knows what they’re doing.

"It’s the same with books. Read what you like, never be ashamed of what you like or what shaped you. Don’t read to show off."


You shouldn’t even be embarrassed if your formative reads were/or are raunchy.

He said: “Jilly Cooper’s Riders was one of the first books that talked about sex. I remember at school it being handed round, talking about breasts like 'poached eggs'. 

“I read that book when I was 14 and I can still remember it now. Who would possibly forget that?"








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