Cover Stories: Mark Haddon's winning streak; footballers encourage reading; Sam Mendes buys rights to war book

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The Independent Culture

Mark Haddon continues his incredible winning streak. At the weekend, in Melbourne, The Curious Incident... won the overall Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Book. The prize for Best Book, meanwhile, went to Caryl Phillips's timely novel of asylum and alienation in a changing England, A Distant Shore. Both novels had already won the heat for "Eurasia" (ie the UK and the Subcontinental states), judged in Calcutta in February. They went on to beat other sectional winners from Africa, Australasia, and the Canada/Caribbean region, in this most truly international of literary awards. Surely Swindon (Haddon's setting) has never loomed larger on the global stage.

* We have yet to learn whether Becks reads to Paris and Brooklyn, but a number of footballing colleagues have signed up to a scheme - dreamt up by the National Literacy Trust and Arts Council England - aimed at encouraging families to read together. Premier League Reading Stars features 20 players, one from each club, photographed with a favourite book. Local libraries are being encouraged to set up reading groups to discuss the choices. Arsenal's Sol Campbell has picked Beowulf Dragonslayer by Rosemary Sutcliff, and Leicester's Les Ferdinand chose Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela.

* Ever since war was unleashed in Iraq, Jarhead - the memoir of Gulf War One by former US Marine Anthony Swofford - has enjoyed a run in the charts. Now Sam Mendes, director of American Beauty, has bought the screen rights. He describes the book as of "burning relevance to what is happening right now in the Middle East". It's a different war, a different Bush, but little else has changed.