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One minute with: Tom Holland, historian


Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my study, looking at a bust of Nero I bought in Rome. My current book will have his reign as its climax, and I always like to have an appropriate piece of tat close to hand when writing.

What are you currently reading? Mark Cocker's dazzlingly encyclopaedic Birds And People.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him Herodotus. I admire him for his curiosity, his charm and his effective invention of non-fiction.

Describe the room you usually write in

It used to resemble Merlin's study in The Sword In The Stone, but it has since been classicised, and is now altogether more spacious, austere and Pomepeian red.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

The father in Neil Gaiman's Coraline – or so my children tell me.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Kevin Pietersen – the closest sport has to Achilles. One of my happiest moments last summer was when, after writing a chapter for a book on the adventures of the Authors XI, I was asked by a cricket magazine to write about the great man.

Tom Holland's new translation of 'Herodotus: The Histories' is published by Penguin Classics