BBC broadcaster, best-selling author, Celebrity Masterchef winner and all round nice guy from Bray Co. Wicklow, Riyadh Khalaf admits that he hated reading most of his life. However, when a new literary passion was ignited when writing his own book, he discovered reading could help ease his anxiety. Locked down in London, he talked us through his must-reads, and his obsession with the movie Titanic... (You're heeeeerrrre there's nottthhhing I fear...!)
"For almost my entire life I hated reading. It's only in the last few years that I have seen the beauty in it. A big part of that was the process of writing my own book. I was reading so much for research and it was a beautiful experience. I suffer with anxiety and, if I am feeling anxious, sometimes I will pick up a book before bed, read a few pages and then slip off into sleep. I find it really it centers me.
THE LIFE LESSONS
"I experienced endless laughs and moments of heartwarming resonance from Graham Norton's "The Life and Loves of a He Devil". I've always admired what he has achieved in his life and career so I read it to get an insight into how he made this happen, a young fella in Cork who felt there was something else calling him. I wondered how he got through those hurdles back then? Being a young gay man who wanted to have a job that very few people can achieve. But quickly I realised the book was so much more than that, everything from absolute disasters in dating to hilarious stories about his dog in the park, I just thought if Graham can talk about this stuff, maybe I can talk about this stuff, it was so freeing to hear someone of his calibre be so free in a way that I could really connect.
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"I have always had a fascination with the story of the Titanic and the White Star Line which then led to a fascination for the James Cameron film starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The film was even my specialist subject for Celebrity Mastermind! James Cameron's Titanic by James Cameron and Ed W Marsh is an amazing book that features everything behind the scenes from the cast and crew. It breaks down all of the most detailed facets of how they made the film happen, from the hydraulics of sinking the ship to ageing the wood so it would look like it had been a hundred years under the sea, it transports you to being a member of the crew.
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"The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne really taught me that if you start thinking differently, if you begin visualising things and thinking positively, just by osmosis good things will happen. It is not fool-proof or magic but a way of thinking. It really gave me a kick of confidence and motivation. Whoever gave it to me, they knew I had big dreams and big ambitions and I think this book allowed me to see that well, why shouldn't it be me?
Riyadh's own book, Yay You're Gay Now What? is available here; and you can follow him on Instagram here.