MELISSA BLOCK, host: High school can be stressful, but reading about it doesn't have to be. Writer and actor Simon Pegg has a recommendation for his favorite book about that awkward time. It's for our series You Must Read This, where authors talk about a book they love.
SIMON PEGG: I was first made aware of Bruce Robinson at a party in 1987 when I was introduced to him by a friend. Bruce wasn't at the party. Why would he be? It was one of those teen affairs where everybody gets drunk on affordable alcohol, then swiftly disappears into various rooms for sexual experimentation.
This party was perhaps a tad more sophisticated than others in that it featured a cinematic double bill. The first was Sam Raimi's slapstick horror masterpiece "Evil Dead: 2." The second, a hitherto unknown quantity called "Withnail and I." Robinson's film was a revelation, a bittersweet story of two struggling actors at the cigarette butt of the 1960s who go on holiday by mistake.
The film became an all-time favorite of mine thereafter and I became a firm fan of writer/director Bruce Robinson.
I was delighted in later years to discover his literary work, in particular his novel "The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman." The story follows a bright but troubled young man through the precarious minefield of early adolescence, in '50s Britain, a time when people were constipated with their own emotions and crippled by an inability to express themselves.
Thomas' traumatic relationship with his parents and touching love for his dying grandfather form the backdrop to a tale which is both moving and side-splittingly hilarious. Beginning with a detailed account of Thomas' strange predilection for soiling his own underwear, the story introduces us to a very peculiar boy - a solitary individual on a quest to discover his grandfather's secret stash of bizarre pornography.
He is despised by his father and teachers, regarded with frustrated impatience by his mother and friend only to a similarly eccentric, chain-smoking youngster who happens to be the son of the local vicar.
Piece by piece, he assembles the puzzle that is his turbulent home life, an existence made awful by the festering resentment of his parents. Yet, amid this adversity, our affection for Thomas grows as he discovers the emotional turmoil engulfing him is simply not his fault. "The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman" is a book told with such dexterity and depth it can be enjoyed for both its imagination and its craft.
BLOCK: That's writer and actor Simon Pegg. His new book is called "Nerd Do Well: A Small Boy's Journey to Becoming a Big Kid."