WHEREVER South Grafton man Nigel Dawe found his passion for reading, it wasn't at home.
Mr Dawe, 41, whose business card describes him as a literary artisan, has just completed reading works from all 114 Nobel Prize winners for Literature.
His day job is the area customer service manager for NSW Trains.
Growing up in Broken Hill 40 years ago, there were no books in his family home.
"I was not just the first one from my family to go to university, I was the first one to finish high school," Mr Dawe said.
Mr Dawe said he would not wish that kind of childhood on anyone and has put himself on a mission to change reading habits in Australian homes.
"I want to be the Jamie Oliver of the literary world in Australia," he said.
"If he could set about changing the eating habits of English people, I can't see why I shouldn't be able to help change reading habits.
"I would like to see at least one classic work in every Australian household."
Many of Mr Dawe's favourite works were written by the early laureates.
"The original idea of Alfred Nobel when he founded the award was encourage works of a philosophic nature," he said.
"A lot of those works contained so many aphorisms about life they could be like an instruction manual for how to live well.
"Reading them can help make us better people: better brothers, fathers, sister, lovers and friends."
Despite his preference for some of the early laureates, he was excited when the academy awarded the 2016 award to rock star Bob Dylan.
"It was a really bold move to make the prize more relevant," he said.
"For the past 10 years or so, the prize has gone to really mainstream writers, so it was good to have someone like Dylan win it."
He also defended Dylan's delay in accepting the award and his apparent disregard for the academy.
"It's happened before in the 60s when Jean Paul Sartre refused to accept the award," Mr Dawe said.
"He had good reasons for not accepting the award and I don't know what it was with Dylan, but he's always gone his own way too."
Mr Dawe said the Nobel project began about 10 years ago when he was living in Sydney and commuting about three hours a day to work.
"I set myself the challenge to read at least one work of each of the 114 Nobel Prize in Literature winners, which I completed recently," he said. "I've ended up reading more than 400 or so titles."
He took his reading project on the road last year when he was invited to speak on ABC Radio in Brisbane on Trevor Jackson's Evenings show.
Mr Dawe's passion for books has fuelled a passion for travel, which has taken him around the world to the places where his favourite writers have lived, worked or made famous.
"In 2015, I ventured to Stockholm and visited the Nobel Academy and Museum and met various academy members," he said.
"The took me up this flight of stairs that led to the room where Nobel laureates received their awards.
"It struck me, as I walked up those stairs, that most of those authors I had read had made the same climb.
"An academy member even invited me to stand on the podium where the winners stood, but I declined. I felt you had to earn that honour."
Since moving to Grafton three years ago, Mr Dawes has been instrumental in establishing a book club that meets on the first Wednesday of each month in the Heart and Soul cafe in Prince St, Grafton.
"Each of us contribute $5 each while helps raise funds for a small rural school in the foothills of the Himalayas," he said.
"In the last two and a half years of doing this we've managed to raise several hundred dollars for an Australian entity call Oz Guiding Hands, responsible for running the school.
"When you think it costs 80cents to send a child to school in this part of the world that means a lot."
Love of reading led to a prestigious prize
AROUND about the same time he set out on his project to read the works of Nobel laureate in literature, Nigel Dawe came to public notice in another arena.
In 2006, he was one of five people who came up with the name Barangaroo in a naming competition for what has become the site of Jamie Packer's proposed casino at the former East Darling Harbour site.
"I feel it was my love of reading which enabled me to come up with the name," Mr Dawes said.
"Barangaroo was the wife of Bennelong, so you have the Opera House on Bennelong Point and just across the water you have Barangaroo. It was a natural fit."
It was a fit that displeased two former Prime Ministers, Paul Keating and John Howard.
Keating described the naming as "Aboriginal kitsch" and Howard was not sure the new name would stick after the area had been known to wharfies as the Hungry Mile.
In The Sydney Morning Herald of October 2006, Mr Dawe explained his reasoning.
"She saw a convict being whipped and flogged the soldier with a stick," Mr Dawe said. "She was our Helen of Troy and Joan of Arc. In time, Sydney will really embrace her as such.
"It's unfortunate that this was politicised and racialised. This is a classic story about the human spirit."
Mr Packer has recently splurged $60million on a personal bolthole in the Crown Resort Complex, due for completion in 2021.
DAWE'S TOP 10 READS
Nigel Dawe has read works from every Nobel Prize winner in Literature. But he has some favourites and suggests his 10 easiest pieces.
- Rabindranath Tagore: Fireflies
- Andre Gide: Fruits of the Earth
- Dag Hammarskoljd: Markings
- Boris Pasternak: Dr Zhivago
- Hermann Hesse: Steppenwolf
- Albert Camus: The Rebel
- Romain Rolland: Jean Christophe
- John Galsworthy: The Inn of Tranquility
- Henri Bergson: Create Evolution
- John Steinbeck: Journal of a Novel
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