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The 10 best historical novels

It's not just about the Tudors delve into Renaissance Florence or 1950s Brooklyn War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy Tolstoys 1869 novel - often described as the greatest ever - chronicles the effects of the Napoleonic wars on five aristocratic Russian families. Deploying the technique of literary realism that he helped develop, Tolstoy magnificently evokes the sense of an entire social world. The narrative moves seamlessly between characters and scenes, now describing the inanities of a Moscow drawing room, now charting, in harrowing detail, the chaos of war. Tolstoys aim was to use the techniques of fiction to get at the truth of history Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel The 2009 Booker winner is the first in a series of novels (the second, Bring Up the Bodies, has just been published) presenting the life of Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell. With remarkable immediacy, Mantel inhabits the restless, brilliant, ambitious mind of her subject, so that we see the events of Tudor history - notably Henry VIIIs divorce from Catherine of Aragon - unfold through his eyes. Mantels Cromwell emerges as a force for progress at a time when, arguably, a recognisably modern British identity was established Romola by George Eliot The great Victorian novelists foray into historical fiction is a sprawling epic about Renaissance Florence, which centres on Tito Melema, an Italianate-Greek scholar who becomes a conniving politician, and his wife Romola. The novel takes in many key figures of the time, including the Dominican friar Savonarola and Machiavelli. Critics have stressed the resemblances between Eliots Florence and Victorian Britain (also a society in a state of flux) as well as parallels between Romola and her creator: both women of formidable learning who led unconventional lives [This caption was amended on 15 May 2012 to correct the spelling of Savonarola] The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa Set in Sicily during the Risorgimento of the 1860s, Lampedusas only novel, posthumously published in 1958, is a rich portrait of an aristocratic order in decline, based on the life of his great grandfather. Lampedusa brings a modernist sensibility to 19th-century history as he charts the meandering, opulent life of Prince Fabrizio - the leopard of the title. The descriptions of houses and landscape are mesmerising, and were well captured in Viscontis sumptuous 1963 film, starring Burt Lancaster in the role of the Prince. [This caption was amended on 15 May 2012 to correct the spelling of Lampedusa] Brooklyn by Colm Tibn The Walter Scott prize defines a historical novel as having to be set at least 60 years prior to its publication; under this, Colm Tibns early 1950s-set novel, published in 2009, would just be ruled out. Still, Brooklyn is a stunningly controlled account of an important historical phenomenon: Irish immigration to America. Eilis Lacey leaves her home in Enniscorthy for a new life in Brooklyn, and there experiences both desperate isolation and quiet excitement. By confining himself scrupulously to Eiliss point of view, Tibn succeeds in making her experiences seem fresh and real

Pure by Andrew Miller The 2011 Costa-winner charts the progress in pre-revolutionary Paris of the young engineer Jean-Baptiste Baratte, who is given the thankless task of overseeing the destruction of the church of Les Innocents and the clearance of its cemetery. As well as telling a gripping story, the novel dramatises some major conflicts of the Enlightenment: between history and progress, remembering and forgetting. Miller superbly evokes the smells, sounds and sights of 18th-century Paris in lean prose that plunges you into the era without appearing to have to work too hard to get every period detail right. The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald Fitzgeralds final novel - published in 1995, five years before her death - dramatises the life of 18th-century German aristocrat Friederich von Hardenberg, otherwise known as the Romantic poet Novalis. It centres on his love, in his early 20s, for Sophie von Khn, who is only 12 when he falls for her. (They become engaged but she dies of tuberculosis two years later.) Like all Fitzgeralds novels, The Blue Flower is slim, and is full of shifting perspectives and brief impressionistic scenes. Its regarded by many as her finest work, but didnt make the 1995 Booker shortlist - a decision some see as inexplicable I, Claudius by Robert Graves This hugely popular 1934 novel is the fictional autobiography of the fourth Roman Emperor. Graves uses this format to present the history of Claudiuss predecessors Augustus, Tiberius and Caligula - while his 1935 follow-up, Claudius the God, is an account of his subjects own rule. Claudiuss various disabilities - including a stammer led to him being shielded from public life during early adulthood, but Graves presents him not as a harmless idiot but as a courageous figure. Graves later dismissed the books as having been written solely for commercial gain, but they remain classics of the genre Property by Valerie Martin Martins 2003 novel is a devastatingly honest, sometimes brutal portrait of life on a slave plantation in the 1830s. The narrator is Manon, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage to her boorish, plantation-owner husband. Manon rebels against her matrimonial subjugation, and acts with bravery in her efforts to improve her lot. In some ways, shes a feminist pioneer. Yet shes incapable of applying the same logic to the greater injustice of slavery, whose propriety she never questions. Martins novel, shot through with irony, remains somewhat underrated, despite winning the Orange prize The Regeneration Trilogy by Pat Barker Barkers early 90s trilogy is the story of psychiatrist William Rivers and his pioneering treatment of various First World War soldiers - including Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen - for shell shock at the Craiglockhart war hospital near Edinburgh. Barker blends fact and make-believe to create an absorbing drama that takes in many themes besides war, including mental illness, class, homosexuality and creativity. The books were deservedly acclaimed on publication and the third, The Ghost Road, won the 1995 Booker prize. Barker was led to the subject by her husband, a neurologist familiar with Rivers [This caption was amended on 15 May 2012 to correct the title of The Ghost Road, not The Road Home as we had it]

Top 3 de libros, 2012

por Pedro Jorge Romero el 08/01/2013 Tweet En 2012 no logr mi reto de leer al menos 50 libros en un ao. Me qued muy lejos, aunque la verdad es que tampoco me importa demasiado. Empec a hacerlo por razones muy concretas y la verdad es que ese propsito lo cumpli muy bien. Puede que este ao me lo plantee de nuevo (despus de todo, es un reto divertido), pero ya veremos. Mientras tanto, aqu estn los 3 mejores libros que he ledo en 2012 (o los 3 que ms me han gustado, ya que ambas cosas no tiene sentido engaarnos son lo mismo): 1. Mitologas de Roland Barthes Me encantara ser capaz de pensar as. 2. Debt: The First 5,000 Years de David Graeber He tardado una eternidad en leer este libro, porque cada pocas pginas deba parar para reflexionar. Est repleto de ideas interesantes. 3. Fbulas de robots de Stanislaw Lem El Lem ms interesante, ms juguetn, ms inteligente y ms reflexivo. El Lem que no se mira continuamente al ombligo. Y otro diez libros que me gustaron mucho (o, es lo mismo, que me hubiese fastidiado no haber ledo):

Wise Children de Angela Carter Deliciosa novela cmica sobre el mundo de las apariencias. How to Do Thing with Videogames de Ian Bogost Una exploracin de todos los usos posibles de los videojuegos. Hay bastantes ms de los que parece. A Visit from the Goon Squad de Jennifer Egan Una novela sobre el paso del tiempo y sobre las relaciones entre las personas. Cada captulo tiene adems un estilo diferente, ajustado al personaje central. Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the Worlds First Computer de Jo Marchant Y decan que los griegos no eran capaces de hacer esas cosas. La historia del descubrimiento y desciframiento del mecanismo ms fascinante de la historia. Inside Apple: The Secrets Behind the Past and Future Success of Steve Jobs Iconic Brand de Adam Lashinsky Una visin enriquecedora sobre el funcionamiento de una empresa tan mtica. Mientras no cambien los dioses, nada ha cambiado de Rafael Snchez Ferlosio Un gran ataque contra la idea de progreso. Partiendo del viaje espacial tripulado, Ferlosio va desmontando el concepto de progreso para revelar sus races egosta e interesadas. Imprescindible. Baila, baila, baila de Haruki Murakami Una novela que parece ir de una cosa, pero que pronto revela una segunda cara que resulta mucho ms rica. The Authenticity Hoax: How We Get Lost Finding Ourselves de Andrew Potter

El ttulo ya lo dice todo: ser autntico es imposible y la bsqueda de la autenticidad es un mito peligroso. Economics Without Illusions: Debunking the Myths of Modern Capitalism de Joseph Heath Mitos econmicos de la izquierda y la derecha. Lo mejor es empezar leyendo los mitos de tu posicin poltica y luego pasar a los contrarios. Paintwork de Tim Maughan Ciencia ficcin de futuro cercano que se centra, sobre todo, en los olvidados por las grandes ideas de la ciencia ficcin.

Catherine S Manegold on Narrative NonFiction

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The author and former New York Times reporter says that some of the very best writing today is non-fiction and that seductive narratives can yank readers into the most diverse range of subjects

Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea

By Gary Kinder Buy Before we start with your five books I want to know why you are so interested in narrative non-fiction as a genre? When I was young I thought I would be a novelist but I quickly discovered I found real life more compelling. I became a journalist because of this, and eventually moved toward longer works so I could make sense of life in ways that daily deadlines do not always allow. Both my books have taken over five years to research and write, and each has allowed me to really dig into subjects that are nuanced and extraordinarily important though they may not be the stuff of headlines. This work allows the kind of sustained intellectual commitment you dont always get as a journalist. And it has taught me some wonderful new skills like how to research and bring to life a time 400 years ago. So moving to narrative non-fiction has been a very natural progression for me, and probably one I always wanted. In my opinion, some of the very best writing today is coming out of this genre. Its a terribly exciting time though perhaps not yet well enough appreciated. Tell me about your first book, Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea by Gary Kinder. This is an incredible saga about the sinking in deep water of a ship filled with gold at the end of the California gold rush, a sea tale that is then twined with the contemporary story of a young engineers efforts to recover the sunken treasure by developing the worlds first robotic submersible, capable of working with precision at great ocean depths obviously a technical achievement we are all thinking about now with the oil spill on Americas gulf coast. The book opens in 1857 with a nail-biting reconstruction of the ships last days and the hurricane that took the ship down. Here, Kinder traces the fates of several families on board the SS Central America. The opening establishes a wrenching human tragedy. From there Kinder jumps to the 1960s and a land-locked farming community in Ohio where the engineer, Tommy Thompson, grew up. Thompson would spend decades obsessed with the ship as he sought to locate its wreck and recover her lost cargo. The Central America was carrying almost 600 people when she went down and a staggering amount of gold. It foundered near North Carolinas Outer Banks. Kinder does a remarkable job here of translating really arcane engineering, scientific, nautical, financial and other material into crisp and arresting prose. He educates and entertains two keys that are essential to this sort of work. Hes so good at it that he can write everything from a heart-stopping three-word sentence to a 200-word monster that, incredibly, still works. The books longest sentence describes the ships final moments. It is so loud and twisting and wild that it grabs the reader and takes her down with the ship gasping for breath. When I teach this book I always make my students stop there, and read the passage aloud in its entirety. Then I point out that the ships final plunge happens in this single, extraordinary 202-word sentence. It drives them crazy! And they immediately see how the language mirrors the dizzying, suffocating, final trip to the bottom.

I suppose I have this book in mind right now in part because of the oil spill off the Louisiana coast. For anyone who wants to grasp the challenges of working at this depth, I cant think of a better book. Kinder captures the cold, the incredible pressure, the salt, the darkness and other challenges subs of this sort must handle. He does so not in tortured technical language but by walking us through Thompsons journey as he takes on this enormous challenge. The young engineers only real competitors are the US Navy, which poured millions into research and development, and the ever-looming threat of bankruptcy. I wont give away the ending, but what a thrilling story this is about the power and the quirkiness of the individual human spirit in the face of almost unimaginable odds.

A Chorus of Stones
By Susan Griffin Buy Lets move on to your next book, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War by Susan Griffin. This book is much more philosophical, meditative, personal. Gary Kinder never really injects himself into the narrative in Ship of Gold and, frankly, I appreciate that. For too many authors it is just the easy way out. But Susan Griffin succeeds here and writes with purpose, humility and conviction, making exceptionally sophisticated links between subjects as diverse as the psychology of war, legacies of abuse, the history of a German education, the development of the atom bomb, the Gulf War, and the rise of military cultures. It makes war intimate. In some ways, it makes war understandable on an almost cellular level. Having covered various wars and spent much time considering the legacies of abuse and abusive structures, I found it absolutely revelatory. To my mind, it is one of the best books I have read in terms of moving between disparate subjects, times and places. In addition, her prose in this work is seamless, and often deeply poetic. This is a very disturbing book. But, by its close, Griffin pulls the material together in a way that profoundly shifts the readers perspective. Im not sure it ever sold very well but I think her twining of different subjects makes this a masterpiece.

The Orchid Thief

By Susan Orlean Buy I love the look of your next book which is all about various people through the ages and their obsessions with orchids. This is The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean. Yes, this is such a fun book, all about obsession, history and botany. To a limited extent it also engages with the authors internal experience as she acknowledges the envy she feels for people graced with this level of attachment to the world. To do this, she looks back in history tracing the earliest orchid hunters to their roots, if you will and then drifts among contemporary collectors who are certainly an odd and often fanatical bunch. In terms of content, this book falls almost perfectly between the first and second. It has a ton of factual material and is hugely instructive, like Ship of Gold, but also manages to focus deeply on less tangible aspects of human experience, as Griffin does. Orleans writing is fresh and very lively. Interestingly, the book became a superb movie too, Adaptation. These are fun to teach together and anyone who enjoys the book will probably love how the film plays with what is on the page and takes up how hard it is to translate this kind of material from one genre to another that plays by different rules. It is rare that you have a great book that also ends up as a terrific film. The Orchid Thief begins with this crazy character, John Laroche, who has devised an ingenious but totally immoral plan to go into the Fakahatchee swamp, a state preserve in Florida, to collect rare and endangered plants. His plan is to use men from a local tribe essentially as front men to collect rare species that Laroche can then reproduce and sell. While Laroche is prohibited by law from collecting, the Indians are not, since the law gives them special rights because the swamp and its contents are considered part of their unique heritage. This is really just a scam for Laroche to make money, but he rationalises it every which way and his character is the glue that holds the narrative together. While Orlean uses him to tell the tale, she also takes licence to travel widely through history and botany so we can peer into what drove Laroche in this enterprise and others. Somehow it all works. Susan Orlean came upon this topic when she read a brief newspaper account about Laroche being arrested in the swamp. She went to his trial in Florida and that trial led her into this longer project. The Orchid Thief grew out of a shorter piece that originally appeared in The New Yorker.

By Nathaniel Philbrick Buy Your next choice is Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is a straight history but and this is key the emphasis is on the story. In this book Nathaniel Philbrick takes an event every American schoolchild knows about the sailing of the Mayflower to North America in 1620 and turns the comfortable mythology about that moment on its head. Mayflower completely disrupts the story of happy Indians meeting pacifist settlers to tell a very different and essentially tragic tale of politics, power dynamics, generosity, betrayal and war. Like my own book, Ten Hills Farm: The Forgotten History of Slavery in the North, Philbrick here is dismantling soppy, misty-eyed notions about North Americas founding as simply a test of endurance and religious purity to look instead at a set of dynamics that were harder, more complicated and more real. Much of this book involves King Philips War, a brutal conflict that in 1676 sped up and down the Eastern seaboard claiming thousands of lives on both sides. Though historians have long known about the events that Philbrick describes, he tells the story in arresting prose that dispenses with the notion of grateful Indians and brave Pilgrims, to provide a rather grittier and more realistic look backward at those earliest days. What kind of reaction did it get? We are a young country and we tend to hold tight to some fairly simplistic and nave readings of our history. Scholars know better. But they dont always get the word out past those ivy walls. To me it seems critical to have this material penetrate the public consciousness. Books in this vein are valuable because they reach past the classroom, past the doctoral students, and past the library walls to touch the general public. Im sure there are those who were scandalised by each of these works. But, in my experience, readers hunger for truth and a great story. Combine the two and there you go. Mayflower and Ten Hills Farm both aim to seduce readers into basically rethinking what they think they already know. Thats tricky. But Mayflower was a bestseller and it still keeps jumping off the shelves, and I have had really fantastic reactions to Ten Hills Farm from all kinds of people. The reason is that these books carry a kind of wonderful Ah Ha! energy. And thats fun. The whole point is to excite and inform people about the world they inhabit. I think books that explode standing myths like these have a potentially huge audience. Im biased, of course, but I never will understand why

historians dont write more accessibly all the time. Which gets me back to the fact that the word story is embedded there and should be. Until that happens the historians are just leaving the field open for the rest of us. What myths were exploded in your book? Well, my book tells the story of 150 years of slavery on a 600-acre farm in Massachusetts first owned by John Winthrop, the first governor of the colony. Winthrop arrived in America in 1631 and took the land shortly after. Within a decade, settlers in the Massachusetts Bay Colony had enslaved African and Native American workers. At Ten Hills Farm, generations of slaves worked the soil and tended to the needs of whites. This is a story that ultimately reflects upon the lives and fates of tens of thousands of blacks and Indians, yet most Americans have no clue that slavery ever existed in the North. By understanding this story as a human one that stretched across families and generations moving from England to North America, the Caribbean and Africa, readers gain a whole new understanding about attitudes on race and also on the somewhat false divide between North and South. This was a shared history. We just erased the Northern half. Thats convenient. But pathologising the South and keeping this history out of the history books certainly does not help us move forward. I think the recovery of this knowledge holds the potential to regenerate conversations about race in this country

Catherine S Manegold on Narrative NonFiction

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Seeing the whole picture is a powerful shift of perspective. Some of the greatest families in the North were very much part of this trade in human beings and helped found major and enduring institutions like Harvard Law School, which, in fact, was created by a gift from one of Ten Hills Farms slave-holding and slave-trading owners, Isaac Royall Jr.

A Civil Action
By Jonathan Harr Buy Tell me about your last book, A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr. This book incorporates less history. Instead, it is just a whiz-bang narrative about a lawyer who takes up the cause of a small New England town that is host to a mysterious rash of cancer deaths. The narrative revolves around Jan Schlichtmann, a Boston lawyer who uncovers an environmental crisis and traces culpability up the chain to several multinational corporations responsible for the mess. As the reader follows Schlichtmann in his crusade, Harr uses the case and Schlichtmanns obsession with it, to educate us about chemistry, cancer clusters, illegal dumping, environmental degradation and the law. Here again, a seductive narrative yanks the reader in, then great research and reporting leave the reader wholly changed. No one reading this book could ever think about ground pollutants and illegal dumping the same way again. Thats the beauty of it: Who would ever go to a bookstore and say to the clerk: Gee, today Id really like to sink into a 500-page book on cancer clusters, dead children and irresponsible industry executives. In the hands of a writer like Jonathan Harr, however, the education is a treat. Interview by Daisy Banks

The 10 best books about war

From the letters of an early 19th-century rifleman to a housewife's account of the second world war, Max Hastings, military historian and ex-war reporter, chooses his favourite observations on conflict

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Max Hastings The Observer, Sunday 14 March 2010 Jump to comments (0)

Front cover of The Letters of Private Wheeler, 1809-28, by William Wheeler.

The Letters of Private Wheeler, 1809-28, by William Wheeler, 1948

Only in the 19th century did soldiers begin to describe their experiences in language modern readers can relate to. Wheeler served as a rifleman through the greatest British campaigns of the Napoleonic wars. His letters home were discovered and published only in 1948. They provide one of the finest accounts of the conflict from the perspective of a ranker. Wheeler's sensibilities were often outraged by the scenes he witnessed, not least the excesses committed by his own comrades. (Published by Cassell)

My Early Life by Winston Churchill, 1930

Winston Churchill covering the Boer war as a war correspondent, c1900, Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photograph: BL Singley/CORBIS

This was the best book Churchill wrote, an exuberant memoir of colonial wars as seen by a shameless adventurer and glory-seeker, such as every conflict produces its share of. Yet while the author rejoiced in his own part in the campaigns which made his name the north-west frontier of India, Kitchener's march on Khartoum, the Boer war - he also displayed a sympathy for the victims, for instance the untended Dervish wounded after the 1898 battle of Omdurman, which was remarkably enlightened for a man of his age and social caste. (Eland)

The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning, 1929

A detail from the cover of The Middle Parts of Fortune by Frederic Manning. Manning was an Australian aspiring intellectual, already in his mid-30s when he enlisted as a private soldier in 1915. His prewar existence in England was dogged by unfulfilled literary hopes and emotional confusions. He served for only a few months in France, and his military career ended in alcoholism and disgrace. But in 1929 he composed a novel, obviously autobiographical, about three soldiers' experience of the trench nightmare, which is outstanding. Almost certainly the finest work of its kind to emerge from the war. (Penguin)

Sagittarius Rising by Cecil Lewis, 1936

A British Sopwith Camel in battle with German biplanes during the first world war. Photograph: Bettmann/CORBIS In the first half of the 20th century, young airmen discovered a joy in liberation from mankind's historic confinement to earth, in the sensations of flight and even of air combat, which some found an acceptable compensation for the likelihood of their own deaths. Lewis's memoir of his happy odyssey as an SE5 fighter pilot in 1917-18 is a deserved classic, to be compared with the darker picture provided by his contemporary VM Yeates in his fine novel Winged Victory. (Frontline)

A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, 1977

A US soldier hurries away after setting fire to a thatched house during the Vietnam War. Photograph: AP Caputo was a US marine officer in Vietnam during some of the bloodiest fighting of the mid-1960s. He describes the misery and institutionalised brutality of the conflict in a fashion that goes far to explain why America lost that war. Many Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have suggested that his tale foretold the manner of some

tragic military follies repeated in the 21st century. Even if only a small minority of soldiers commit atrocities, many young Americans at war find it hard to treat perceived primitive peoples with respect or even humanity. (Owl)

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat, 1951

Nicholas Monsarrat, 1956. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images Monsarrat's (above) autobiographical novel of the Battle of the Atlantic was a huge bestseller on its publication in 1951, but has since fallen out of favour. Granted, it is a less significant work of art than critics once suggested, but it is hard to think of any book that better captures the frequent fear, occasional exhilaration and unremitting discomfort of serving as a corvette officer through five years of struggle with Germany's U-boats. To be sure, Monsarrat's characters are stock types but so were the men who crewed the Royal Navy's convoy escorts. (Penguin)

Suite Franaise by Irne Nmirovsky, 2004

French author Irne Nmirovsky. Photograph: Rex Features

Wars are too often perceived simply as successions of campaigns and battles. Most are better examined in the Tolstoyan fashion, as vast human upheavals which inflict suffering on millions who are obliged to serve as hapless victims rather than as active belligerents. Nmirovsky's (above) saga of the French civilian experience in the second world war remained uncompleted because she died in Auschwitz in 1942. But these two parts, addressing the collapse of 1940 and the travails of a village under occupation in 1941, display an extraordinary human sensitivity. (Vintage)

Nella Last's War by Nella Last, 1981

Nella Last, 1939. The author of this diary (above) was a middle-aged housewife who recorded her 193945 experience for the pioneering social survey Mass Observation. Unhappily married, and frustrated by the tedium of domestic captivity, she She recorded with exceptional honesty her reactions to privation, bombing, fear and dreary monotony, speaking for millions to whom the war denied any heroic role. Among the most striking passages is that which describes her response to the dropping of the atomic bombs in 1945: she greeted the news not with exultation at allied victory, but with revulsion about the event's significance for mankind. (Profile)

Quartered Safe Out Here by George MacDonald Fraser, 1992

George MacDonald Fraser. Photograph: Stephen Mansfield/tspl/Writer Pictures Fraser (above) is best known as author of the Flashman tales, but his account of service as an 18-year-old private with the Border Regiment in 1943 Burma is a superlative work. It captures the chaos of battle, and the love between men which is the sole redeeming feature of war, with a perfect ear for dialogue and for the Cumbrian dialect in which his comrades spoke. Fraser understood soldiers much better than did the first world war officer-poets. His respect for them, which is without illusions, colours all his writing. (Harper)

The Forgotten Soldier by Guy Sajer, 1967

Hitler's Wehrmacht was the greatest fighting force the world has ever seen, however evil the cause which it served. Its 1941-45 grapple with the Red Army was among the most terrible campaigns in the history of warfare. Sajer was an Alsatian whose narrative of his time as a rifleman comes as close as that of any participant to capturing its horrors. (Phoenix)

"Los engaos de la mente", Susana Martnez-Conde. (Destino)

Desde hace unos aos, Stephen Macknik y Susana Martnez-Conde investigan cmo pueden ayudar las tcnicas de los magos a conocer mejor nuestro cerebro. En este libro, ameno y maravillosamente escrito, nos desvela algunos secretos de la magia y nos lleva

de sorpresa en sorpresa hasta demostrarnos que buena parte de las cosas que nos hace creer nuestra mente son pura ilusin. [Enlace]

"Este libro le har ms inteligente", John Brockman (Paids)

El editor John Brockman ha reunido a algunos de los pensadores ms influyentes del momento y plantearles una cuestin: Qu concepto cientfico nos ayudara a mejorar nuestras capacidades cognitivas? El libro recopila la respuesta de personajes tan interesantes como Richard Dawkins, Martin Selingman, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker o Craig Venter. Solo por esa coleccin de nombres, ya merece la pena. [Enlace]

"Feynman, Jim Ottaviani y Leland Myrick (NORMA)

La vida del premio Nobel Richard Feynman es de las que merecen ser contadas en cmic. La gente de NORMA Editorial acaba de publicar esta biografa grfica, escrita por Jim Ottaviani y dibujada por Leland Myrick, que nos adentra en la vida de uno de los cientficos ms brillantes de la historia. 272 pginas para disfrutar. [Enlace]

"Tubos", Andrew Blum (Ariel)

Haciendo honor al subttulo del libro ("De cmo segu un cable estropeado y descubr las interioridades de Internet") Andrew Blum nos lleva por un increble viaje hacia la realidad fsica de internet, los millones de kilmetros de fibra distribuidos por todo el mundo y los grandes nodos por los que circula la informacin. Un libro fascinante y escrito con gran talento literario. Ideal para regalar al cuado friqui que tanto presume saber de la red. [Enlace]

"Lo que el cerebro nos dice", V.S. Ramachandran (Paids)

Si eres de los que colecciona los libros de Oliver Sacks, Ramachandran es tu siguiente referencia. Este neurocientfico de California es puntero en muchas investigaciones, como la de los miembros fantasma, y explica con particular maestra el conocimiento que ha adquirido durante dcadas de investigacin. "Lo que el cerebro nos dice" es un excelente retrato de muchos de los trastornos neurolgicos ms misteriosos y las soluciones que aporta la ciencia. [Enlace]

"El error del pavo ingls", Antonio Jos Osuna (Universidad de Granada)

En una gasolinera de Brierly, Inglaterra, hay un pavo real enamorado que cada da despliega sus encantos ante un surtidor de gasolina. Armado con poderosos ejemplos y un maravilloso anecdotario, Antonio Jos Osuna nos explica en este libro cmo la evolucin puede llevarnos a cometer terribles errores. El tono recuerda por momentos al mejor Stephen Jay Gould. [Enlace]

"Neurociencia para Julia", Xurxo Mario (Laetoli)

Si aparte de los libros de divulgacin al uso uno pretende saber un poco ms de Neurociencia con maysculas, este libro es el regalo ideal. Escrito en tono ameno y muy didctico, "Neurociencia para Julia" se define como "un viaje de exploracin a la mquina de la mente". En sus pginas, el neurofisilogo y divulgador Xurxo Mario da una leccin de la mejor divulgacin. [Enlace]

"Firmado: Nikola Tesla", Miguel A. Delgado (Turner)

Con la publicacin de este nuevo ttulo, la editorial Turner ha terminado construyendo una especie de "triloga de Nikola Tesla" que nos ofrece el ms amplio panorama sobre la figura del inventor. En esta ocasin podemos leer los textos escritos por el propio Tesla en distintas publicaciones y en los que muestra su genialidad y deja volar su imaginacin. Si uno quiere hacerse una idea de por qu Tesla construy su propio mito y fue su propia maldicin, este es el libro que ayuda a comprenderlo mejor. [Enlace]

"Doctor Alzheimer, supongo". Douwe Draaisma (Ariel)

A menudo omos hablar de enfermedades como Alzheimer, Parkinson, Asperger o Tourette, pero poco sabemos sobre los cientficos que les dieron nombre. Douwe Draaisma, profesor de historia de la psicologa, reconstruye en este libro las investigaciones que llevaron, por los caminos ms insospechados, a descubrir algunos de los trastornos neurolgicos y mentales ms conocidos. El libro es a la vez una buena manera de recuperar la historia olvidada de estos hombres y de aprender un poco ms sobre el cerebro y las enfermedades que lo afectan. Muy recomendable. [Enlace]

"Por amor a la Fsica", de Walter Lewin (Debate)

A sus 75 aos Walter Lewin es quiz el profesor de Fsica ms popular del mundo. Los vdeos con sus clases magistrales en el MIT tienen miles de visitantes en Youtube y son utilizados por maestros de todo el mundo para explicar conceptos bsicos. En este libro, Lewin transmite su pasin por la ciencia y nos deja con la boca abierta por su capacidad para explicar ideas aparentemente complejas de manera sencilla y arrancando de cuando en cuando una carcajada. [Enlace] Jim Sterba's 6 favorite books about nature The seasoned journalist and nature enthusiast recommends works by Michael Pollan and George Perkins Marsh By The Week Editorial Staff | November 24, 2012

Jim Sterba's new book, Nature Wars, catalogues Americans' interactions with wildlife, leading up to our current battles with deer, geese, coyotes, and other overabundant creatures.

Sean Howe's 6 favorite Marvel comics Close encounters with Mark Twain Penn Jillette's 6 favorite books

C hanges in the Land by William Cronon (Hill and Wang, $15). Cronon invented ethnoenvironmental storytelling with this brilliant 1983 book, which shows how Indians farmed the forest and how European settlers transformed it into a pastoral landscape. One lure for English settlers was the luxury of warmth. Back home fuel wood was scarce. Here, a man could burn whatever he cut. Reel Nature by Gregg Mitman (Univ. of Washington, $22.50). As 20thcentury Americans withdrew from nature, film changed their perceptions of wildlife. Movies and TV delivered wild animals edited and anthropomorphized. Mitman tells in fascinating detail how filmmakers, including Walt Disney, made wild creatures behave like people in loving families and turned man into an intrusive bad guy. The Ecological Indian by Shepard Krech III (Norton, $18). This book demolishes the myth of Indians living in harmony with nature. They burned forests, controlled predators, and encouraged species of food plants and animals that helped them survive. When Europeans arrived, Indians avidly joined in the slaughter of wild animals and birds to barter and sell to traders. Man and Nature by George Perkins Marsh (Univ. of Washington, $30). This 1864 book launched the conservation and, eventually, environmental movements. Marsh, a Vermont polymath, was the first to sound the tocsin on environmental damage from illadvised farming and forestry practices.

Little Heathens by Mildred Armstrong Kalish (Bantam, $16). A delightful account of growing up in rural Iowa during the Depression a time and place when money, indoor plumbing, and leisure were rare. Kids learned early how to dispatch chickens, skin rabbits, and do daily chores. In other words, they worked. Second Nature by Michael Pollan (Grove, $15). This beautifully written book frames gardening as intensive nature management with weeds, trees, and wild animals fighting back all the way: "The forest, I now understood, is 'normal'; everything else the fields and meadowsand, most spectacularly, the garden is a disturbance."

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break

By Steven Sherrill (2000) 1Take the imaginative leap and go along with the idea that the Minotaur of myth has somehow survived 5,000 years, is living in a North Carolina trailer park and works as a line cook at a place called Grub's Rib. Though he has the head of a bull, he succeeds in getting by in his isolated way. He has no friends and lives alone with a coat hanger for a TV antenna and a lamp made from a liquor bottle. Voyeur, wanderer, hopelessly inarticulate and awkward, he's a grotesque anomaly, a monster with a yearning heart and ancient dreams. Sherrill's dense, poetic style never falters in its creation of a perfect metaphor for the eternal outsider. But all is not bleak. There are, the book tells us, a few things this outsider Enlarge Image

Robbie Jack/Corbis Bellowing: John Tomlinson as the lead in Harrison Birtwistle?s opera ?The Minotaur.? knows, these among them: "that it is inevitable, even necessary, for a creature half man and half bull to walk the face of the earth; that in the numbing span of eternity even the most monstrous among us needs love; that even in the most tedious unending life there comes, occasionally, hope."
The Heart of a Dog

By Mikhail Bulgakov (1925) 2Suppressed for 60 years, Bulgakov's satire on Soviet attempts to create a new kind of man begins by placing us inside the brain of a stray dog, scalded and dying from cold on a Moscow street. Rescued by a wealthy surgeon, Sharik grows fat and sleek but soon becomes the subject of a bizarre experiment conducted by his owner. Given the testicles and pituitary gland of a newly dead man, the dog undergoes a hilarious and disturbing transformation, walking on hind legs, losing his fur, swearing and laughing. Perspectives and tenses change, as the household falls into disarray with the petulant and resentful dog-man dominating like a stroppy teenager. Sharik slobs about, harasses the maid, floods the apartment and becomes involved with the earnest Bolsheviks downstairs, at last becoming a full citizen with a job and a revolutionary determination to destroy the bourgeois "master" who created him. Prefiguring Bulgakov's more famous masterpiece, "The Master and Margarita," in its reckless invention and absurd comedy, "The Heart of a Dog" is never less than riveting.
Only Human

By Jenny Diski (2000)

3This elegant and hugely entertaining work imagines one of the first great family sagas. The author of eight novels, Diski has been consistent in her attraction to such complex themes as chaos, madness and the longing for nonexistence. "Like Mother" (1989), was narrated by Nony (short for "nonentity"), a baby born without a brain. In "Only Human" she dares to choose God himself as a protagonist. Misunderstood, wanting only to be loved, God is, in this portrayal, anxious to present his side of the whole messy business of creation. He speaks to Abram, and Abram hears, for which God loves him. But Sarai, Abram's wife, hears nothing. God and Sarai engage in a profoundly complicated war for the love of Abramone focused on a child. Hagar, the slave girl who bears Abram a proxy heir at Sarai's command, is central to one stage in this battle, as Isaac, adored child of Sarai and Abram's old age, is to another. God's terrible final demand is that Abram offer Isaac as a sacrifice. This is God's nuclear bomb, the one that wins the war but at an unbearable price, breaking all hearts including his own.
The Labrador Pact

By Matt Haig (2004) 4Narrated by Prince the Labrador, Matt Haig's reworking of "Henry IV, Part 1" is a heartbreaker with a minimum of sentiment and a huge dose of humor. Haig has said that he began this as a book about a family in crisis. The dog perspective imposed itself because the family pet was the ideal mute observer, listening in on all secrets. Haig's great imaginative stroke here is his portrait of Prince as a real dog, not just a human with furan ordinary dog in an ordinary family. No hero, no wolf under the skin, he's cozy and staid. His responsibilities lie heavy on him: It's his duty to protect the family and keep it together at all costs, even as it seems determined to pull itself apart. Equally complex is the power play working itself out in the parallel world of the local dogs, one of whom explains the Labrador code ("Duty Over All") and the history of the "Springer Uprising." Both a comedy about family life and a tragedy about the eternal conflict between duty and pleasure, "The Labrador Pact" is a moving talealso a beautiful one in all its dark perceptions.
The Inheritors

By William Golding (1955) 5Toward the end of "The Inheritors," William Golding describes, with near-clinical detachment, the welling of tears in the eyes of "the red creature"the last Neanderthal. It's an unforgettably evocative image. It could be argued that Neanderthals are not exactly nonhuman, and therein lies the fascination: What exactly does it mean to be human? Golding's novel, rich in invention, affecting in its eloquence, is perhaps distinguished above all for its capacity to persuade us that we're looking into the mind of another species. "The people" think in pictures, seldom ponder, and experience life predominately through smell. Golding's summoning of a world in which thought barely exists is truly remarkable. Into this come the "new people," Homo sapiens, who are more intelligent and use tools. The Neanderthals are doomed to extinction, we know, and from this arises the profound pathos of the book. We are witnessing the end times, and a shiver of fear and compassion goes down the spine. Unforgettable indeed.

Jeremy Black on the History of War

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In military terms, the traditional view is that the rest of the world is struggling to catch up with the West, says Professor Jeremy Black. But, as some of his book choices reveal, this is historically inaccurate

The Asian Military Revolution

By Peter A Lorge Buy What got you interested in military history? Originally I did my work, and I still do a lot of my work, on the history of international relations and specifically British foreign policy. But I moved into military history because I started teaching general European history and felt that the standard accounts offered of military history within it were weak and inadequate. I was also troubled by the extent to which military history and war itself tend to be underplayed. Although people, including myself, dont like war, it is a terrible mistake to assume that it doesnt

often have a highly significant role in history. And this attempt to almost align it out, which I think one can see in the changing preferences in history courses, was in my view deeply mistaken. What kinds of things do you think it can teach people? I think first of all it can teach people unpredictability and discontinuity, which is tremendously important. Whatever ones political persuasion, one of the great problems with history is that people of the left, right and centre believe in inevitability, which is generally of their own values. And one of the interesting things about war is that when two powers go to war, generally both sides think they can win and invariably at least one of them is wrong. In fact generally both of them are wrong because neither of them get out of the war what they want. To that extent war and military history represent the revenge of the contingent on the determinist. They represent the revenge of the short term on the long term and I think that is very important because the way we think about it is often overly dependent on some kind of inevitability. Tell me about your first book, The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb by Peter Lorge. This is a new book that I think is really important, especially as we are in a new millennium and also need to be thinking about a history that makes sense in terms of where the majority of the worlds population live. We need to think about a history that makes sense, in particular, in terms of looking at the relationship between East and South Asia on the one hand and the West on the other, in which it is not simply the case that the West are making the advances in terms of technology and in terms of interpretative analysis. And what I think is very impressive about Lorge, who is an expert on China, is not just that he argues the importance of what goes on in East and South Asia and does so in a clear and concise fashion. But also that he takes the pretty established analytical concept of the military revolution and takes it out of the hands of the West, where it is located, and says, Actually, no. The military revolution is an Asian one and the West borrowed it and copied it. I think that is intellectually very interesting. You dont have to agree with every detail, and obviously in a book which is as concise as his, there are areas which could have been and should have been expanded on. But I think the intellectual range is impressive and I am a firm believer that books are most valuable when they challenge the way that you think: so they take the established account, stand it on its head and see what happens. It is interesting that Lorge is an American and that kind of broad synoptic study is very much lacking in the British intellectual tradition at the present moment. Why do you think that is? I think we have the suffocating grasp of Oxford and Cambridge, both of which I have to say I have been to. But, I am afraid to say, in general there is a lack of engagement with broad themes. There is too much specialisation which leads to what I think of as

telephone kiosk history, or writing in which you can fit everyone in the world interested in the subject into a telephone kiosk. Although these specialists are often very good in their field they are not using the opportunity to say there are 61 million people in Britain, theres an Anglo sphere of hundreds of millions, there is a world population of billions what can we actually say that is valuable and useful to a wider constituency? I think a lot of academics are lacking a sense of public awareness in that respect, which I find deeply disturbing.

The Ottoman Age of Exploration

By Giancarlo Casale Buy The Ottoman Age of Exploration by Giancarlo Casale. This is a new book that argues that the Ottoman Empire had a maritime interest in the Indian Ocean which we have underrated. We have found it overly easy to think about the Ottomans in terms of a land empire, which they obviously were, but they were also an important maritime power and we ought to be using that to re-examine our standard assumptions about the West, after the 15th century, being the only source of maritime power until you get the Japanese borrowing Western technology and ideas at the end 19th century. It is a very interesting book, although I dont think he always demonstrates his points as well as one might like, but on the other hand its not easy to do research in Ottoman archives and, by the nature of things, if one is writing on a broad range like him there is only so much data that one can actually produce. What is great about this book, and the fact that it was published by a mainstream publisher, is that it shows that there is this willingness to engage in the wider world. I think this book and my first choice show that the standard military narratives are set by Western assumptions and these books aim to show a different side.

Jeremy Black on the History of War

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The traditional view is that the rest of the world is struggling to catch up with the West in military terms and this is actually historically inaccurate. Historians need to think about the present impact of their work and rethink the history of war. That in turn will help them rethink what is going on in the present day and hopefully into the future. If you look at what happened in Iraq after the invasion in 2003, and what is going on now in Afghanistan, there is this issue of two very different narratives of military history coming into confrontation. The standard narrative, which is that of regular forces, high technology and Western assumptions, confronts another narrative in which non-Western forces display values and practices which do not conform and do not try to conform to those established in the West. If Western powers wish to use force sensibly, they have to be aware that other people arent necessarily going to fight the kind of wars they want.

Military Orientalism
By Patrick Porter Buy Your next choice is Patrick Porters Military Orientalism: Eastern War through Western Eyes. Patrick Porter has written this very interesting book in which he has tried to look at the role of culture in military history and in particular the argument that there are fixed national cultures and that this can or cant lead to particular outcomes. And what he is actually saying is that we mustnt push the cultural interpretation too far. I found that particularly interesting because reading his book made me think maybe I have been pushing it too far in some of the works I have been producing. Of course his major target is a much easier and softer target, which is the military historian Victor Davis Hansons rather teleological and self-congratulatory accounts of American military culture. But I think Porter raises a broader issue, which is when we

think of long-term cultural assumptions we use terms like Oriental culture, Asian culture, the culture of the Middle East etc, and he wants to know how far are we actually creating a kind of ethno-genesis, a kind of long-term account for what is often in fact very short term? Although Porter doesnt bring this out, there has been some good work recently by military historians on China, arguing that the classic account of Chinese strategic culture, which is that it centred on Confucianism and was not expansionist, isnt actually right. It is true for some periods of Chinese history but not always. For example, in the 18th century the Chinese were extraordinarily expansionist and Confucianism scarcely explains the views that they were following. I think that this revaluation of Chinese history is very exciting because what it does is to take us back to the role of the short term and of the immediate. That is important because it gives us agency. In other words, if you take a view that cultures determine what goes on, you have replaced one form of determinism, socio-economic determinism, with another form of determinism, cultural determinism. And what you have done if you do that is to say essentially that everything else is just short term. What I think is much more exciting is the argument that yes, of course, there are long-term continuities. For example, it is not going to rain very heavily in the Sahara next year. There are long-term geographical continuities, and there are long-term cultural impulses, but at the same time you can see major changes occurring that reflect the agency of individuals. An obvious example is the complete change in the position of women in British and Western public culture in the last 100 years, as something that was not culturally determined by what had happened prior to that.

Modern Counter-Insurgency
By Ian Beckett Buy Your next book, Modern Counter-Insurgency by Ian Beckett is about unconventional war tactics. Ian Beckett is a British scholar and an older scholar compared to the others, and I think what one has got here is a very mature approach, in which what he is essentially saying is that it is not always the case that insurgency warfare succeeds or doesnt succeed, and it is not always the case that counter-insurgency warfare succeeds or doesnt succeed. In

other words, one has to do the hard work of looking at why in particular circumstances you get given outcomes. I think in a way that is one of the great values of history. Historians dont own the past. There are other subjects, such as political science and sociology, which look at the past. And they have their strengths and can be very exciting. But one of their weaknesses is that they are overly prone to present a clear-cut model that explains everything. And what I rather like are books that are open to long-term big issues. The Beckett book covers the last quarter millennium, which is good because he doesnt just cover one insurgency or do a comparison of two. But at the same time he is referring repeatedly to the specific, whether that be the country or the groups of individuals. And I think that is very important. I would invite anyone thinking about history, who is told that such and such an outcome is inevitable, to look back at the last 30 or 40 years of their own country and think about different outcomes. What would have been the history of Britain if we hadnt had North Sea oil? These questions are important because history takes on its value if it can encourage you not just to look at the past but also to think carefully about the present and the future.

The Echo of Battle, the Armys Way of War

By Brian McAllister Linn Buy Your final book is The Echo of Battle, the Armys Way of War by Brian McAllister Linn. I think The Echo of Battle takes us to the worlds leading military power. It is looking at the United States and it reminds us that institutional cultures play a role and it reminds us that America is not, as it were, set in stone. There are actually complex issues within the United Sates regulars against the militia, and expansionists against people who are much more cautious. The book covers a few hundred years so it gives us a range and specificity, which is what, in my view, one should try to offer. But the two values are in a way opposed and I find this when I try to write. You try to write clearly but that is hard because you are also trying to write in a qualificatory

fashion. You are trying to give a balance between the two halves and to show people there are different views, which sometimes makes for clumsy prose. The longer you work on a subject, the harder it is to explain exactly what happened and why. I think this is a general problem with books. It tends to be the case with history that the weakest books are often the easiest ones to read. They are like television history sit quietly and Simon or David will tell you the answers. This kind of approach, which gives you one answer, is the one which is terribly popular. Books that tell you the answers sell very well, but they are, although not invariably, conceptually unsophisticated and intellectually suspect. In practical terms history is something where we cannot recover the experiment. We cannot know exactly what happened. The one thing we do know is that whatever we are writing now other historians, who hopefully will be of equal merit, will come along and do just as much research but will reach completely different conclusions! And that is good because people should not be writing in the sense that they know the answer. Whenever I see a book that says on the cover that this is the definitive answer to this question I think this isnt a good history book. Instead, what one needs to do is to embrace a humane scepticism, which is both valuable to the subject but also a culturally important point, and not just for our culture but on a global scale. Interview by Daisy Banks

The art, science, and struggle of teaching and learning.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie By Muriel Spark

At of heart this deceptively slim novel is the larger-than-life figure of Miss Brodie, a teacher the staid Marcia Blaine School for Girls in Edinburgh just before the outbreak of World War Two. Readers, much like her pupils, are sure to fall under her spell. But is she a dangerous fantasist or merely living her life vicariously through the girls she teaches?

Work Hard. Be Nice. By Jay Mathews

The inspiring, important, and compelling story of how two young educators turned their personal failures in the Teach for America program into a new classroom paradigm, creating the acclaimed Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which today includes 66 schools in 19 states.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System By Diane Ravitch

A passionate plea to overhaul public education and a scathing indictment of todays most popular ideas for restructuring schools, such as privatization, standardized testing, punitive accountability, and charter schools. Ravitch, a former assistant secretary of education, insists that decisions about schools should be left in the hands of teachers, rather than bureaucrats and politicians.

Educating Esm By Esm Raji Codell

Affectionate, unconventional, imaginative, fearless, Esm was only 24 years old when she got her first job teaching fifth grade in an inner city school. Determined that her kids were going to learn, she let nothing -- not dim-witted principals, abusive parents, gang members, or her own insecurities -- stop her.

Cross-X By Joe Miller

This extraordinary account of Kansas City Central High School's debate team is perfectly summed up by its subtitle: "The Amazing True Story of How the Most Unlikely Team from the Most Unlikely of Places Overcame Staggering Obstacles at Home and at School to Challenge the Debate Community on Race, Power, and Education."

Sam Mills's top 10 books about the darker side of adolescence

Share 2 Email, Monday 12 June 2006 00.00 BST

Sam Mills's first novel, A Nicer Way to Die, is a dark thriller about a group of 30 pupils who travel to France on a school-trip. A horrific coach crash kills 28 of them, leaving two boys behind: Henry and James, two stepbrothers who share a troubled relationship. "When I was growing up, there seemed to be two main types of teenage fiction around. The first was fluffy (Sweet Valley High et al) and portrayed growing up as a hunkydory experience, where beautiful boys met beautiful girls, the greatest trauma in life was not being selected for the cheerleading squad, and all lived happily ever after. The second type, which I feasted on with glee, explored reality. They captured just what a difficult and jagged experience growing up can be. Some teen books can be terribly depressing; they focus too heavily on 'issues' (drugs, teen pregnancy etc) and become unrealistic in their bleakness. The most interesting books about teenagers are not afraid to explore the darker side of adolescence, but with humour, insight or humanity. As a result, they become classics because their readership is universal; their protagonists may be teenagers but anyone aged 13 to 80 can enjoy them. Hence, the list I have chosen is a blend of books that have been either published as teen or adult fiction..."

1. Lord of The Flies by William Golding

Lord Of the Flies was published in 1954 but is still utterly relevant today. It centres on a group of boys who, following a plane crash, are stranded on a desert island. At first they work together, building shelters and gathering food. But soon group tensions split the group as Ralph tries to maintain reason, order and structured discipline, opposed by Jack and his band of painted savages. Primal instincts take over and civilisation crumbles into animal savagery and violence. Golding uses the playing field of adolescence to explore the roots of evil, tracing the defects of society back to the defects of human nature. The moral of the story is that the backbone of a society depends on the ethical nature of the individuals who founded it, and not any government, or politics.

2. The Outsiders by SE Hinton

SE Hinton wrote The Outsiders while she was still a high school student, inspired by her determination to change the negative stereotype of teenagers who were labelled 'greasers.' She tells the story of two groups of teenagers whose bitter rivalry stems from socioeconomic differences: the greasers, the lower-class hoods, who continually clash with the Socs, the rich kids in town. The novel is narrated by the 16-year-old Greaser Ponyboy and, like many of the finest teen novels, Hinton pins down her hero's colloquial voice perfectly. Though it is a violent and at times bleak read, Hinton offers a spark of hope as Ponyboy begins to realise that the hardships that greasers and Socs face may take different practical forms, but that both groups share the same fundamental difficulties of growing up. Published in 1967, The Outsiders was a groundbreaking piece of fiction that set the precedent for the uncompromising, realistic fiction for young adults that soon followed it.

3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Burgess's novel far excels Kubrick's film. This is a novel which explores the very darkest side of adolescence. 15-year-old Alex and his friends set out on an orgy of robbery, rape, torture and murder. Alex relates his tale in an idiom called Nadsat, a glorious invention by Burgess: a kind of musical Russian-English slang. When Alex is arrested, the book takes on Orwellian overtones when he is used in a scientific experiment to regulate adolescent violence in a new and alarming way. The original American edition of the book (and hence the film) failed to include the final chapter of the book, where Alex grows up and gives up his violent ways. Burgess believed that all individuals, even those as violent as Alex, could reform, and that moral growth could come with age - but his US editor felt the last chapter was too 'bland' and forced him to omit it. Later Burgess got the chapter reinstated, arguing that he objected to his work being used to send a message that some humans are simply evil by nature.

4. Boy Kills Man by Matt Whyman

Many of the best teen books highlight real problems happening in the world today and Boys Kills Man is a perfect example. Inspired by the true story of child assassins in Colombia, it tells the tale of Sonny, aka Shorty, who is hired by the crime lord El Fantasma to become a assassin on the streets of Medellin. It is a powerful and moving book that swings between tenderness and brutality. Whyman takes care not to moralise or offer easy answers - Sonny is a complex character who does the wrong things for what he believes are the right reasons.

5. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

Many of the most interesting novels about adolescence explore the theme of children who are abandoned by their parents or find themselves in a situation where they are free from adult authority. Like Lord of the Flies, the four children in The Cement Garden, are left to their own devices when their parents die. Fearing adoption, they keep their mother's death a secret by burying her in a cement locker in their basement. But, unlike Lord of the Flies, the children do not descend into animal savagery. Rather, they are torn between the impulses to progress and regress. Julie, the eldest of the siblings, takes on the role of a surrogate mother as the children attempt to carry on as normal a life as possible. But, as they seek to emulate their parent's roles, an incestuous relationship develops between Julie and Jack...

6. Catcher In the Rye by JD Salinger

The Catcher in The Rye is narrated by 16-year-old Holden Caulfield. At the start of the story, Holden has just been expelled from school and stands poised on the cliff separating childhood and adulthood. Holden's voice is superb: colloquial, savagely comic, and utterly persuasive, sucking you in so swiftly that it is hard not to read the book in one sitting. It is also captures the complexity of adolescence. Holden feels deeply cynical about the adult world; like the 'catcher in the rye' he wishes to wipe out corruption from the world and protect children from becoming a 'phonie' - an adult. Yet, at times, he behaves like a 'phonie' himself and is frustrated by his desire to fit into the adult world and be taken seriously by adults. You can guarantee that any brilliant and honest book for teens will be frequently banned in schools and The Catcher In the Rye has certainly suffered from this fate many a time.

7. The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce

Though Joyce's novels are shelved in the fantasy sections in bookshops, his books are about as far away from Tolkien as you can get. The Tooth Fairy begins firmly in reality, exploring - with wonderfully deft observation - the adventures of a boy called Sam Southall growing up in England in the 1960s. At the age of seven, Sam loses a tooth and is visited by a Tooth Fairy. But this is no fluffy sprite: Joyce's Tooth Fairy smells rank, peppers his language with swearwords and makes sinister threats. Joyce blends together fantasy and reality as the Tooth Fairy becomes a superb metaphor for his hero's adolescence, metamorphosing as Sam shifts from boyhood to manhood.

8. A Kestrel For a Knave by Barry Hines

A teenage novel about a boy called Billy who is trying to survive his harsh existence in a small mining town in Yorkshire. His family are impoverished, his teachers mistreat him and he is entirely friendless - until he finds a form of love and redemption in a kestrel that he trains and rears from a chick. A profoundly touching novel, its greatest achievement is the depiction of Billy. He might have been an unsympathetic narrator he is at times violent, ill-tempered and bad-mouthed - but Hines (like Whyman in Boy Kills Man) shows that his troubled adolescent behaviour is a result of the society he is brought up in rather than his true nature.

9. The Republic of Trees by Sam Taylor

A dark fable about four English children who run away to the French countryside to establish their own Utopian community. There, in the Republic of Trees, the children hunt, fall in love and educate themselves in the principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's The Social Contract. The novel is narrated by Michael and the first half of the book explores his sexual awakening as he falls in love with Isobel and loses his virginity to her. But then a new member, Joy, joins the group, bringing new disciplines and the mood of the camp begins to alter. Gradually their utopian paradise descends into a dystopian nightmare as the novels powers towards a shocking, violent and terrifying conclusion. A fantastic novel with shades of Lord Of the Flies and 1984.

10. Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre

Surely the best Booker prize-winner in recent years, Vernon God Little has been described by some critics as a modern day equivalent to Catcher In the Rye. It swings from savage satire to black comedy to sweet lyricism to poignant tragedy from one page to the next - all captured in the voice of 15-year-old Vernon, when he is wrongly accused of a high school massacre. Like many adolescent heroes, Vernon finds himself rebelling against a corrupt adult society.

Nick Hornby's 6 favorite books

The author of High Fidelity and About A Boy revisits six titles that he enjoyed as part of his popular "Stuff I've Been Reading" column
posted on August 31, 2012, at 11:00 AM

Nick Hornby is a British novelist, essayist, and screenwriter best known for his novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, and Fever Pitch. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Dover, $3.50). This is Dickens at his funniest and most soulful, and the genius of the minor characters (Micawber, Uriah Heep, Peggoty, Betsey Trotwood) is both a dazzling pleasure and completely intimidating, if you've ever had any desire to write fiction. Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris (Penguin, $17). Harris' brilliantly researched study of the five films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar in 1968, following a pivotal year in Hollywood history, is my favorite book about cinema. It's enormous fun to read but also extremely accomplished: Harris understands the collaborative and random nature of the business better than anyone else I've come across. Father and Son by Edmund Gosse (Oxford, $15). A misery memoir, perhaps the first, about the author's coming-of-age in a strict evangelical Victorian household. Father and Son is perceptive, wise, occasionally comic, and heartbreaking even if Gosse is now believed by biographers to have stretched the truth a bit. What Good Are the Arts? by John Carey (Oxford, $18). A brilliant and important little book by an Oxford English professor, no less about taste, high culture, objective artistic worth, and the absurd arguments made to prop the whole teetering edifice up. Carey has an extraordinary mind, and a wicked wit, and it's hard to read this book and end up feeling the same about what you value and why. Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (Scribner, $17). Random Family follows two young Bronx, N.Y., women as they struggle over a decade with men, kids, drugs, poverty, and, very occasionally, money. It's an astonishing, and astonishingly patient, piece of reportage; it's also an important book about contemporary America, and it grips like a thriller. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (Ecco, $26). Fountain's achingly sympathetic, funny, and imaginative novel is a book about Iraq and the soldiers fighting there, and it's set almost entirely within a Texas football stadium. It's the best novel I've read this year. Nick Hornby is a British novelist, essayist, and screenwriter best known for his novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, and Fever Pitch.


Simon Callow is an English actor, writer, director and musician Friday September 7,2012
By Daily Express reporter

Have your say(0) SIMON Callow, 63, is an English actor, writer, director and musician best known for playing Gareth in Four Weddings And A Funeral and his one man shows The Mystery Of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol both of which he is reviving this autumn.
His biography of Charles Dickens (HarperPress, 8.99) is out now in paperback MR NORRIS CHANGES TRAINS by Christopher Isherwood Vintage, 7.99 Isherwood went to Berlin in 1929 and lived through the rise of the Nazis. He wrote two novels which depict the agonising death throes of the Weimar Republic. This one introduces us to one of the great comic characters of 20th century, the shady Norris, against a background of rising political horror. CHAPLIN LAST OF THE CLOWNS by Parker Tyler Out of print

Chaplin was one of the key figures of the last century. It is his genius as a clown that makes him immortal and this subtle study by the great American film and art critic Parker Tyler shows how life translates into art in the creation of The Tramp. Charles DICKENS AS I KNEW HIM by George Dolby Out of print Dickens was as great an actor as he was a writer and astonished people with his transformations. His comic brilliance, his fantasy and his savage emotional power overwhelmed people. Dolby was Dickens sometime manager and this is as intimate, as vivid, as deeply moving (and sometimes as deeply funny) as anything ever written about the great man.


THE PICKWICK PAPERS by Charles Dickens Penguin, 8.99 Dickens first novel, which immediately propelled him into international fame at the age of 25, is a gloriously episodic chronicle of the adventures of a club of mild eccentrics led by Samuel Pickwick who are devoted to the exploration of the world they live in. Dickens prodigious imagination and incomparable sense of comedy free rein is infectious and joyous. THE LIFE OF JESUS by Ernest Renan Specialist bookshops only Renan was a 19th century French Biblical scholar who pioneered the then revolutionary idea that Christ and his times could be written about from a human perspective indeed that it was impossible to understand Christianity otherwise. This biography caused immense controversy but it presents a portrait of such compassion, profundity and ordinary humanity that it cannot fail to move anyone, Christian or not. THE LITTLE PRINCE by Antoine de Saint-Exupry Mammoth, 5.99 The author was a much-decorated French pilot whose plane disappeared during the war in uncertain circumstances.

The sweetly grave personality of a friends son provoked Saint-Exuprys masterpiece, a heart-stoppingly simple fable filled with memorably expressed truths about childhood, about human life and above all about love.

Kit Whitfield's top 10 genre-defying novels

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Kit Whitfield is the author of Bareback (Jonathan Cape). It is a whodunnit, a science fiction fantasy and a love story. Kit Whitfield's official site "Genre is all very well, but it's a cage as much as a support. Who knows how many books a person who won't touch women's fiction or only reads sci fi is missing out on that they'd otherwise love? But for a writer, the effect is more insidious. A work of art needs to be complete on its own terms: it needs to ring with internal rightness, never mind whether it makes sense in terms of genre. A writer who forces a trope in or leaves an idea out because they're worried about genre categories has mutilated their book. The best novels are those that are so effective in themselves that they let genre go hang: use what works, leave out what doesn't, and come up with whatever's fresh and vivid that serves the story you're trying to tell."

1. Beloved by Toni Morrison

One of those books that's worth including on almost any list because it's one of the best books in the world, and a book so strong that genre becomes irrelevant. It's a literary classic, but also, technically, a political fable, an historical novel, a ghost story, an allegory and even an anatomy of a murder - but none of that really matters, because Beloved is just Beloved. There's no other book like it; it's unique, individual, perfect. It doesn't contain a ghost because it's a ghost story, for instance: everything is there because it couldn't be any other way. It's the ideal of literature: a highly cultured and informed book, that in the end is still only answerable to itself.

2. The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood

Marvellously enjoyable as well as moving and highly intelligent, a book I've read to pieces. On the face of it it's a naturalistic novel and, in its portrait of female friendship and terrors, it provides the same kind of satisfaction as standard chick lit, only better. But also, as part of the story, there's a character who is psychic, and uncannily accurate in lots of her seemingly flaky conclusions. It's not made an issue of, it's just a character detail, harmoniously worked into the plot as a parallel to her two best friends'

personalities. Atwood has written some more openly speculative works, but The Robber Bride is my favourite example of her boldness and imagination: rather than leaving out the psychic Charis because the book is supposed to be mainstream literature, she brings her in, and it works beautifully.

3. Frost in May by Antonia White

School drama, psychological horror story, autobiography? Adult novel, children's tale? It's any and all of them. I first read Frost in May when I was about 12 years old, and have reread it at intervals throughout my life; it never stales, it never palls, it never ceases to cast its cool, numinous spell. Young Nanda's clash with the nuns at her convent school is charged with a mesmerising, Stockholm-syndrome ambivalence that makes it an impossible book to categorise. It simply stands apart, even from the rest of Antonia White's other, admittedly excellent, novels. It's a vivid moment of brilliance that can't be classified without diminishing it.

4. Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Too good and too delightful to leave out. A fantasy novel, a historical novel, a literary jeu d'esprit? Who cares? The book is so charming, so intelligent, so gripping and potent in its unusual storyline, that I can't be bothered to debate with anyone what genre it should be considered; I'd rather talk about how much I loved it, then go and reread it.

5. The Island of Dr Moreau by HG Wells

Action-adventure sci-fi, structurally at least but, underneath it, there's a philosophical and religious undertow that freezes the blood. It's science fiction pushed and pushed until it comes out the other side, and spills over into a vision of hell: the tormented creatures, agonisingly chanting a credo they're powerless to understand, ever helplessly regressing even as torture awaits them from their uncaring creator, utterly incapable of stability or safety, or anything but a desperate slip and slide from one pained state to another. The image that stayed with me is the cry of the panther being vivisected, its screams becoming sobs as the night wears on and it becomes, under the humanising knife, more and more conscious of what's being done to it. Terrifying.

6. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Modern Greek tragedy, crime thriller, elegy for lost youth, study of character? Again, it's a novel that doesn't easily bear comparison with other works - and yet how the reader falls into it, seduced by the precise lyricism of the flawed narrator, the vividness of atmosphere and the air of the mystical hanging over the mundane and the stark psychological frictions. So irresistible and seductive it's almost a guilty pleasure.

7. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

A perfect little thriller, and much subtler than the movies would have you believe. Something is going on in Stepford, but exactly what is left hanging. Is the heroine's scifi theory correct, meaning that she's stuck in a town of murderers? Is she losing her marbles in a world of psychological horror, building up her fears of sexism and entrapment into a crazed fantasy? Is she right that there's something terrible happening, but wrong about what it is? The secret of Stepford hangs tantalisingly out of reach in a gripping and graceful little sleight of hand that keeps the book eternally fresh.

8. Under The Skin by Michel Faber

What on earth is going on in this book? For chapter after chapter we don't find out. Instead, we simply follow the dubious heroine around at her own pace until we discover everything we need to know. Faber holds his nerve brilliantly and, in the end, the study of personality and the tragically confined viewpoints of the characters are what stay in the memory along with the horror of the premise.

9. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Technically a factual book but, knowing what we do about Capote, reading it with a questioning eye, can we trust him when he says there's no fiction involved? Can we believe his claim of perfect recall of conversations where he took no notes? Can we trust his honesty in his portraits of the two killers, his willingness or otherwise to do justice to both of them, his evasiveness about the effect of his own relationship with them? And yet, for all the questions raised about his ethics in writing it, in itself it's a strongly moral book, a passionate and persuasive cry against the death penalty, filled with a yearning for common humanity. Paradoxically, a work of true crime that works best if read as a work of fiction, an endless moral conundrum.

10. The Wolf Hunt by Gillian Bradshaw

A re-telling of one of the medieval Lays of Marie de France, it conveys the story of a werewolf Breton knight with a light touch that's wonderfully entertaining. It is also an intelligent and compassionate attempt to understand the characters through modern eyes. It should be a straight supernatural story, but somehow it doesn't feel like it; it's too naturalistic, too historically detailed, too convincing. Bradshaw is an author I've loved since I was a child. She has a great knack for writing historical fiction that occasionally features magic without ever letting the magic unseat the historical verisimilitude. The Wolf Hunt is the perfect book to curl up with on a rainy day or to take on holiday; entertaining and relaxing, she puts no strain on your attention without ever neglecting your intelligence. A lovely easy read, based on good old-fashioned storytelling.

Stephen Breyer on Intellectual Influences

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The US Supreme Court Justice discusses five books that have influenced his thinking, and explains why reading widely, including literature, is essential for judges and lawyers When you took over his seat on the Supreme Court, Justice Harry Blackmun advised you, "When you have the chance, tell people what you do". So I'm going to ask a very simple question, because I know the answer is quite complex. What do you do? We work on difficult legal issues involving laws passed by Congress. We are most likely to hear those cases where lower courts have come to different conclusions about the same question of federal law. Our job, the nine of us, is basically to create a uniform rule of law by ironing out differences. A case in front of us might involve the meaning of a statute. It might involve a comma in the Internal Revenue Code, which different courts interpret differently. Or it might involve whether Guantanamo prisoners are entitled to seek habeas corpus. It could be a major question, it could be a minor question. If there's a difference in the federal law interpretation, we'll probably hear the case and try to iron it out. Thats what we do. The books you've cited as intellectual influences are not standards of the law school curriculum. Why is it important for lawyers and judges to read widely? Law requires both a head and a heart. You need a good head to read all those words [in law books] and figure out how they apply. But when you are representing human beings or deciding things that affect them, you need to understand, as best you can, the workings of human life.

Democracy in America
By Alexis de Tocqueville Buy Turning to the books, let's begin with Democracy in America. Tell us about it and why it continues to resonate with you. Its a masterpiece of sociological and political analysis. In the 1830s, Tocqueville looked at the newly democratic America and described it in terms that, for the most part, are applicable today. For example, he spoke of the clamour that he heard when he reached the shores of America. Law in America rises from the bottom up, it isn't decreed from the top down. When we have a new problem, we start with vigorous debate and discussion that can sound like clamour. For instance, how will privacy and free expression interact in the Internet age? The village gossip would forget what was going on, but computers wont. Norms about privacy and how privacy relates to free expression are changing. When we want change in an area like that, we start to discuss it in schools, in associations, in newspapers, in magazine articles. Debate and discussion bubbles up. Some kind of rule is formed, perhaps through an administrative process. We may change it, there may be legislative hearings, our representatives might write a statute and if that isnt working well, the new rule is tested through the courts to see whether it falls within the boundaries of the constitution. The constitution is a document that sets boundaries. Being a judge on a constitutional court is like living on a frontier. Is this statute inside or outside Americas boundaries? That's what we're deciding. Now, sometimes that's difficult. Is abortion inside or outside our constitutional boundaries? Is prayer in schools? These are difficult questions. But in the vast area between the boundaries, democratically elected representatives make decisions, after all sorts of consultation with the people, after all sorts of clamour. Tocqueville encapsulates all that. His work still helps us understand America, 170 years after he wrote it. How did Tocqueville influence your view of our constitutional system? He talks about the importance of aggregating views, as we do in the United States, through voluntary associations. He talks about the importance of bringing the average person into the democratic process. Tocqueville, in his writing, shows us the many ways

in which the average person can participate and must participate for the democratic process to work. Tocqueville observed two persistent tendencies in American culture: abhorrence of elite institutions and reliance on our legal system to settle differences. It seems to me these two tendencies are in tension and place the Supreme Court in a rather tough spot. I don't have a fixed view on that point. Life is complicated. America is a country of 309 million people who think a lot of different things. There's every race, there's every religion, there's every point of view. We have a common view that real differences should be decided under law. That is a miracle, all things considered. Considering the number of differences that are possible, it's not surprising that law is complex. Now, I don't think our system is perfect. I could list 10,000 reforms, but I won't bore you. I'll just say it's important not to understate the need for law and for lawyers.

The Education of Henry Adams

By Henry Adams Buy Let's move forward to another classic work of literary nonfiction, The Education of Henry Adams. Please tell us about Adams and his quasi-autobiography. Its a marvellous book. Every American should read it and so should anyone who wants to understand America. Henry Adams grew up in an aristocratic family. His grandfather was President. His great grandfather was President. He was a perfectly positioned observer of the political scene. His perspective and his longevity gave him a broad view. In his life, from 1838 until 1918, he saw radical change in America a lot of it for the worse. He saw the country expand economically but he also saw the rise of a class of robber barons. He saw all kinds of corruption in Washington, where he was based.

Stephen Breyer on Intellectual Influences

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He saw the end of slavery and the reconstruction era, which brought segregation. As he reviews what he saw, he asks himself the question, Can democracy survive? His answer to that question was, What other choice do we have? We have got to make our democracy work. As you say, Adams was both sceptical and optimistic about the constitutional system which his forefathers created. What makes you sceptical and what makes you optimistic about how American democracy will survive this century? There is nothing that I can say about that, which you can't learn better from turning on your television and listening to commentators. There is concern that politics is too polarised. There is concern that it's difficult to think through questions, because the media reports comments made by people in public life in a bad light. There is concern that blogs and the Internet make it worse. I'm sure many criticisms have truth to them and many are exaggerated. But it is up to us to make our system work, whatever the challenges. I think Adamss attitude is the right one.

How to Do Things with Words

By JL Austin Buy Next, please tell us about JL Austin and How to Do Things with Words. JL Austin was an ordinary language philosopher. When I studied in Oxford, I went to one of his classes and I read his books. How to Do Things with Words teaches us a lot about how ordinary language works. It is useful to me as a judge, because it helps me avoid the traps that linguistic imprecision can set. If I had to pick a single thing that I draw from Austins work it would be that context matters. It enables us to understand, when someone makes a statement, what that statement refers to and what that person meant. Austin set a famous exam question: you bet that all swans are white or black, but

does this refer to possible swans on Mars? Not clear. The question is: what's the context? What's the scope of that bet? When I see the word "any" in a statute, I immediately know it's unlikely to mean anything in the universe. Any" will have a limitation on it, depending on the context. When my wife says, there isn't any butter, I understand that she's talking about what is in our refrigerator, not worldwide. We look at context over and over, in life and in law. What do you think Austin teaches about strict constructionism and its variations? Austin suggests that there is good reason to look beyond text to context. Context is very important when you examine a statement or law. A statement made by Congress, under certain formal conditions, becomes a law. Context helps us interpret language, including the language of a statute. Purpose is often an important part of context. So Austin probably encourages me to put more weight on purpose.

La Peste
By Albert Camus Buy Let's move onto Camus and The Plague. Why do you cite this classic novel as intellectually formative? Because it really speaks to my generation. I grew up during World War II. Though I was a young child, I can still remember blackout shades coming down in San Francisco because people were worried about an invasion. My wife is English. We just saw a documentary about Churchill, and in it there were lots of English women carrying their babies into Tube [metro] stations during air raids. I thought maybe one of those babies is [my wife] Joanna. That was the world that we were born into. Camus, in The Plague, writes about that world. Although the story takes place in Algeria, he's really writing about the Nazi occupation of France. Most read this work on an allegorical level. He talks about the plague. Well, the plague is that part of a human being which can be very evil. That germ, he says at the end, never dies, it simply goes into remission. It lurks. It lurks in the cupboards, it lurks in the hallways, it lurks in the filing cabinets. It

lurks throughout the house, perhaps one day to reawaken and once again send forth its pestilence into what was once a happy city. All over the world, people are trying to stop that plague because it's still there, in the hearts of people. To keep the plague away, we build institutions including independent judiciaries to interpret constitutions that contain words, which are protective of human beings basic rights. That's true in Europe, it's true in the United States, and its more and more true throughout the world. I have a job that is one small part of the effort to build a barrier against another epidemic of evil like what we saw in World War II.

A la Recherche du Temps Perdu

By Marcel Proust Buy Your final choice is Remembrance of Things Past. Forgive me for not attempting the French. How do you think of Proust? He has an enormous talent for building characters and bringing a world to life. In his descriptions of his own experiences you see the role of art in life. Art is not separate from life, it is an element of life. We all have the need and the capacity to impose form upon the flux around us. Now, we can impose a better form or we can impose a worse form. We aren't all geniuses like Proust. Yet we can try to clarify our thoughts and remember the importance of form when we write. Proust shows us that activity helps give meaning to life and its helpful to keep in mind as a judge. You cited Proust and Camus in the original French and you advise those interested in law to learn another language. Why is mastering another language so valuable in your view? I have spent a lot of time with French. I try. Its work sometimes. But worth it, for the same reason I recommend reading literature. We have only one life, each of us. Through literature and language we can begin to understand the lives of other people and get insight into how others see the world. By reading some French books as originally written, I think I gain a better view of a world that is seen by many people who speak French, which I would be cut off from otherwise because translation is different. So language, like literature, opens windows.

This quality of empathetic imagination that we've been talking about why is it crucial for a Supreme Court Justice, in particular, to possess? The job of being a judge entails spending every day alone in a room with books and a word processor. Yet the words that you write affect other people. Only the most difficult cases get to the Supreme Court, those cases where perfectly good judges come to different conclusions on the meaning of the same words. In those difficult cases, it is very important to imaginatively understand how other people live and how your decisions might affect them, so you can take that into account when you write. You are transparent about your jurisprudence in Making Our Democracy Work. Please characterise your approach. Judges have the job of trying to work out what the words written down in a statute actually mean. We have six traditional ways of approaching this job. First, we read the words. Second, we look to the tradition. For instance, the phrase habeas corpus has a big legal tradition behind it. Third, we look to the history of the case. Fourth, we look to precedent what has been said about this in previous cases? Fifth, we look to purposes somebody wrote this statute, what did they have in mind and what were they trying to accomplish with these words? And sixth, we look to consequences. That is, if we interpret the statute this way are we furthering the statutes purpose or are we hindering it. Everybody uses those six tools: Text, tradition, history, precedent, purpose and consequence. Some judges tend to emphasise purposes and consequences. That's what I do. I often cannot get the answer from the first four things, so I look to purpose what did the authors of the bill mean? What were they trying to accomplish? Other judges feel that that's too subjective. They try to find the answer in history, text, language and tradition the first four. That explains differences among the judges. It's a question of emphasis. I fear that just looking at text, history, tradition and precedent wont answer the question. If that's all you look to, too often you will produce a law that is too rigid to adapt to human circumstances, which are ever-changing. That's why I look to purposes, but I certainly agree that the first four are relevant. Strict constructionists focus on text, history, tradition and precedent? They believe they can find answers in those four factors more often. When you're interpreting a provision of our constitution, which was written in 1787, ratified in 1789 and the phrases are general, the strict constructionist tends to think he can find the answer by looking back to see what the founders would have thought. All of us, including me, agree that you have to look back to find out the primary value that underlies the provision of the constitution. For example, what was the constitution trying to protect when it protected freedom of speech? Speech is a form of expression. They were trying to protect expression. You have to find the value. Values don't change, but circumstances do. The Internet is something that George Washington didnt envision. George Washington cant tell us how the First Amendment applies to the Internet. But history can tell us what the framers were trying to achieve when they wrote the First Amendment. Some people think they can answer specific questions today through history. I think you can't get that much out of it and you must

apply, as best you can, unchanging values like free expression to the ever-changing circumstances of modern life. The Court is about to wrap up its term. What is on your summer reading list? I've spent the last four summers writing Making Our Democracy Work. I put a lot of my heart and soul into trying to translate the experience Im having into a form that is understandable for all readers. So this summer I have a lot of reading I want to catch up on, including some American biographies. Good ones recently came out on George Washington, for example. And I do like French literature, I'll probably go back and read some Balzac. There are a whole lot of things. I have a large pile. I cant remember what is in it, but I am looking forward to it. Interview by Eve Gerber

Iain Sinclair's 6 favorite books about dark journeys

The acclaimed storyteller recommends tales of war, shipwreck, and alcohol-fueled hallucination
posted on September 14, 2012, at 9:40 AM

Iain Sinclair is not only an author, but a filmmaker as well. Photo: RexUSA Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (Harper, $15). A compulsively readable account of an alcohol-fueled hallucination in an alien landscape a reckless danse

macabre through the Mexican Day of the Dead. The physical struggle to shape a literary masterpiece from years of abortive travel informs every hard-won sentence. North by Louis-Ferdinand Cline (Dalkey Archive, $14). Wrong decision follows wrong decision as a half-crazed doctor travels, with wife and cat, from World War II Paris to a Berlin under fire. Wild flights of humor follow as the pitiful troop straggles across the countryside toward the Baltic. The Shipwrecked Men by lvar Nez Cabeza de Vaca (out of print). An extract from the journal of a survivor of the calamitous 1527 Spanish expedition to Florida. De Vaca walks, barefoot and nearly naked, across the previously unexplored continent, in order to reach Mexico City. This pioneering work (available in various translations) anticipates the future projects of so many artists, from Gary Snyder to Werner Herzog. Spandau, The Secret Diaries by Albert Speer (Ishi, $35). The ex-Nazi official paced his prison yard for decades, mapping the distances achieved into real-world geography. He imagined an epic tramp across Germany and onward into Siberia. Fording the frozen Bering Straits, he limped down America's West Coast, and was 20 miles south of Guadalajara when he was freed. Desolation Angels by Jack Kerouac (Riverhead, $16). A lyrical sweep down the Pacific Rim, from the elective solitude of a summer on a Cascades peak to partying in San Francisco. With a restless Kerouac lurch, the story moves to isolation again a roof in Mexico City, where the writer recomposes memory as a dream of fiction. Dylan Thomas in America by John Malcolm Brinnin (Prion, $20). Growing up in the same part of Wales as the great poet, I found that the legends of Thomas's adventures in America were both a Calvinistic warning and an inducement to follow in his thirsty footsteps. Brinnin's portrayal of Thomas's four trips to postwar America describes a tragic yet delirious dance to the death.

Ken Folletts Book Bag: Five Greatest Trilogies

by Ken Follett Sep 18, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

The author of the epic new novel Winter of the World, book two of the mammoth Century Trilogy, picks his favorite triptychs.

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When youve really enjoyed a book, its great to come back to the characters again and see what they or their children did next. However, a trilogy is difficult to write, because the author has to revisit the same set of ideas and get more stories out them. Its hard work for the imagination, but its worth the effort. Here are a few that Ive enjoyed hugely. The Forsyte Saga (three novels plus two bonus interludes) By John Galsworthy Mean Soames, sexy Irene, idealistic Philip, and unconventional Jolyon tangle in a steamy tale that is all the more fascinating because they belong to such a stiffly respectable Victorian family. Galsworthy mocks them all in a gentle Jane Austen way.

The Millennium Trilogy By Stieg Larsson Once you start you cant stop reading, and the main reason is Lisbeth Salander, one of the great literary characters. Shes vengeful yet sympathetic, scary but sexy, and so logical that everyone thinks shes crazy. I wish I had created her.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy By Douglas Adams If my late friend Douglas reads this in heaven he will smile, because there are actually five books in what he used to call the increasingly inaccurately named Hitchhiker Trilogy. He was as hilarious in person as he was in his books, and I miss him.

Fear of Flying, How to Save Your Own Life, and Parachutes and Kisses By Erica Jong There are other writers who are this wise, and others this funny, but none who are both. The smart, feisty, randy hero, Isadora Wing, taught us what women could be if they broke their bonds, and kept us smiling all the while at her wit and perception.

The Foundation Trilogy By Isaac Asimov Future history is now a genre of its own, and Isaac Asimov invented it. I met him in 1979, soon after my first bestseller, Eye of the Needle, was published. Breathlessly, I told him that I had reread his Foundation books several times. He thanked me as graciously as if it was the first time he had heard a fan say that. It was probably the millionth.

Max Jones's top 10 books about exploration

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Max Jones is the author of The Last Great Quest: Captain Scott's Antarctic Sacrifice, an examination of the enduring appeal of the Scott story, the drive to explore hostile environments and the nature of heroism.

1. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley CherryGarrard (1922)

The title of Cherry-Garrard's account of Scott's last Antarctic expedition refers not to the polar journey, but to the trek he endured with Edward Wilson and Henry Bowers in search of the eggs of the emperor penguin. The three men barely survived the first journey ever attempted during an Antarctic winter, experiencing temperatures as low as -77.5F (-25.3C), only to die only a few months later. Mourning for his lost friends, disillusioned by war and assisted by his neighbour George Bernard Shaw, CherryGarrard composed a work which transcends the confines of the expedition to offer a powerful meditation on the nature of exploration and intellectual curiosity in the modern world.

2. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (1980)

The Right Stuff brilliantly captures the mentality of the first American astronauts and the nation which venerated their exploits at the height of the cold war. Wolfe is particularly good at charting the insular social world of the astronauts and their wives. His roller-coaster descriptions of disasters and near-misses eventually persuaded one dubious reader that excessive use of exclamation points can actually be very effective!

3. The Condition of the Working Class in England by Friedrich Engels (1845)

The social explorers of modern urban life, from Henry Mayhew through Charles Booth to George Orwell, surely demand inclusion in any list of exploration narratives. But Engels' indictment of working-class living conditions comes out ahead, for using graphic descriptions of the new industrial city as the foundation for a groundbreaking intellectual critique.

4. Scott's Last Expedition Vol I: The Journals of Captain RF Scott (1913)

Captain Scott's last journals remain the ultimate expression of a particular type of expedition narrative, in which the journey to a distant land becomes a journey into the self. Scott's 'Message to the Public', scrawled in the back of his journal as he faced death in March 1912, is a remarkable articulation of the heroic fantasies of his age, fantasies which would collide with mud and metal in the trenches of the western front.

5. The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Consulted by Columbus and the only travel book known to be in the possession of Leonardo da Vinci, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville first began to circulate in Europe in the 1360s. This classic work of medieval travel writing takes the reader on a fabulous romp through strange lands inhabited by marvellous monsters, including giant griffons, self-sacrificing fish and men without heads who have eyes in their shoulders.

6. Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion (1968)

A mesmerising collection of essays exploring California in the 1960s by one of America's greatest writers, on topics ranging from murder trials to the movies of John Wayne. Few cultural commentators have rivalled Didion's ability to express penetrating insights in such elegant prose.

7. South: the Story of Shackleton's Last Expedition, 1914-1917 by Ernest Shackleton (1919)
Shackleton may not have written as well as Scott, but his astonishing tale of survival after the destruction of his ship Endurance in the Antarctic remains the most dramatic adventure story in the annals of exploration. I won't spoil it for those who don't know the story. I'll just say that the fact they still had to do THAT to reach safety, after doing THAT and THAT, gets me every time.

8. The Last Journals of David Livingstone in Central Africa from 1865 to His Death, edited by Horace Waller (1874)
Livingstone's first book, Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa, sold 70,000 copies and caused a sensation in 1856. Yet his popularity had waned in the 1860s after his unsuccessful voyage up the River Zambesi. The Reverend Horace Waller's skilful editing of Livingstone's last journals did much to restore the heroic reputation of the most famous of the great Victorian explorers.

9. Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler (1998)

Many writers have mused on modern Antarctic life, but Sarah Wheeler's Terra Incognita is my favourite. Wheeler skilfully interweaves accounts of the heroic exploits of the polar pioneers with observations from her own experience venturing into the very male environment of Antarctica in the 1990s.

10. The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific: As Told by Selections of His Own Journals 1768-1779
Cook's meticulous account of his voyages in the Pacific between 1768 and 1779 is a monument to a distinctively Enlightenment sensibility. In marked contrast to Captain Scott's journal, the people and environment of the Pacific are the central actors, rather than the explorer's own character.

Five Best: Leo Braudy

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Hollywood's Children

By Diana Serra Cary (1979) By the time Peggy-Jean Montgomery was 3 years old in 1921, she had been given the nom du cinma of Baby Peggy and had starred in some 150 two-reelers. Audiences loved the short silent movies, which were often comedies mocking the serious films of the day. Baby Peggyor, rather, her parentsmade a fortune, but by the late 1920s her life as Baby Peggy was over, and her parents had squandered the money. In adulthood, she changed her name to Diana Serra Cary and began writing. With "Hollywood's Children" she analyzes the extraordinary popularity of child performers and its effects on their lives. Her primary focus is her own experience, but she also discusses the youthful careers of Jackie Coogan, Shirley Temple, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and others. At first these stars enjoyed the recognition and luxury for which their early lives had given them no preparation. But often the fall came just as abruptly. Cast as emblems of innocence to match the seemingly innocent pleasures of the early film business, many of the children were exploited by everyone around them. Unlike most

Hollywood biographers or autobiographers, Cary is neither settling scores nor puffing her own accomplishments. Instead, she recaptures a vanished world of privilege and fun and an underlying darkness.
Easy Riders, Raging Bulls

By Peter Biskind (1998) Enlarge Image

Philip Channing Mr. Braudy is the author of 'The World in a Frame' and, most recently, 'The Hollywood Sign: Fantasy and Reality of an American Icon.' By the early 1970s, old Hollywood was moribundthe studio system had withered, unable anymore to connect with the mass audience of its golden years. Ticket sales had plummeted to 15.8 million in 1971 from 78.2 million in 1946, Peter Biskind says in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls," his engrossing chronicle of what came next: an upheaval in the film business caused by an array of young filmmakers. Directors such as Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese, allied with actors

including Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson, set about creating some of the decade's iconic films"Star Wars," "Jaws," "Taxi Driver," "The Godfather," "Chinatown." We know the movies well; Biskind tells us what was going on behind the scenes. He chronicles the betrayals, hostilities, confusions, missteps and general pettiness that can bedevil any collective artistic venture, but he also artfully mixes in production details, biography and salacious gossip, creating a vivid portrait of a vibrant time. In the end, Biskind says, success spelled the end of the creative ferment. Describing Spielberg at a party teasing John Travolta for owning a lesser Learjet, the author notes: "Money was the solvent that dissolved the tissue of the '70s like acid on flesh."
Material Dreams

By Kevin Starr (1990) To begin to understand Hollywood beyond the clichs, it is best to start with an establishing shot: Hollywood in the context of Southern California. "Material Dreams," the second entry in Kevin Starr's multivolume history of California, focuses on the period that saw the transformation of a complicated and often incoherent mix of small studios, distributors, exhibitors, labs and locations into the studio system that dominated American filmmaking until the 1960s. "In 1923," he writes, "a pamphlet appeared entitled Why Los Angeles Will Become the World's Greatest City." It was during the period of tremendous growth and expansion in the silent-film era that the word "Hollywood" became the umbrella term for anything happening in the movie business, regardless of its geographic or economic relation to Hollywood itself. Starr's lively, insightful book chronicles the metamorphosis of a region known for agriculture and livestock into the world's filmmaking capital.
The Story of Hollywood

By Gregory Paul Williams (2005) 'Hollywood' may be shorthand for a multibillion-dollar entertainment business, but Hollywood is also a specific place, one with a dense historyas Gregory Paul Williams shows with more than 800 photographs in "The Story of Hollywood." He takes us from the days of scrubby chaparral on the outskirts of Los Angeles a century ago, through the glory years of the 1930s and '40s, into decades of physical decline, and then to the town's current (piecemeal) resurrection. The vintage images present palatial homes modeled after Scottish castles and Moorish fantasies, many of the buildings long since torn down. Williams is sardonic about the way Hollywood history is demolished for new construction, altered beyond recognition or turned into a parking lot. But if you want to know something about what drew not just dreamers but also the likes of L. Frank Baum, Zane Grey and Edgar Rice Burroughs to Hollywood, this book is where to start.
Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide

By Richard Alleman (2005)

For a place seemingly so devoted to the superficial and the immediate, Hollywood has more than its share of the hidden and obscure. Tucked in among the hills and streets, evidence of a colorful past lingers. Richard Alleman's "Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide" (updating the original 1985 edition) remains the best street-by-street handbook for anyone interested in, say, the "Double Indemnity" house where Barbara Stanwyck played a housewife plotting her husband's murder and Fred McMurray was the insurance salesman who helped her. (It sits up in the hills above Beachwood Canyon.) The house where Faye Dunaway hid her sister-daughter in "Chinatown" is hardly a mile away from another famous residencedesigned by Lloyd Wright, Frank's son, and once owned by Diane Keatonwhere silent-film star Ramon Novarro was murdered in 1968 by two street hustlers.

Belinda Rapley's top 10 horse books

The Pony Detectives author picks her favourite pony reads, from Black Beauty to War Horse

Share 24 Email, Thursday 27 September 2012 13.37 BST

'Black Beauty serves as a modern day reminder for all horse owners to think of the world from our horse's perspective, rather than our own...' Belinda Rapley "I grew up in London and didn't give horses or ponies a thought until I went for a hack on an Easter holiday in Cornwall. After that I became officially pony obsessed, but consistently failed to convince my parents that our back garden was big enough to keep a pony in. They did, however, let me have lessons and so my weekly jaunt to various riding schools began. To fill the time between lessons I pretended my bikes were horses, set up makeshift jump courses in the back garden to gallop over and ran a riding school and a racing yard in my imagination. Horses weren't particularly big in Croydon, so I

found my horsey friends in pony books, getting lost in the pages as I gained my first insight into caring for ponies and dreamt of galloping over open moors and boldly flying huge stone walls. The books became well-thumbed, tatty-cornered familiars and it seemed natural after one inspiring riding holiday to pick up my pen and begin to write the horsey adventures accumulating in my own mind. I wrote my first story when I was up in my bedroom, promising that I was revising hard for my French GCSE. 1. Moonlight Star of the Show (Pony Detectives) 2. by Belinda Rapley

3. 4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop 1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book I left school and trained with horses, as a riding instructor, in a show jumping yard then at a racing yard. I returned to London to read English at UCL then stayed, writing for various horsey websites before landing a job in publishing. But the horse bug was in my blood and I missed them tremendously; I spent most of my time daydreaming about them. That's when I found myself ensconced in the cosy yard at Blackberry Farm with four new friends and their ponies. I decided to write the kind of stories I would have loved to have read when I was younger, full of pony detail, adventure, friendship and fun; and so the Pony Detectives were born. I write in my study, cat on my lap, still surrounded by the familiar pony books of my childhood." Belinda Rapley is the author of the Pony Detectives series. She has been immersed in the world of horses since she was 11. She is a British Horse Society Instructor, has a National Diploma in Horse Studies and has spent time working in show jumping and flat racing. Belinda is currently training to be a social worker in children's and young people services between flying around the Norfolk countryside on a huge piebald horse. Find out more about the Pony Detectives at

1. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

Without even opening the front cover I can still picture each page of this book, it left such an impression on me. The version I have was based on the film, with photos throughout. After Alec saves the ferociously temperamental but talented black stallion from a shipwreck, the stallion saves the boy's life when Alec grabs the lead rope and is

pulled through the sea to a deserted island. The pair strike up a bond as castaways before being rescued and shipped back to America. They finally end up on the racetrack and The Black proves his almighty speed, winning a prestigious race. For me the excitement and romance of the story is all at the start, when Alec forges a bond with such a creature as The Black. It reminds me even now of the privilege we as humans have of sharing time with such magnificent, powerful animals. The trust they place in us and we in them each time we spend time with them in the field, or sit on their backs, is awesome.

2. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

I can't read this book or watch the film without at least one packet of tissues next to me. It's a timeless reminder to me of the fate horses and ponies have they're the only pet we have which is sold on when they're outgrown, get too old to carry on doing what they were bought to do, or when they're simply no longer wanted. They're likely to experience many different homes and different fortunes through their life. With each move they have to settle into new routines and yards, make new horsey friends and wait while their new owners work out how they tick. Although Black Beauty holds up to the mirror the thoughtless cruelty of the Victorian world she inhabits, I think her voice still serves as a modern day reminder for all horse owners to think of the world from our horse's perspective, rather than our own. My own horse, Zano, will stay in my care forever to avoid any of the fates Black Beauty endured.

3. War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

I read the book by master storyteller, Michael Morpurgo, many years ago and sat next to an unashamedly wailing woman during the awesome National Theatre production. This book is similar to Black Princess, the story of one of Black Beauty's descendents who is shipped off to the first world war before finding peace after its conclusion. Following in the hoof prints of both Black Beauty and Black Princess, this book is written in the first person, with Joey the horse as narrator. It doesn't shy away from the horrors of war for both the humans and horses. I can't read it without wishing that I could change the fate of Topthorn, and in doing so change the fate of some two million other horses who suffered as Topthorn did. Reading War Horse is heart wrenching and exhausting, yet ultimately uplifting and it leaves an echo long, long after the last page is turned. For me it has the most powerful impact of any horse story ever written.

4. Jill's Riding Club by Ruby Ferguson

The Jill books are enjoyable reads, with Jill and her friends getting into all sorts of old fashioned scrapes. Jill herself is great fun and very likeable, along with her two ponies, Black Boy and Rapide. In this story Jill's friend suggests that she starts up a riding club during the summer holidays. It's a bit of a shambles to begin with, but with some outside help in the shape of Major Hooley they begin to get organised and enjoy treasure hunts, gymkhanas and some jumping. There are lots of incidents packed into the pages and rivalries along the way until the end of the summer heralds the end of the club, and it comes to an end as simply and enjoyably as it starts.

5. Dora at Follyfoot by Monica Dickens

Another series and it's again difficult to choose my favourite, but this one just edges it. I love Monica Dickens's style of writing and her descriptions of the various equine rejects which live at Follyfoot Farm, the wonderfully named Home of Rest for Horses. The regular horses, ponies and donkeys which feature are all lovingly familiar and their numbers are always being added to, despite the Captain's express instruction to the contrary. The farm's aim is to stop suffering and save lives and each story is filled with ponies and horses in need of both from their clueless or cruel owners. The farm survives on a shoestring and in this story a midnight chase has to be won to help pay for the most recently saved resident, and another recent addition Barny saved from the bullet by Dora, is their only chance of victory. I only have one criticism of this series there weren't enough books in it!

6. Ticket to Ride by Caroline Akrill

This is the third in the Eventing Trilogy by Caroline Akrill. I hadn't read the first two when I bought this book but I became quite obsessed by it when I was younger. Elaine wins a scholarship to pursue her dream to become an eventer but she struggles to shake off the Fanes, who she previously worked for and who still claim a stake in Elaine's talented bay horse The Legend. The depiction of the Fanes in their dark, dank ancestral home, with their threadbare livery horses and greasy mutton stew was so vivid, I can still picture it now. Elaine's ambition and determination to fulfil her dream also struck me and it was more adult in that sense than the other pony books I was reading at the time.

7. Flambards by KM Peyton
I first read this when I was quite young, and I can still remember why I fell in love with it. It was all to do with Sweetbriar, the kind, gentle and quiet strawberry roan mare, who Christina learns to ride on when she first arrives at her Uncle Russell's house. She was such a sweet mare and I was desperate when she was to be sent to the hunt kennels at the end of what Christina's Uncle Russell deemed her useful life only to be overjoyed when Christina, stable hand Dick and one of Christina's cousins, William, help rescue her from her grim fate. Sweetbriar faded from the books after this, and although I enjoyed the rest, it was always this first, beautifully written and most horsey of the Flambards series with the presence of Sweetbriar, that I loved most.

8. Pony Club Cup by Josephine Pullein-Thompson

I love the Pullein-Thompson sisters and this book by Josephine was the first in the series about the Woodland Pony Club. The Club's made up of a mishmash of riders who don't take riding too seriously and have disruptive ponies. But a new instructor arrives and stirs the Club into action. The "smashed up" ex-national hunt jockey with a moody temperament isn't exactly a popular choice amongst the riders, but the story charts the transformation of the club under his firm but inspiring leadership. At times it can be a bit too instructive but what made it for me was the feeling of reality the books evoked. There's a list detailing the main characters and their ponies at the start of the book, and

the photos on the front and the back cover match them immaculately, all of which convinced me that somewhere in England, the Woodbury Pony Club really did exist. I would have given anything to have joined them.

9. A Pony to School by Diana Pullein-Thompson

Another by a Pullein-Thompson, this time Diana. This offers a window into a world gone by, filled with grooms, afternoon teas, and orchards for the ponies to roam in. It was a world I longed to inhabit. Each character had more than one pony to choose from. The names of the ponies enchanted me Seaspray, Symphony and Daybreak it's what inspired me to name all the bikes in my shed at home and go to the "stables" to choose which pony I was going to ride that day. It also has one of the most moving yet unsentimental moments when Seaspray loses her battle against tetanus, which still makes me cry to this day even after reading it a hundred times.

10. The Magic Pony by Patricia Leitch

This book is part of the Jinny series, one of my all time favourites. It was so hard to pick just one because each book is gripping they have so much gritty detail and Jinny's every thought about her life and her horse is shared with the reader; she was a real heroine to me, she was opinionated and made some bad decisions, as she does in this book, but that makes it even easier to identify with her. I desperately wanted to own Shantih, Jinny's arab mare; she matched Jinny's feistiness and was breathtaking and exotic with her circus background. I chose this book because the version I have has such a captivating, mesmeric pony on the cover, which matches the description of the pony in the book perfectly. Just glancing at it stirs up a memory, not of the detail of the story, but of the emotion captured within it.

John Kelly
on catastrophes, natural and otherwise

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John Kelly Mr. Kelly's latest book is "The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People."

By Timothy Snyder (2010)

1. 'Bloodlands' does what every truly important book should: It makes us see the world differently. When we think about the genocides of World War II, we think of gas chambers, of packed cattle cars rattling through the night toward a German concentration camp. These images, while valid, are incomplete. As "Bloodlands" points out, most of those who died in the black heart of the 20th centurythe 1930s and 1940s were starved, shot or worked to death in the borderlands of Eastern Europe. The region was the butt of one of history's dark jokes. Hitler looked east and concluded that the Ukraine would make a perfect breadbasket for his new empire, while Stalin looked west and concluded that collectivized Ukrainian agriculture could support "socialism in one country." Twelve years later, 14 million were dead, the vast majority of them Jews and Slavs, murdered for no better reason than that they were judged unfit to inhabit a Germanic or Soviet utopia. "Bloodlands" is a work of remembrance as well as of scholarship. It asks us to remember the little Jewish girl in Belarus who wrote to her father, "I am saying goodbye to you before I die"; the Polish officer who was shot while writing in his diary and left a sentence unfinished: "They asked for my wedding ring, which I . . ." Remember them all, "Bloodlands" asks usfor our sake as well as for theirs.
The Worst Hard Time

By Timothy Egan (2006) 2. The 'hard time' in the title is the dust bowl of the 1930s, but Timothy Egan's book is also a story about the American character; about the best in usgrit, enterprise and resilienceand the worst: hucksterism, greed and a sometimes unbounded arrogance. In the 1820s, when the Great Plains was still a land of buffalo grass, high wind and dry skies, Stephen Long, an American explorer, judged the region "wholly unsuitable" for farming. Eighty years later, speculators, the government (eager to develop the region), and settlers avid to cash in on the last great land giveaway in U.S. history, decided Long was wrong. For a while, they managed to defy nature, but their luck couldn't last. In 1929, when the stock market pushed wheat, which had been selling for $2 a bushel, to below 50 cents, thousands went broke. The next year the prairie wind, which had held its breath for decades, began to blow hard again, carrying away the fertile topsoil. In "The Grapes of Wrath" John Steinbeck wrote of those who fled the Dust Bowl; in "The Worst Hard Time" Egan writes eloquently about those who stayed and fought nature to a draw.
Plagues and Peoples

By William McNeill (1976) 3. In 'Plagues and People,' one of the seminal books of the last half-century, William McNeill introduced an important but largely ignored subject to the study of history: epidemic disease. Agriculture had lighted the flame of human pestilence by bringing us into daily contact with horses, hogs, cattle and sheep. Measles, smallpox and a host of other animal diseases promptly migrated to us; then, around 500 B.C., the creation of the city provided the population density that epidemic disease requires to flourish. McNeill's book occasionally leaves us with the feeling that nature has had it in for us ever since we abandoned our natural niche as hunter-gatherers. A second-century smallpox epidemic ultimately led to the fall of the Roman Empire; in the 14th century,

the first burst of globalization produced a catastrophic epidemic. Italian merchants returning from China contracted the bubonic plague on the Eurasian steppe, and within a decade a third of Europe was dead. Human ingenuity, McNeill's book suggests, is not an unmixed blessing.

By Simon Winchester (2003) Enlarge Image

Stephen Belcher/ Foto Natura/Minden Pictures/Corbis Smoke rising from Krakatoa, a volcano in Indonesia, in 2009. Its devastating 1883 eruption was loud enough to be heard nearly 3,000 miles away. 4. Reading 'Krakatoa,' you feel as if you're sitting by a fire listening to your host tell you in a wonderful Oxbridge accent about his recent trip to this volcanic island, which was once part of the Dutch East Indies and is now part of Indonesia. Back in 1883, Krakatoa was the site of one of the most devastating geological events in recorded history. On an otherwise lovely August day, a cataclysmic eruption suddenly spit a seven-mile-high

column of smoke into the sky, threw up 100-foot waves and made it rain hot rocks. "Oh, that sounds frightening," you say. "Tell me more." First, however, he gives you a history lesson on the Dutch in the East Indies, a geology lesson, and lectures on the creation of the international telegraph system and a two-ton elephant who belonged to Wilson's Great World Circus. At first, the digressions can be maddening, but each pocket lesson turns out to be so compelling that you forget your impatience, and when the big bang finally does come you see the method to his madness.
The Great Influenza

By John Barry (2004) 5. It took the collective genius of mankind four years and billions of francs, pounds, marks and dollars to slaughter 10 million men in the trenches of World War I. The influenza pandemic spawned by the war achieved much more with much less. Between 1918, when the first flu cases appeared on the desolate Kansas plains, and 1920, when the pandemic expired in the back places of Asia, the virus killed 50 million to 100 million people. In "The Great Influenza," John Barry catches the sweep of the worst biological disaster in human history in a multilayered account that encompasses the interrelationship between war and disease, the politics of Wilsonian America, and the reflexive obtuseness of the bureaucratic mind. Patriotic parades that had to be held, troop ships that had to sail, draft quotas that had to be met created large pools of vulnerable young men in the teeming military establishments in the East and Midwest. The doughboys spread the disease to the civilian population, then carried it to Europe. What makes "The Great Influenza" a standout in the vast literature on the 1918 pandemic is Barry's description of the seminal role it played in the modernization of American medicine and science. It's a novel lens through which to view the flu, one that dramatizes the critical role that crises have in driving human progress. A version of this article appeared September 29, 2012, on page C10 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: John Kelly.


Lord Douglas Hurd's new book is out now Friday April 9,2010
By York Membery

Have your say(0) LORD Hurd, 80, is one of the countrys most respected elder statesmen having served as Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major. His latest book Choose Your Weapons: The British Foreign Secretary: Two Centuries Of Conflict And Personalities (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 25) is out now.
Full Moon by PG Wodehouse Arrow, 7.99 I discovered Wodehouse as a boy and have been a fan ever since. This is one of the Blandings stories and its always made me laugh. The Blandings books are among the few stories I read and re-read because they give me so much pleasure. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope Penguin, 8.99 Set in the fictional city of Barchester this 19th-century classic features a wonderful cast of characters such as the bishops wife Mrs Proudie and the much less attractive Mr Slope, the bishops chaplain. Another book I read and reread. Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh Penguin, 8.99 A hilarious book about a young schoolmaster who gets involved with a woman whose fortune is built on brothels. One of the earliest and funniest of Waughs books this is up there with some of his better-known works such as Brideshead Revisited. Macbeth by William Shakespeare


Penguin, 7.99

This might have the reputation of being an unlucky play but its very readable and easy to understand and has some wonderful scenes such as those featuring the witches and Banquos ghost. Full of excitement and a great introduction to Shakespeare. The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling Penguin, 9.99 A collection of short stories, the most famous of which is about Mowgli, the boy whos been brought up by wolves. A dramatic, beautifully written book which I vividly recall from my childhood because it made such a big impression on me. The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy Penguin, 12.99, 12.99 and 14.99 respectively A series of three novels published in the first quarter of the 20th century this is a wonderful saga about an uppermiddle-class family that features such memorable characters as Old Jolyon. A brilliant snapshot of a certain period in our history.

The 10 best fictional architects

Howard Roark The Fountainhead In The Fountainhead, the 1949 film of Ayn Rands book, Gary Cooper plays Howard Roark, a visionary architect who would rather starve then compromise. He blows up a social housing project after meddlesome bureaucrats spoil his design, and is eventually rewarded by designing the tallest building in the world. It is hilarious/preposterous stuff, but also scary, given that Rands demented philosophy of individualism is a major inspiration for the Romney/Ryan presidential ticket Otto Silenus Decline and Fall Otto Silenus, in Evelyn Waughs Decline and Fall, is a modernist fanatic. The problem of architecture, he says, is the elimination of the human element from the consideration of form I do not think it is possible for domestic architecture to be beautiful, but I am doing my best. That his name has echoes of Walter Gropius is not a coincidence. He is a brilliant creation even though he encouraged decades of prejudice against modern architecture Doug Roberts The Towering Inferno You might think that, in a film about a disastrous fire in a tower block, the architect might be the villain. But not in The Towering Inferno (1974), in which Paul Newman discovers that a substandard electrical system has been installed in the skyscraper he has designed in order to save the developer money. He also rescues two children, performs lifesaving magic on the scenic elevator and a few other miracles. Newmans Doug Roberts is one of the few hero-architects in cinematic history Seth Pecksniff Martin Chuzzlewit Seth Pecksniff, in Dickenss Martin Chuzzlewit, was created when the architectural profession in Britain was defining itself. He is a sanctimonious hypocrite who charges

students tuition fees, then passes off their work as his own, though believes himself to be a highly moral being. Some people likened him to a direction-post, said Dickens, which is always telling the way to a place, and never goes there. Sadly, such qualities have been found in some architects since Dickenss time David Murphy Indecent Proposal Woody Harrelsons character in Indecent Proposal is a hybrid of the visionary starving for his art and a sensitive romantic. His desperation for money to finance his great project leads his wife, Demi Moore, to accept Robert Redfords proposal to spend a night with him for a million dollars. A toe-curling moment intended to show the depths of his soul comes when Harrelson tells his students: A brick wants to be something something better than it is. That is what we must do. Mr Wiggin Monty Python architects sketch John Cleese, as Mr Wiggin, offers his potential clients a housing tower block with rotating knives in the foyer and chutes for draining blood. Thats just the sort of blinkered philistine pig ignorance Ive come to expect from you uncreative garbage, he rants when his idea is rejected, before pleading to be allowed to join the Freemasons. His rival for the job presents a model that disintegrates and bursts into flames during the presentation, but he wins the commission. Masonic handshakes are then exchanged all round Kem Roomhaus Death by Design He may be an insufferable, affected, narcissistic creep but hes also a genius. So says Batman of Kem Roomhaus, the Dutch exponent of mini-maximalism. In Death By Design, a new comic book about the winged hero, Roomhaus is designing a replacement for the magnificent Wayne Central Station which will take the form of a whales ribcage. He also creates the worlds most glamorous nightclub. As an encapsulation of architectural posturing and puffery its brilliant, though the real-life Rem Koolhaas might feel hard done by Flipper Purify Jungle Fever The film business has a taste for identifying male leads as architects to suggest a particular combination of responsibility and sensitivity. Paul Henreid in Now, Voyager and Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men for example. Wesley Snipes, in Spike Lees Jungle Fever, is an African-American architect who falls for his Italian-American secretary, after which various forms of interracial misunderstanding and havoc follow. His being an architect, therefore responsible, sensitive etc, makes his misfortunes the more poignant Sues (never seen) husband Abigails Party The maritally unreliable architect is an occasional but recurring figure in fiction and film. My favourite is the unseen husband of Sue in Mike Leighs TV and stage play Abigails Party (1977). He has deserted her and a cloud of anxiety and misery emits from Sue and envelops the other two couples. Thats a good job, says Beverly when Sue says that her husband is an architect. Its a good job he has a good job, says Ange, later, in a vain attempt to cheer things up. It is left to your imagination to fill in the features of the absent architect Anthony Royal High Rise Anthony Royal, in JG Ballards High Rise (1975), is the dark obverse of the sensitive nice guys. In his penthouse on top of the luxury block he has designed, he presides with growing satisfaction over the descent of its inhabitants into tribal warfare, rape, murder and cannibalism. Sinisterly clad in a white safari jacket, he is compared both to his white alsatian and to the large gulls that feed on the detritus of the degenerating block.

But he is not smart enough to escape his own end, while his dog ends up as a roast dinner for some of the survivors

Anthony Horowitz's top 10 apocalypse books

Fiction writers seem to delight in concocting all kinds of dystopian demises for mankind. Here, from the author of Oblivion, are some of the finest

Share 95 Email Anthony Horowitz, Thursday 4 October 2012 11.49 BST

The waste land Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee in the 2009 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar/Dimension Dystopia. Apocalypse. Death and destruction. There are two problems when you set out to write a book in this vein. The first is that you find yourself very limited as to what you can actually describe. After all, there are so many ways that the world can end war, disease, alien invasion, zombification etc. And whatever the cause, the end result is going to be pretty much the same: mass starvation, anarchy, long-term suffering and slow death. Unless you're writing a screwball comedy (and there have been attempts), there's hardly going to be much variation in the mood of the book either. 1. The Power of Five: Oblivion 2. by Anthony Horowitz

3. 4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop 1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book But for the writer, it's the second problem that is more intractable. The ground has been well covered. There are several masterpieces of apocalyptic fiction that have been produced over the last 100 years indeed, over the last few thousand if you want to go all the way back to The Epic of Gilgamesh. How can you possibly escape their shadow? I didn't. When I wrote Oblivion, the conclusion to my Power of Five series, I was thinking of several writers who had gone before me; what follows, my favourite dystopias, could be seen as a confessional. I did my best not to steal outright. But all writing is a form of assimilation. How can any writer not be influenced by what he or she has read before? This is what influenced me.

1. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Published in 2006, this is the apotheosis of apocalyptic fiction, rightly appearing near the top of every list. It's a grim read, made perhaps grimmer by how little it tells you about the world it describes. The two protagonists, a father and a son, have no names. We never find out exactly what happened to reduce the world to ashes. They carry a gun and two bullets to use on themselves if they're taken by cannibals. The writing is pared down and poetic. "Ash moving over the road and the sagging hands of blind wire strung from the blackened lightpoles whining thinly in the wind." It's a short, searing, unforgettable book.

2. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

I don't suppose children read this in school any more but when I was growing up it was pretty much mandatory. The end of the world is ushered in by a meteor display that blinds everyone who sees it. The hero wakes up in hospital. His eyes were bandaged and so he retains his sight (the same opening must surely have inspired 28 Days Later, Danny Boyle's excellent zombie film which begins in much the same way). Poisonous walking plants, triffids, then prey on the survivors. I will never forget the description of

a blind man staggering out of a ransacked supermarket with what he thinks is a tub of food. In fact it is a pot of paint.

3. On the Beach by Nevil Shute

Another standby from my schooldays; it was written in 1957 and I think just about every young person of the time read it. It starts with a nuclear war between Albania and Italy (which seems rather unlikely in retrospect). The whole of the northern hemisphere has been destroyed and a cloud of poison and radiation is moving towards Melbourne, where the book is set. It doesn't end happily. Pretty much everyone accepts their fate and most of them commit suicide.

4. The Stand by Stephen King

In my view, King did much of his best work early in his career, and this supernatural thriller from 1978 is simply outstanding, particularly the opening section and the description of the manmade flu epidemic known as "Captain Trips", which sweeps across the world. King chooses his horrors with cold-blooded precision the sequence that has one of the characters, Lloyd Henreid, dying of thirst and starvation locked up in a county jail is particularly vivid. The end of the book is a touch too biblical for my taste but it's still an amazing journey.

5. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

A book for children but far more than a children's book. It won both the Guardian and the Whitbread children's fiction awards, and will soon be even better known as it's just been filmed by Kevin Macdonald. The book takes place in the English countryside during the third world war, and centres on a love story between two cousins, Daisy and Edmond, with an unforgettable, bitter-sweet ending. I loved it both for its verisimilitude the food shortages, the terror of everyday life and for the fact that (like The Road) it simply presents its world without trying to explain it.

6. When the Wind Blows by Raymond Briggs

Also, very tentatively, for children, this graphic novel came out in 1982 and featured two stalwart, working-class characters Jim and Hilda Bloggs who had already featured in Brigg's rather more cheerful Gentleman Jim. The plot is simple. Jim and Hilda make it to a nuclear shelter just before the UK is bombed. However they have been exposed to radiation and despite their constant optimism and their fondness for each other, they slowly die. It's a brilliant exercise in pathos. What happens to the rest of the UK? We never find out.

7. Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke

This is the book that Stanley Kubrick decided not to make into a film. He did 2001: A Space Odyssey instead. I'm not a huge fan of science fiction but this is an extraordinary novel that starts with the arrival of aliens who, it turns out, exactly resemble the devil. In fact, they're not evil (an early, outstanding sequence has them causing a crowd at a

bullfight to share the pain of the bull), but it turns out that they have come to witness the end of the world which takes place in the final chapters. The final scenes still linger in my mind.

8. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

This, of course, was a major hit both as a book and as a film; I was surprised that both the author and the film-makers were able to get away with such levels of violence. The book presents a brilliantly realised vision of post-apocalyptic America, a country now called Panem, where every year the young are forced to take part in vicious gladiatorial combats (inspired by the ancient story of King Minos and the Athenians). Katniss Everdeen is a great central character and there's a very clever love triangle at the heart of the action. The series ends with revolution and betrayal the second film is already on the way.

9. The Passage by Justin Cronin

I rather enjoyed this 2010 novel, which adds vampire-like monsters and a lethal virus to the apocalyptic mix. Starting with a top-secret military stronghold in Colorado, where prisoners are being injected with some sort of serum to turn them into super-soldiers, the book leaps 90 years forward to a colony of survivors in a suitably ravaged world. A bit confusing in places, but I'm looking forward to the sequel and to the film which is apparently on the way.

10. The Bible

Perhaps a strange choice to finish with but this is actually where I began. "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." It may be short on description, but this still remains one of the most potent end-of-the-world stories, somehow ingrained in my childhood. For spectacular visuals to accompany it, you might look at the works of the Victorian painter John Martin. The story of Noah is equally compelling, but for real gut-churning terror you need to look at the Revelation of St John, with its teeming monsters and buckets of blood. At the end of the day, the bible was the main inspiration for Oblivion.

Five Best: David Denby

on classic works of movie criticism

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David Denby Mr. Denby is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author, most recently, of "Do the Movies Have a Future?"
The New Biographical

Dictionary of Film

By David Thomson (2010) 1 David Thomson's classic book has been around, in one version or another, since 1975. In about 1,100 double-columned pages, Thomson offers saturnine and loving appraisals of hundreds of actors and directors, with just enough biographical detail (birthplace, career history, flashes of romantic life) to give a plausible human shape to the normal chaos of movie-world existence. He is particularly attentive to flesh, to the fleetingness of glory, the pathos of failure, the pretensions of an over-valued reputation. On the sainted director John Ford: "The Ford philosophy is a rambling apologia for unthinking violence later disguised by the sham legends of old men befuddled by drink and glory." By temperament, Thomson is a pessimist with a streak of romantic hope, a man hard to please but generous when pleased, fatalistic but willing to dream. (If he were a genre, he would be noir). The book is notoriously hard to put down. Many moviegoers have an irritated relation to its bitter humor, keeping it nearby for a quick dip, then throwing it down in disgust, only to pick it up again two nights later. But for 37 years, it has been indispensable.
Agee on Film

By James Agee (1958) 2 James Agee, the great humanist of American film criticism, thought of movies as "the grandest prospect for a major popular art since Shakespeare's time." Agee reviewed for Time and the Nation in the '40s, when movie attendance was at its peak. The centrality of movies, he thought, conferred certain responsibilities on Hollywoodnot just to entertain but to render a credible and expressive picture of the nation's families and houses and streets, a portrait of its conflicts, its soul. Needless to say, he was often disappointed, but his evocation of movies as a moral-spiritual landscape has never been rivaled for its earnest intensity, leavened, often enough, with a poet's sensitivity to sensuous surfaces, a born writer's control of rhythm and balance, and startling explosions of blasphemous wit. In "Tender Comrade," for example, the courtship and marriage of Ginger Rogers and her husband have "the curious accuracy of those advertising dialogues in which Mr. and Mrs. Patchogue eliminate their erotic blockages by wrangling their way to a good laxative." Many of the movies he covered have faded from sight, but he can be read again and again for the tender exhilaration of his prose.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

By Pauline Kael (1968) 3 Most people know Pauline Kael's work from her 22-year stint at the New Yorker. But this early collection, consisting of magazine pieces from all over, has some of her funniest and most startling writing. The New Yorker gave her more space, and she became more descriptive, more detailed, richer in language, smoother. The early criticism, by contrast, is abrupt, enraged, staccato and fiercely contrarian. (Of the wholesomeness of "The Sound of Music": "Wasn't there perhaps one little Von Trapp who didn't want to sing his head off, or who screamed that he wouldn't act out little glockenspiel routines for papa's party guests, or who got nervous and threw up if had to

get on a stage?") Kael enjoyed turning on what she took to be the complacencies of her audience. Not only did she attack "The Sound of Music" when she wrote for women's magazines, she attacked Antonioni's "Blow-Up" and other "art" movies (although she was a champion of the early Godard) when she wrote for the high-minded New Republic. Again and again, she cuts to the core of what a movie is about, questions its value, turns it inside out. She has a fondness for paradox, the rug-pulling punch-line, the bullying rhetorical question. Of Yves Montand's aging communist hero in Alain Resnais's "La Guerre Est Finie": "Can we go along with his glamorized melancholy (and the assumption that his political activity was once useful though now out of touch), or do we see it as a Frenchman's Hollywoodization of a lummox of a party hack?" It was a style that revolutionized movie reviewing.
The American Cinema

By Andrew Sarris (1968) 4 In 1968, Andrew Sarris issued this catalogue raisone of American directorsa tiered list ranking them by how clearly they had made a powerful personal vision central to their work (Stanley Kubrick, John Huston and David Lean didn't make the top categories; Otto Preminger did). The book completed Sarris's task of Americanizing the auteur theory first propounded by Truffaut, Godard and other French critic-directors. Each entry condensed an extraordinary amount of viewing into a few paragraphs of rhythmically charged prose. The result on film studies was electrifying. Entire Hollywood careers, buried in the murk of allegedly impersonal studio style, suddenly came to life. The book fathered dozens of critics and Ph.D. theses, and the judgments and rankings, never changed, remain provocative and controversial to this day. Enlarge Image

The Everett Collection Ginger Rogers (right) played a wartime welder in 'Tender Comrade.'
Negative Space

By Manny Farber (1971) 5 Manny Farber's best work was written mainly for art journals in the 1950s and '60s, and it has a style unlike that of any other movie criticismintensely detailed, attentive to visual design and mood, the disposition of space, the weight of an actor's temperament, and body movement. Speaking of war movies, he noted that in Raoul Walsh's "What Price Glory?" and Anthony Mann's "Men in War" "the terrain is special in that it is used, kicked, grappled, worried, sweated up, burrowed into, stomped on. The land is marched across in dark, threading lines at twilight, or the effect is reversed with foot soldiers in white parkas (Fixed Bayonets) curving along a snowed-in battleground as they watch troops moving back." Farber was a painter, and he didn't bother with plot, narrative, dramatic effectiveness, cultural significance. His essays, beginning in the middle of a subject and working their way out to the edges, are minute explorations of a given terrain, evoked with the combined savvy and tough-guy humor of a man who both knew art history cold and had haunted the old grind-houses on 42nd Street and the revival houses of the 1950s and '60s. The style takes off from the hard-boiled writers of the '30s and '40s, with an admixture of Farber's special taste for strange and evocative

metaphor. When you read him, you feel you are truly encountering movies as a visual art form for the first time.

Ric Burns' 6 favorite books

The documentary filmmaker shares stories that influenced the making of his new film, Death and the Civil War
posted on September 18, 2012, at 9:35 AM

Ric Burns is a writer and documentary filmmaker best known for producing and writing the PBS series The Civil War. Mary Chesnut's Civil War by Mary Boykin Chesnut (Yale, $30). An indelible, eloquent, and ferociously intelligent account of the war from an intrguing source: Chesnut was the daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner and the wife of a former U.S. senator who worked closely with the president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis. This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust (Vintage, $17). A deeply moving, exhaustively researched, and richly detailed exploration of the myriad ways in which death entered the American experience during the Civil War as never before. While showing how Americans struggled to improvise new ways of coping with death on an unprecedented scale, Faust tracks how the effort changed the American character, the psyche of the American people, and the nature of American culture and government. Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson (Oxford, $20). McPherson's Pulitzerwinning 1988 book is the best single-volume account of the Civil War ever written. It's an extraordinary book that synthesizes every salient cause, current and consequence pertinent to the four-year near-holocaust America visited on itself.

The Legacy of the Civil War by Robert Penn Warren (Bison, $14). First published half a century ago, Warren's short, incisive book deftly summarizes the way the Civil War reshaped America in multiple ways, and doesn't flinch from calling out Northerners and Southerners alike for the biases that continue to misshape our understanding of the war. Lincoln at Gettysburg by Garry Wills (Simon & Schuster, $15). Another Pulitzerwinner, from 1992, Willis' analysis of Lincoln's seminal speech is a stunning tour de force in its writing, in its exegesis, and in the case it makes for the permanent centrality of Lincoln's brief remarks at Gettysburg in November 1863. Patriotic Gore by Edmund Wilson (Norton, $38). Wide-ranging, brilliant, idiosyncratic and indispensable, Wilson's view of the varied literature of the war is a classic of literary criticism, offering biographical study and cultural analysis all rolled into one. All the usual suspects, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Stephen Crane, are here, as well as a few surprises. Ric Burns is a writer and documentary filmmaker best known for producing and writing the PBS series The Civil War

Caspar Henderson's top 10 natural histories

From the Bible to Darwin to Dr Seuss, the author picks out books that 'open new eyes to see the world'

Share 23 Email Caspar Henderson, Wednesday 10 October 2012 11.33 BST Jump to comments (6)

A first edition of The Origin Of Species by Charles Darwin, in front of a portrait of the author, at the Royal Society. Photograph: Martin Godwin Where to begin? "Nature has neither language nor discourse," wrote Goethe, "but she creates tongues and hearts, by which she feels and speaks." 1. The Book of Barely Imagined Beings 2. by Caspar Henderson

3. 4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop 1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book Nature writing, surely, has its origins in song and storytelling but while Gilgamesh, the earliest known written poem, describes the terrifying guardian of the cedar forest it does not describe the forest itself. 1. The Song of Songs (200-100 BCE) The Song of Songs, a sensuous love lyric attributed to Solomon but probably written much later, veers on occasion into similes as strange as anything in Philip K Dick ("thy hair is as a flock of goats"). For wisdom Ecclesiastes is a better bet. But what surpasses

it for sheer joy in nature? "My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For Lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come and the voice of the turtle [dove] is heard in our land " Great nature poets such as Walt Whitman and DH Lawrence were inspired by these verses, and the sense of affirmation they convey is no less valid than the ambiguity and darkness we also find in recent anthologies such as Earth Shattering: Ecopoems (edited by Neil Astley) and The Thunder Mutters (edited by Alice Oswald).

2. Of Cruelty by Michel de Montaigne (circa 1580)

Montaigne's essay is, at once, uniquely his voice and one of the great universal statements an inspiration for all those struggling to create a better world. "We owe justice to men," he writes, "and to the other creatures who are able to receive them we owe gentleness and kindness." Even more radically: "There is a kind of respect and a duty in man which link[s] us not merely to the beasts, which have life and feelings, but even to trees and plants." There is an extraordinary leap of mind here, one that science has only strengthened. As Daniel Chamovitz shows in his recent, delightful book What a Plant Knows, greater understanding of the complex and subtle capabilities of plants challenges us not only to think in new ways about sight, sound and smell and what a plant is, but also what we are.

3. Walden by Henry David Thoreau (1854)

Whether examining tiny bubbles in a sheet of ice over shallow water at close range or considering the most notable men and women of the day as "transient and fleeting phenomena", Thoreau's meditation beside Walden Pond sparkles with surprises and insights. The land ethic articulated by Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac and the visionary transport of Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (both also essential reading) are prefigured here, as are elements of the radical, progressive and compassionate agenda of environmentalism at its best. "We are acquainted with a mere pellicle of the globe on which we live," writes Thoreau, "We know not where we are." Walden remains an essential companion on the journey of discovery.

4. On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin (1859)

One of the masterworks of civilisation. It shows how, when sufficient pain is taken, precise observation and close reasoning can, cumulatively, lead to a revolution in our view of nature of world-historical significance. The reality into which Darwin plunges us is bracing "the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life" but refreshing too. There's no denying that much of the Origin is a far-from-easy read " the chelae of Crustaceans resemble in some degree the avicularia of Polyzoa, both serving as pincers, it may be worth while to show that the with the former a long series of serviceable gradations still exists..." but it is absolutely worth the effort. (The annotated edition,

edited by James T Costa, is a help). "We see through the eyes of theory," writes the physicist David Deutsch, quoting Karl Popper. Darwin opened new eyes to see the world in all its gore and beauty.

5. On Growth and Form by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (1917)

D'Arcy sought to understand living and natural forms through geometry, number and the optimal representation of physical forces: a theory that is, in the words of Stephen Jay Gould, "a strange hybrid of Pythagoras and Newton". With its fascinating illustrations of transformation and fine prose, this pioneering work is, among other things, a ringing celebration of what Pliny called Magna ludentis naturae varietas, "the great variety of nature at play", and it continues to inspire artists, scientists and nature lovers.

6. A Land by Jacquetta Hawkes (1951)

Robert Macfarlane has described this book in ways that cannot be bettered: "It appears at different points to be a short history of Planet England; a geological prose-poem; a Cretaceous cosmi-comedy; a patriotic hymn of love to Terra Britannica; a neoRomantic vision of the countryside as a vast and inadvertent work of land-art; [and] a speculative account of human identity as chthonic in origin and collective in nature Its tonal range is vast. It possesses echoes of the saga, shades of the epic, and tassels of the New Age. It brinks at times on the bonkers I can imagine it reperformed as a rock opera."

7. Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid by James Watson and Francis Crick (1953)
Literary types tend to be a little spooked by scientific papers. Pity. We should at least make an effort, if only as a Labrador does when, sensing that something important is going on without quite understanding what, it howls along to the sound of a piano. Watson and Crick's paper on the structure of DNA is a good place to start. This magnificent insight into the staggering beauty at the heart of life is fractionally over a page in length. Its consequences are huge but, as we increasingly appreciate thanks to the ENCODE project and more, even now we are only a few small steps towards understanding how life works. Download it and stick it on your wall [PDF].

8. The Lorax by Dr Seuss (1971)

The Gospel according to Theodore Seuss Geisel tells you all need to know: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." Avoid the movie.

9. The Lives of a Cell by Lewis Thomas (1971)

From Loren Eiseley to EO Wilson, the scientist reflecting in essay form on the wonder, beauty and strangeness of nature and on human responsibility is a well-established tradition in the US. Few if any have matched Thomas, a physician who died in 1993 leaving six collections of essays. The Lives of a Cell, dating from around the time of the first photograph of the Earth from space and the discovery that whale song consists of complex organised patterns, is among the best. "We are not the masters of nature that we thought ourselves; we are as dependent on the rest of nature as are the leaves or midges or fish." And again, "We are alive against stupendous odds You'd think we'd never stop dancing."

10. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez (1984)

It's taken until the last slot to get to a book that is by most definitions "proper nature writing" in the sense of sustained descriptive writing about the natural world affectionately satirised by Evelyn Waugh in Scoop with "Feather-footed through the plashy fen passes the questing vole". But Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape is the real McCoy: a work of tremendous ambition that combines description of natural forms and processes in an environment that is among the bleakest and richest on Earth with profound thought on human dwelling and alienation. Arctic Dreams is all the more remarkable in that, though published less than 30 years ago, the spectre of human made climate change is absent from its pages. Caspar Henderson's The Book of Barely Imagined Beings is published by Granta

Tim Pears's top 10 20th-century political novels

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Tim Pears is the author of In the Place of Fallen Leaves, In a Land of Plenty and A Revolution of the Sun. His most recent novel, Wake Up - described in the Guardian as a 'pungent, deeply unsettling modern parable' - is the story of a pioneering businessman whose investment in genetically engineered potatoes is going awry. He explains his choice of genre: 'Is the purpose of fiction to engage with or escape from the here and now? It's surprising so little fiction takes up the challenge of the former. A novel can't change the world. But a great novel opens the mind like nothing else. And when the mind opens, so too does the future.' More about Tim Pears

1. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1910)

A rambling, revealing, woolly, dignified account of poverty-stricken working class life 100 years ago, written by an in and out of work painter and decorator. A British novel that inspired generations towards social justice; to be read when young and forgiving of the awkward weight of polemic.

2. The Good Soldier Svejk by Jaroslav Hasek (1923)

Shaggy-dog stories of beautiful incompetence, of effortless anarchy spread through the Austrian army in 1914 by our eponymous idiot hero. A comic handbook on how to undermine authority in the most enjoyable way possible, written by a notorious hoaxer, drinker and vagrant Bohemian.

3. Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler (1940)

A Russian communist general is imprisoned in one of Stalin's purges. The novel concentrates on his incarceration and interrogation, and extracts both political complexity and a burnished portrait of an individual's irreducible sovereignty, even as he is being destroyed.

4. The Bridge Over the Drina by Ivo Andric (1945)

Episodes from the small Bosnian town of Visegrad since its stone bridge was built in the 16th century: the stories of Muslims, Catholics and Orthodox Christians, individuals enmeshed in tribal loyalties, ending with the conflagration of 1914. An indispensable insight into the Yugoslav tragedy.

5. The Tartar Steppe by Dino Buzzati (1945)

The daily futile life of Giovanni Drogo and his comrades in a remote garrison overlooking an empty plain. Is that movement out there in the distance? Is that dust the enemy? Among other things this hallucinatory novel describes the insecurity of empires: the frontier is vulnerable. What to do? Expand. And saddle yourself with wider, yet more vulnerable frontiers.

6. Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1948)

A Zulu pastor searches for his lost, errant son through the lower depths of Johannesburg, and encounters the degrading reality of the country he'd ignored. A novel of illuminating beauty and power.

7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

Astonishingly inventive masterpiece. About 30 years after its publication, I heard Joseph Heller being asked if he was sad that he'd not written a book to equal his first. He confessed that he was, but took some consolation from the fact that no one else had either! After reading this satire, it's hard to believe armies still have the effrontery to mobilise.

8. When the Tree Sings by Stratis Haviaras (1979)

How is this extraordinary book out of print? Set in German-occupied Greece during the second world war, it's a coming-of-age novel, full of striking characters, but it is also about tyranny, collaboration, hope, desolation and exile. There's a Laurie Lee-like quality to the writing despite it being in the author's second language.

9. The Life and Times of Michael K by JM Coetzee (1983)

Michael K, a poor young gardener, decides to take his mother out of a collapsing South African city and walk to a new life in the emptied country. As he loses what little he has - his possessions, his mother, his liberty - Coetzee portrays the resistance of a man who has nothing.

10. Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (2000)

A forensic anthropologist in America returns to her birthplace, Sri Lanka, with a human rights group to study the bodies of murder victims. Against her will and better judgment she is drawn into the political turmoil behind the violence, forcing herself open to the messy complexity of truth. A dark, challenging, beautiful novel that both describes and answers the writer's (and the reader's) challenge: escape or engagement?

Book Bag: David Thomsons The Big Screen and His Five Favorite Books on Film
by David Thomson Oct 16, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

The critic and author of the seminal Biographical Dictionary of Film returns with a sweeping history of the movies, The Big Screen. He picks five books on film that you would enjoy.

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The Deer Park By Norman Mailer

I want books you would enjoy reading even if you knew next to nothing about the movies. In that spirit, I start with a novelNorman Mailers The Deer Park (1955) about an Air Force flier who goes to Hollywood. Its a vivid description of the place, its talk and sex, and its compromises. Look for a director, Charles Eitel, a man of principle who will name names to keep working.

A Life By Elia Kazan

Who knows, Eitel may have been based on the real figure of Elia Kazan, who wrote A Life (1988), the most compelling show-business autobiography I know. Kazan was a great director: A Streetcar Named Desire and Death of a Salesman on stage; On the

Waterfront and East of Eden on screen. He knew everyone and tells their stories with himself as a tortured betrayerafter all, Kazan did name names.

Zona By Geoff Dyer

We need a whole book on one film, to show just how much can be seen there. So Im picking Geoff Dyers Zona (2012), a wonderful, funny, and profound account of how he has lived with Andrei Tarkovskys Stalker for years, ruminating on what t means and how it works. I think I prefer Zona to Stalker, but you can learn so much about the life and suggestion of a film from this unique book.

From Reverence to Rape By Molly Haskell

Time for a sensible survey. There is nothing better than Molly Haskells From Reverence to Rape, published in 1974 but still essential and readable. Its a history of how Hollywood has portrayed female characters over the ages, and in the process, its a tribute to the movies Haskell likes best: the romantic and screwball comedies of the 30s and 40s. Read this book and youll want to see the films again: from The Awful Truth to His Girl Friday.

Notes on the Cinematographer By Robert Bresson

Finally, heres one you may not know: Robert Bressons Notes on the Cinematographer (1975). Its very slim, comprised of a gathering together of proverbs or rules about how to make a movie. Dont read it too fast. You need to think about

every passage. But the book is full of wisdom and a strange, straight-faced humor so that when youre done you will be ready to see some Bresson moviesA Man Escaped, Mouchette, Pickpocket

The 10 Best Narrators in Literature

By Antoine Wilson | Sep 28, 2012 Oppen Porter, who narrates Antoine Wilson's Panorama City, is one of the finest and most charming narrators we've come across in some time. We asked Wilson to name his 10 favorite narrators for Tip Sheet. The first-person narrator descends from the ancient storyteller unspooling his tale around the fire for the delight and edification of his people. But on the page, two things transform him. One, we readers can ask Who is this speaker? Why is he telling us this story, and what isn't he telling us? Two, he can go on as long as he wants. The first case invents the so-called Unreliable Narrator, the second gives rise to what I like to call the World Swallower.


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PW Daily Tip Sheet More Newsletters Whether insane, overheated, strung-out, or merely young and nave, Unreliable Narrators always deliver more than their characters intend to. Comic or tragic, serious or absurd, they can tell just about any story while also reflecting our capacity for selfdeception, our limited sliver of knowledge about the world, and the limits of language itself. The World Swallower is the unhinged cousin of the old-school omniscient authornarrator (the one who used to say dear reader). He stretches (or obliterates) the boundaries of what a character might be able to know. Whether deployed to illuminate the scope of human imagination or to bring under one flimsy umbrella the whole of experience, the World Swallower is the ultimate stand-in for an author who has devoted himself or herself to their art. There exist other varieties of first-person narrator, of course, and other ways to describe them, but my favorites (aka this Top Ten) are the Unreliables and the World Swallowers.

(For each book, Ive also included an alternate, a sort of spiritual cousin to the one on the list.)

10. Huck Finn, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Huck's narration exemplifies the triumph of the spoken over the written, the colloquial over the official. With this novel, Twain deployed his skills as a master ventriloquist to rejuvenate American literature, delivering adult ideas through the mouth of a child nave. (Alternate: Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee)

9. Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger -Another child narrator, so inflected with the language and perspective of a kid that the novel is often assigned to kids themselves, most of whom fail to see beyond Holden's puerile litmus of phony/not-phony. The power lies in the book's structure (pitting dying nobly against living humbly, at one point), and in reading it from an adult's perspective. Having already lost some innocence, we grown-ups understand the significance of Holden's position better than he ever could. (Alternate: Elaine, Cats Eye by Margaret Atwood)

8. F**khead, Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson -A narrative of down-and-out druggy recovery told by an unreliable narrator. F**khead can't even keep his own story straight; he revises along the way. But what Johnson achieves here is innovative and moving. This is a true novel-in-stories, taking the overarching narrative of recovery from the novel form, while allowing F**khead's voice to evolve from chapter to chapter, a discontinuity enabled by the term short story. The events of the first story/chapter are no more or less strange than the last, but along the way the voice transforms from imagistic confusion to candid clarity. (Alternate: Esther Greenwood, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath)

7. Ditie, I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal - Hrabal is a modern master of the literature of the Fool. But unlike his forebears (cf Jasek's novel The Good Soldier Svejk), Hrabal lets his fools speak for themselves, giving them the microphone to narrate their own stories in all of their venal, occasionally insightful, narrow-minded glory. Ditie, a hotel waiter, likes to brag that he once served the Emperor of Ethiopia. A

poor judge of seemingly everything, he marries a stern German athlete just as the Nazis are taking power. James Wood's review of Hrabal's work is a must-read. (Alternate: Stevens, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro)

6. Charles Kinbote, Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov - Yes, yes, I know, why isn't Humbert Humbert on this list? Because far more interesting (to my mind) is Nabokov's second-most famous creation, Charles Kinbote. Pale Fire is a strange hybrid form; the novel consists of Kinbote's cranky Foreword, a 999-line poem by someone called John Shade, and the footnotes to that poem, in which Kinbote attempts to claim the work for himself in a sort of lit crit hijacking attempt. In doing so, Kinbote manages to both swallow the world and emerge as one of the least reliable and most amusing narrators I've ever read. (Alternate: Humbert Humbert, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov)

5. Invisible Man, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison - A song of subjectivity, at times wildly uneven, partly inspired (according to Ellison) by Eliot's The Waste Land, the novel comes to us via an unnamed narrator under the guise of autobiography. Invisible Man shimmers as literature for what Ellison turned his back on, the realist protest novel, in favor of a personal and experimental style, one that allows erudition, feverish lyricism, command of the vernacular, fluency in pop culture, jazz, science, preaching, and discourses on communism. A voice to swallow not the world, per se, but the world's many voices. (Alternate: The Underground Man, Notes from Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky)

4. Franz-Josef Murau, Extinction by Thomas Bernhard - Bernhard's narrators are distinguished by their musicality, repetition, and relentlessness. The intellectual black sheep of a powerful Austrian family, Franz-Josef Murau must leave his exile in Rome when he finds himself sole heir to hisfamily's estate, Wolfsegg. Brilliant, darkly comic, and enlightening, Murau's pseudo-autobiography is a triple-shot of bile from the Austrian master. (Alternate: Any of Beckett's narrators)

3. Ruth, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson - In relating her and her sister's somewhat feral childhood in fictional Fingerbone, Idaho, Ruth depicts events and scenes she could not have witnessed firsthand but which have taken root in her imagination. The result is an intimate bildungsroman interwoven with a worldswallowing depiction of place, people, and history. All told through a voice that, at times, approaches the I am nothing. I see all. of Emerson's Transparent Eyeball. As stealthy as it is ambitious. (Alternate: Del Jordan, Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro)

2. Ishmael, Moby-Dick by Herman Melville - Call me Ishmael, he says, but can we still call him Ishmael by the final chapter, when we get (spoiler alert) a third-person description of the destruction of the Pequod? Ishmael is the ultimate world-swallowing narrator, one who bursts at the seams with the volume of all he has swallowed, narrative consistency be damned. (Alternate: The author/narrator of Don Quixote)

1. M., In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust - Cookie, tea, go! (Alternate: Howie, The Mezzanine by Nicholson Baker)

Paul Johnson
on brief biographies

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Paul Johnson Mr. Johnson's books include "Churchill," "Napoleon" and, most recently, "Darwin."

By Sir Arthur Bryant (1932)

1. There is no doubt in my mind what is the best short biography ever written. It is Sir Arthur Bryant's life of Macaulay. I have taken it as the model for my own small-scale lives, of which I have done five, and my 60 biographical essays, in four volumes. What is required for this kind of work is a combination of ruthlessness and elegance. Ruthlessness in discarding everything but the essential; elegance in concealing your brutality behind a flow of prose in which not a word is wasted, room is found for wit and the telling anecdote, and the reader never gets an impression of hurry. Macaulay was a tough subject. He was a poet, a journalist of the highest class and a historical writer who enraptured his contemporaries but also a man of action, cabinet minister, reformer and the best administrator in the whole course of the British Empire in India. He never wasted a day. He always had a book or two in his pocket for readingand rememberingin odd moments. His memory was prodigious. He never had to search for a word, in writing or speech. Coping with this phenomenon, and reducing his crowded life to a mere 109 pages, required a historian of the highest caliber and a writer of unusual gifts. Bryant was that man. In 1945 the world was astonished when the British electorate deposed Winston Churchill and replaced him with the Labour Party leader Clement Attlee. As they were processing to the House of Commons for the opening of Parliament, Churchill said to Attlee: "Who is our finest historian?" "Arthur Bryant." "Well," said Churchill, 'at least we agree on something.'
Ulysses S. Grant

By Michael Korda (2004) 2. Americans make very good biographers for thoroughness. But they write on an ample scale, and short biographies are rare. But they do occur, and one I admire is Michael Korda's "Ulysses S. Grant." Here was a man whose early life was humble and marked by failure, but once he got a grip on success he was unusually proficient. He contrived to end the Civil War, and to end it on a note of grace, to serve two terms as president, and then to write one of the most successful books in American literature. As Korda says, in the late 19th century, in every American home, you could count on finding two books, the Bible and Grant's memoirs. Korda manages to bring this man alive, and nail down his qualities and significance, in 158 short pages.
Lincoln at Gettysburg

By Garry Wills (2006) 3. Of Grant's contemporary, Lincoln, there are over 1,000 biographies, many multivolume, with more appearing every year. There are few short ones, and none outstanding, but there is one that contrives to take a particular episode and use it to epitomize and illuminate the whole life. This is Garry Wills's "Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America." The main text is only 175 pages, but it shows how Lincoln in this short speech was able to ennoble the war, to explain why it was necessary, to show why it succeeded in its objects and to give Americans a key text about themselves. The book sums up Lincoln's qualities and makes good his claim to be the exemplar of the American virtues and the central figure in American history. This is a two-day readwith the appendices threebut time profitably spent.
Rossetti: His Life and Works

By Evelyn Waugh (1928) 4. Of modern writers in English, I rate Evelyn Waugh as the one who used words most carefully, judiciously and imaginatively and who never employed one more than he absolutely needed. So it is no wonder that he wrote a fine short biography, "Rossetti: His Life and Works." Rossetti is not an easy man to write about. He was a poet as well as a painter. He can be seen both as the central figure in the one important artistic movement of the 19th century in Britain, the Pre-Raphaelites, but also as an outsider who never fitted into its aims. He was also a complex of opposites. He was industrious. He was lazy, almost beyond belief at times. He was highly literary. He rarely read books. He drew like an angel. His drawing was sometimes clumsy and indelicate. His coloring melted the heart. It was also harsh and disturbing. His thoughts about art, literature and culture were incisive and passionately interesting. They were also mindless, at times, and incoherent nearly always. Waugh contrives to fit all these opposites together and to convey, without wasting words, the course of the internal dialogue in himself by which he reached his conclusions. It is a notable achievement for a young manpublished when he was 25, it was his first bookand well worth reading. Enlarge Image

Glasgow University Library, Scotland / The Bridgeman Art Library A caricature from Max Beerbohm's 'Rossetti and His Circle' (1922) showing a recumbent Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his brother, William, with Algernon Swinburne.
A Portrait of Charles Lamb

By David Cecil (1983) 5. Finally there is David Cecil's life of the 19th-century essayist Charles Lamb. I knew Cecil when I was an Oxford undergraduate, and he still makes me laugh, though I'm not sure whether I am laughing at Cecil himself or at Kingsley Amis's brilliantly funny imitations of him. Cecil was good at short books. He did an excellent one on Jane Austen, another on the young Lord Melbourne and a third on William Cowper. But his Lamb is the best. Cecil was attracted to Lamb by his gentleness, punctuated by occasional spasms of fury, by his exquisite use of words and expressions, and his interest in their gestation, and by his delight in human eccentricity. Lamb's life was made tragic by his beloved sister's periodic bouts of insanity, but it was always a continual comedyoccasionally a farcethanks to Lamb's eye for the unconscious human behavior that makes one laugh and his ear for wit, as well as his genius for delivering it. This charming book can be read easily in a couple of days, but it will linger in the mind forever. A version of this article appeared October 20, 2012, on page C10 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Paul Johnson. Books

Ty Burr's 6 favorite movie-star biographies

The longtime film critic for The Boston Globe recommends histories of Chaplin, Brando, and Marilyn
posted on October 13, 2012, at 1:35 PM

Author and film critic Ty Burr's new book, Gods Like Us, reflects on different images of stardom and what it means to be a celebrity today. Photo: Michael Lionstar Chaplin: His Life and Art by David Robinson (out of print). An epic biography for the movies' first epic personality. Robinson traces Charlie from London poverty to global fame, from adulation to backlash and back again, with detail and clarity. What emerges is a portrait of an artist caught helplessly in the web of his own fame. A model of the form. Swanson on Swanson by Gloria Swanson (out of print). The life of a screen diva as seen from the inside, with all the dirt and colossal ego intact. Published in 1980, it remains one of the most deliciously readable yet intelligently clear-sighted takes on the celebrity bubble. Worth it for Swanson's thoughts on Norma Desmond alone. Marlon Brando by Patricia Bosworth (Nook Book, $15). You could read Peter Manso's 1,100-page doorstop, Brando, or the actor's own, 480-page autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me. But Bosworth somehow gets to the knotted, self-loathing heart of Marlon's darkness in 228 elegant pages. By the time you get to the epilogue, you feel as if Brando's in the room with you. Becoming Mae West by Emily Wortis Leider (out of print). West is one of those screen icons who seem fixed, unchangeable, and forever. Leider deftly shows how West's most interesting years were on the New York stage and how Hollywood captured only the final ossification of her sexually licentious persona. The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book by Arlene Croce (Educational Publisher, $30). Originally published in 1972 and long out of print, this title resurfaced in 2010 to the rapture of dance fans and lovers of classic musicals. It looks like a picture book, but it's much, much more: Croce breaks down the films, and the individual dances in them, in ways that make you appreciate them in wholly new ways. All the Available Light: A Marilyn Monroe Reader edited by Yona Zeldis McDonough (Touchstone, $14). With contributions from Gloria Steinem, Joyce Carol

Oates, Molly Haskell, Sir Laurence Olivier, and Clare Boothe Luce, this book comes at Marilyn from all sides and still never gets to the bottom of her mystique. Ty Burr's new book, Gods Like Us, is a meditation on the evolution of fame and stardom

Peter F Stevens's top 10 nautical books

Share 0 inShare0 Email, Monday 24 February 2003 00.00 GMT

The author of The Voyage of the Catalpa shares his top 10 nautical books, but hastens to explain, "As an aficionado of CS Forester's Horatio Hornblower books and Patrick O'Brian's great tales of the Royal Navy, there was no way I could select just one from each author." Book of the week review Buy The Voyage of the Catalpa at 1. The Spanish Armada by Garrett Mattingly Mattingly's vivid, superbly told history of the ill-fated Armada is both a literary and nautical gem. At times, the disasters about to assail the Spaniards are almost palpable. 2. In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick Herman Melville crafted his classic, Moby Dick, by drawing upon the dark ordeal of the Nantucket whaler, Essex. The leviathan wins in this incredible true-life saga of whaling, cannibalism, survival, and rescue. Philbrick's smoothly flowing prose and his knowledge of sailing ships and the men who signed aboard them are stellar. Not a book for the faint of heart or stomach. 3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville Captain Ahab storming about with his one leg, the mighty white whale consuming the whaler's every thought, densely detailed passages chronicling whaling men's lives, in which long stretches of shipboard boredom could vanish with one cry of "Thar' she blows!" - this 1851 briny American classic is the grandfather of all whaling epics. 4. The Floating Brothel by Sian Rees In July 1789, the Lady Julian slipped away from England and set course for the penal colony at Sydney Bay, New South Wales. She carried an unusual cargo of 240 women, mainly convicted of petty crimes and slated to bring 'sexual comfort' as well as potential marriage and children to the male convicts of Australia. Not as racy as the title hints, but Rees's chronicle of the Lady Julian's voyage is still riveting.

5. Selkirk's Island by Diana Souhami Scottish seaman Alexander Selkirk served as the salt- and sand-encrusted model for Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. In Diana Souhami's balanced and illuminating look at both the anti-hero Selkirk and the fictional Crusoe, the result is engrossing. One thing is certain: readers will never look at Robinson Crusoe in quite the same way. 6. Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall Writers and film-makers continue to put their own stamp on the strange and controversial relationship between Captain William Bligh and Fletcher Christian. I loved this one as a boy and still pick up my well-worn copy from time to time. Of all the mutiny sagas, this one stands in a class by itself - not even the great Charles Laughton's cinematic Bligh could outdo the original article in the novel, or for that matter, the historical Bligh. 7. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana From bowsprit to mainmast, this one's a colorful 'tar's-eye' view of life aboard an 1830s merchantman sailing around Cape Horn and making the run to California. Dana, a Harvard student who decided that the best way to recover from a bout with the measles was to become a seaman, penned a vivid chronicle of shipboard life, storms, exotic ports of call, and the myriad emotions universal to all who venture into deep waters. 8. Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage to the Antarctic by Alfred Lansing In the summer of 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton set off aboard the Endurance, bound for the South Atlantic and straight into one of the most amazing adventures of determination and survival in maritime annals. Lansing's tense, absorbing account of how the Endurance was trapped and crushed in ice and how Shackleton and his crew survived for some five months on shifting ice floes until they could finally set out in one of the ship's lifeboats is an astonishing and stirring epic. 9. Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel This is not strictly a maritime saga, but the pages teem with 17th century mariners encountering disaster or near-disaster as they grapple with the most perplexing nautical problem since time immemorial: a means to determine longitude. In Dava Sobel's work, we meet the man who tackled the dilemma that had baffled the likes of Galileo and Newton. The conqueror's name was John Harrison, a clockmaker by trade, who solved the riddle of fixing an east-west position and thus earned the sobriquet 'Longitude' Harrison. I love this book for its unique hero, hardly the quintessential maritime legend, and for Sobel's fascinating, white-knuckle looks at the woes that ship's masters faced without the means to determine longitude. 10. A Night to Remember by Walter Lord OK, I'll admit that much more scientific examinations of the Titanic's demise are readily available and that there was not a sail to be found on the state-of-the-art steamer. Still, Lord's 1955 work, with its you-are-aboard style and his interviews of dozens of the liner's survivors, bring the book an immediacy that stands up well. A good example comes as a boy and his mother in one of the lifeboats gaze at the sun reflecting off smaller icebergs than the one that ripped open the Titanic. The boy says, "Oh, look at the beautiful North Pole with no Santa Claus on it."

Robert Collins's top 10 dystopian novels

Share 2 inShare0 Email, Wednesday 24 August 2005 00.00 BST

Robert Collins is half-Brazilian and half-English and lives and writes in London. His first novel, Soul Corporation, is a fast-paced thriller set in a vividly realised not-sodistant future. Robert Collins's website "Fictional dystopias are almost always cautionary tales - warnings of where our political, cultural and social surroundings are taking us. The novels here all share common motifs: designer drugs, mass entertainment, brutality, technology, the suppression of the individual by an all-powerful state - classic preoccupations of dystopian fiction. These novels picture the worst because, as Swift demonstrated in his original cautionary tale, Gulliver's Travels, re-inventing the present is sometimes the only way to see how bad things already are."

1. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

The dystopia to end them all. It's no coincidence that Orwell's nightmare has become such an ingrained part of our consciousness. More than any book in this list, it feels as though it's not really an allegory at all, but instead a murky, half-experienced reality. From Newspeak to Big Brother to Winston's sojourn in Room 101, Orwell's last novel is a towering, sadistic, and tender portrait of humanity floundering in the ideological clutches of totalitarianism.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Do you want your future grimy and bleak, or shiny and clean? Huxley serves up the latter. For my taste, I've always felt this was a poor cousin to Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell is haunting because he paints the future through such a personal, terrifying ordeal, whereas Huxley is more a swaggering ideas man, warning us off "the horror of Utopia" by making it look so deliberately stark, sterile, and efficient.

3. Crash by JG Ballard
Ballard could create a dystopia from just about anything. Here, he depicts a modern world refracted through the lens of automotive desire: the car as a sexual fetish. Beneath the sleek, pornographic surface of modern machinery, Ballard uncovered his hallucinatory central idea - the fusion of human identity and technology.

4. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Burgess's cult classic lacks the all-encompassing political vision of Huxley or Orwell it's more a wild experiment in the extremes of adolescent dispossession and mindless violence, matched in horror by society's retribution on the novel's Beethoven-loving hero, who narrates his story in a dazzlingly invented vernacular. A malenky bit of the ultra-violent...

5. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

More teenage kicks in Golding's ingenious castaway classic. Like the best books in this list, its potency and timelessness come from its carefully layered feasibility. After Golding's childhood dystopia, being "civilized" would never feel quite the same.

6. In The Country of Last Things by Paul Auster

I love short novels like this, which seem to do all the work of a heftier tome. Auster evokes a strange, apocalyptic world, set in an indeterminate country ravaged by an indeterminate catastrophe. The result is dreamlike and beautiful. A short, lyrical, melancholic meditation on what happens when the trappings of civilization are suddenly stripped away.

7. Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson

I've always thought of Thomson as Auster's British counterpart - their worlds are characterful, eerie, and utterly idiosyncratic. Here, Thomson imagines a totalitarian regime separating the citizens of the United Kingdom into four geographical quarters, depending on their humours: melancholic, phlegmatic, sanguine, or choleric. He has described this political fable as being set "five minutes into the future" - a perfect description of how fictional dystopias warp and re-interpret the present.

8. Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle

"Monkey Planet" (as it was first translated from the French) uses an exquisite device which the movies it spawned couldn't replicate - the human narrator struggling to make himself understood to his simian captors, to prove that he's not just a burbling primitive brute. Off-the-scale in terms of fantastical, topsy-turvy allegory. It shouldn't work - but it does.

9. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K Dick

Dick definitely belonged to the grimy school of apocalyptic dystopias. His noirish detective thriller shares many themes with the other less typically sci-fi books here: the fusion of the human with the technological and, as suggested by the title, the nature of consciousness in an artificial world.

10. Idoru by William Gibson

I've often found Gibson hard to get on with: his narrative description can be as dense as computer code. But he updates Dick's preoccupations to the cyberpunk era, and evokes the delirious intermingling of human consciousness with virtual experience, through the sprawling psychosis of the internet.

Amy Sohn's 6 favorite books

The former magazine editor found inspiration for her new novel, Motherland, in the work of Philip Roth, Gustave Flaubert, and Nathanael West.
posted on November 3, 2012, at 11:30 AM

Amy's new novel, Motherland, returns to Park Slope, Brooklyn, to continue the satirical tale of young mothers that she began in 2009's Prospect Park West. Photo: Charles Miller Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin (Harper, $14). This comedic drama about 20somethings in 1970s San Francisco was the primary inspiration for my Park Slope novels. Maupin's plotlines can be soapy, but his characters have humanity and his laconic humor pervades. The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe (Penguin, $16). Though Jaffe's novel follows a group of late-1950s women, its subject matter elusive men, workplace sex, abortion, depression, and suicide is shockingly au courant. Whether you read this 1958 book

as camp, social commentary on working women, or a snapshot of a lost New York, you won't stop reading. Zuckerman Unbound by Philip Roth (Vintage, $15). After an angry reader of Motherland began harassing me by email, text, and phone, a friend suggested I read Zuckerman. Roth's black humor saved me from going on anti-anxiety medication. Nathan Zuckerman is a famous novelist, and wherever he goes people want to engage with him about his novel Carnovsky, mistaking impersonation for confession. Roth's book takes place in the paranoid spring of 1969 but feels especially relevant to our celebrity-obsessed times. Act One by Moss Hart (St. Martin's, $20). I read this as research for an actress character in Motherland, Melora Leigh, who takes a role in a Broadway play to revive her career. This memoir recounts the legendary writer and director's experiences on 1930s Broadway, but I love it most for the childhood scenes. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Penguin, $16). All of Flaubert's characters are equally wrongheaded in their attempts to escape the prison of bourgeois life. That's what makes the novel remarkable. You must read Lydia Davis's recent translation, whether for your first time through Bovary or your fifth. The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West (New Directions, $14). In writing scenes for my character Danny Gottlieb (who goes to L.A. to create a screenplay and loses his mind), I kept returning to West's classic Hollywood grotesques. Day of the Locust is dark, dirty, sexual, and chilling. And each sentence is clear and perfect. Amy Sohn's new novel, Motherland, returns to Park Slope, Brooklyn, to continue the satirical tale of young mothers that she began in 2009's Prospect Park West
An American Tragedy

By Theodore Dreiser (1925) 1 It's the granddaddy of the genre: a novel based on the 1906 case of Chester Gillette, who drowned his pregnant girlfriend and died two years later in the electric chair. In "An American Tragedy," Gillette became Clyde Griffiths, the ambitious son of a poor preacher. Given the opportunity to work in his rich uncle's shirt factory, he gets Roberta Alden, a co-worker, pregnant, while falling desperately in love with the dazzling Sondra Finchley, daughter of one of the richest men in town. The conflict comes to a head in a rowboat on a lake. Clyde and Roberta are all alone, but Dreiser brings us to the scene. He peers into Clyde's mind: "But thisthisis not this that which you have been thinking and wishing for this whileyou in your great need? . . . An accidentan accidentan unintentional blow on your part is now saving you the labor of what you sought, and yet did not have the courage to do!" The boat tips, Roberta tumbles into the waterand is not saved. The details point to Clyde's culpability, and he's found guilty, but still the question is left hanging: Was Clyde perhaps also a victim of his circumstances, of his dreams? Dreiser leads us, across nearly a thousand pages, to understand a killer, and to regret his fate.

By Meyer Levin (1956) Enlarge Image

Hulton-Deutsch Collection//Corbis Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold, convicted of murder in 1924. 2 'Compulsion' is based on the notorious 1924 murder of Bobby Franks, a 14-year-old Chicago boy, by Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two wealthy University of Chicago students hungry for thrillsin particular, for the thrill of committing the perfect crime. They ended up on trial for their lives, but were saved from execution by their defense attorney, Clarence Darrow. There is much of Levin himself in the novel, who wrote himself in as the reporter Sid Silver; he had been a classmate of the accused boys and had covered the case as a young reporter. But in "Compulsion" he is free to get beyond the news and pose deeper questions about the murder. Where Dreiser emphasized sociology, Levin turns to Freud as he seeks out the forces "that could conceivably be called an influence on the two killers who had enjoyed all the privileges that money and indulgent families could bestow." Levin believes that there is something revealing in the connection between crimes and the stories we tell about them. There is the sense that crime is bottomless, that no interpretation is complete. This is a sprawling work,

ungainly in its endless quest for the causes of the crime. It's also impossible to put down.

By Robert Bloch (1959) 3 It was certainly one of the most ghoulish and inexplicable crimes of the century. Ed Gein was a 50-year-old bachelor and baby sitter in Plainfield, Wisc., a small town north of Madison. An off-duty policeman went to the Gein farmhouse looking for his mother and found her decapitated corpse hanging in his barn. The story that emerged was shocking. Gein had robbed graves, fashioned artifacts from human body parts, and committed at least two murders. Robert Bloch, a writer of mysteries who lived in Wisconsin, grew obsessed with the crime and wrote this novel. People remember Hitchcock's movie, but the book on which it was based is wonderful in its own right: deep and incredibly funny. At first Bloch tries to explain his protagonist, Norman Bates, as a kind of eccentric, trapped by his mother, trying to find sensible solutions to his problems. ("I was only trying to explain something. It's what they call the Oedipus situation, and I thought if both of us could just look at the problem reasonably. . .") Bloch brings up then-current psychological theoriesin this case, multiple personality disorderonly to suggest that, here, we are beyond them. By the final scene, Bates is imagining himself as a spectator: "All [I] did was watch." Hitchcock achieved the same effect by superimposing the image of a skull on Anthony Perkins's face.
Handcarved Coffins

By Truman Capote (1979) 4 The subtitle is "A Non-Fiction Account of an American Crime." The details are lurid amphetamine-crazed snakes, decapitation and victims receiving a small wooden coffin containing snapshots of themselves just before they die. But is it nonfiction? Or did Capote just make it up? He claimed that it was based on a true story, but although many have looked for the real case, no one has found anything that truly adds up. Ultimately, the story is about the descent from fact into a world of fiction. Capote is visiting an old friend, Jakea detectivewhen he's suddenly drawn into the supposed killing spree of a local land baron. Jake could be confabulating the entire story, might be imagining things, might be insane. But there is one sense in which the story is unquestionably true. This must be what it feels like to become involved in an investigation, to come close to the resolution, and then to fail. (It would drive you crazy, too.) It is 140 pages long and the whole essence of the genrethe nature of "In Cold Blood"is inside its covers. It may not all be true, but it's fun. And it may be Capote's greatest work.
My Dark Places

By James Ellroy (1996) 5 A modern master of detective fiction connects his obsession with the 1947 murder of actress Elizabeth Shortknown as the Black Dahliawith the 1958 murder of his mother, neither of which has ever been solved. It is last on this list not only because it is

recent. It is a story about crime stories, written by someone who is both detective and victim. Ellroy describes his mother (whom he claims to despise) in the terse language of a police report, and yet the book is a moving tribute to her power over his art. "My Dark Places" explains and animates all of Ellroy's work. It is restless, but dreamlike and easy to read. We understand what drove Ellroy's imagination to dark places, obliged him to think about thorny problems that most of us are sparedthe difference between fiction and fact, good and evil, seeking and finding. Enlarge Image

Erol Morris Mr. Morris is the author, most recently, of "A Wilderness of Error: The Trials of Jeffrey MacDonald." A version of this article appeared November 2, 2012, on page C10 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Errol Morris.

Andy Mulligan's top 10 school stories

The Guardian children's fiction prize-winning author of the Ribblestrop series, set in an anarchic school, picks his favourite school tales from Hogwarts to Dotheboys Read the first chapter of Ribblestrop Forever! Find out more about Andy Mulligan and Ribblestrop

Share 8 inShare1 Email Andy Mulligan, Wednesday 5 September 2012 15.54 BST

The Great Hall at Hogwarts: 'a school that lurches from the incredible to the very ordinary'. Photograph: PA "Everyone knows that writers send kids off to school to have unlikely adventures, and readers live lives of vicarious fun and horror. 1. Ribblestrop Forever! 2. by Andy Mulligan

3. 4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop 1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book A teacher at my old school banned 'school stories', though. They were collectively preposterous, he said, because school was predictable, safe and filled to the brim with timetabled tedium. The teacher was cross that writers were pulling off some kind of con-trick, and yearned for a book that showed school as it really was. My own series, Ribblestrop would annoy him even more. It's a three-part orgy of crazed adventure, and as there's no timetable to get in the way, the children move at will from roof-construction to weapon-smelting, inventing their syllabus according to what's round them. They live dangerous lives, and as there are no rules they have to invent them. Ribblestrop, Forever! concludes the series and is another romp through the health and safety legislation, ending of course in triumph and celebration." Andy Mulligan was brought up in South London, and educated at Oxford University. He worked as a theatre director for 10 years, before travels in Asia prompted him to retrain as a teacher. He has taught English and drama in India, Brazil, the Philippines and the UK. He now divides his time between London and Manila. Ribblestrop was shortlisted for the Roald Dahl funny prize in 2009 and Return to Ribblestrop won the Guardian children's fiction prize in 2011. Buy Ribblestrop Forever! at the Guardian bookshop

1. The Jennings series by Anthony Buckeridge

It was a revelation to me, aged 10, that you could read a book alone and laugh out loud time and time again. Jennings Goes To School is the first one, and they are pure, comic genius. Buckeridge was the Wodehouse of children's literature, conjuring a world set apart, harmless and joyous. Jennings tries so hard, and constantly comes to grief. His best friend Darbyshire is there to help and advise, but is equally lost. It's a world of stamp collections and fire drills, tuck boxes and Latin tests. It's slapstick, farce, misunderstanding, and it's filled with love. It was my first serious addiction.

2. The Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton

I love these books for the innocence and simplicity of their non-adventures. The girls play jokes on teachers, enter the occasional talent show or dare to swim in the bay when they shouldn't. The joy comes from the friction of character, as the spoiled snob rubs up against the quick-witted lacrosse champion. Darrell is our guide a rather earnest, obedient everygirl who wants to do well but gets distracted. I found them real, because it was about people struggling to get on with each other. There were no monsters or villains, and I had my nose pressed throughout to a world so intriguing.

3. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

Some children read Dickens, I'm sure of it. In the first part of this epic, young Nicholas gets a freezing stagecoach to frozen Dotheboys Hall he's to be the new teacher. He witnesses the terrible abuses of wicked principals Mr and Mrs Squeers, who flog the boys with terrifying sadism. It's a truly cynical school, based on real places the writer visited, and when Nicholas snatches the cane and thrashes the schoolmasteroh, the scent of revolution!

4. The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

I love Hogwarts because it's a school that lurches from the incredible to the very ordinary, and the children have such human experiences while surrounded by the fantastic. I also love it as Harry's escape from the Dursleys (who I wanted more of, in every book) there he was, imprisoned in a family that embodied every Dahl-ian vice, and the doors, and the wall, opened

5. Boy by Roald Dahl

Most of Dahl's stories carefully avoid school: his heroes go way beyond them. His autobiography, however, lets us glimpse his own school days and the adventures he had. We glimpse the cruelties he endured too, and meet some of the monstrous teachers who must have inspired the repellent, terrifying adults he loved to create.

6. The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp

Tyke is rebel without meaning to be, and the adventures are witty and captivating. There are twists throughout, but the final one is storytelling genius.

7. Holes by Louis Sachar

This school for bad boys, with Mr Sir and a psychotic warden, is a true chiller. There's a point when the new arrival is shown the absence of fences and gun-turrets. He's invited to run whenever he wants, because he'll be buzzard food in 24 hours. So begins a complex tale told with economy and enormous affection by a mesmerising writer.

8. Half Brother by Kenneth Oppel

This book made me miss a plane, I was so riveted by it. A scientific couple adopt a baby chimp, as an experiment in primate development. Their young son thus has a new brother, and the bonding is real and profoundbut fraught with complications. The novel jumps from the boy's life at school, as he tries to negotiate new friendships, to his mesmerising life at the family home which has become a school of a very different kind. His true, furry friend is growing strong and unpredictable, and we know the friendship can't last. Don't read it in a waiting room: you'll lose track of time.

9. The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

I love these books and have often read them aloud to enthralled classes of children. Such a light touch, and so inventive I think Jill was at the Potter-mine years ago, digging up rich material!

10. Billy Bunter by Charles Hamilton

No list of boarding schools would be complete without him, and Mr Hamilton is another Wodehouse / Buckeridge. An acquired taste, maybe? Is the language getting a little impenetrable, and the customs just too plain foreign? I hope not. The jokes are so good, and the Bunter character so pitiful

Sara Maitland's top 10 books of the forest

From the Brothers Grimm to Henry Thoreau, author Sara Maitland delves among the tangled roots of an ancient literary fascination

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Into the woods ... a Julius Diez illustration for the Brothers Grimm fairytale Sleeping Beauty. Photograph: Interfoto/Alamy About four years ago I realised that ancient woodland gives me the same frisson of terror and delight that traditional fairy stories do. A remarkable number of people seem to share this feeling. I wanted to work out what was going on, so I went into the woods and revisited the old fairytales especially those by the Brothers Grimm. And what became clear to me was that the stories were imaginatively rooted in our northernEuropean origins as people of the forest. But it was all so complicated and entangled that I had to write a hybrid book about it: history and photographs and nature and politics and science and anthropology and fiction (my own retellings of 12 Grimm stories) and, indeed, gossip. Inevitably, therefore, my list of 10 perhaps not best, but "best loved" forest books is a hybrid too; as much a mixture of fact and fiction as the woods and the fairy stories and my book are. The list begins with childhood and goes on from there.

1. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

One of the best picture books ever so it is not at all surprising (though lucky for me) that the wild things are in a very wild wood. The story follows the pattern of the old fairytales: the young hero goes into a forest that is genuinely frightening. But thanks to his own courage and independence, he earns a kingdom and comes home to a hot supper. It is one of the few modern and original children's books.

2. I-Spy Trees
As a child of the 50s, I was overjoyed when Michelin relaunched the I-Spy series in 2009. These little books provide lists of things you might see in specific situations (ISpy vintage cars, I-Spy London). As you come across the various items you tick them off, and score points according to their rarity. To find some of the trees you have to venture into real woods a genuine hands-on learning experience (and it would be genuinely useful just now if more people could identify an ash tree and keep an eye on it).

3. The Complete Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (translated by Jack Zipes)
In 1812 an academic philology treatise was published and promptly became, according to WH Auden, "second only to the Bible in importance" as a foundation text of western culture. You think you know these stories; you do not. Did you know that nearly twothirds of the 210 tales in the book take place explicitly in forests? Or that fewer than 15% of them are about royalty? They are both inevitable and surprising.

4 Brendon Chase by BB
An adventure story written in 1944 about three boys who run away (not from anything very hideous, more for the sheer delight of freedom) and live "rough" in the woods. In many ways it's an old fashioned story, but none the worse for it. BB is a seriously fine naturalist, and the beauty of his descriptive writing never gets in the way of the tension and thrills. There is rather a lot of animal killing (including egg collection and butterfly murder) but all in a context of survival, knowledge and love.

5. As You Like It by William Shakespeare

It was a toss up between this and A Midsummer Night's Dream. The latter has the fairies; but As You Like It's Forest of Arden feels like the quintessential romantic forest, even down to the carving of love poems on the trees. The play has a pure joyfulness, which I believe has informed the forests of our imaginations.

6. Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau was a bit of a twit in many ways, but over two years in a wood beside Walden Pond in New England he invented "new nature writing", linking natural history with personal experience and cultural meaning and very beautiful descriptive writing. It is hard to think about woods at all without hearing his inimitable, intimate voice, even when you disagree with what he is saying.

7. Woodlands by Oliver Rackham

The Collins New Naturalist series made this their 100th title, which says something about the status of both forests in the British consciousness and of Dr Rackham. A magisterial history of British woodland, with just enough spleen to give it bite, and unparalleled detail and depth.

8. Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by Roger Deakin

A collection of jottings compiled after Deakin's death. I like it better than Wildwood, partly because it is such a mixture of things scrambled together almost randomly like a good patch of ancient (semi-natural) woodland itself. Deakin sees, or rather notices, so

well, and responds to his own observations so affectionately, that "enchanting" and "delightful" become proper, meaningful words (as opposed to soppy ones). He makes me see better, too.

9. Wood by Andy Goldsworthy

Traditionally, books of fairy stories always have illustrations, so I'm allowing myself one art book here. Goldsworthy, the environmental artist, is also a great photographer which, given the ephemeral nature of much of his work, is fortunate. This is a good introduction to his work and contains his Tree sequence, my favourite woodland images.

10. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

I was surprised at how few adult novels focus on woods and forests, but this classic novel has long been one of my favourite bedtime reads: astonishingly sexy as well as dark, painful and gloriously romantic. The night scenes in the woods are superb, catching at that forest atmosphere of beauty and peril. Sara Maitland is the author of numerous works of fiction, including the Somerset Maugham award-winning Daughter of Jerusalem, and several non-fiction books about religion. Gossip from the Forest is published by Granta Books. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop.

10 Classic Books Dirtier than a Farrelly Brothers Movie

by Mark Turnock | November 18, 2012

When we think of classic literature, we tend to think of boring long books about a bunch of Russian women staring out of windows for 500 pages, or something equally dull. What we dont think of are books featuring choruses of farts; molestation with a leather dildo; or complicated jokes about throwing poo at respected dramatists. Yet libraries are teeming with books so dirty, so obscene and so downright perverted that they make 50 Shades look like the Famous Five. Below are ten bona-fide classics they never taught you about in school: 10 One Thousand and One Nights

D Date Unknown

Sure, youve seen Aladdin; you can probably guess what happens in the rest of the Nights: genies, magic and flying carpets, right? Well, yes, but also bestiality, innuendo and pederasty; jokes about penis-size, farts, piss and every conceivable bodily function. One story ends with five men locked in a cupboard pissing on each other, while another is literally titled the historic fart. Even Aladdin features a man getting the ancient Islamic equivalent of a swirly. Richard F. Burtons Victorian-era translation goes further still: cheerfully adding interspecies breeding and detailed descriptions of m molestation to this gallery of grotesquery. 9 Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman 1 1759-67

Laurence Sterne was one helluva man: a member of the clergy, he spent more time

getting plastered and whoring around than in pious reflection. Aged 46 he wrote Tristram Shandy with the aim of becoming famous and boy, did it work. Lacking the time or inclination to work out anything resembling a plot, Sterne instead relied on simple crudity. Reasons for reading include jokes on accidental castration, testicular scalding via hot chestnut, and misunderstandings involving wounds and private bits. P Plus it being, yknow, one of the greatest experimental novels ever written. 8 The Plays of Aristophanes 4 427386 BC

Written impossibly long ago, Aristophanes plays are veritable goldmines of crossdressing, debauchery and gratuitous sexual description. Peace features a cookery course on how to serve excrement; while the unpronounceable Thesmophoriazusae contains more transvestism and naughty innuendo than a Rocky Horror convention. And thats before we get to the giant dung beetle. Or the flying dog turd. Or thea actually, know what? Maybe we should just leave it there. 7 Gargantua and Pantagruel 1532-64

Written by a French monk, Gargantua and Pantagruel is what William S. Burroughs has nightmares about. In Rabelaiss giant middle finger to society, swollen penises are worn as girdles; dead Popes shave womens naughty bits in hell; entire societies fly out a giants backside on a titanic fart; and turds are served up for dinner guests. Theres enough stuff in here to overload an entire 4chan message board and it never lets up. On and on it goes for a thousand pages; and all this from a man who spent most his life i in a freakin monastery. 6 The Canterbury Tales 1 1380-92

People having sex in trees? Check. Anal penetration with a red hot poker? Check. Twelve friars farting in each others faces? Uh, check. Forget all the interminable passages you were taught in English class; the real Canterbury Tales is a treasure-trove

of fart gags, nudity, promiscuous sex and filthy language. Modern translations tend to be sanitised, but in Chaucers day, queynte (for example) meant something a lot harsher t than womans crotch. Well leave it to you to figure out what.

5 Martials Epigrams A AD 86-103

Have you ever looked at the crude graffiti on a restroom wall and wondered who the hell writes that stuff? If you happen to be in ancient Rome, it was probably Martial; a poet renowned for his vile little ditties. One example sees a guy accused of ploughing his sister, while another compares a womans ass to her face and asks her to adjust her panties accordingly. Then theres epigram 3.81, wondering aloud if the eunuch Baeticuss preferences mean his head should be castrated too. Reading Martial is like watching RAW-era Eddie Murphy unloading on an audience member: profane, h hilarious and thankfully not happening to you. 4 Les Bijoux Indiscrets 1748

In enlightenment philosopher Diderots novel, a Congolese sultan is given a magic ring that can make any womans nether regions talk. And not just talk, but TALK lavishly, in great detail, about all of their sexual adventures. Given this almighty power, the Sultan does what any benign despot would: he scuttles around the harem, rooting out the lewdest stories his subjects genitals have to offer. Is it secretly a satire on Louis X XV? Certainly. Is it also unimaginably crude? Of course it is. 3 Satyricon L Late 1st Century AD

One of only two Roman novels to survive (in fragments), Satyricon follows the comic adventures of Encolpius and his boy-lover because hey its Rome. Starting with an orgy in an inn, and ending with our hero about to be penetrated by a Priestess wielding a leather dildo, Satyricon features enough bondage, flagellation, voyeurism and violence t to satisfy even the lustiest of E. L. James fans.

2 Fanny Hill 1 1748-49

What was it that made 1748 so ripe for crudity? Along with Diderots vagina monologues, the world was also treated to the papers of John Clelands journey through Englands seedier side which were disguised as a teenage prostitutes memoirs. As a nubile young runaway, Ms Hill experiences just about every pornographic pairing possible, and sees things that would make even the most jaded sex-therapist blush. It was so explicit that a bookseller stocking it was convicted of obscenity almost 220 years a after it was written. Fanny remains the gold standard for English pornography. 1 The Poetry of John Wilmot 1 1660s-1680

Finally, we come to John Wilmot; libertine, rake and writer of the crudest verses everwritten. His play Sodom, or the Quintessence of Debauchery, is so perverse that writing a summary or even listing the characters is impossible on a family blog. Suffice to say,

its not for the easily-offended. If you want your mental image of the genteel old days smashed forever, Google his short poem A Ramble in St James Park. Shocked? Well, guess what? Thats one of his tamer ones. Books

Penn Jillette's 6 favorite books

The eccentric magician recommends Moby-Dick, a Houdini biography, and, perhaps surprisingly, the Bible
posted on November 17, 2012, at 12:50 PM

Penn Jillette is out with a new book called Every Day is an Atheist Holiday. Photo: Jeff Willhelm/The Charlotte Observer Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (Dover, $5). My favorite book; I'm always reading it. As soon as I finish it, I start it again. Consider this line: So ignorant are most landsmen of some of the plainest and most palpable wonders of the world, that without some hints touching the plain facts, historical and otherwise, of the fishery, they might scout at Moby Dick as a monstrous fable, or still worse and more detestable, a hideous and intolerable allegory. To me that means the white whale is God, and Ahab is wasting his life chasing God. The Secret Life of Houdini: The Making of America's First Superhero by William Kalush and Larry Sloman (Atria, $18). Sure, Houdini was the son of a rabbi and never said he was an atheist. But he did say that if there was life after death, he would come back and tell us. He didn't come back; that makes this an atheist book.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30). This is the best magic book ever written. I don't think Kahneman thought he was writing a book on magic, but most magicians don't think they're studying how the brain works, so we're even. God doesn't come up in this book. Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker (Simon & Schuster, $16). I could really pick any book by Baker. He's my favorite writer. Nicholson is a peacenik like me, and if you think World War II was a just war, this book will give you another think. World War II proves there's no God. The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger by Leon Hesser (Park East, $20). Norman Borlaug was the father of the green revolution and saved more than a billion people around the worlddoing God's work, because God isn't going to. The Bible by...a bunch of guys in the desert. If you're considering becoming at atheist, read the Bible from cover to cover. No study guides, no spins, just read it. Sometime between when God tells Abraham to kill his son and when Jesus tells everyone to put him before their families, you'll be an atheist.

Aman Sethi
on stories about work and working

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Aman Sethi Mr. Sethi's "A Free Man: A True Story of Life and Death in Delhi" has just been published.
The Nights of Labor

By Jacques Rancire (1981)

1. Late one evening in Paris in October 1839, a group of men meet at the house of Martin Rose, a tailor, to start a workers' journal. Among the group is Vincard, a maker of measures, and Guany, a floor layer. Who are these men? Why are they assembling at an hour when the conscientious are senseless with sleep, and the wastrels with drink? In this pathbreaking work of labor history, philosopher Jacques Rancire sifts through the writings of tailors, hat makers, carpenters and laborers in 19th-century France to map their mental lives. In doing so, he destroys the myth of the unthinking masses praying for salvation and instead discovers working intellectuals who forged alliances with radical thinkers. The night becomes a metaphor for a different way of life to which workers can aspire, one enjoyed by those who, free from the dulling routine of the factory, can afford to stay awake and philosophize into the early hours of morning.

By Studs Terkel (1974) 2. Studs Terkel's remarkable book is a series of dispatches, in the form of first-person interviews, from the American workplace of the 1970s. "Your job doesn't mean anything," Sharon Atkins, a receptionist, tells him, "You're just a little machine. A monkey could do what I do." Yet each conversation reveals individuals struggling to find meaning in a job that simultaneously defines and erodes the self. Dolores Dante, a waitress, imagines herself a ballerina swiveling between tables as she balances loaded plates on each arm; Roberta Victor teaches "Alice in Wonderland" to fifth-graders by day and works nights in a brothel to support a drug habit; Booker Page, a retired sailor, dreams of buying a schooner as he pilots his cab through Manhattan. Gradually the book acquires a hypnotic, immersive quality as the waitress speaks of prostitutes, the prostitute of housewives, and a housewife of the insecurities of not working. Terkel pencils in fragments until "Working" has an entire world between its covers. Enlarge Image

Corbis Chassis Workers assembling a Model T at Ford's plant in Highland Park, Mich., 1913.

By Ben Hamper (1991) 3. Ben Hamper's great-grandfather built motorized buggies, his paternal grandfather worked 32 years at Buick, his maternal grandfather worked 40 at Chevrolet. Uncle Jack was working at Buick, as was Uncle Clarence. When Hamper flunked out of school he tried everything, from painting houses to cleaning toilets, to stave off the moment when he walked into the GM plant where his father once fitted windshields. "Rivethead" pulls you along like a Suburban chassis on an assembly line, from 1977, when a booming auto industry couldn't make enough trucks for an America rebounding from the Arab oil shocks, right up to 1988, when plants across the country were shuttering in the face of Japanese competition. Hamper draws the reader close as he skirmishes with cokehead foremen, binges with fellow shoprats, and fires rivets into trucks late into the night, nine hours a day, six days a week, year after year. Yet the most harrowing part of the book isn't the clamor of the assembly line but the quiet, grinding drudgery of layoffs, hangovers and the endless wait for the clock to run down.
Down and Out In Paris and London

By George Orwell (1933) 4. In 1928, George Orwell moved to the Latin Quarter in Paris, where a stroke of sudden misfortune left him almost penniless. A keen observer of the absurdities of class

and power, Orwell introduced in this, his first book, many of the themes that he fleshes out in his later works. He captures vividly how a quick descent into temporary penury altered how he bought bread, smoked cigarettes, and was perceived by friends and strangers. As his friend Boris explains: "It is fatal to look hungry. It makes people want to kick you." Eventually, Orwell finds work as a plongeur, washing dishes in an expensive hotel where a double door divides the chic restaurant from the filth and chaos of the kitchens. The sections set in London, where he returned after a year and a half, are a searing indictment of the criminalization of poverty. Orwell tramps from workhouse to workhouse, thanks to city laws that keep the poor in perpetual motion: A man may stay in a given workhouse only once a month or face a week's confinement, but he also can't sleep in the open. So one either sleeps in the day and misses work or spends the night in a workhouse and spends the waking hours searching for a place to sleep.
Extreme Measures

By Martin Brookes (2004) 5. At age 4, Francis Galton could add and multiply, read English and French, and recite substantial amounts of Latin poetry. By the time of his death in 1911, he had provided future statisticians with the invaluable tools of correlation and regression, dabbled in meteorology, psychoanalysis, biology and phrenology, and, to his eternal discredit, coined the term "eugenics"the science "of good descent"which found its most ghastly expression in the Holocaust. In this slim biography, Martin Brookes, an evolutionary biologist at University College London, lays out Galton's eerie obsession with breeding geniuses but also describes his subject's more absurd preoccupations and inventions. Convinced that his brain was turning into "a furnace, fueled by facts," Galton invented a pair of submarine spectacles to read underwater and a "gumption reviver" that continually dripped water on his head to enable long hours of work. "Extreme Measures" is as much a brief history of European science as a tale of a man, certain of his genius, in search of an epic, defining discovery.


Oliver Ford Davies discusses his favourite reads Friday November 9,2012
By Daily Express reporter

Have your say(0) OLIVER FORD DAVIES, 73, is best known for playing Peter Foxcott in Kavanagh QC and Sio Bibble in Star Wars. He is starring in Goodnight Mister Tom which opens at the Phoenix Theatre, London, on November 22 (www.goodnight
The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger Penguin, 8.99 The book that meant the most to my generation growing up in the grey, difficult Fifties. From its great opening sentence you know Salinger is going to tell it like it is. Adolescence into adulthood never seemed the same again. Short Stories by Anton Chekhov Specialist bookshops only Katherine Mansfield, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro and William Trevor are all Chekhovs children. He could write as well about downtrodden peasants as upper-class dilettantes and always with passion, insight, humour. He had an unsparing eye for the follies, hypocrisies and loving aspirations of us all.

Its the daddy of all family dramas and great historical events blockbusters

Its my Desert Island book. Toms Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce OUP, 6.99 This book haunts me still. It creates a very real dream world, drawn from the past and, as it fades, childhood seems to fade with it. Its sad but uplifting. Its the novel I recommend most to children and parents. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy


Penguin, 9.99 Its the daddy of all family dramas and great historical events blockbusters. Its never been bettered. It details the aspirations, loves, mistakes, joys and tragedies of family life with great empathy and truthfulness but also pits the individual against the great sweep of history. Ive read it three times and aim for at least two more. Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson Puffin, 6.99 Tove Jansson, the great Finnish writer, was a wise and remarkable woman. Her Moomin books are full of great characters, endless invention, humour and a wonderful philosophy of life. Madness I especially love because its partly about the theatre. Forget the cartoons, read the books. Bleak House by Charles Dickens Penguin, 9.99

Its my favourite Dickens, packed with all the things hes good at. Its a thriller, whodunnit, a study of class from the poorest to the very rich, a scathing attack on the legal system and a wonderful battery of characters. Even the young women are well drawn for once.

Ella Berthoud on Love in Literature

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Image from the Flickr Commons library For Valentine's Day, we asked a bibliotherapist to prescribe some reading on love. Rekindle your relationship, remember first passions and beware obsessive love with help from these suggestions Ella, youre a bibliotherapist what exactly is that? Bibliotherapy is the art of prescribing fiction for lifes ailments. People come to us and tell us about their issues be it getting married, getting divorced, having children or needing a career change and we prescribe books to help them through lifes hurdles. We also talk about reading ailments, such as not being able to concentrate on reading because there are too many other distractions, or being overwhelmed by the number of books in the world. Thats an ailment were familiar with at FiveBooks, with our archive of almost 4,000 recommended books. Its a common problem. We also look at how people can bring reading into their relationships. For instance we suggest reading aloud to your partner, making time to read together, or memorising passages of literature for moments of stress.

So an individual or couple comes to you with a problem, which you diagnose and address by recommending books rather than through talking? Yes. We obviously talk about the problem, but were not psychotherapists. Its not a medical cure, its a reading cure. Our remit is to come up with a few perfect books which are going to help them address their issues. Our prescription is normally eight novels. We suggest some books that look at their problem in a way that they can empathise with, by seeing how someone else deals with the same problem. But we also might recommend a book that acts as a balm, simply by taking the person out of that mindset. Escapist fiction as a cure? Exactly. So if someone has been bereaved, they might want to read a book that is going to take them to completely another place, like a Jilly Cooper or a Dick Francis, to get them out of their mood. And why do you feel that reading therapy is as effective as psychotherapy? When you read fiction, you actually take on the persona of the author and the characters. You effectively live another life through reading a book. And by inhabiting the psyche of another person you are fundamentally changed. It might be temporary, but by living that other life for a short time you can alter your own personality and perceptions. You must get this a lot, but your library must be huge. Is it part of your job to read a lot? Absolutely. In order to do that I listen to audiobooks all day when Im doing other things because Im also a mother and a painter. I try not to neglect my children when listening to literature! I also read all night long, if possible. Here youve chosen five novels about love. Indeed, love is one of literatures greatest themes along with death. But is love describable at all? I think all the books Im suggesting do that in very different ways. And there are a lot of other fantastic books not on this list which analyse love in even more detail, such as Alain de Bottons Essays in Love. Or Ivan Turgenevs First Love, an amazing description of the total loss of power in the presence of someone else. So yes, I feel great writers can capture the feeling of being in love. Thats partly why we like to read them through them we can experience love without having to actually be in love ourselves. Yet we inevitably view love through the prism of our own experience. I agree, but I do think you can get into the skin of another person in love. Thats the greatness of literature you can suspend your own sense of self. Most people who come to bibliotherapists want that sense of losing themselves in fiction. They often miss the ability to do that, which they had as a child but have lost as an adult and are trying to get

back. Some of the best works of literature about love work so well because you lose your own sense of self, and effectively fall in love with the characters in the book.

The Enchanted April

By Elizabeth von Arnim Buy Lets get stuck into some of those books. Beginning with The Enchanted April. At the beginning of this book, two women in the 1920s are in a club in Hampstead [London] on a rainy day. They see a newspaper advert: To those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle to be let for the month of April. Both go off into a reverie, and talk themselves into squandering their nest eggs on a month in this castle. They find two other people to join them a deeply beautiful heiress called Lady Caroline, and a really annoying older woman. So off they go to this beautiful castle in Italy, leaving their husbands behind. They all go through different transformations as the castle works its magic on their souls. And they write to their husbands, saying they must come too. One of the husbands is a writer of terrible romantic fiction, and actually comes out there on a totally different mission to seduce Lady Caroline. But he falls back in love with his wife instead. Its about love rediscovered at a later age? Yes. If it was written now these women would all be in their late forties, but because it was written in 1922 theyre in their thirties terribly middle-aged and pastured. They rediscover and rekindle their love for their husbands. So would you prescribe this book to a married man or woman who feels the romance has dwindled? Thats exactly the kind of person I would recommend this book to. It gives you renewed hope and faith in a longterm relationship. I would say: Read this book to remember the joy of falling in love with your partner, because that is what happens to these people. Obviously its a fairy tale situation and not very realistic most of us cant afford to go to a castle in Italy for a month. But the realism is there underneath, because what the women feel for their absent husbands and vice versa is exactly what people feel now.

That we dont understand or love each other any more. That we dont seem to have anything in common, or spend any time together. All these things are reawakened in this novel by the beauty of the surroundings, and they see the positives in each other again. Its a very happy, healing, uplifting tale. You need a catalyst to relight the spark. Precisely.

Ella Berthoud on Love in Literature

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Greengage Summer
By Rumer Godden Buy Next on the therapists list, tell us about Greengage Summer. This was published in 1955. Its a coming of age story narrated by a 13 year old girl called Cecil Grey, about her family going to a hotel in France. The father has gone off exploring in Nepal or somewhere, and the mother is bitten by a horsefly on the way down and is hospitalised for the next six weeks. So their five children find themselves temporarily parentless, in a hotel in France where no-one speaks English, suddenly having to deal with a very adult world. The oldest girl, Joss, is 16 and just becoming a beauty. She has a profound effect on all of the men that she meets, which her 13 year old sister observes. Theres this rather

renegade Englishman called Eliot who is having a fling with the owner of the hotel, Madame Zizi. Eliot takes a big fancy to Joss and it all goes pear-shaped. Joss is flattered and interested, and ends up snogging Eliot. But its actually a rather touching moment of becoming an adult. And that night she also becomes a woman because she gets her first period. Its quite a lovely sexual awakening. To read this as a girl, you will remember your own sexual awakening. There was a hint that Eliot was planning more than a kiss, but luckily it doesnt happen. The only sex in the book is between Eliot and Madame Zizi. Then it all gets a bit ridiculous at the end, when Eliot turns out to be a jewel thief. Is teenage love really such a world apart from the maturer love in your first book choice? This particular book is about discovering love for the first time, almost as a concept in itself. I do think its such a totally different experience. The Enchanted April is about mature love, with the longevity and the tedium that can go with it, and the patterns and habits that it forms. But theres also something comfortable and comforting about that kind of love, albeit sensible and lacking passion. Whereas the love in Greengage Summer is all about passion and unfulfilled desire, and that is whats compelling about it. This is a book to recommend to people who are either very young, discovering love for the first time, or older and want to remember that feeling of first love and discovery of sexuality. Its an invigorating book that makes you feel young again, and full of potential.

On Chesil Beach
By Ian McEwan Buy Moving onto On Chesil Beach. Will you set the scene please? This short novel is set in July 1962, when Edward Mayhew and Florence Ponting are just married. Its about the first night of their marriage, on honeymoon in a Georgian hotel next to Chesil beach on the coast of Britain. The book describes their courtship and how they got to this point, then the crucial scene is what happens on their wedding

night. Edward climaxes much too soon in his excitement, and somehow they dont get over this. Because they hadnt slept together before this being one year before sexual intercourse began, according to Philip Larkin. But is it simply this disastrous shag that splits them apart, or do you feel there was something else lurking under the surface? I think its a unique conglomeration of circumstances. Florence has quite a deep fear of sex she almost cant bear to be touched by anyone while Edward is really looking forward to total sexual abandon. Its obvious to the reader that this is not going to happen, because theyre so completely different in their feelings about sex. And their lack of communication causes this unbearable tragedy. It does seem to me a uniquely English tragedy and very much of that time, just before sexual liberation. Ten years later they probably would have been able to deal with it. This book is a great warning for not holding back on sex before marriage. Do you think that it works describing sex in books? Well, theres a lot of bad sex in books. On Chesil Beach takes the biscuit for one of the most awful sex scenes in literature. Theres an annual Bad Sex in Fiction award by the Literary Review. But I think sex can also be brilliantly evoked in fiction. Often, the less graphically it is described the more enjoyable it is to read. Theres a lot to be said for sex in books, because you can learn from people writing about it. When you are a teenager its a great way to discover about sex. Even better than from the Internet? Exactly! I also think, as an adult reading about sex, its interesting to identify with the different emotions that other people are feeling. So sex can be a really useful tool for want of a better word in literature. Have you ever recommended erotic fiction? Yes I have, to people who arent getting enough sex and need to find some kind of outlet. And also to people who are stuck in a dull relationship and need to spice it up. Ive recommended books like The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell which goes into immense graphic detail about a journey of sexual discovery. Ive even recommended the Marquis de Sade a couple of times, to get people more aware of sex in literature. What would you recommend to a sexaholic? Quite a good one for sex addicts is Lady: My Life as a Bitch by Melvin Burgess. Its about a 17 year old girl who by some stroke of chance is turned into a bitch as in, a dog. Shes got sex on the brain before she becomes a bitch a dog but once she is she has lots of sex with other dogs. Its quite shocking and hilarious. She has a great time,

but its an interesting exploration of what its like to constantly have sex on the brain. It wont necessarily put a sex addict off, but it will show you your bestial side.

Ella Berthoud on Love in Literature

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Les Enfants Terribles

By Jean Cocteau Buy Your fourth choice is Les Enfants Terribles by Jean Cocteau, published in 1929. This is a fantastic book which is also incredibly erotically charged, and explores the darker side of love. Its about a brother and sister, Paul and Elisabeth without a father and with an invalid mother and the different romantic obsessions that they have. At first Paul is obsessed with another boy, Dargelos, who looks very feminine. Paul becomes very ill when Dargelos throws a snowball at him that has a rock inside it, and Elisabeth looks after him. She is fairly obsessed with Dargelos herself too. The brother and sister start this activity that they call the game, in which they try to hurt each other psychically. Its baffling to other people to watch, and their friends and lovers are intermittently excluded and brought into this game. A girl comes into the story called Agatha, whom Paul falls in love with. Elisabeth is jealous of her, and tries to put an end to that. So its about hurting the people you love? Yes, its a sadomasochistic novel. Not in a sexual way, but emotionally. The writing is very poetic and sparse. Jean Cocteau is an artist, and reading the book is a little like

looking at a beautiful painting, where a lot is left out and you dont really know what is going on half the time. It is evocative and poetic and beautiful and strange. Its also very incestuous seeming. Elisabeth and Paul are completely obsessed with each other and might as well be shagging, but theyre not. Theres no actual sex in the book, but theres a lot of admiration of beauty of all kinds. Its just restrained enough for them not to be having sex with each other. I think incest is a good thing to explore in literature, because its such a taboo that where else can it be explored? Theres no harm in reading about it. Nevertheless, Id be interested whom you would prescribe a book such as this to. Its a great book for younger clients in their early twenties, because its about people of that age. It shows the dangers of having too obsessive a love for any one person and particularly avoiding it with a sibling! It sets alarm bells ringing for people who have an obsessive love of someone, which does happen particularly at that kind of age, in university and just after. Its also a book I have prescribed to older, more jaded clients, as a way to reignite their own feelings of love and desire for their partners, or even just for life itself. And for younger people to fall in love with youth again. This book is a great paean to youth. Its a book that loves beautiful, young people, and it can reawaken that love of beauty.

By Vladimir Nabokov Buy I cant help but notice that were descending, in your book selection, from pure romantic love to a more dangerous and transgressive love perhaps reaching its apotheosis in your final pick, Lolita. Indeed. Lolita is narrated by Humbert Humbert, an older man in his late thirties. He is obsessed with young girls he calls them nymphettes and he self-confessedly makes it his mission to seduce a nymphette. Sinisterly, he rents a room from a widow called Charlotte Haze, whom he marries basically in order to be near her daughter, Dorothy or Lolita, who is only 12 at the start of the story. He eventually seduces her or in fact she seduces him.

It is a very dark novel, but the reason I chose it is because his love for Lolita is so allconsuming that he still loves her when she isnt a nymphette any more. In some ways I feel he is redeemed by that. Once she is past the nymphette stage of beauty which he eulogises in a very convincing way, talking about how girls can only be beautiful at that prepubescent moment he does eventually get over that obsession for what she is as a grown-up. So is this another warning about obsessive love? I wouldnt call it a warning, because its so much more of a brilliant book than just being an example of what not to do. Humbert Humberts love of Lolita is something epic, and although at heart it is sick because he seduces a young girl, he justifies it to the reader. Even though its wrong, you sympathise with him because he cant help himself and writes about it in such a passionate and empathetic way. Reading Lolita were not all paedophiles, but we can understand what hes feeling. Its not a justification for what he is, but you can empathise totally. So Im holding this up as an example of a dangerously powerful but thrilling love. Its a book that you finish feeling wrung out and saddened, but also with a little bit of admiration for the power and strength of his love for her. In so much literature, as film, romantic love is idealised and put on a pedestal. Thats convenient for the purposes of catharsis and book sales, but do you think it has created a false impression of romantic love to which were all in thrall? Thats such a huge question. You can of course read more realistic novels which dont romanticise love. But I agree to some extent that romantic love is far too idealised, and turned into something hideously commercialised for Valentines Day. But Im still a great believer in romantic love. Call me an old sentimentalist. How do you think we should express our love to our valentines today? Either give your partner one of these books theyre brilliant love gifts or choose a book to read aloud to him or her. There are some fantastic love stories that you could read together this evening. One good book for this is Anthropology by Dan Rhodes, which is 101 short true love stories, each of them 101 words long. So theyre very short reads, funny and interesting, covering different aspects of love. That would be a great Valentines activity. Certainly cheaper than a meal out. But what bibliotherapy can you offer all the single souls out there? Go home and read Proust! You will get lost in the remembrance of things past, and cheer yourself up by it. Interview by Alec Ash


Linus Roache discusses his favourite reads Friday November 30,2012

By Daily Express reporter

Have your say(0) LINUS Roache, 48, has appeared in film and TV hits including Priest, The Wings Of The Dove, Law & Order and Coronation Street, where he starred with his father William (Ken Barlow).
His latest role is alongside Joanna Lumley in ITV1s festive period drama The Making Of A Lady (December 16, 8pm) The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien HarperCollins, 20 This was my ultimate reading experience as a teenager. I read it painstakingly slowly. I was so immersed in the world Tolkien created that by the end I I was cried. in utter I despair was by that bereft. it was Such no an Hermann longer there for me. journey. Hesse


Siddhartha Penguin, 9.99

I remember being absorbed, as with Tolkein but in a darker way. Very moving

My mum gave this to me at an important time in my youth when I was starting to question things.

It opened me up to a spiritual dimension which Ive continued to pursue throughout my life with answers to existential questions about why were here. A milestone book. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Penguin, Another philosophical book. I tend to treat reading as a source of inspiration and even navigation for life. Herrigel 8.99


The whole idea of the archer and the target being one and the same is beautifully explained. An approach which helped me as an actor. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky Penguin, 8.99 The story of someones true nature and the naivety of this man who meets these women and is torn between the love of one or the other. Is he an innocent or not? I remember being absorbed, as with Tolkein but in a darker way. Very moving. Evolutionary Enligh tenment by Andrew Cohen Select Books, 20.99 This modern-day philosopher has managed to frame a spiritual path that fully meets the time in which we live. Its the marriage of traditional enlightenment from the East with the Western scientific understanding of cosmic evolution and it shows a deeper meaning, purpose and a pathway for the 21st century. Relevant and to a thrilling. the Galaxy Heinemann, zany look at life, laugh-out-loud by the Douglas and Adams 20 everything. story.

The Hitch Hikers Guide William I devoured these books which are Its a


Adams is so entertaining but it also has a degree of philosophy which questions who we are and what were doing. A classic.

Teen book club: Lydia Syson's top 10 historical novels

Lydia takes us on a tour through history with her selection of historical novels that inspired her to set A World Between Us, her first teen novel, in the past. Hold onto your hats, it's a bumpy ride

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Email Lydia Syson, Thursday 29 November 2012 16.39 GMT

Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth I, before she imprisoned her cousin Mary Queen of Scots. Learn all about the story in Lydia's top 10. Photograph: Joss Barratt "Confession time: when I was a teenager, not only did I think I was no good at history, I convinced myself that I didn't even like historical fiction. And I hated being told what to read. So stubbornly (and stupidly), I wouldn't go near Rosemary Sutcliffe or Cynthia Harnett or Mary Renault simply because my father kept going on about how marvellous they were. Yet when I think about the books I loved most of all in my youth, I realise that they're nearly all set in the past. 1. A World Between Us 2. by Lydia Syson

3. 4. Buy it from the Guardian bookshop Search the Guardian bookshop 1. Tell us what you think: Star-rate and review this book

So here is a century of historical novels for the young about change and challenge. They are very loosely linked by themes of revolution, rebellion, resistance and revolt. Some can be read well before you're a teenager; others are worth waiting for. All are books which have got deep under my skin, and widened my view of the world and the past." Lydia Syson is the author of A World Between Us, an historical adventure for teens set during the Spanish Civil War. Find out more at

1. The House of Arden by E Nesbit

A wonderfully argumentative pair of Edwardian siblings and a magical white mole slip in and out of British history, getting tangled up with Gunpowder Plotters, Anne Boleyn, Walter Raleigh, the Old Pretender, a Napoleonic invasion and even escaping from the Tower of London. They are in search of the lost family treasure that will allow them to rebuild Arden Castle and also improve the living conditions of the cottagers on their estate. E Nesbit was a socialist and an activist, who wrote political hymns as well as creating a new genre of children's fiction. You might call it everyday magic my favourite kind. Compassionate, clever and ironic, E Nesbit makes me laugh out loud.

2. A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

Mary Queen of Scots obsessed me for years after reading this superb timeslip novel revolving round the 1582 plot to rescue her from the clutches of her cousin Elizabeth I. Like the book's 20th-century heroine, Penelope, I was more than a little in love with Francis, brother of the doomed plotter, Anthony Babington. Herb gardens, honeysuckle and kirtles, but also ghostly suspense and fear foreshadowed.

3. The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford

Rebellion takes many forms in this hysterically funny novel which somehow manages to find humour even in the tragic aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and get away with it: its heroine Linda is made "serious" by her experiences with Republican refugees in Perpignan. Is it historical? Yes, in the sense that as early as 1945 this 1930s world, inhabited by eccentric aristocrats such as the outrageous Uncle Matthew and die-hard communists like Linda's second husband Christian, had vanished forever. Far be it for me to suggest what you "must read" after this. I merely whisper, Hons and Rebels, Hons and Rebels, Hons and Rebels.

4. The Young Pretenders by Barbara Leonie Picard

Another charming and romantic rebel drives the plot of a novel set soon after the failed Jacobite rebellion of 1745. Or does he? Annabel and her brother live in the north of England in a household of Hanoverians, but they are secretly loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie. When they find a wounded fugitive hiding from the military, they quickly jump to conclusions. Sadly this is now out of print, but it's easily available second-hand.

5. Miss Rivers and Miss Bridges by Geraldine Symons

My first introduction to the suffragette movement: demonstrations, arrests, windowbreaking - it's all here. (Mrs Banks was far too downtrodden to be out campaigning for votes for women in the original Mary Poppins books.) You won't find a wittier, drier, more intellectual or more slovenly heroine than Atalanta, nor a more sympathetic foil than her friend Pansy. Possibly my favourite children's book ever. I don't understand why it's not better known.

6. Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken

"Time is only a corner, age is only a foldmidnight is no moment, midnight is a place." Vivid social history full of match girls and toshers from a novelist who loved playing games with historical events. (She wrote a whole series in which the Stuart succession is threatened by Hanoverian rebels.) In Midnight is a Place, the mood is Dickensian and ber-real, dramatically capturing the relentless drive of industrialisation and capitalism, the language richly inventive. You will never forget the terror of life for a small child as a 'snatcher' in a carpet factory, the giant rats in the Victorian sewers, the icehouse or the fire.

7. Bombs on Aunt Dainty by Judith Kerr

Anna's father was a famous German Jewish writer, whose anti-Nazi views were well known. This meant the family had to flee Berlin as early as 1933 - a story beautifully told in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. By the time we meet Anna again in London, she can pass for "a nice English gel" on a train, and is excited at the thought of secretarial training and financial independence. But her father is now a nobody, a writer who has lost his language as well as his country, and she's got to look after him. Everything's the other way round. A painful portrayal of intellectual refugee life, exposing all its subtle humiliations and shifts in status.

8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

This novel-in-letters starts with a child being raped and ends in happiness. Agonising yet uplifting, it's the story of Celie, a young black American woman growing up in rural Georgia, her sister Nettie (who becomes a missionary in Africa) and the mesmerising singer Shug Avery. It was a revelation for me when I read it in my teens. It'll tell you as much about the sexual and racial politics of the 1980s as it will about slavery, segregation and female empowerment in the early 20th century. Best read in a big gulp.

9. Tiger in the Well by Philip Pullman

Two mysteries intertwine in the complex plot of the third Sally Lockhart book, which weaves together a huge number of political and social themes: female independence, the machinations of the legal system, divorce, socialism, immigration, pograms, poverty and corruption. But not for a moment does it preach or read as an "issue" novel. I love Pullman's single-parent, revolver-toting heroine, the gritty East End setting, and the fact that the romantic hero, Dan Goldberg, is a political journalist and agitator.

10. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

This is the most recently written of my top 10, but I have a feeling it too will haunt me for decades, offering surprises with every re-read. Tricky and sharp and atmospheric, it celebrates the love between two women pilots and the incredible bravery of the secret Special Operations Executive (SOE) who worked with the Resistance in occupied France and elsewhere. A thoroughly researched and thoroughly invigorating anatomy of loyalty. This article was amended on 29 November 2012 because the caption on the photograph described Mary Queen of Scots as the sister of Elizabeth I.

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Time Passages: The Year's Best Historical Fiction

by Mary Sharratt December 06, 2012 7:00 AM

Nishant Choksi

Long dismissed as genre fiction, the historical novel has now established itself in the literary mainstream, thanks in part to heavyweight authors like two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. For me, more than any other medium, historical fiction brings the past to life and makes it matter. The best historical fiction does more than conjure up an exotic backdrop for a conventional storyline. To truly evoke the past, the characters' sensibilities and entire worldview must mirror the historical setting. Historical fiction should also challenge our preconceptions and reveal facets of history we never thought about before what was it like to be a Bengali opium merchant in 19th century Canton, or a female physician in Renaissance Venice? And, like all great literature, the best historical fiction must have something meaningful to say, some insight that is ultimately timeless. These six novels meet that test, helping show us how the past has shaped the world we live in today.

Bring Up The Bodies

by Hilary Mantel Hardcover, 410 pages Hillary Mantel made history this year when her Bring Up the Bodies became the first sequel to win the Man Booker Prize. Mantel's Wolf Hall the opening volume of a planned trilogy won the prize in 2009. Amazingly, Bodies is even stronger than its predecessor. Faster paced and more tautly written, Bring Up the Bodies revels in its distinctly unromantic view of the Tudor court. Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's master secretary and spin artist, must once more carry out the monarch's dirty work. A commoner whose cunning and ruthless intelligence have made him the king's most trusted adviser, Cromwell is the ultimate self-made Renaissance man, as inspired by

Machiavelli as he is by the Scriptures. In Wolf Hall, Cromwell plotted the execution of statesman, author and Catholic loyalist Thomas More. Now Cromwell must help fickle Henry rid himself of his second wife, Anne Boleyn. This leaves Cromwell in a hopeless double bind: His survival hinges on ensuring the queen's doom, yet his coldblooded machinations to bring this about plant the seeds of his own downfall. Although we know how Boleyn's story ends, Mantel keeps the reader on tenterhooks in this sinister tale of power politics played for the highest stakes.

The Book Of Madness And Cures

by Regina O'Melveny Hardcover, 320 pages I was enthralled by this strikingly original and gorgeously written quest story. In Venice, anno 1590, we meet Gabriella Mondini, a physician trained by her father, who sponsored her entry in the otherwise all-male Physicians' Guild. As the novel opens, he's been missing for 10 years, having left on a journey and never returned. His letters home, meanwhile, reflect an increasingly troubled mind. Without his patronage, Gabriella can no longer remain in the guild or practice medicine. Following the clues in his letters, she embarks on an epic journey to find her lost father, an odyssey that takes her through the dark forests of Germany all the way to Edinburgh. Finally, she leaves Europe behind for the Atlas Mountains, in North Africa. The narrative is interspersed with Gabriella's entries into her magnum opus, The Book of Madness and Cures, detailing rare diseases such as the Plague of Black Tears. The book plunges the reader into the zeitgeist of an era when medical science rubbed shoulders with alchemy and astrology and when any woman who claimed medical knowledge could be burned for witchcraft.

The Orphanmaster
by Jean Zimmerman Hardcover, 418 pages Jean Zimmerman's The Orphanmaster is a rip-roaring read, packed with action and dark suspense. Like The Book of Madness and Cures, it features a strong and unusual female protagonist. Blandine van Couvering is a rising young merchant in 1663 New Amsterdam, now southern Manhattan. Women in Dutch culture enjoyed great economic liberties (as Zimmerman knows well, having written a biography Women of the House of just one such New Amsterdam "she merchant") and Blandine is as much at home traveling to wilderness trading posts as she is drinking in the tavern across from her dwelling house. Her idyll is shattered when terror strikes her community. Orphans are disappearing. Later their corpses are found in bizarre ritualistic settings, suggesting the presence of the "witika," an evil spirit in Native American lore who possesses people and forces them to commit acts of cannibalism. An orphan herself, Blandine is determined to unmask the culprit. Joining her investigation is handsome English spy Edward Drummond. Hysteria mounts with the rising death toll. Soon Blandine stands accused of witchcraft. Meanwhile war looms as the British seek to wrest away the colony from the Netherlands. This crime-driven novel with its grisly scenes of child murder may be too gruesome for some readers, but I was captivated by Zimmerman's unforgettable evocation of New Amsterdam.

The Twelve Rooms Of The Nile

by Enid Shomer Hardcover, 449 pages Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert both toured Egypt in 1850. Although there is no historical record of their meeting, they become unlikely soul mates in Enid Shomer's tender and marvelously imagined debut novel. As the book opens, both Nightingale and Flaubert are in their late 20s and consider themselves failures. Flaubert's friends have advised him to burn his most recent attempt at a novel. Nightingale longs to serve the world but doesn't know how and fears disgracing her family. Flaubert is debauched, a connoisseur of prostitutes, while Nightingale is sexually ignorant. Yet their ambition and their resolute singlehood draw them together. Flaubert sees a deep melancholy in Nightingale that he longs to comfort. The titular 12 rooms of the Nile refer to the epic underworld journey of the sun god Ra, who dies at dusk and must travel down an infernal river divided into 12 rooms, one for each hour of the night, before he rises again at dawn. Flaubert is Nightingale's guide as she braves her own searing passage through the darkness of her confusion and despair. Her old self dies and a new self rises, one that will triumph as the future "Lady with the Lamp" and founder of modern nursing.

The Orchardist
by Amanda Coplin Hardcover, 426 pages Set in Washington state at the turn of the 20th century, this debut novel is a staggering achievement. William Talmadge is the orchardist whose solitary Eden is shattered by the arrival of two pregnant adolescent sisters, who have fled the brothel where they were held as prisoners. Still scarred by the memory of his own sister, who went missing when he was a teenager, Talmadge offers the girls refuge. But is his compassion enough to heal the unspeakable trauma they have endured? When their brothel keeper comes to drag them back, the elder girl makes an irrevocable choice, leaving Talmadge to look after her baby, Angelene, and her sister, Della. Talmadge is rooted in his orchard while restless Della leaves in search of independence. She works in rodeos, lumber camps and canning factories, yet as far as she travels, she cannot escape her demons. Caught in the middle, young Angelene holds the key to bringing both Talmadge and Della to the peace for which they so desperately yearn. Coplin's transcendent prose elevates tragedy to elegy in this hymn to the vanished Arcadia of the American West.

River of Smoke
by Amitav Ghosh Hardcover, 522 pages River of Smoke was actually published in late 2011, but it was just too good not to mention in this roundup; consider it a holiday bonus. By turns tragic and savagely funny, this sequel to the mesmerizing Sea of Poppies proves that the war on drugs and the dark side of globalization are nothing new. In the 19th century, Western opium merchants made a killing enslaving the Chinese to this highly addictive drug. In 1838, China succeeded very briefly in banishing foreign opium traders from the port of Canton (now Guangzhou). River of Smoke captures the mounting pressures and foment in the foreign trading community that lead up to the Opium Wars. At the center of a dazzlingly multicultural cast of characters is the Parsee merchant Bahram Modi, who has sailed from Bengal with his biggest opium shipment ever only to find that the Chinese have closed their ports. As the crisis deepens, his existence becomes as surreal as an opium dream. Stuck in Fanqui Town, the enclave for foreign traders, he is trapped between haunting memories of his dead Chinese mistress and his increasingly fraught negotiations with British and American magnates who are willing to sacrifice everything, even the lives of their Chinese business partners, to go on selling opium all in the name of free trade. If you haven't read Sea of Poppies, don't worry; River of Smoke works brilliantly as a stand-alone novel. These six novels allow the past to shine in all its complicated glory. Voices long silenced sing in our ear, revealing their secrets and ensuring that history's treasures enrich and inform our present. Mary Sharratt lives in Lancashire, England. The author of five historical novels, she also reviews and writes author profiles for Historical Novels Review. Her most recent book is Illuminations: A Novel of Hildegard von Bingen.

Belinda Jack
on counterblasts against misogyny

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The Book of the City of Ladies

By Christine de Pizan (1405) Enlarge Image

Belinda Jack Ms. Jack's most recent book is a history of women's reading, "The Woman Reader" (Yale). 1. Stung by her reading of the caustic cleric and poet Matheolus's "Lamenta," a tirade in Latin against women that was translated into French in 1370, Christine de Pizan was moved to take up the pen. The tone of her "The Book of the City of Ladies" (still available today in a Penguin translation) is indignant, but there is a strain of delightfully disingenuous puzzlement too: "I asked myself what the causes and reasons could be which pushed so many men, clerics and others to speak against women and to revile their conduct. . . . Philosophers and moralists . . . all of them seem to speak with the same voice in order to conclude that women are fundamentally evil and drawn to vice." Pizan proposes an ideal city where women are made noble through cultivated reading, rather than by birth. Along the way various topics are discussedthe unquestionable criminality of rape, women's education and men's inexplicable opposition to it, and women's innate merits, including their political skills. All that is missing is a discussion of the glass ceiling.
The Worth of Women

By Moderata Fonte (1592) 2. Moderata fonte (a pseudonym for Modesta Pozzo) was a Venetian noblewoman. She produced this immoderate work, a spirited dialogue among seven women that was subtitled "Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men," in 1592, at the end of a century of growing intellectual skepticism. What dismayed her was most women's lack of discernment in their reading: "Do you really believe . . . that everything historians tell us about menor about womenis actually true?" she asked. What needed to be questioned were historians' motives: "You ought to consider . . . that

these histories have been written by men. . . . If you consider. . . the envy and ill will they bear us women, it is hardly surprising that they rarely have a good word to say for us." Male historians "concentrate . . . on praising their own sex . . . as a way of praising themselves." Moderata stressed that men held an almost total monopoly on writing and that histories were likely to be biased in their favor. This is, of course, the core view developed by feminist historians in the 20th century.
The New Blazing World

By Margaret Cavendish (1666) 3. In the everydayworld, women's political ambitions were limited, or so Margaret Cavendish, a 17th-century polymath, contended. "I have neither power, time or occasion to conquer the world as Alexander and Caesar did." With this feminist and idealist work, her desire was to create her own "whole world" in which she would be both "Empress" and "Authoress." And as readers, others could choose to be part of it if they wished: "If any should like the world I have made, and be willing to be my subjects, they may imagine themselves such, and they are such, I mean in their minds, fancies or imaginations." Cavendish recognized that the constraints on women were both physical their participation in public life was limited in comparison with men'sand psychological. Women were expected not to think outside the box. If women wanted to be more than readers in Cavendish's "blazing world," they could become authors themselves, creating "worlds of their own, and govern themselves as they please." Reading and writing can be a radical way of understanding and reinventing your life. The best retort her adversaries could manage was to call her "Mad Mags." Others held her in great respect. Her pen had proved mightier than the sword.
An Essay on the Art of Ingeniously Tormenting

By Jane Collier (1753) Enlarge Image

British Library Board. All Rights Reserved Patron Christine de Pizan (center) presenting a copy of her works to Queen Isabella. 4. This misleadingly titled work is, in fact, a book-length parody of a "conduct book." Conduct books, which first appeared in the 16th century, advised women how to be pious, how to please their husbands, how to be perfect mothers, how to manage the household, and so on. These tomes sold very wellin the same way as did sermons and many a woman no doubt tried to live up to the impossible standards set forth in them. Jane Collier was not one of them. This brilliant send-up is one of the first published satirical works written by a woman. The "how-to's" are inventive and ingenious and advise how to achieve the opposite effects of those promoted in the dreary conduct guides: Avoid those you dislike, and when you meet those you have avoided, reproach them for having distanced themselves; tell those you dislike that you have heard all manner of poisonous rumors about them that you do notfor a moment believe to be true. Collier's work, which found its own popular audience in the 18th century, lives on in paperback today.
The Second Sex

By Simone de Beauvoir (1949) 5. 'The Second Sex' opens with an epigraph from the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras: "There is a good principle which created order, light and man and a bad principle that created chaos, darkness and woman." Simone de Beauvoir sought to demonstrate that to be born a woman meant to be destined to a lifetime countering the forces of misogyny. She makes the crucial distinction between sexthe body one is born withand gender, namely what we become (thanks to societal pressure) as a result of our sex. This is the essence of her famous declaration, "One is not born woman, one becomes woman." For all the academic and philosophical

complexities of her lengthy treatise, which make it hard going, modern feminism is inconceivable without it.

Janet Malcolm
on books about animals, domesticated and otherwise

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Charlotte's Web

By E.B. White (1952) Enlarge Image

Janet Malcolm Ms. Malcolm is a staff writer at the New Yorker and the author, most recently, of "Iphigenia in Forest Hills." 1 Animals are believed to have no knowledge of death, but the animals in this booka meditation on life's tragic finiteness disguised as a children's storyare obsessed with it. A pig named Wilbur, the runt of a litter, who is saved from extinction by a little girl named Fern only to learn that he is being fattened for slaughter at Christmastime,

expresses his all-too-human terror: "I don't want to die! Save me somebody! Save me!" Charlotte, one of the great heroines of American literature even though she is a spider, figures out a way to save the pig from the farmer's ax so he can go on enjoying "this lovely world, these precious days." But she cannot save herself from the natural law that dictates the life span of each species. E.B. White's understated account of Charlotte's death introduces children to the practice of grieving for imaginary characters and reduces adults to shameless tears.
Omar: A Fantasy For Animal Lovers

By Wilfrid Blunt (1966) 2 People who live with animals sometimes could swear that their pets understand every word they are saying but are perversely pretending that they don't. For many months, Omar, the animal hero of this book, maintains his obligatory silence, but one day, weakened by pneumonia, he breaks it. When his owner, Rose Bavistock, says, "If only I knew what I could give you to get you right again!" he unforgettably murmurs, "I believe a bottle or two of Chteauneuf du Pape '67 might do the trick." Omar is a bandersnatch, Lewis Carroll's imaginary creature ("Beware the Jabberwock, my sons! . . . and shun the frumious bandersnatch!"). In Wilfrid Blunt's version he is a rodent who resembles "a rather plump, frumpish little German Hausfrau in a too-tight fitting bargain-basement fur coat." Bavistock herself is a tart 50-year-old spinster who loves animals more than humans. Her late father (who died from being bitten by Bavistock's pet otter, Tarquina) "once said I looked like a horse (whereas I had always thought that I looked like Edith Sitwell)." This tonethat of Saki, Belloc, and other of the Edwardian and late Victorian exemplars of the heartlessly funnyhovers over the fantasy but leaves unimpaired the reader's suspension of disbelief in the tenderhearted friendship of the spinster and the bandersnatch.
Born Free

By Joy Adamson (1960) 3 The relationship between Joy and George Adamson and Elsa the lioness is as improbable as the relationship between Rose Bavistock and Omar the bandersnatch. But "Born Free" is not a fantasythe book's photographs support its status as nonfiction. They show the 300-pound animal romping, cuddling and trustfully sleeping with her owners for all the world like a member of the species Felis catus rather than of Panthera leo. George Adamson, the senior game warden of a wildlife preserve in Kenya, came upon three motherless newborn lion cubs and brought them back to camp to nurse with diluted canned milk in improvised baby bottles. The cubs survived, and two were eventually sent to a zoo. Elsa, the runt of the litter, remained with the Adamsons, becoming an incomparably charming and affectionate pet. The latter part of the book is devoted to the Adamsons' efforts to teach Elsa to be a wild lioness and to release her into her native habitat. The reader is left wondering whether this painfulon both sidesseparation for the sake of a notion about what is "natural" was such a good idea.
A Sloth in the Family

By Hermann Tirler (1963) Enlarge Image

Kevin Schafer Sloth aloft A maned sloth, known in Brazil as an 'ai,' hanging from a branch. 4 The author of this book was a Swiss engineer who worked in Rio de Janeiro and lived on the outskirts of the city with his wife and two children in a house whose "Eden of a garden," abutting a jungle, permitted him to keep a three-toed sloth as a pet. "It was peace-loving and quiet," Hermann Tirler writes. "Its small honest eyes looked you straight in the face, unless or until their tired lids sank slowly over them, as often happened, for the sloth needed fifteen hours' sleep a day." The color photographs of this weirdly underpowered creature, named Nepomuk (something in his face put Tirler in mind of a statue of St. Nepomuk in Prague), show him languidly hanging from trees, pensively eating the leaves and fruit of the ymbahuba tree, and taking naps in the children's rooms. The peace of the garden is briefly shattered when Tirler brings into it a "violent and crotchety" female sloth, but she soon subsides into slothful agreeableness both toward her human friends ("She cuddles up to you, her little head pressed against your chest, as though listening to the beat of your heart and the rhythm of you

breathing") and her fellow ai (as sloths are called in Brazil, for the sound they make that is like a gentle sigh), with whom she mates and produces a baby sloth. The book, like its subject, is modest, quiet and strangely interesting.
Animal Liberation

By Peter Singer (1975) 5 The premiseof this powerful polemic is that if you are appalled by the suffering of animals raised on cruel factory farmswhich are most of the animals offered for sale you will not want to eat them. "Vegetarianism is a form of boycott," he writes. "Until we boycott meat we are, each one of us, contributing to the continued existence, prosperity, and growth of factory farming and all the other cruel practices used in rearing animals for food. . . . Here we have an opportunity to do something, instead of merely talking." Many of the book's original readers took the opportunity and became vegetarians or partial vegetarians (I was one of them). But the boycott obviously hasn't worked. People who adore their pets continue to close their eyes to the sufferings of the cows, pigs, chickens and lambs they eat at almost every evening meal. The "organic" and "cruelty-free" meats offered for sale today are a step in the right direction, but only the 1% can afford them.