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Best Book of 1967: A Touch of Mistletoe by Barbara Comyns

Camilla Grudova

‘I bought my copy for a few dollars from a second hand bookshop so stuffy I often faint on the doorstep after browsing inside, my hands swollen and red from dust mites.’

Best Book of 1766: Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling

Dave Haysom

Dave Haysom on why Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling is the best book of 1766.

Best Book of 1967: Ice by Anna Kavan

Eli Goldstone

‘What a writer, and what a vision. What a perfect book to read in preparation for the end of the world.’

Best book of 1947: L’Écume des Jours by Boris Vian

Xiaolu Guo

‘In those spring nights, I sat by barbecue stalls in the streets of Beijing, reading this novel under dim streetlights while eating lamb skewers.’

Words and the Word

Miranda France

Miranda France on how C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot redrafted the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

Best Book of 1993: Written on the Body

Melissa Febos

‘Influences imprint themselves on our consciousness as light does a photograph, or trauma the psyche’

The Binoculars of Jah

Colin Grant

‘No matter how I attempted to interpret the email, it could only be read in one way: I was out of the Bunny Wailer club. Jah Bunny had put a curse on me.’

Five Things Right Now: Cynan Jones

Cynan Jones

‘A pair of seagulls. I say a pair. They might just be good friends.’

The Shepherds

Lauren Hough

‘Our pasts are so unbelievable we need a witness for our own memory.’

Bad Faith

Ken Follett

‘Every sect needs jargon. We did not have churches, we had halls; services were called meetings; the congregation was the assembly; elders were overseers’

Going Diamond

Sarah Gerard

‘In Amway, there’s no such thing as contentment.’

Teaching After Trump

Melissa Febos

‘In a country whose government we do not trust, who do we need more than writers and teachers? And what is more powerful than an inspired youth?’

The Day After Trump Won

Leslie Jamison

‘I feel afraid, and I do not know what to make of yesterday’s belief. I can see that belief like an object shimmering underwater, a kind of relic.’

Heavily Redacted

Luiza Flynn-Goodlett

‘Syllables are excised by / X-Acto, fed into a shredder / for good measure.’

While the Nightjar Sleeps

Andrew Michael Hurley

‘But while the nightjar sleeps,’ said the mole, ‘it dreams of what it used to be and still sees beyond what isn’t true. And so can we, if we choose to look.’

Bad Dreams

Eli Goldstone

‘I could do nothing but lie there, locked inside my body.’

Five Things Right Now: Renee Gladman

Renee Gladman

‘I go here to slow everything down, to study shadow in a space of dreaming.’

Waxy

Camilla Grudova

‘I felt intolerably miserable. There were posters everywhere reminding me I was Manless’

Five Things Right Now: Melissa Febos

Melissa Febos

‘I don’t care if anyone is watching and that’s the point.’

The Inheritance

Amelia Gray

‘The bag was full of fresh dogshit. The note attached read For my children and theirs.’

I’ll Come Later Tomorrow

J.V. Foix

‘all in black, her arms raised in the air, their shadow sketching some malign bird I couldn’t recognize’

Kettle Holes

Melissa Febos

‘They knelt at my feet. They crawled naked across gleaming wooden floors.’

Crocodiles and Fairy Dust

Janice Galloway

‘I admit the sneaking feeling, just now and then, that those who govern us think we’re the problem.’

The Price of Freedom, Including VAT

Xiaolu Guo

‘I had lost my native country, now I was going to lose a continent.’

Interior: Monkeyboy

Patrick Flanery

‘When I sleep, I dream of Will standing on our bed, flicking a whip against our faces. He draws blood.’

Raqqa Road: A Syrian Escape

Claire Hajaj

‘The morning Helin walked out to die, she dressed carelessly in a loose T-shirt and jeans.’

Black Rot and Mildew

Leontia Flynn

‘a look I’d managed to accessorize / with raw dermatological distress.’

Bastard Alias the Romantic

Yuri Herrera

‘Can you imagine what it would be like if instead of killing we cuddled?’

Blue Hills and Chalk Bones

Sinéad Gleeson

‘One day, something changes; a corporeal blip. For me, it happened in the months after turning thirteen: the synovial fluid in my left hip began to evaporate like rain.’

On Shakespeare and the Quest for Belonging

Minal Hajratwala

‘We may not belong to Shakespeare, nor he to us, ever.’

Out

Leontia Flynn

‘The opposite of simply sitting about / in your head, like an egg in eggshell.’

The Mask of Night

Lorna Gibb

‘I puzzled over the language but disentangled its meaning slowly, carefully, eager to connect’ Lorna Gibb on Shakespeare’s Juliet.

To Thine Own Self Be True

David Flusfeder

‘If Shakespeare’s characters stand for anything, it’s for a slipperiness of identity.’ David Flusfeder on a dog named Shakespeare.

Ariel’s Song

Romesh Gunesekera

‘It is to Shakespeare’s pages I return whenever I feel I am sinking. There I can be sure to find a lifeline.’