Best Book of 1900: The Autobiography of Dr William Henry Johnson
‘Johnson is now a ghost of history; he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but I can’t let him disappear.’
‘In Hollin Hills, we believed our flatware could change the world.’ Jennifer Kabat on the intersection of modernist architecture and espionage.
from White Butterflies of Night
‘I don’t remember whether I believed that I could just / abandon one life to begin another’
Birte Kaufmann examines the everyday, parallel world of Irish travellers.
In the not-so-distant future, middle-class underachievers are faced with a difficult choice: prison or motivational business classes.
Mother and Father
‘Like most wars, this was a war of the young.’ Thomas Kilroy on his parents’ experience of the Anglo-Irish War and the Irish civil war.
‘the problematic / Ocean spreads itself out. We take it in stride, / And we do our best.’
Hell and Night
‘The implication of Iago’s silence is that there is no hope for his redemption’ Noelle Kocot-Tomblin on ‘Othello’.
Cow and Company
‘And now there were four of them stepping out to look for a cow.’ 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize overall winner.
Best Book of 1965: Everything That Rises Must Converge
‘O’Conner has for me the effect of nailing and then blowing up one’s most casual illusions’
Five Things Right Now: April Ayers Lawson
She shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
Five Things Right Now: Melissa Lee-Houghton
‘It thrills and delights me that I can now watch concerts I would’ve given several fingers to go to in the ’90s, albeit wonky though these videos are.’
The Price You See Reflects the Poor Quality of the Item and Your Lack of Desire for It
‘I walk away from you / without glancing back, in case you see in me something I don’t.’
The Heart Compared to a Seed, c.1508 (after Leonardo da Vinci)
‘noce, the heart—the nut that gestates the tree of veins.’
All that Offers a Happy Ending Is a Fairy Tale
‘If you were like me, you would know the obsession of the compulsive reader: every street sign; every bottle label’
‘When I picture my childhood, it’s like I’m swimming underwater.’ Merethe Lindstrøm’s story is translated from the Norwegian by Marta Eidsvåg, and is the winner of Harvill Secker’s Young Translators’ Prize 2016.
‘She’d gotten so used to her loneliness, she didn’t want to fall from it now.’
Our Private Estate
‘Dozens of votive candles held aloft by mourners in white suits in procession. So much white, as if death could be engulfed in it, as if death itself was not an all-engulfing whiteness.’
Best Book of 1998: 253
Carmen Maria Machado on why Geoff Ryman’s 253 is the best book of 1998.
The Weak Spot
‘There was a certain kind of teenage girl who would relish not just the killing, but the trophy taking, choosing a tooth and using the pliers herself.’
Best book of 1983: The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek
‘After 2016 I’m done with sentimentality, and it’s hard to think of a less sentimental book than The Piano Teacher, objectively a masterpiece, subjectively a book that changed my life.’
‘Can bad mothers be taught to be good? Or maybe, can we be incentivized to bond? To love?’
‘The pigeon and I have a very warm and comfortable relationship.’ 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – regional winner for Africa.
The Adventures of Amit Majmudar
‘Never laid a snare for nothin. / Never caught a bullfrog. Broke / my slingshot wishbone, wishin. / Never had a smoke.’ New poetry from Amit Majmudar.
‘Despair sat on her shoulders where her wings should have been. Darkness consumed her, the quivering lip of a dying abalone, grease in the barrel of a gun.’ 2016 Commonwealth Short Story Prize – regional winner for the Pacific.
Five Things Right Now: Siobhán Mannion
Siobhán Mannion shares five things she’s reading, watching and thinking about right now.
Through the Night
‘The person in the mirror watches her, slightly swollen, slightly blurred.’
‘That icy fear of the morning after slithered back: why does summer always feel like it belongs to someone else?’
Best book of 1964: Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr
‘In days of such human cruelty and pettiness and stupidity, we need reminding that we are all capable of savage compassion as well as the contagion of hatred.’