Explore essays and memoir
Best Book of 1950: A Natural History of Trees by Donald Culross Peattie
‘Now more than ever environmentalists need to remember what it’s like to write for that real world.’
Best Book of 1868: Dostoevsky’s The Idiot
‘The beauty of The Idiot lies in its opposition to closed systems.’
Best Book of 2013: When the World Became White by Dalia Betolin-Sherman
‘New poetic expressions can still emerge and evolve in Hebrew – an ancient and almost prehistoric language, with its grumbling sound’
Best Book of 2008: Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
‘Rivka Galchen’s debut novel is one of my favourites from the last few years.’
Best Book of 1994: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller
‘You'd have to have lived through that bleakness. You'd have to know with your body, your hands, your eyes, your mouth, the weight of that fear – how it’s not strictly describable.’
Best Book of 1970: Moominvalley in November
‘This is a book I always return to for its melancholy tone, warm humour and psychological insight.’
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby: Best Book of 1995
‘It was a story about music and relationships.’
The Cult of the Hindu Cowboy
‘The Hindu cowboy accords to the cow the holiest status in his imagination: of mother. It is his duty to protect her honour; it is his privilege to kill for her.’
‘What future youth movement might capture them, those international participants in virtual hunts?’
Peace Shall Destroy Many
‘It creates deep-seated wells of rage that find no release.’ Miriam Toews on pacifism in Mennonite communities.
The Interpreters: Among the Brahmins of Benares
‘That first sight of the city curled around the river goes through me like the breath of something old and known and familiar.’ Aatish Taseer revisits Varanasi.
Things I Never Told Her
‘I will lay down what I want, and I will get it, and prove I am not the kind of woman who is controlled by a man.’
The White Bloc
‘This election made clear that white people in this country have begun to vote how Southern whites always have: as a bloc.’
Labyrinth of the Heart
‘Every marriage is forged differently; some crack at a touch, others endure beyond belief, still others are tempered by events and time.’
Why We’re Post-Fact
‘We are living in a ‘post-fact’ or ‘post-truth’ world. Not merely a world where politicians and media lie – they have always lied – but one where they don’t care whether they tell the truth or not.’
Putting Down Strangers
‘Home, after all, is a continual plangent threnody in the often uninterpretable clamour of being an immigrant.’ Adam Thorpe on Brexit.
‘This American says he’s heard of Cross but that he’s still just passing through.’ He laughed and formed the shape of a pistol with his right hand. ‘Well you heard that part, didn’t ya? That is one thing that will never change here.’
‘But Ireland is Ireland. It resists and relishes its own national images in equal measure.’
On Shakespeare and Aemilia Lanyer
‘I gently propose that for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death we stop reading Shakespeare and shift our attention to the poems of Aemilia Lanyer’. Sandra Simonds on Shakespeare and Aemilia Lanyer.
Torn Silk and Garlands of Garlic
Teffi remembers the Armenian refugees in Novorossiisk during the Russian Revolution.
‘I don’t know how to think about this. How to stretch compassion for one person into a million.’ Wendell Steavenson on Europe’s migrant-refugee crisis.
The Fencing Master
David Treuer on learning to fence with Maître Michel Sebastiani and learning to write with Toni Morrison.
Introduction: No Man’s Land
‘We tangle and project, in exile; we make it up as we go along.’
Peter Pomerantsev’s anti-travelogue on Putin’s Russia, Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible, has won the 2016 Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.
First Sentence: Mika Taylor
‘I didn’t want reality to overwrite the story that was forming in my head.’