Explore essays and memoir
‘Every sect needs jargon. We did not have churches, we had halls; services were called meetings; the congregation was the assembly; elders were overseers’
Words and the Word
Miranda France on how C.S. Lewis and T.S. Eliot redrafted the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
Crocodiles and Fairy Dust
‘I admit the sneaking feeling, just now and then, that those who govern us think we’re the problem.’
The Mask of Night
‘I puzzled over the language but disentangled its meaning slowly, carefully, eager to connect’ Lorna Gibb on Shakespeare’s Juliet.
Blue Hills and Chalk Bones
‘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.’
‘Now we’ve fizzled into a ridiculous unsaid, a flaccid tale of love, or lack thereof, in the time of Ebola.’
Best Book of 1967: Ice by Anna Kavan
‘What a writer, and what a vision. What a perfect book to read in preparation for the end of the world.’
The Binoculars of Jah
‘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.’
First Sentence: Eliza Griswold
‘This, of course, was years before anyone knew or cared who Boko Haram was.’
‘It is to Shakespeare’s pages I return whenever I feel I am sinking. There I can be sure to find a lifeline.’
The Price of Freedom, Including VAT
‘I had lost my native country, now I was going to lose a continent.’
Best book of 1947: L’Écume des Jours by Boris Vian
‘In those spring nights, I sat by barbecue stalls in the streets of Beijing, reading this novel under dim streetlights while eating lamb skewers.’
The Sufferings of this Present Time Are Not Worthy to Be Compared With the Glory Which Shall Be Revealed in Us
Raqqa Road: A Syrian Escape
‘The morning Helin walked out to die, she dressed carelessly in a loose T-shirt and jeans.’
On Shakespeare and the Quest for Belonging
‘We may not belong to Shakespeare, nor he to us, ever.’
From The Revenant through Jurassic Park and Godzilla, Darrell Hartman traces the evolving meaning of megafauna in popular culture.
Best Book of 1766: Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling
Dave Haysom on why Strange Tales From a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling is the best book of 1766.
The Day After Trump Won
‘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.’
‘In Hollin Hills, we believed our flatware could change the world.’ Jennifer Kabat on the intersection of modernist architecture and espionage.
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.’
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.
Hell and Night
‘The implication of Iago’s silence is that there is no hope for his redemption’ Noelle Kocot-Tomblin on ‘Othello’.
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’
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’
Best Book of 1998: 253
Carmen Maria Machado on why Geoff Ryman’s 253 is the best book of 1998.
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.’
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.’
Best Book of 2000: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt
‘It is the novel I have read which best expresses the honest and sad truth of art: that it is often produced in precarity and performed in near silence, but that it can also redeem a life.’
Best Book of 2015: Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo
‘Time is a rubber band, and in a single sentence, ghosts and alternative worlds superimpose’