Explore essays and memoir


An Escape from Kampala

Wycliffe Kato

‘‘Be brave,’ she said, ‘pull yourself together. What you are about to see is worse than you ever imagined.’ She asked if I knew what Winston Churchill had called Uganda. He had called it the pearl of Africa.’

Andrew O’Hagan | A London View

Andrew O'Hagan

‘I used to wake up next to Boadicea.’

Ange Mlinko | First Sentence

Ange Mlinko

‘I rediscovered the efficacy of meter (or the ‘contrast between fixity and flux’) when I was stuck in a shark tunnel with my kids and was afraid I was coming down with a panic attack.’

Anlong Veng | Dispatches

Elena Lesley

‘There are no words to say how angry I am. I want to know why they killed their own people. I want answers.’

Aphrodisiacs I Have Known

Norman Lewis

‘In the winter of 1957, I went to Liberia for the New Yorker.’


Albino Ochero-Okello

‘As I stood in front of the immigration officer, I was already worrying about my answers to the questions he might ask’.


Pankaj Mishra

‘Bollywood is part of what our culture has become. We are lying to ourselves all the time.’

Baby Clutch

Adam Mars-Jones

‘Endlessly we reformulate our feelings for each other.’

Bad Nature

Javier Marías

‘I saw him slipping into belligerence, the ghost of James Dean descended upon him and sent a shiver down my spine.’

Baht ’At

Blake Morrison

‘I'd already begun to suspect that sex brought misery or death, and now I knew.’

Bell And Langley

Thomas McMahon

‘He said that new ideas only came to him between these hours, and when they did, they were like recollections of things forgotten. Sometimes he put on his hat and coat at two a. m. and walked ten miles, the way a mourner will do when he is trying to recall the sight of a beloved face.’

Best Book of 1818: The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr, by E.T.A. Hoffmann

Luke Neima

‘What sets Hoffmann’s work apart is the meeting of the joint impulses of Enlightenment and Romantic thought’

Best Book of 1900: The Autobiography of Dr William Henry Johnson

Jennifer Kabat

‘Johnson is now a ghost of history; he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page, but I can’t let him disappear.’

Best Book of 1941: Consider the Oyster by M.F.K. Fisher

Harriet Moore

‘This book is about yearning for the Sunday nights of childhood, or dreams; it is a meditation on hunger in all its forms.’

Best Book of 1955: The Magician’s Nephew

Josie Mitchell

‘Much like Tolkien’s, admittedly vaster, legendarium, Lewis’s world is exquisitely conceived.’

Best book of 1964: Last Exit to Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr

Lisa McInerney

‘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 1965: Everything That Rises Must Converge

April Ayers Lawson

‘O’Conner has for me the effect of nailing and then blowing up one’s most casual illusions’

Best book of 1983: The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

Sophie Mackintosh

‘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 1998: 253

Carmen Maria Machado

Carmen Maria Machado on why Geoff Ryman’s 253 is the best book of 1998.

Best Book of 2000: The Last Samurai by Helen DeWitt

Anne Meadows

‘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 2013: Tom Drury’s Pacific

John Patrick McHugh

‘There is a remarkable flow to the novel, like that aimless but essential drunken chatter after your third pint.’ John Patrick McHugh on why Tom Drury’s Pacific is the best book of 2013.

Best Book of 2015: After The Dance

Dimitry Elias Léger

Dimitry Elias Léger on why Jan Gaye's After the Dance is the best book of 2015.

Best Book of 2015: Thus Were Their Faces by Silvina Ocampo

Valerie Miles

‘Time is a rubber band, and in a single sentence, ghosts and alternative worlds superimpose’

Best Book of 2016: Joanne Kyger’s On Time

Hoa Nguyen

Hoa Nguyen on why Joanne Kyger’s On Time is the best book of 2016.

Best Book of 2017: Shadowbahn

Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem on why Steve Erickson's Shadowbahn is the best book of a year to come.

Best Story of 1992: ‘Mlle. Dias de Corta’

Mary O’Donoghue

Mary O’Donoghue on why Mavis Gallant‘s ‘Mlle. Dias de Corta’ is the best story of 1992.

Big Money

Dinaw Mengestu

‘In a city as sprawling and as proud of its architectural grandeur as Chicago, such an emphasis on size seemed only fitting.’

Blind Bitter Happiness

Adam Mars-Jones

‘Sheila was both a wanted and an unwanted child.’

Blitzed Beijing

Robert Macfarlane

‘It’s at night that you really notice the dust, because artificial light suddenly makes the fines visible.’

Blood Is Usually Red

Katherine Faw Morris

‘A lot of babies were born in skiffs during storms, their umbilical cords cut with rusty pocketknives.’

Blue Moon

Hiromi Kawakami

‘Rather than death itself, it is the disappearance of traces that seems unbearable and sad. The disappearance of all signs that I existed.’


Leo Mellor

‘A rustle in the bracken; then, almost immediately, a snout and some wiry black hair.’

Bohemian Rhapsody in Five Acts

Tiffany Murray

Tiffany Murray on living with Freddie Mercury as a child.

Books Do Furnish a Room

Penelope Lively

‘The shelves say something about the person who has stocked them; they say much.’

Bookshelves: John Berger in My Family Album

Amitava Kumar

‘The contours of the family arranged on the bookshelf shifted.’


Fatima Farheen Mirza

Fatima Farheen Mirza on navigating gender roles in a Muslim family, wearing hijab and learning how to box.