Explore essays and memoir


Best Book of 1950: A Natural History of Trees by Donald Culross Peattie

James Pogue

‘Now more than ever environmentalists need to remember what it’s like to write for that real world.’

Best Book of 1955: Pedro Páramo

Louise Stern

Louise Stern on why Pedro Páramo is the best book of 1955.

Best Book of 1966: Season of Migration to the North

Ayşegül Savaş

‘Of course, literature cannot be separated from its flesh of language and form. Nor can its tangible subject explain why it moves its reader, through the subtleties of language, or the shadowy geographies that it leaves to the imagination.’

Best Book of 1969: Pricksongs & Descants

Lisa Taddeo

Lisa Taddeo on why Robert Coover’s Pricksongs & Descants is the best book of 1969.

Best Book of 1970: Moominvalley in November

Aleksi Pöyry

‘This is a book I always return to for its melancholy tone, warm humour and psychological insight.’

Best Book of 1990: Anecdotes of Modern Art

Natalie Shapero

‘If I tell you a book is an encyclopedic and fast-paced tour of the interrelationship of making art and being in pain, need I say more?’

Best Book of 1994: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

Eliza Robertson

‘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 2008: Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

Mika Taylor

‘Rivka Galchen’s debut novel is one of my favourites from the last few years.’

Best Book of 2013: When the World Became White by Dalia Betolin-Sherman

Mira Rashty

‘New poetic expressions can still emerge and evolve in Hebrew – an ancient and almost prehistoric language, with its grumbling sound’

Big Dome

Will Self

‘I began to conceive of the city itself as a kind of loving parent, vast but womb-like and surmounted by an overarching dome.’

Binyavanga Wainaina

Sigrid Rausing

Granta’s editor Sigrid Rausing remembers Binyavanga Wainaina.

Blind Rage

Henry John Reid

‘I was born in Dundee on 3 April 1951, of a mother who was not meant to bear more children and a father who had long before disappeared.’

Bolivia, 1990

Ferdinando Scianna

‘Photographing these people I came to realize that their lives are dominated by fear: fear of old galleries falling, of dynamite, of the spirits trapped in the mine, of tuberculosis, of the disappearance of veta (the wolfram seam), of the future.’

Bomb Gone

Owen Sheers

‘We had been driving along the Bay of Wrecks on the eastern coast of Christmas Island for over an hour and a half when we saw the flock of terns.’

Breach Candy

Samanth Subramanian

‘There are clubs like the Breach Candy Club all over the Indian subcontinent: relics of the Raj, institutions that were set up as bolt-holes for the British, where they could retreat to row or swim or play cricket or race horses.’

Brief Encounter

Rupert Thomson

‘The man on the other end told me he was looking for sexual fantasies that were about eleven sentences long.’

Brontez Purnell Is Everything

Michelle Tea

Novelist, zinester, dancer, go-go-boy, punk, filmmaker, actor, performer, Brontez Purnell is everything.

Brother | State of Mind

Max Porter

‘We don’t often talk seriously or in depth about our childhood these days, but we know we could, and we know what good it did us.’

Budapest 2015

Wojciech Tochman

‘To the delight of the little kids, who had seen a good deal of killing in their lives, a middle-aged man blew soap bubbles.’

Burying The Emperor

John Ryle

‘Before I left the city I paid a visit to the national museum to see another celebrated skeleton, that of the earliest hominid, the oldest human ancestor, Lucy.’

Cats Explain Things to Me | Discoveries


Take a paws from your busy day for this week’s Discoveries – guest edited by Granta’s very own Typo the cat.

Certain Thoughts Arising out of being Pointed out by my Two-year-old Son

Raymond Tallis

‘I was also unable to imagine that future years would generate a pair of green-brown eyes which would look at me, a little brain that would recognize me, a small mouth that would re-christen me 'Daddy’.’

Chatwin Revisited

Paul Theroux

‘He was such a darter he seldom stayed still long enough for anyone to sum him up.’

Chère Madame

Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust’s letters to his neighbour, translated from the French by Lydia Davis.

Chicago’s Great Expositor

Wole Soyinka

‘It is not a complete man now dominating the affairs of the world from a historic mansion appropriately named the White House, although a case can be made that he comes close enough.’


Orville Schell

‘But if kitsch cat plates are a far cry from real art, they are also a far cry from socialist-realist propaganda.’

China’s Other Revolution

Orville Schell

‘Hurrying back to the rally ground, I could already hear the sound of martial music drifting out across Taicheng. As I approached the gates of the field, the music suddenly stopped and a strident voice began blasting out over a loudspeaker.’

Christopher Sorrentino | Portrait of My Father

Christopher Sorrentino

‘Those who strongly resemble one parent will recall the unsettling feeling of gazing into old photos and seeing, in relation to themselves, not the remote similarity of the grown-up sitting across the dinner table, but an exact likeness.’

Cinema’s Invisible Art

Jeremy Sheldon

‘Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture.’

Closing Time

Jeremy Treglown

‘The effect is brutal and frightening, and rightly so.’

Co-operation for the Birds

Lewis Thomas

‘Somehow, despite the internal squabbles and constant competitions, the tree swallow societies manage to get by and survive, year after year.’

Cold Storage

Oliver Sacks

‘Uncle Toby was alive, but suspended, apparently, in some strange icy stupor.’

Colin Thubron | Is Travel Writing Dead?

Colin Thubron

‘The death of travel – and of the travel book – has been predicted for almost a century.’

Coming Home to the Counter-Revolution

Jack Shenker

‘My Cairo is an inverted city, one that wears its innards above the skin.’


Guy Tillim

‘Visibility is everything.’


Helen Simpson

‘The thing about a circular walk is that you end up where you started.’