Oscar Wilde cultivated an image of himself as an idle genius, dashing off masterpieces with a lazy brilliance. But below the glittering linguistic surface of his works, suggests Sos Eltis, lies an anarchic politics and a phenomenal analysis of power.
Alan Lee, illustrator of such classics as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, talks to Five Books about his favourite stories drawn from myth and fairy tale, what they mean to him, and how important it is for young readers today to experience these ancient stories.
There are few 18th century French aristocrats with as much name recognition as the Marquis de Sade. His life was an eventful one and his books remain shocking. Will McMorran, Sade’s translator, reflects on the man, his life and his literary works. He recommends the best books by or about the Marquis de Sade.
If you’re going to look at the past, you have to understand the people who were living there and see the world through their eyes, says historian and Renaissance specialist Kenneth Bartlett. He explains that while Machiavelli is much misunderstood and maligned, Donald Trump is a Machiavellian in the truest sense of the word. He picks the best books of the Italian Renaissance.
Although less flamboyantly experimental than his contemporaries Joyce and Woolf, D H Lawrence was a modernist, says literary scholar Catherine Brown. Here, she selects five books that make the case for this most contradictory, and often divisive, of writers—a man whose fictions and ‘philosophicalish’ works were by turns brilliant and bewildering, sublime and ridiculous
Every generation has its own minefield to negotiate in order to reach adulthood. Rae Earl discusses five books that explore a range of mental health issues that some teenagers may face, and many adults have faced, while on this difficult journey.
Love and marriage may go together like a horse and carriage, but what happens when the horses are spooked and the whole procession is run off the road? Katie Kitamura, whose new novel A Separation charts the disastrous—and tragic—failure of a marriage, considers some of literature’s most heartfelt accounts of relationship failure
The novel is no longer the king of the narrative arts, says the writer and academic Robert Eaglestone. Yet literature has never been more interesting. Here he discusses five excellent novels that exemplify current trends in contemporary fiction.
He was the most popular novelist of the Victorian era, a convivial family man who always championed the underdog. But he also harboured dark secrets that only came out after his death. Jenny Hartley recommends the best books by and about the phenomenon that was and is Charles Dickens.
Is old age necessarily degrading? Should we leave home in our final years? Is there ever a good time to go? Novelist, biographer and critic Dame Margaret Drabble, now aged 77, discusses the difficult questions that arise as we age—and recommends five books that examine them in depth.
Dante’s epic poem The Divine Comedy has inspired countless thinkers and writers since it was first published almost 700 years ago. Here, Dante scholar and author Nick Havely picks the best five books on how one medieval poet had such a lasting impact on world literature, and how Dante’s vitality transmits into modern culture.
In the latest in our series, in which we ask experts to select their favourite plays from Shakespeare’s oeuvre, preeminent Shakespearean scholar Sir Stanley Wells chooses five plays that best chart the evolution of the Bard of Avon during his 25-year career.
Is it possible to describe or study our inner experience, and – if so – how might one go about it? Charles Fernyhough, professor of psychology and author of The Voices Within chooses five of the best books that employ or examine streams of consciousness.
William Wordsworth: The Major Works
by Stephen Gill (editor)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge: The Major Works
by H. J. Jackson (Editor)
Willam Blake: Selected Poetry
by Michael Mason (Editor)
Percy Bysshe Shelley: The Major Works
by Michael O'Neill (Editor)
John Keats: The Major Works
by Elizabeth Cook (Editor)
Aristotle tells us that all politics starts in the family, and nowhere is that more obvious than in the infamously fraught relationship between mother and daughter. Here, the novelist, playwright and poet Deborah Levy chooses the best five books that explore motherhood through literature.
Wilkie Collins, the sensationalist author and inventor of the detective novel, knew precisely how to “make ’em laugh, make ’em cry, make ’em wait”. Jason Hall, Victorian literature expert and editor of a new edition of Jezebel’s Daughter, chooses the five best books from Collins’s extensive oeuvre – and considers the voracious appetites and unorthodox lifestyle of this intriguing Englishman.
Christine L. Corton describes how Londoners loved and hated the fog that defined their city for over 200 years. Fog bought confusion, suicide and death; but also anonymity, mystery and beauty. Here, she picks the best five books on the pea-souper
Writer and journalist Peter Hessler selects five books, from Haight Ashbury to a fifth grade classroom, which show how nonfiction can bring true stories to life through literary techniques. He chooses the best of narrative nonfiction.
by Cervantes (translated by Samuel Putnam)
One Hundred Years of Solitude
by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (translated by Gregory Rabassa)
The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis
by José Saramago (translated by Giovanni Pontiero)
by John Felstiner
by John Felstiner
The biographer explores the decadence of the young and rich in 1920s London, and tells us about Evelyn Waugh’s rebellious youth, bullying disposition and later breakdown – as well as just how much (and early) he drank
The Belle Epoque combined a preoccupation with the noblesse of the old regime with the seeds for modernism, says the Oxford professor of history. She picks the best books on a golden period in France before the outbreak of World War I.
We can learn about the past not just through what was written but how it was read. The historian of books tells us about reading aloud in Roman times, Gutenberg-era marginalia, and Middle Age solutions to information overload
Robert Macfarlane, author of an acclaimed trilogy of books about landscape and human thought tells us about the intrepid, sometimes misanthropic writers who inspired his own investigation of wilderness. He chooses some of his favourite books of nature-writing.