It is a splendid, cerebral read, full of moral and emotional depth. My reading in has reflected that concern obsessively. Two powerful new books show that anti-Semitism acknowledges no time limits and recognises no borders. Poised where nature meets culture, he is knowledgeable, politically savvy and wry, and an excellent naturalist. For poetry, New Poets of Native Nations Graywolf Press brings together 21 exciting Native American poets, pushing at the boundaries of form and perception.
But gradually he uncovers what happened to the world centuries back in the Apocalypse of What insects are spoiling army biscuits on the Western Front? Wither leeches to heal the wounds at Ypres? The TV updating has, of course, modernised, simplified and glamorised the historical reality, but the historical reality is equally fascinating and deeply affecting. Antonia Fraser The two books I recommend seem at first sight to be as different as any two books could possibly be, beginning with their relative size. Margaret Thatcher: Herself Alone Allen Lane by Charles Moore is a vast, powerful engine, being in fact the third volume of his magnificent biography, and in itself totalling more than 1, pages.
How could the contents have anything in common? Sissay was the foundling baby of a vanished Ethiopian mother, who was fostered by a white family and at the age of 12 abandoned into the national care services; he has since risen by his own brilliance, now a much admired poet and chancellor of Manchester University.
Yet the message of both books is actually the same: courage. The courage of an individual who against all probabilities shone like a star — or, in the case of Sissay, still shines. Rowan Williams Learning to Die: Wisdom in the Age of Climate Crisis University of Regina Press consists of three essays by two outstanding Canadian poets on our present global crisis, and richly exemplifies the wisdom it discusses. Pure gold on page after page. The two-part novel is a modern Greek tragedy of mathematically precise symmetry, but also the most compelling parable about our relations with nature that I know in European fiction.
Norris and Inglehart recognise that the home-grown features of the Trump and Brexit phenomena need to be aligned with a growing turn across the West towards authoritarian-populism. This has emerged in reaction against a generational revolution in attitudes towards sexuality and race. The good news — at least potentially — is that young liberals outnumber reactionary curmudgeons, if only the former would take the trouble to get out and vote. Their offence was to look the world in the face and to report what they found. Alongside Andrea Dunbar, Delaney was our most unexpected and gifted postwar playwright.
How was she so mislaid? This important book outstrips even its own virtuoso literary technique. Imagery and emotion interweave in a work of astonishing maturity by the young Northern Irish poet, whose impressive new voice promises to help refresh contemporary verse. Turning detective, she interrogates old snapshots with the forensic skill of a professional art critic.
It has been hailed as the first translation by a woman but that I think sells it short. It is powerful and immensely readable. The translation of Homer for our times: Virgil and Aeneas await.
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The book is not doctrinaire. It shows that markets can work wonders in unlikely places but work perversely in others and need a structure of social organisation within which to function. The author draws on sociology and anthropology and the simple power of observation and conversation to bring economics alive.
Helen Lewis Every so often, you read a book so exquisite that you become an evangelist for it. And the aching sadness at its heart has stayed with me all year. The former is a sampling from the first five volumes of a versatile and crazily bright poet who has read and synthesised countless strands of classical and English-language poetry. She hovers somewhere between the academy and the cult — as does Seidel, the divisive bad-good poet, whose terrible-beautiful rhymes and offensive-tender sentiments will have you levitating one minute and on the floor with horror the next.
Alan Ryan My two books of the year could hardly be more different. Are there literally images in the mind? If not, where are they? Trained philosophers might prefer their own technical discussions of famous issues; lay readers will enjoy themselves. It is also a fascinating account of how the concerns of philosophers were transformed by the work of one diffident and self-effacing philosopher, the Harvard professor John Rawls.
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Michael Prodger In The Life and Legend of the Sultan Saladin Bodley Head , Jonathan Phillips chips the accretions of myth off the Muslim military hero and plonks him — flawed, ambitious and charismatic — squarely back in the realm of men. The narrative and ramifications of this defining set-piece siege are superbly recounted by Roger Crowley in Accursed Tower Yale University Press.
Jonathan Phillips explores the real Saladin. Richard J Evans Lewis Namier , has long held a legendary status among historians. When I was an undergraduate, my teachers told me he had revolutionised the study of our subject. Hayton shows both why his work on 18th-century politics was hailed as revolutionary on its first appearance, and why it is no longer influential today.
No one is so good at capturing the fluid emotional territory in which we live, the fudges, untruths and compromises that constitute reality. In fact, I have a mania for posthumous privacy. A shared collective squint this time. For Calasso, all thought is contemporary.
Hare and the Space Invaders: Four stories in one book
Nicholls left England for Botswana with her five children, one a babe in arms, to live among lions: but this is no Born Free. Nicholls tells her story — of home-schooling her children, of surviving a brutal assault — with astonishing candour.
Funny and heart-breaking in turns, here is a life lived to the fullest. It is framed as a drama: one in which the inhabitants of an occupied town grow deaf to horror.
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Its power has an eerie familiarity — alas. Ivan Krastev Of my reading list, two are the books that I am most inclined to gift to friends. It is a subtle reflection on the fate of the fiction writer in the post-truth world. William J Burns is commonly believed to be one of the finest American diplomats of the past half century. His memoir The Back Channel Hurst is one of those rare intelligent and clearly written books that makes you believe that diplomacy, like handwriting, is still critical for our survival.
Both Zevin and Forrester are lucid expositors of liberal ideas and their ascendency in the political and intellectual life of the West. Tom Gatti Three books published this year reminded me how much I love the compressed storytelling of a great short novel.
None is much more than pages but each one is packed with riches. Will Davies The digitisation of our everyday lives has provoked all manner of pessimistic and romantic yearnings for some low-tech utopia. Jack Flash was wild about infinite regresses that term. I never could see the use of them myself. So my mind has an image of my mind which has an image of my mind and so on. So what. To me the fact that my mind is infinite is about as significant as the fact that human bodies have ten toes. Jack had drawn a big crowd, but they were pretty stiff. It was a pleasure to watch him.