To the American public, Jack London was one of the most romantic figures of the early 20th century. To his eldest daughter Joan, though, the famous author of The Sea-Wolf, White Fang and The Call of the Wild was a man of “relentless calculating cruelty”.In her posthumous memoir Jack London and his Daughters, Joan, who died in 1971 at 70, was still scarred by correspondence she received from her father in February 1914. He ended his letter with a brutal message. “If I were dying I should not care to have you at my bedside,” London wrote. “A ruined colt is a ruined colt, and I do not like ruined colts.” Joan was just 13 at the time. By then, London was the highest-paid writer in America, receiving 10,000 fan letters a year, many of which were in praise of what he called his “crackerjack dog book”.
Gone are the days when parents would read a handful of classics to their children at bedtime, with Beatrix Potter, Dr Seuss, and Roald Dahl on constant rotation.Worthy writers all, of course, but the reading list is likely to be a little more diverse nowadays, and to include self-reflective picture books about loving oneself and the planet.
Oprah Winfrey has addressed the backlash surrounding her latest book club pick, Jeanine Cummins’ novel American Dirt.Last week, Winfrey announced she’d chosen the novel, which tells the story of a mother and her son who leave Mexico for the United States after they are targeted by one of their home country’s most powerful drug cartel leaders, on Instagram.
There’s a crucial bond we’ve been severed from,” says journalist and nature writer Lucy Jones. As humanity has industrialised, commodified, gentrified and all-but destroyed the natural world – as we have shut ourselves off from it in cars and offices and flats – we have simultaneously found ourselves craving it. “The civilising process which imperils wild nature,” says the environmental historian Roderick Nash, as quoted in Jones’s galvanising new book Losing Eden, “is precisely that which creates the need for it”. Or, as Joni Mitchell would put it, we’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot. And we want it back.Maybe that’s why there’s such an abundance of nature memoirs at the moment. Alice Vincent’s Rootbound, which comes out later this month, is a deeply personal exploration of the healing power of plants. Luke Turner’s Out of the Woods notes the link – both literal and metaphorical – between the forest and his own sexuality. Elizabeth Jane Burnett’s The Grassling is a document on grief; the wildlife of Devon connects her to her dying father, while the Swahili words she often uses to talk about it connect her to her mother.
Between the climate crisis, Brexit and the launch of winter Love Island, it is easy to feel caught in an existential spiderweb, waiting for anxiety (or the onset of World War Three, whichever comes first) to consume you.But some writers are making light work of untangling the last 10 years. Incisive and exacting, their essays tackle the big and the small – meme culture, Dostoyevsky, Bieber pandemonium, race politics, and the climate crisis are made comprehensible in their hands. These are the essay collections that make any resolution to “read more nonfiction” infinitely more enjoyable.
Christopher Tolkien, the son of The Lord Of The Rings author JRR Tolkien, has been hailed as a “titan” of fantasy literature following his death aged 95.The Tolkien Society, which promotes the life and works of the revered fantasy writer, confirmed the news in a statement on Twitter.
It’s the new year. I could have given up booze and bacon, or embarked on a punishing new fitness regime. But these seemed too harsh for the drab days of January and besides, I had more ambitious plans for personal transformation. Namely, to turn myself into a witch.At this opening of a scary new decade, we’re in the midst of a resurgent interest in all things mystic, superstitious or more than a little bit woo. As the New Yorker magazine observed, “astrology is currently enjoying a broad cultural acceptance that hasn’t been seen since the 1970s”. And its cousin in dogged resistance to logic, specifically witchcraft, is also having something of a moment, refitted for the age of self-care as a way for women to reconnect with themselves and the natural world. Think crystals, not cauldrons. Last summer, Publishers Weekly noted that witchcraft was one of the strongest trends in the “mind-body-spirit” category, and the interest shows no sign of abating.
One evening in October 1969, Elizabeth Kendall went to a bar in Seattle with her friend Angie. Kendall had just received a parking ticket, which had left her – a divorced mother of one – upset. In a counter-intuitive move, Angie’s roommate’s boyfriend had suggested she go out to celebrate the ticket, rather than lament it.At the Sandpaper Tavern, two men invited Kendall to dance. One of them was a “tall, sandy-haired” stranger, while the other “turned out to be a creep”. Luckily for Kendall – she thought – the sandy-haired man was still there, providing her with the perfect escape.
We all have cherished memories of the books we read and shared as children. Big friendly giants, honey-loving bears, hungry caterpillars, iron men: these figures populate the vivid imaginary landscapes of our childhoods. Everybody will remember the book that made them laugh and cry, the one that they turn to again and again. Like totems, we pass them on to our own children, each book a spell in itself.But there isn’t room in this list for everything. I’m sure that every single reader will gasp at omissions and query the order. There are many personal favourites that I’ve left out, and many more 20th- and 21st-century writers whom I would have liked to include.
If January is anything to go by, 2020 will be a terrific year for books. Two outstanding new novels share a theme of holding on to love during desperate flight. Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal of the Sea and American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins are also linked by the work of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. The late Chilean chartered the SS Winnipeg to bring migrants from fascist Europe to his homeland, a journey taken by the refugee doctor Victor in Allende’s haunting novel.A quote from Neruda’s The Song of Despair (“there were grief and the ruins, and you were the miracle”) is used in the epigraph that opens American Dirt, a sensational story about the gruelling experience of illegally crossing the US-Mexico border. The stories by both women, although full of despair, are also life-affirming triumphs.
According to the Vegan Society, there are three and a half times as many vegans as there were in 2006, and since the Veganuary campaign started back in 2004, more than 500,000 people have registered with reasons for taking part, which include health, environment and animal welfare.In fact some of the biggest news stories of the year have centred around this growing movement, with Greggs’ vegan sausage roll making the headlines and the realistic plant-based bleeding burgers from Beyond Burger and the like gaining huge popularity.
From Lee Goldberg's new release to Jill Mansell's latest, heart-warming novel, these are the new books to stock up on.
From the cultural splendour of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur to the glamour of Bollywood, India is a fascinating place.It’s the second most populous country in the world and there’s no better way to learn about its diverse culture and complex history than to read about it.
“The truth isn’t going to bend itself to suit you” – Malorie Blackman“Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat” – Ralph Ellison
Whether you’re a first-timer or a parent to many, pregnancy – and navigating life with a newborn – can be exhilarating, overwhelming and daunting all at the same time.Whether it’s sleepless nights or a lack of routine, maternity and motherhood can be a trying time, with self-care often going out of the window, too.
There’s no cure for being on Earth, Samuel Beckett used to joke. In 1938, one event in his own life had all the elements of absurdity, black comedy and fatalism that pepper his finest works, such as Waiting for Godot or Krapp’s Last Tape. It happened on a Paris street, when an argument ended with the writer being stabbed by a small-time pimp. He narrowly escaped dying of his wounds.There was a whiff of farce, too, with the newspaper accounts of the attack, Le Figaro reporting that “Samuel Peckett” had been stabbed in Paris. Beckett survived the assault, went on to win the 1969 Nobel Prize for Literature, and kept going until his death, in the same area of the French capital on 22 December 1989, at the age of 83.
Books, books, books. They will increase your lifespan, lower your stress and boost your intelligence. They will give you fuller, thicker hair.Whatever the breathless claims about reading, one thing is certain: losing yourself in a great novel is one of life’s most enduring and dependable joys. Job satisfaction comes and goes, partners enrapture and abscond, but you can always fall back on the timeless ability of literature to transport you to a different world. From Jane Austen’s mannered drawing rooms to the airless tower blocks of 1984, novels do something unique. They simultaneously speak to the heart and mind. They teach you about the history of our world, the possibilities of our future and the fabric of our souls.
“I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read on the train.” So said Oscar Wilde – and it’s witticisms like this that remind us how important it is to put pen to paper in this digital age.You’d be forgiven for thinking everything had gone digital, but paper diaries are still very much in demand.
The history of calendars goes back to ancient times, where our ancestors used them to keep track of solar and lunar cycles.Thousands of years later, we still use planners to organise what we’re doing over the coming weeks and months. There’s something innately satisfying about noting down friends’ birthdays and planning holidays months in advance.
For stationery nerds and the hyper-organised, a new year means the chance to start a brand new planner. It is also a time the perpetually shambolic pledge that “this year it will be different”.They – and by “they” we mean numerous studies – say that if you write something down you’ll remember it, which is why paper planners are still popular in a world that is increasingly and often overwhelmingly digital.
Peter Handke, the Austrian author who received the Nobel Prize in Literature on Tuesday, said recently that he hated opinions.“I like literature,” he added, in a bad-tempered exchange during a news conference in Stockholm last week.
Selecting the books that can be said to have defined a decade as turbulent and introspective as the 2010s has been a tough task. But the fiction and nonfiction works here have entertained, challenged and moved us, and many of the books would be hailed as great in any era.The extraordinary books chosen by our critics – Ceri Radford, Olivia Petter and Martin Chilton – span a vast array of settings and situations. The 40 books cover everything from a blood-tinged Tudor court to supernatural limbo, from India in the wake of the partition conflict to a painstaking study of 21st-century female desire.