13 September 2016

1. How to Be Both by Ali Smith

Smith’s playful, inventive and prize-winning 2014 novel is a book of two halves; one set in the 1960s and one in the 1460s…but there is no correct order in which to read them and the book is printed both ways round. The surest sign that Smith has pulled this off successfully is that everyone thinks they read it the right way round.

 

 

2. The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg

The new graphic novel from the creator of The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is a gorgeous, witty celebration of storytelling. A queer, feminist version of One Thousand and One Nights, it’s about mother and daughters, sinister priests and the moon falling in love. It has stories within stories within stories all told with Greenberg’s smart style and quirky artwork

 

3. The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

Although Niffenegger is best known for her mega-bestseller The Time Traveler’s Wife, her graphic novel about a mysterious mobile library, or bookmobile, is an underrated gem. It follows a young woman who encounters the bookmobile which is stocked with every book she has ever read. A darkly haunting ode to the books that make us who we are.

4. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

A murder mystery that has the audacity to reveal who killed whom right on the very first page. What makes it a modern classic is that despite this, you are glued to the page in the hope of finding out what led to the dramatic opening scene. Tartt’s group of eclectic intellectual misfits at an elite New England college is a masterclass in narrative control and elegant storytelling.

5. Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

Argentinian writer Borges was fascinated by language, imagination and the power of storytelling. He wrote short stories, essays and poems which often featured motifs of dreams, libraries and mazes. Fictions is a 1944 collection where the stories are consciously fictional, the main character is often called Borges. This book is often deemed as the best introduction to Borges’ work. 

6. How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti

When Heti’s 2013 book was published, reviewers couldn’t decide whether it was a novel or a memoir, or somewhere in between. It was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and many claimed it wasn’t eligible because it purported to be merely a record of Heti’s real life, but read it and discover a wildly creative and layered look at identity that’s definitely dives deeper than most memoirs...

7. The Blue Book by A. L. Kennedy

This book is a rather difficult one to talk about, without giving away quite how it’s so clever. On the surface, this is the story of three people on a cruise ship; a woman, her boyfriend who might be about to propose, and her ex-lover. In the end it’s revealed to be a lot more than that. An exploration of the stories that we tell ourselves and each other, The Blue Book is about who we are and how we live. 

8. Changing My Mind by Zadie Smith

A collection of essays from beloved writer, Zadie Smith, all about storytelling and art. Covering subjects from Katherine Hepburn to Nabokov via the Oscars and Middlemarch, this collection explores the above in Smith’s characteristically warm, sharp and insightful style. It’s a love letter to reading and a call to engage joyfully and enthusiastically with art. 

9. If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino

Calvino is hailed as a postmodern master. This is the story of two readers trying to reach the end of the same book – and the book they are reading is If On a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino. As well as being incredibly clever, this book is also a hugely enjoyable exploration of reading, publishing and the purpose of fiction… where you, the reader, are the main character.

10. Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer

Bauer’s gorgeous debut novel thinks about storytelling from two perspectives. Firstly, the novel is completely epistolary, that is to say, told entirely through letters. In addition, these letters are chiefly between two poets, Frances and Bernard, who are loosely based on Robert Lowell and Flannery O’Connor. Witty, profound, moving and desperately romantic. 

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