Books for the friend who's read it all
In search of a gift a little off the beaten track? Surprise your favourite book lover with these unusual books by classic authors
For the intellectual in your life, Stephen Fry has written a new collection of retellings of his favourite Greek myths. Translating these epic tales of war, love and debauchery through a modern eye – and a sizeable dose of Fry’s trademark lightness, intelligence and wit - these spellbinding stories are full of all the tragedy and revelry you’d expect from Greek myths, but with a contemporary, human edge.
Originally published in 1943 in Turkey, this slim novel made very little impression at the time but has now become an unlikely bestseller, topping the charts for three years in its native country. It tells the story of a Turkish man who falls in love with an artist in 1920s Berlin, and captures the magic and melancholia of first love, missed opportunities and the fight for free thought in a society that wants to suppress it.
Recommended by Margaret Atwood, this is the long-awaited English translation (by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky) of the landmark oral history of the experience of Soviet women during the Second World War. First published – in a heavily censored edition - in 1985, it won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2015. Alexeivich spent years travelling to interview hundreds of women who’d been involved in the war as drivers, captains, nurses - on the front line, the home front and in occupied territories. An important, intelligent and moving read.
Berry is an American novelist, poet, activist and farmer from Kentucky with a love of the old ways; he farms with horses and writes in pencil. This collection of his writing is a stand against progress for progress’ sake, and a love letter to his beloved local landscapes, cultural heritage and history. Exploring humans’ evolving relationship with the natural world in the face of capitalism and consumerism, Berry writes with conviction and hope, and offers a different perspective on the challenges the world is currently facing.
Boasting an introduction by Ali Smith, this new edition of McCullers’s 1946 novel takes place over a only three days in August. It follows 12 year old tomboy Frankie who is incredibly lonely and becomes fixated on her brother and his fiancée, and longs to go on their honeymoon to Alaska with them. A darkly funny book about growing up, escaping, disillusionment, and working out your own identity.
For readers who’ve exhausted Murakami’s novels, this collection of seven stories focuses on the lives of men who are alone, for many different reasons. Full of classic Murakami touches like disappearing cats and elusive women, as well as the author’s characteristic dry sense of humour and quirky, lyrical writing, it’s a safe bet for fans of his longer work. Murakami himself said “I find writing novels a challenge, writing stories a joy.”
Dahl may be best known for his anarchic children’s stories, but he also wrote several books of pitch black tales for adults, including this collection exploring ideas of innocence, and how we find and lose it. Including autobiographical tales of Dahl’s own childhood and adolescence, to read these books is to enter a twisted, weird world about exploring a dark side of human nature that’s not for the faint-hearted.
Not the most straightforward of reads, this 1962 novel is written as a 999-line poem written by a fictional American poet, John Shade, together with a foreword and commentary by an eccentric and equally fictional academic, Charles Kinbote. Regularly ranked highly on lists of great English language novels, it never gained the notoriety of Lolita, but it’s an intellectual delight for readers who love linguistic and structural playfulness, and searching for dual meanings.
Among other things, Jackson is known for her 1948 short story The Lottery, about a sinister ritual in a fictional small town in America. But Jackson was a prolific writer, and gathered in this collection are more equally unnerving and creepy stories that include a writer of poison pen letters, a Jack the Ripper imitator and a devil with anxiety issues. A brilliant introduction to Jackson’s work for new readers or a treat for existing fans.
In this book, award-winning British writer Evaristo explores the experience of a black teenage girl coming of age in Roman London. Zuleika is of Nubian heritage and has just been married off to a much older Roman man. She’s getting by, though – that is, until she catches the attention of the Roman Emperor, and things quickly become more complicated. Told in a mixture of prose and verse, this is a breathless, playful exploration of history, race and gender.