In the Vintage Minis, the world’s greatest writers tackle the big question: what is it that makes us human? Here's our guide to the whole collection
These little books explore the whole spectrum of life - from birth to death, and everything in between. Which means there's something for everyone, whatever your story.
Not sure which one's for you? Read on for a whistle-stop tour of the series.
You’ve just passed someone on the street who could be the love of your life, the person you’re destined for – what do you do? In Murakami’s world, you tell them a story. The five weird and wonderful tales collected here each unlock the many-tongued language of desire, whether it takes the form of hunger, lust, sudden infatuation or the secret longings of the heart.
How do we love? With romance. With work. Through heartbreak. Throughout a lifetime. As a means, but not an end. Love in all its forms has been an abiding theme of Jeanette Winterson’s writing. Here are selections from her books about that impossible, essential force, truths and stories that search for the mythical creature we call love.
Babies: our biggest mystery and our most natural consequence, our hardest test and our enduring love. Anne Enright describes the intensity, bewilderment and extravagant happiness of her experience of having babies, from the exhaustion of early pregnancy to first smiles and becoming acquainted with the long reaches of the night. Everyone from parents to the mildly curious can delight in Enright’s funny, eloquent and unsentimental account of having babies.
Have you ever tried to learn another language? When Zhuang first comes to London from China she feels as though she is living among an alien species. The city is disorientating, the people unfriendly, the language a muddle of dominant personal pronouns and moody verbs. But as her fluency in English increases, surviving turns to living. And they say that the best way to learn a language is to fall in love with a native speaker…
Welcome to motherhood – a land of aching fatigue, constant self-sacrifice and thankless servitude, a land of bottomless devotion, small hands, feet like warm pink roses, and velvet kisses. Here is a land where women try to solve age-old arguments and search fruitlessly for another hour in the day. Perhaps you know this land well, or perhaps you’re entering it for the first time – either way, you need these honest, sharply funny, humane stories from an expert guide.
How to be a good father?
Children’s birthday parties, unsuccessful family holidays, humiliating antenatal classes: the trials of parenthood are all found in Knausgaard’s compelling and honest account of family life. Contrasting moments of enormous love and tenderness towards his children with the boring struggles of domesticity, this is one father’s personal experience - and somehow every father’s, too.
How do you remember the summers of your childhood? For Laurie Lee they were flower-crested, heady, endless days. Here is an evocation of summer like no other – a remote valley filled with the scent of hay, jazzing wasps, blackberries plucked and gobbled, and games played until the last drop of dusk. Lee’s joyful and stirring writing captures the very essence of England’s golden season.
Can we truly know the one we love? In this painfully candid book Marcel Proust looks straight into the green eye of every lover’s jealous struggle. He broods on why we are driven to try to possess one another, how jealousy can outlive death, and whether we can ever reclaim those careless days of first love. There is no greater chronicler of jealousy’s darkest fears and destructive suspicions than Proust.
Your sister might be the kindred soul who knows you best, or the most alien being in your household; she might enrage you or inspire you; she might be your fiercest competitor or closest co-conspirator, but she'll always share with you a totally unique bond. Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are four of the most famous sisters in literature, and these stories of the joys and heartaches they share are a touching celebration of the special ties of sisterhood.
Salman Rushdie, a self-described ‘emigrant from one place and a newcomer in two’, explores the true meaning of Home. Writing with insight, passion and humour, he looks at what it means to belong, whether roots are real and homelands imaginary, what it is like to reconfigure your past from fragments of memory, and what happens when East meets West.
Is who we are really only skin deep? In this searing, remonstrative book, Toni Morrison unravels race through the stories of those debased and dehumanised because of it. A young black girl longing for the blue eyes of white baby dolls spirals into inferiority and confusion. A friendship falls apart over a disputed memory. An ex-slave is haunted by a lonely, rebukeful ghost, bent on bringing their past home. Strange and unexpected, yet always stirring, Morrison’s writing on race sinks us deep into the heart and mind of our troubled humanity.
Freedom and enfranchisement. Something anarchical which pushes at boundaries. The sweetness of leisure time. Each of these rich avenues of meaning are bound up in the word 'liberty' and are explored here in varied pieces by one of the most ground-breaking writers of the last century. Whether via the passionate feminist polemic of A Room of One's Own, the experimental narrative of her fiction, or a whimsical account of roaming the streets of London, Virginia Woolf's writing will set your thoughts at liberty.
Is there anything quite so exhilarating as swimming in wild water? This is Roger Deakin’s swimming tour of Britain, a frog’s-eye view of the country’s best bathing holes – the rivers, rock pools, lakes, ponds, lochs and sea that define this watery island. This charming, funny, inspiring assertion of the native swimmer's right to roam is a celebration of the magic of water. It will make you want to strip off and leap in.
Bob Slocum is anxious, bored and fearful of his job. So why is it he wants nothing more than the chance to speak at the next company convention? In this darkly satirical book, Joseph Heller takes us for a turn on the maddening hamster wheel of work. Heller’s workplace is a cradle of paranoia, bravado and nauseating banter, forever shadowed by that perennial question, who’s really running the show here? In Heller’s hands, our daily grind has never seemed so absurd.
How does a writer compose a suicide note? This was not a question that the prize-winning novelist William Styron had ever contemplated before. In this true account of his depression, Styron describes an illness that reduced him from a successful writer to a man arranging his own destruction. He lived to give us this gripping description of his descent into mental anguish, and his eventual success in overcoming a little-understood yet very common condition.
What’s the worst another drink could do? In this dispiritedly sobering book, John Cheever pours out our most sociable of vices, and hands it to us in a highball. From the calculating teenager who raids her parents’ liquor cabinet only to drown her sorrows in it, to the suburban swimmer withering with every plunge he takes, these are stories suffused with beauty, sadness, and the gathering storm of a bender well-done. Seeing the world through the gin-lacquered looking glass of Cheever’s writing may have you reaching for a lime and soda.
In this inspiring, witty and eminently sensible book, Nigella Lawson sets out a manifesto for how to cook (and eat) good food every day with a minimum of fuss. From basic roast chicken and pea risotto to white truffles and Turkish Delight figs, Nigella brings the joy back into the kitchen.
Could drugs offer a new way of seeing the world? In 1953, in the presence of an investigator, Aldous Huxley took four-tenths of a gramme of mescalin, sat down and waited to see what would happen. When he opened his eyes everything, from the flowers in a vase to the creases in his trousers, was transformed. His account of his experience, and his vision for all that psychedelics could offer to mankind, has influenced writers, artists and thinkers around the world.
How do we find calm in our frantic modern world? Tim Parks – lifelong cynic and spirituality-sceptic – finds himself on a Buddhist meditation retreat trying to answer this very question. With brutal honesty and dry wit, he recounts his journey from disbelief to inner peace and tackles one of the great mysteries of our time – how to survive in this modern age.
When it comes to death, is there ever a best case scenario?
In this disarmingly witty book, Julian Barnes confronts our unending obsession with the end. He reflects on what it means to miss God, whether death can be good for our careers and why we eventually turn into our parents. Barnes is the perfect guide to the weirdness of the only thing that binds us all.