Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin

It’s appropriate, given Mark Helprin’s discursive, meandering narrative in Winter’s Tale, that I came to his book in an unexpected, roundabout way. Hearing The Waterboys’ song Beverly Penn for the first time on a CD of out-takes from the This Is The Sea album, I investigated (okay, Googled) what the title referred to and found the…

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

‘In the end the Party would announce that two and two made five and you would have to believe it.’ It is clearly facile and even rather childish to make any comparison between George Orwell’s dystopian classic Nineteen Eighty-Four and the rise of Donald Trump. But it is also fun, so let’s give it a go. Many liberal handwringers…

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Oh, will fictional parents never learn? Leaving your children behind in the charge of a new governess while you journey abroad almost never ends well. In the case of Willoughby (‘isn’t he the richest man in five counties?’ someone asks, not so innocently) it could cost him his life and his estate. You’d have thought a bit…

Mystery In White by J. Jefferson Farjeon

Should you be heading home for Christmas on a train, then this is the perfect little novel with which to fritter away some pre-Yule time before you are forced to make polite conversation and pass the mistletoe. Another in the great British Library Crime Classics imprint, Mystery In White has everything you could want for the season of goodwill: a…

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

‘Call me Ishmael…’ Perhaps the most famous opening line in literature. Well, most famous short one, anyway. And by the by, who put the hyphen into Moby-Dick? Herman Melville’s brother, apparently – and the title is, as far as I can see, the only time the hyphen appears. The rest of the time the great white whale is just…

Slade House by David Mitchell

A copper-cauldroned winter read, this one: put the black cat out, settle in front of the fire with a goblet of something, convince yourself there’s nothing behind the curtains, and enjoy…Slade House is tucked away down a narrow, dingy alley and weird and terrible things happen there. Well, that’s Reading for you. At least, I think it’s…