SOME BOOKS WORTH READING

I have not given ISBN numbers, prices or other publication details, as I do not have the books to hand.  I do not think you should have much difficulty tracking down any of the works mentioned; if you do you can e-mail me and I'll dig out the book(s) in question and supply further details.  I would also appreciate any criticisms and suggestions you might have regarding this page.  In particular, if you have any ideas regarding books that deserve to be mentioned here, let me know:  I'll consider most things - with the notable exceptions of Jilly Cooper; Stephen Hawking; sport; cookery; and anything of a religious or quasi-religious nature.  

FICTION

HEART BEAST, Tanith Lee.   A werewolf tale, and a great read for anyone who appreciates beautiful and well-crafted prose. Tanith Lee's writing is generally highly polished and rewarding, but this book is (for me) her greatest achievement to date.  If you think all fantasy is puerile, ill-written trash, read this and change your mind.

NINETEEN EIGHTY-FOUR, George Orwell.  A book that almost everyone knows about, but too few have read - the ultimate masterpiece of nightmare fiction and an archetype for countless inferior plagiarisms.  At its simplest, it is a gripping and unforgettable novel, at its most cerebral an unanswerable question about the relationship between power and freedom.  Not a pretty book - and certainly not a charming one - but a work of tremendous power and influence.

THE SPIRE, William Golding.  The author of this book is best known for The Lord of the Flies, which is a pity: for where that is quite an interesting tale, The Spire is a masterpiece.  It is, however, a gloomy and doom-laden one and provokes much thought about the nature of religion and its relation to genuine humanity; of the arrogance (and ignorance) of priests; and of the likelihood of God's existence.  To call this a downbeat novel would be like saying Leonard Cohen sings wistful songs.  Do not read it when depressed!

NON-FICTION

THE STORY OF ART, E.H. Gombrich.  The finest introduction to the history of art that I know of - though to call it an introduction is perhaps misleading as it is a large and incredibly informative and entertaining book; and certainly not to be confused with those slender primers listing various disciplines and -isms.  A book suitable for anyone who feels intimidated by the pseudish taint of modern aestheticism.

THE POWERS OF EVIL, Richard Cavendish.  An well written and resourced survey of the eponymous forces of darkness, nicely referenced.  While not a large book, it covers all the main topics, such as ghosts, vampires, werebeasts, witchcraft, Fate and the Devil.

THE ANATOMY OF POETRY, Marjorie Boulton.  Originally intended for schoolchildren, this book was first published in 1953.  It isn't an exhaustive examination of poetry, but it serves to explain all of the important terms and techniques of poetry, and to convey the author's enthusiasm for the subject.

LOVECRAFT:  A BIOGRAPHY, L. Sprague de Camp.  A biography of H.P. Lovecraft, the most influential American writer of horror fiction of modern times; this big, satisfying volume is referenced, bibliographised and indexed, making it especially useful for the student (who should visit the Horror, SF and Fantasy section of my Links page).

AN EXPERIMENT IN CRITICISM, C.S. Lewis.  An unpretentions and quite profound analysis of literary criticism, superior to any number of weighty textbooks.

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