“Loners are the opposition. Pensive, thoughtful & furious, marooned with stories that need to be spoken out loud and no one to listen, curries to be cooked & no one to taste, days & days of traffic signals to be manoeuvred & no one to congratulate except other loners: they find each other because like all good maps there are familiar signs that lead the way. The loner who both observes & creates worlds necessarily speaks with many tongues. It is with these tongues that she explores the contours of the centre & the margins, the signs for somewhere & elsewhere & here & now.”

Like her namesake Jack Kerouac, J.K. is always on the road, travelling Europe with her typewriter in a pillowcase. From … More

Born OTD in 1926, American poet, philosopher and writer, Allen Ginsberg. He is considered to be one of the leading figures of both the Beat Generation during the 1950s and the counterculture that soon followed. Ginsberg is best known for his poem “Howl”, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States. In 1956, “Howl” was seized by San Francisco police and US Customs. In 1957, it attracted widespread publicity when it became the subject of an obscenity trial, as it described heterosexual and homosexual sex at a time when sodomy laws made homosexual acts a crime in every U.S. state.

Visionary poet Allen Ginsberg was one of the most influential cultural and literary figures of the 20th century, his face … More

Born OTD in 1955, Irish novelist, short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet, Colm Tóibín. In Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know Colm Toibin turns his incisive gaze to three of Ireland’s greatest writers, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats and James Joyce, and their earliest influences: their fathers. From Wilde’s doctor father, a brilliant statistician and amateur archaeologist, who was taken to court by an obsessed lover in a strange premonition of what would happen to his son; to Yeats’ father, an impoverished artist and brilliant letter-writer who could never finish apainting; to John Stanislus Joyce, a singer, drinker and story-teller, a man unwilling to provide for his large family, whom his son James memorialised in his work.

Colm Toibin illuminates not only the complex relationships between three of the greatest writers in the English language and their … More

The one & only Zadie Smith, prize-winning, bestselling author of Swing Time & White Teeth, is back with a second unmissable collection of essays. No subject is too fringe or too mainstream for the unstoppable Zadie Smith. From social media to the environment, from Jay-Z to Karl Ove Knausgaard, she has boundless curiosity & the boundless wit to match. In Feel Free, pop culture, high culture, social change & political debate all get the Zadie Smith treatment, dissected with razor-sharp intellect, set brilliantly against the context of the utterly contemporary, & considered with a deep humanity & compassion.

Out now in paperback. This electrifying new collection showcases its author as a true literary powerhouse, demonstrating once again her … More

Working-class stories are not always tales of the underprivileged & dispossessed. Common People is a collection of essays, poems & memoir written in celebration, not apology: these are narratives rich in barbed humour, reflecting the depth & texture of working-class life, the joy & sorrow, the solidarity & the differences, the everyday wisdom & poetry of the woman at the bus stop, the waiter, the hairdresser. Here, Kit de Waal brings together 33 established & emerging writers who invite you to experience the world through their eyes, their voices loud & clear as they reclaim & redefine what it means to be working class.

Features original pieces from Damian Barr, Malorie Blackman, Lisa Blower, Jill Dawson, Louise Doughty, Stuart Maconie, Chris McCrudden, Lisa McInerney, … More

First published OTD in 1914, The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists is a semi-biographical novel by the Irish writer Robert Tressell, published after his death from tuberculosis in 1911, about a house painter’s efforts to find work in the fictional English town of Mugsborough (based on the coastal town of Hastings) to stave off the workhouse for himself and his daughter. An explicitly political work, it is widely regarded as a classic of working-class literature.

‘The present system means joyless drudgery, semi-starvation, rags and premature death; and they vote for it and uphold it. Let … More

The Emigrants is divided into four sections, each one documenting the life of a man no longer living in the country of his birth, men who in the twilight of their lives can find no peace with the past, no happiness in the present. While the book is categorized as fiction, each story reads like a personal narrative, an intimate encounter between the narrator and his subjects.

To enhance the illusion that these stories are true, Sebald had embedded black and white photos throughout the narrative. This … More

Born OTD in 1902, American author known for his realistic & imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour & keen social perception, John Steinbeck. He has been called “a giant of American letters,” & many of his works are considered classics of Western literature. Ethan Allen Hawley has lost the acquisitive spirit of his wealthy & enterprising forebears, a long line of proud New England sea captains & Pilgrims. Scarred by failure, Ethan works as a grocery clerk in a store his family once owned. But his wife is restless & his teenage children troubled & hungry for the material comforts he cannot provide.

Then a series of unusual events reignites Ethan’s ambition, and he is pitched on to a bold course, where all … More

In his heyday, during the 1960s & early 1970s, B. S. Johnson was one of the best-known young novelists in Britain. A passionate advocate for the avant-garde in both literature and film, he became famous – not to say notorious – both for his forthright views on the future of the novel & for his idiosyncratic ways of putting them into practice. But in November 1973 Johnson’s lifelong depression got the better of him, & he was found dead at his north London home. He had taken his own life at the age of forty.

Jonathan Coe’s biography is based upon unique access to the vast collection of papers Johnson left behind after his death, … More

Born OTD in 1933, English experimental novelist, poet and literary critic, B. S. Johnson. He also produced television programmes and made films. With an introduction by novelist Jon McGregor. The novel describes, in the first-person, a three-week voyage aboard a deep-sea fishing trawler in the Barents Sea, not unlike the one Johnson undertook in preparation to write the book. Isolating himself from the world he knows, as well as from the ship’s crew, the narrator reflects on past events and relationships, hoping for some kind of redemption. This convincingly authentic and harrowing attempt to get to the heart of the human condition is one of Johnson’s finest novels.

In his heyday, during the 1960s and early 1970s, B S Johnson was one of the best-known novelists in Britain. … More