Born OTD in 1939, Canadian poet, novelist, literary critic, essayist, inventor, teacher, and environmental activist, Margaret Atwood. Can we ever be wholly free? In this book of breathtaking imaginary leaps that conjure dystopias and magical islands, Margaret Atwood holds a mirror up to our own world. The reflection we are faced with, of men and women in prisons literal and metaphorical, is frightening, but it is also a call to arms to speak and to act to preserve our freedom while we still can. And in that, there is hope.

Available in store and online.

Born OTD in 1929, American novelist writing more than 20 novels, short stories, poems and much more, Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. “A long, long time from now, in the valleys of what will no longer be called Northern California, might be going to have lived a people called the Kesh. But Always Coming Home is not the story of the Kesh. Rather it is the stories of the Kesh – stories, poems, songs, recipes – Always Coming Home is no less than an anthropological account of a community that does not yet exist, a tour de force of imaginative fiction by one of modern literature’s great voices.”

Available in store and online.

Born OTD in 1942, Irish novelist, Bernard MacLaverty. The book centers around the postpartum depression of its female protagonist, Catherine McKenna, a Northern Irish music teacher and composer living in Scotland. She faces preparations for her father’s funeral, endures disturbing visions regarding her recently born daughter, Anna, and suffers restrictions imposed by the Catholic Church on her family and her childhood. She engages her depression through the cathartic and intuitive composition of music; later in the book, she begins to craft a master symphony.

This is a novel, about coming to terms with the past and the healing power of music, “Grace Notes” is … More

Born OTD in 1797, English novelist, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. It began with a girl named Mary. She liked to daydream and imagine. And she grew up to write Frankenstein. The inspirational true story of the great writer Mary Shelley, brought to life for children in this stunning picture book by multi-award winning author Linda Bailey and with beautiful illustrations from Julia Sarda. Mary loves stories, but the stories in her daydreams are far more thrilling than those in any book. After a troubled childhood, eighteen-year-old Mary runs away to Switzerland with the famous poet Percy Bysse Shelley, her step-sister in tow.

One dark and stormy night at his house by the lake, they huddle around the fire, telling ghost stories. But … More

Born OTD in 1959, author, broadcaster and a professor of creative writing, Jeanette Winterson. ‘Written On The Body’ is the most beguilingly seductive novel to date from the author of The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Winterson chronicles the consuming affair between the narrator, who is given neither name nor gender, and the beloved, a complex and confused married woman.

Written on the body is a secret code only visible in certain lights: the accumulation of a lifetime gather there. … More

Born OTD in 1924, American novelist, playwright, and activist, James Baldwin. Baldwin’s novels and plays fictionalize fundamental personal questions and dilemmas amid complex social and psychological pressures thwarting the equitable integration of not only African Americans, but also gay and bisexual men, while depicting some internalized obstacles to such individuals’ quests for acceptance.

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his … More

Born OTD in 1883, novelist and short-story writer, widely regarded as one of the major figures of 20th-century literature, Franz Kafka. His work, which fuses elements of realism and the fantastic, typically features isolated protagonists facing bizarre or surrealistic predicaments and incomprehensible socio-bureaucratic powers, and has been interpreted as exploring themes of alienation, existential anxiety, guilt, and absurdity

Like George Orwell, Franz Kafka has given his name to a world of nightmare, but in Kafka’s world, it is … More

Born OTD in 1905, Jean-Paul Sartre. French philosopher, playwright, novelist, political activist & biographer. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism & phenomenology, & one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy & Marxism. His work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, & literary studies, & continues to influence these disciplines. “June 1940 was the summer of defeat for the French soldiers, deserted by their officers, utterly demoralized, awaiting the Armistice. Day by day, hour by hour, Iron in the Soul unfolds what men thought & felt & did as France fell. Men who shrugged, men who ran, men who fought and tragic men like Mathieu, who had dedicated his life to finding personal freedom, now overwhelmed by remorse and bitterness, who must learn to kill.”

Iron in the Soul, the third volume of Sartre’s Roads to Freedom Trilogy, is a harrowing depiction of war and … More

Born OTD in 1946, English writer and novelist, Jim Crace. Harvest tells the story of a remote English village as economic progress disrupts pastoral idyll following the Enclosure Act. The protagonist, Walter Thirsk, tells the story from his perspective, but in fact is rarely present when the events of the novel take place due to his injury that he sustains at the beginning of the novel. The story begins with the arrival of some strangers to the bounds of the village. Following the burning of the stables, a scapegoat is required as no-one wants to admit that one of their own was responsible. Hence a mob sets out in order to find evidence to blame these new arrivals. After a brief altercation with the three strangers, they are arrested by Master Kent and chained to the pillory for the week.

Throughout the novel the certainty of the land, the “busy, kindly, scented universe of crops and the unerring traces of … More

Born OTD in 1931, American novelist, essayist, editor, teacher and professor emeritus at Princeton University, Toni Morrison. Many people consider Morrison’s novels difficult to read. Most of her readers have at least one book on their shelves that they couldn’t finish or, when they did finish one, just scratched their heads in confusion. And when we think we are sure we know what she’s writing about, it turns out we are half wrong or only getting the tip of the iceberg instead of the whole, beautiful, brooding thing.

“Toni Morrison For Beginners” is about the woman, her books, her mission, her word music, and all that subtext in … More