Born OTD in 1931, American novelist, essayist, book editor, and college professor, Toni Morrison. The majority of the narrative takes place in Harlem during the 1920s; however, as the pasts of the various characters are explored, the narrative extends back to the mid-19th-century American South. The novel deliberately mirrors the music of its title, with various characters “improvising” solo compositions that fit together to create a whole work. The tone of the novel also shifts with these compositions, from bluesy laments to up beat, sensual ragtime.

The novel also utilizes the call-and-response style of jazz music, allowing the characters to explore the same events from different … More

Born OTD in 1945, Irish novelist, short story writer, adapter of dramas and screenwriter, John Banville. When art historian Max Morden returns to the seaside village where he once spent a childhood holiday, he is both escaping from a recent loss and confronting a distant trauma. The Grace family had appeared that long-ago summer as if from another world. Mr and Mrs Grace, with their worldly ease and candour, were unlike any adults he had met before. But it was his contemporaries, the Grace twins Myles and Chloe, who most fascinated Max. He grew to know them intricately, even intimately, and what ensued would haunt him for the rest of his years and shape everything that was to follow.

‘A novel in which all of his remarkable gifts come together to produce a real work of art, disquieting, beautiful, … More

Born OTD in 1857 Polish-British writer, Joseph Conrad. Writing near the peak of the British Empire, Conrad drew, among other things, on his native Poland’s national experiences and on his own experiences in the French and British merchant navies, to create short stories and novels that reflect aspects of a European-dominated world—including imperialism and colonialism—and that profoundly explore the human psyche.

Set in the Congo during the period of rapid colonial expansion in the 19th century, the story deals with the … More

Who was the real George Eliot? In Love with George Eliot is a glorious debut novel which tells the compelling story of England’s greatest woman novelist as you’ve never read it before. Marian Evans is a scandalous figure, living in sin with a married man, George Henry Lewes. She has shocked polite society, and women rarely deign to visit her. In secret, though, she has begun writing fiction under the pseudonym George Eliot. As Adam Bede’s fame grows, curiosity rises as to the identity of its mysterious writer. Gradually it becomes apparent that the moral genius Eliot is none other than the disgraced woman living with Lewes.

Now Evans’ tremendous celebrity begins. The world falls in love with her. She is the wise and great writer, sent … More

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.

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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.”

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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