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 1885, American novelist, short-story writer and playwright, Sinclair Lewis. His works are known for their critical views of American capitalism & materialism between the wars. He is also respected for his strong characterizations of modern working women. In, ‘It Can’t Happen Here’, a vain, outlandish, anti-immigrant, fearmongering demagogue runs for President of the United States – and wins. Sinclair Lewis’s chilling 1935 bestseller is the story of Buzz Windrip,…

..’Professional Common Man’, who promises poor, angry voters that he will make America proud and prosperous once more, but takes … More

Born OTD in 1812, writer and social critic, Charles Dickens. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius.

Throughout his writing career Charles Dickens was a hugely prolific journalist. This volume of his later work is selected from … More

Born OTD in 1942, English director, stage designer, gardener, and author, Derek Jarman. In 1986 the controversial film-maker Derek Jarman discovered he was HIV positive, and decided to make a garden at his cottage on the bleak coast of Dungeness, where he also wrote these journals. Looking back over his childhood, his “coming out” in the 1960s and his cinema career, the book is at once a volume of autobiography, a lament for a lost generation and a celebration of homosexuality.

In 1986 Derek Jarman discovered he was HIV positive and decided to make a garden at his cottage on the … More

Born OTD in 1963, English-Welsh writer known for his environmental & political activism, George Monbiot. In 2000, he published ‘Captive State: The Corporate Takeover of Britain’. The book examines the role of corporate power in the U.K., on both local & national levels, & argues that corporate involvement in politics is a serious threat to democracy. Subjects discussed in the book include the building of the Skye Bridge, corporate involvement in the NHS, the role of business in university research, & the conditions which influence the granting of planning permission.

Feral is the lyrical and gripping story of George Monbiot’s efforts to re-engage with nature and discover a new way … More

Born OTD in 1933, American writer, filmmaker, philosopher, teacher, and political activist, Susan Sontag. Sontag was active in writing & speaking about, or travelling to, areas of conflict, including during the Vietnam War & the Siege of Sarajevo. She wrote extensively about photography, culture & media, AIDS & illness, human rights, communism & leftist ideology. Sontag wrote Illness as Metaphor in 1978, while suffering from breast cancer herself. In her study she reveals that the metaphors and myths surrounding certain illnesses, especially cancer, add greatly to the suffering of the patients and often inhibit them from seeking proper treatment.

By demystifying the fantasies surrounding cancer, Sontag shows cancer for what it is – a disease; not a curse, not … More

More than eight decades after his death, the works of Franz Kafka continue to intrigue and haunt us. Even for those with only a fleeting acquaintance with his unfinished novels, or his stories, diaries and letters, ‘Kafkaesque’ has become a byword for the menacing, unfathomable absurdity of modern existence. Yet for all the universal significance of his fiction, Kafka’s writing remains inextricably bound up with his life and work in the Czech capital Prague, where he spent every one of his 40 years.

Klaus Wagenbach’s biography provides a meticulously researched insight into the author’s family background, his education and employment, his attitude to … 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

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 1922, American writer publishing fourteen novels, three short story collections, five plays, and five works of non-fiction, with further collections being published after his death, Kurt Vonnegut. Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books.

Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey … More