Born OTD in 1956, English author Andrea Levy. She was born in London to Jamaican parents, and her work explores topics related to British Jamaicans and how they negotiate racial, cultural and national identities. “My son Thomas, who is publishing this book, tells me, it is customary at this place in a novel to give the reader a little taste of the story that is held within these pages. As your storyteller, I am to convey that this tale is set in Jamaica during the last turbulent years of slavery and the early years of freedom that followed. July is a slave girl who lives upon a sugar plantation named Amity and it is her life that is the subject of this tale.”

“She was there when the Baptist War raged in 1831, and she was present when slavery was declared no more. … More

Born OTD in 1926, Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo, Gabriel García Márquez. Equally tragic, joyful and comical, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s masterpiece of magical realism, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a seamless blend of fantasy and reality, translated from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa in Penguin Modern Classics. Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s great masterpiece is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family and of Macondo, the town they have built.

Though little more than a settlement surrounded by mountains, Macondo has its wars and disasters, even its wonders and miracles. … More

Born OTD in 1902, American author who won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature 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’, and many of his works are considered classics of Western literature. Most of Steinbeck’s work is set in central California, particularly in the Salinas Valley and the California Coast Ranges region. His works frequently explored the themes of fate and injustice, especially as applied to downtrodden or everyman protagonists.

‘Everything was dead, everything unreal; the dark mob was made up of stiff lay-figures’ One of America’s greatest writers explores … More

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