Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
Edited by Patricia Ingham
Penguin Classics, 2005 (first published 1853)
‘It is very pleasant dining with a bachelor,’ said Miss Matty softly, as we settled ourselves in the counting-house. ‘I only hope it is not improper; so many pleasant things are!’
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
Vintage (Penguin Random House), 2014
So why study history? Unlike physics or economics, history is not a means for making accurate predictions. We study history not to know the future but to widen our horizons, to understand that our present situation is neither natural nor inevitable, and that we consequently have many more possibilities before us than we imagine. For example, studying how Europeans came to dominate Africans enables us to realise that there is nothing natural nor inevitable about the racial hierarchy, and that the world might well be arranged differently.
The Girls by Emma Cline
Chatto & Windus (Penguin Random House), 2016
I waited to be told what was good about me. I wondered later if this was why there were so many more women than men at the ranch. All that time I had spent readying myself, the articles that taught me life was really just a waiting room until someone noticed you – the boys had spent that time becoming themselves.
Holding by Graham Norton
Hodder, 2017 (first published 2016)
The old lady turned, her expression suitably shocked and intrigued. Pleased by her reaction, PJ continued. ‘I’m after finding a body.’
‘A human body!’
He had waited his whole life to utter those words, and it felt as good as he had always imagined.
‘God spare us!’ Mrs Meany gasped and raised both hands to her neck as if gathering close an imaginary cardigan. ‘Where?’
Beatlebone by Kevin Barry
And the season is at its cusp, as if this is the night precisely that spring will give way to summer, as if it is all arranged in advance, at celestial council, and the world soon will throw back its doors and open out its moments.
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro
Faber & Faber, 2015
Just know one thing, young comrade. When the hour’s too late for rescue, it’s still early enough for revenge. So let me hear your promise again. Promise me you’ll hate the Briton till the day you fall from your wounds or the heaviness of your years.
Candide by Voltaire
Penguin Popular Classic, 2001 (first published 1759)
‘It is demonstrable’, Pangloss would say, ‘that things cannot be other than they are. For, since everything is made for a purpose, everything must be for the best possible purpose. Noses, you observe, were made to support spectacles: consequently, we have spectacles. Legs, it is plain, were created to wear breeches, and are supplied with them. Stone was made to be quarried, and built into castles: that is why his lordship has such a fine castle – for the greatest baron in the province must also of necessity be the best housed. Pigs were made to be eaten: so we eat pork all the year round. It follows that those who say that everything is good are talking foolishly: what they should say is that everything is for the best.