"I expect you’ll be becoming a schoolmaster, sir. That’s what most of the gentlemen does, sir, that gets sent down for indecent behaviour.” Evelyn Waugh, Decline and Fall
Top tens
Coming of age novels

Coming of age novels

These books have nothing and everything in common. They come from different times, different genders. Their stories are as diverse as the way they are told. Some were written for adults, some for young people. The windows they provide into adolescence are varied, each refracting something distinct. But then: there are the first loves, the...
Chekhov’s mongoose and the elusive orange

Chekhov’s mongoose and the elusive orange

“Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life.” Charles Dickens, Hard Times (1854) We at QI have taken the opening lines of Dickens’s shortest novel to heart. Our latest book contains nothing but facts, facts, facts: 1,411 times over. The book covers a huge range of...
News from elsewhere

News from elsewhere

Here a list of books that are set in various locations in the developing world. It includes both fiction and non-fiction – and novels inspired by factual events. There is a heartbreaking true story from the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, and another written by British journalist and war correspondent Jon Swain, who was immortalised...
Inside the marvellous city

Inside the marvellous city

Relationships of all kinds – intimate, casual, professional – are the subject here, the Rio de Janeiro way, meaning you and whoever or whatever you are dealing with also witness history in the making, the city’s singular curvaceous geography that can and does shape lives, the cross-cultural fun of flirting with traditions that don’t belong...
A passage to Forster

A passage to Forster

In contrast to his earlier novels, which he produced in a flurry between 1905 and 1910, E.M. Forster took eleven years to write A Passage to India. For nine of those years he was blocked, unable to move forward. He started it after his first visit to India in 1913 and was only able to...
Portals of discovery

Portals of discovery

From Out of the City is set in Dublin, Ireland some years from now. The President of the United States is assassinated during a state dinner and while the official account takes hold, an octogenarian named Monk discovers a version of his own, one which involves some people very close to home. This is the...
Tickled pink, black and blue

Tickled pink, black and blue

When Howard Jacobson won the Man Booker Prize in 2010 with The Finkler Question, there was much debate and discussion about humour in novels and how this was the first time a comic book had won the prize. What nonsense! In my experience, all the best books contain humour. This is, of course, an exaggeration,...
Hardy perennials

Hardy perennials

My novel Winter describes a domestic crisis in the life of Thomas Hardy. Hardy is among the greatest of English writers, famous not only for novels like Far From The Madding Crowd and Tess of the d’Urbervilles but also for many beautiful and haunting poems. He was a fascinating and complex man, full of paradoxes....
Rivers run through it

Rivers run through it

Throughout history, rivers have been important to us. They were the original roads cutting through overgrown, impassable lands. Whether navigable or dangerously fast flowing, rivers have always attracted us. Ancient civilisations settled beside them and mapped out territories using them as boundaries. Villages, towns, cities and factories have sprung up alongside them. Rivers can represent...
Stories from the front

Stories from the front

Andrew Davidson’s Fred’s War tells the story of the 1st Cameronians, who achieved notoriety for selling the Great War’s earliest frontline photographs, and of the author’s grandfather, one of the first medical officers to win the Military Cross. He blends Fred’s photographs and those taken by his friend Lieutenant Robert Murray and others with contemporary...