Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com book column, where authors share their unforgettable reads. If you’re looking for a book that will make you feel good, move you, and maybe even make you laugh, consider a recommendation from our history writers, like you (while you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite titles will be yours.
After a 2019 tour, Ian McEwan was found planned to live in London to write in 2020. The global pandemic has confirmed that, and the result of its 17th book, Lessons (Knopf), which tells the story of human life in relation to historical events including the Berlin Wall and Brexit, Chernobyl and COVID-19. Nominated six times for the Man Booker Prize, the author won no Amsterdam. Many of his works have been adapted into film (he wrote some of the screenplays), including the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning. Forgiveness (source name: An Atonement), which starred Keira Knightley and Saoirse Ronan and won the Best Film BAFTA and the Best Original Score Oscar out of seven Oscar nominations; The Children Act (featuring Emma Thompson); a On Chesil Beach (shown as Ronan).
From a military family, the Hampshire-, Cotswolds- and London-born writer moved in his youth with pictures in Singapore and Libya, was awarded a CBE and the Bodeleian Medal, in one time. mistake for a CIA agent in Grenada, or not wrap up a TV series.
Likes: walking, chamber music etc blue, holiday. Dislikes: passport control and immigration line line“happy birthday” music. Good at: Potatoes and potatoes. Not very good at: Keep on, serve two tennis. Give one of his books a spin.
The book is…
… I missed a train stop:
The Rebellion of Cain by Herman Wouk. I’ve had three vacations, 15 years. A minesweeper in WW2, a stormtrooper, a fearless captain, with integrity and reason to compete.
… I cried uncontrollably:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. It was impossible to record, but it was wet-eyed when I first read about Emma’s long death.
…I often recommend:
The dead by James Joyce. The perfect story. It’s a whole world of contrasts, love, loss, death and the complexity of time that is beautifully evoked.
… formed my worldview:
The Eunuch Woman by Germaine Greer. Back in the 1970s, this book seemed to come out of nowhere. At the age of 21, I began to think for the first time about what it means to be a man.
…reminds me of a long-held belief:
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth. I thought the revolutions were separate, the political orders were slowly shifting. Then I read about the complexity and stability of the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsing under the force of history. Americans beware!
…I read it in one sitting, that’s good:
Youth by Joseph Conrad. Conrad’s personal account of his first command was in a boat, sailing a sinking ship with its cargo of coal.
… sitting on my nightstand:
We don’t know ourselves by Fintan O’Toole. A good mix of personal and political in this story of Ireland’s struggle to become a new state.
…I will give to my son:
God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens. I am the proud owner of this amazing quote of a creative person.
…I present a gift to a new graduate:
At the root of the characters by Charles Darwin. Natural selection created the diversity of all living things – “a glory in this view of life.”
… made me laugh out loud:
The Bech trilogy by John Updike. Bech is Updike’s Nobel Prize winner, the Jewish alter ego, whose literary career rises, nosedives, and rises again. In the end, Bech killed his various critics and was heavily criticized by the deceased.
…I want to be a Netflix show:
We need to open this message by Hanna Bervoets. It’s a crazy milieu. A group of teenagers work for a tech company, carrying disgusting or misleading posts. The daily struggle with the worst elements of human nature drives them to drink and through changing relationships.
…I already bought:
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch. Philosophy, sex, kidnapping, fireworks. I read it, interested, at the age of 14 and did not understand it. But I was patient as my parenthood began.
…I recently bought:
The dark chamber of Damocles by Willem Frederik Hermans. He is one of the most famous and least famous masters of European history. First published in 1958, this book by John le Carré is highly praised and is considered by some to be one of the best stories to come out of the Second World War.
… have the best name:
What Katy did by Susan Coolidge. A beautiful and concise title of a well-loved children’s book. Did Henry James owe house no What Maisie saw? I have sometimes thought about using myself for a crime story, What Frank did. Subtitle: And was never caught.
… has the best opening line:
Herzog by Saul Bellow. “If I don’t have a mind, I need it,” said Mose Herzog.
..here is the main result:
Meet again by Fred Uhlman. A wonderful short story about a romantic relationship between two German schoolchildren in the thirties and Nazism took hold. The whole weight of the story is carried in the last line.
… everyone should read:
Middlemarch by George Eliot. It is probably the greatest English novel. Eliot gives us his master class in the novelistic version. It shows how fiction and meditation can be beautifully woven into life.
…that’s what keeps food in a favorite dish:
By Nigel Slater Eat food you will find a quick and easy recipe for a delicious fish soup. I add the juice of an orange.
Riza Cruz is a New York-based editor and writer.