Nicholas Shakespeare's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Nicholas Shakespeare recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Nicholas Shakespeare's favorite book recommendations of all time.


Journey to Armenia & Conversation About Dante

Osip Mandelstam visited Armenia in 1930, and during the eight months of his stay he rediscovered his poetic voice and was inspired to write an experimental meditation on the country and its ancient culture. 'Armenia brought him back to his true self, a self depending on the "inner ear" which could never play a poet false. There was everything congenial to him in this country of red and ochre landscape, ancient churches, and resonant pottery.' (Henry Gifford). Conversation about Dante, Mandelstam's incomparable apologia for poetic freedom and challenge to the Bolshevik establishment,... more
Recommended by Nicholas Shakespeare, and 1 others.

Nicholas ShakespeareAll Chatwin’s hallmarks are to be found in the prose of this Russian poet. He called Mandlestam ‘one of my gods’. (Source)

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The Rings of Saturn

The Rings of Saturn — with its curious archive of photographs — records a walking tour along the east coast of England. A few of the things which cross the path and mind of its narrator (who both is and is not Sebald) are lonely eccentrics, Sir Thomas Browne's skull, a matchstick model of the Temple of Jerusalem, recession-hit seaside towns, wooded hills, Joseph Conrad, Rembrandt's "Anatomy Lesson," the natural history of the herring, the massive bombings of WWII, the dowager empress Tzu Hsi, and the silk industry in Norwich. less

Nicholas ShakespeareOf all those liberated by Chatwin’s trampling of fence-posts, none stands higher than W. G. Sebald. (Source)

Bronwyn Law-ViljoenSebald is interesting because he published all of his books with photographs in them, and this one is interesting because it’s kind a Wordsworthian walking trip. (Source)

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The Road to Oxiana

In 1933 the delightfully eccentric Robert Byron set out on a journey through the Middle East via Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad and Teheran to Oxiana -the country of the Oxus, the ancient name for the river Amu Darya which forms part of the border between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union. His arrival at his destination, the legendary tower of Qabus, although a wonder in itself, it not nearly so amazing as the thoroughly captivating, at times zany, record of his adventures.

In addition to its entertainment value, The Road to Oxiana also serves as a rare account of the architectural...

Nicholas ShakespeareByron was Chatwin’s first conscious model. The book is a candid account of a journey made in 1933 in search of Seljuk tombs. (Source)

Colin ThubronOxiana is a coinage of his, and it doesn’t geographically specifically exist. It was a way of saying Persia (as it was to him) and Afghanistan. Byron’s journey starts in Venice and ends in what is now Pakistan. He went there in 1933-34, not long before he died in World War II, drowned when his ship was torpedoed. Although the book is terrifically chauvinistic – he’s appalling when he writes about... (Source)

Tim Mackintosh-SmithI recently wrote about this book and hooked what I wrote on what Chatwin said about it – that it was a sacred text – and what Wilfred Thesiger said, which was that it was a lot of nonsense. I think you can reconcile these views. It’s actually why I like the book. It’s sacred nonsense, or Robert Byron is a holy fool, if that makes sense. It’s nonsense because he sort of explodes the usual... (Source)

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Selected Stories and Other Writings

Although his work has been restricted to the short story, the essay, and poetry, Jorge Luis Borges of Argentina is recognized all over the world as one of the most original and significant figures in modern literature. In his preface, Andre Maurois writes: "Borges is a great writer who has composed only little essays or short narratives. Yet they suffice for us to call him great because of their wonderful intelligence, their wealth of invention, and their tight, almost mathematical style."

Labyrinths is a representative selection of Borges' writing, some forty pieces drawn...

John KingIf you are going to think about Latin American literature, Borges is always a good place to start. (Source)

Nicholas ShakespeareNo writer embodied libraries more than the immobile, blind Argentine, Jorge Luis Borges. (Source)

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