Want to know what books Robert McCrum recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Robert McCrum's favorite book recommendations of all time.
Stella TillyardEmma is the Regency novel in the sense that it was written and published during the Regency. I think the feel of much of Jane Austen is really in the late 1790s – the beginning of the French Wars. Jane Austen wasn’t writing about politics. She is famously someone who writes about what she knows. Her world is essentially a provincial world of manners. (Source)
This best-selling Norton Critical Edition is based on the 1847 first edition of the novel. For the Fourth Edition, the editor has collated the 1847 text with several modern editions and has corrected a number of variants, including accidentals. The text is accompanied by entirely new explanatory annotations.
New to the fourth Edition are twelve of Emily Bronte's letters regarding the publication of the 1847 edition of... more
John SutherlandThe Brontës had this idea of a Samson figure. Rochester, like Samson, has to be mutilated before he can be domesticated. What is interesting about Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights, is that he isn’t. He remains this superman. He is greater than a human being. He is named after two elemental things, the heath and the cliff. We never know what his first name is. (Source)
Robert McCrumCathy—and all of Emily Brontë’s characters—are more or less feral. That’s why we love them. It’s a different world, it’s a mad world. In some ways, Emily Brontë is more of a poet. But she has inspired many subsequent writers of fiction. You couldn’t imagine Lawrence without her, for example. You couldn’t imagine some of Hardy. (Source)
Rebecca GoldsteinMany people will be familiar with this book. The main story concerns a young woman named Dorothea who is hungry for an intellectually and spiritually expansive life but not sure how to secure it. Given the time she lives in, the early nineteenth century, her first thought is to marry the man who can teach her the most, and this leads her to an unfortunate marriage with the dry pedant Mr.... (Source)
The American Language, first published in 1919, is H. L. Mencken's book about the English language as spoken in the United States.
Mencken was inspired by "the argot of the colored waiters" in Washington, as well as one of his favorite authors, Mark Twain, and his experiences on the streets of Baltimore. In 1902, Mencken remarked on the "queer words which go into the making of 'United States.'" The book was preceded by several columns in The Evening Sun. Mencken eventually asked "Why doesn't some painstaking pundit attempt a grammar of the American language......more
Robert McCrumThis is a marvellous book by someone I really idolise. H L Mencken was a terrific journalist flourishing in the 1920s. He wrote for the Baltimore Morning Herald – he was known as the ‘Sage of Baltimore’ – and was very combative and polemical. He saw his job as making trouble as a columnist but in his spare time he was a passionate advocate of what he called the American language. He wrote the... (Source)
Robert McCrumThis was first published in 1775 and is among the most influential dictionaries in the English language. I think it is very important because it is an example of English being analysed by someone who treats it as a language of common sense and a language of the ordinary man and woman. And what was amazing is that he wrote this dictionary all by himself apart from the amateur assistance of a few... (Source)
Michael VossI enjoy nearly everything Mark Twain ever wrote, but my favorite is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This novel showcases Twain at the top of his game in terms of acerbic wit, sharp societal observations and the use of regional dialects - for which he initially garnered great criticism, before the passage of time enabled critics to understand and acknowledge its authenticity. (Source)
'Compelling, angry, and darkly humorous, The White Tiger is an unexpected journey into a new India. Aravind Adiga is a talent to watch.' Mohsin Hamid, Booker-shortlisted author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist
'In the grand illusions of a "rising" India, Aravind Adiga has found a subject Gogol might have envied. With remorselessly and delightfully mordant wit The White Tiger anatomises the fantastic cravings of... more
Robert McCrumThis book won the Man Booker prize and I think it is a wonderful book which is written in this very gripping Indian English. It is very high octane. Here is someone who has taken this phenomenon of the liberation of English into the global arena and turned it into literature. He is Indian, highly educated and a very good writer and he has taken a what can be sometimes incomprehensible global form... (Source)
Erik RostadI read this book in 2003 or 2004. I was out of college and working in my first job. Friedman convincingly showed that the world was rapidly changing and that I would soon be competing for jobs with people from around the world. I decided to go to graduate school as a direct result of being convinced of his argument in this book. What's interesting is that I don't think these two books would have... (Source)
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