compe summer reads

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s novel, published in 1960, has been the centre of controversy again of late, with the question of its appearance on UK schools’ reading lists. For me, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most studied books in the canon - it’s a classic of American literature, a powerful meditation on prejudice and intolerance which is also a complex and highly skilled exploration of character, social standing and class... Read more.

First Lines

On the business of crafting that all-important opening line, Stephen King commented: ‘It should say: “Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this”’. A reader can be won or lost in the space of a few words. You’d be hard pressed not to be intrigued by Thomas Pynchon’s first sentence in Gravity’s Rainbow... Read more. 


I first read Beloved in a cold room in Manchester: I’d heard the name Toni Morrison, but knew almost nothing about her. I remember opening the book and reading the epigraph to ‘Sixty Million and more’, instantly intrigued – and then devastated as I realised the significance of that figure, the number of Africans and their descendants who perished as a result of the slave trade... Read more.