The Best Joseph Conrad Novels

The top ten best Joseph Conrad books, and why you should read them

Joseph Conrad wrote numerous full-length novels, but what were Conrad’s best books? From his debut in 1895, Almayer’s Folly, to his final novel, Suspense (which he left unfinished – aptly, given the novel’s title – upon his death in 1924), Conrad’s fiction is an intriguing blend of difficult prose, exotic locations, adventure and betrayal, and moral and philosophical contemplation. What follows is our pick of the best Joseph Conrad novels which everyone should read, presented in order where number 1 is ‘the best’ (a judgment that is bound to attract disagreement!). We’ve tried to steer clear of ‘spoilers’ per se, and instead offer very general summaries of the principal setup of the books being discussed. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Ian Fleming

Fun facts about Ian Fleming and his most famous creation, James Bond

1. Ian Fleming named James Bond after an ornithologist because it was the ‘dullest name’ he’d ever heard. The original name for James Bond was ‘James Secretan’; Ian Fleming took the eventual name from the author of a book on birds. The Bond books (and the hugely popular film franchise) are famous for numerous characters and catchphrases: Miss Moneypenny, ‘M’, ‘licence to kill’, ‘shaken not stirred’ (though this is apparently something of a fallacy), and Bond’s gadget and weapons adviser, ‘Q’. Fleming based ‘Q’ in his James Bond novels on a man who wrote Fleming fan letters criticising Bond’s weapon choices. Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Arnold Bennett

A short biography of Arnold Bennett, author of Anna of the Five Towns and Clayhanger

1. His first name was actually Enoch. Born in 1867 in Hanley, Staffordshire (part of the famous ‘Potteries’ and now a district of Stoke-on-Trent), Enoch Arnold Bennett was named after his father, a solicitor. Enoch Junior was sent to the school at Newcastle-under-Lyme (‘Oldcastle’ in his fiction), but he only became a successful writer after he had left his hometown in the Potteries. However, he would write about them in much of his fiction. It is an odd fact in the life of Arnold Bennett that he could not perhaps have written so well about his homeland of North Staffordshire if he had remained there. Would James Joyce have been able to write Ulysses if he’d remained in Dublin? Read the rest of this entry

Interesting Facts about the Sonnet

A short history of the sonnet form, with some fun facts about its development

Writing an introduction to the sonnet throws out a number of questions, so in this post we will ask what might be considered the essential questions about the sonnet form, and provide some answers. Who invented the sonnet? What form does the sonnet take? These sorts of questions. They actually throw out some surprising answers… Read the rest of this entry

Five Fascinating Facts about Jack London

Fun interesting facts about Jack London, author of White Fang and The Call of the Wild

1. Jack London’s San Francisco home has a collection of some of the 600 rejections he received before he sold a single story. Born John Griffith Chaney in 1876, Jack London read voraciously as a youth, and amassed a library of some 15,000 volumes which he described as ‘the tools of my trade’. And he was also a prolific – and, it must be said, determined – author who, once he broke into the literary market, would write a wide range of works including dystopian fiction (see below), adventure stories (White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his most enduring books – though the 1904 book The Sea-Wolf is also worth mentioning here), realism (Martin Eden, about a struggling writer), post-apocalyptic fiction (The Scarlet Plague), and several volumes of memoirs (the most biographically illuminating of which is John Barleycorn). Read the rest of this entry

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