Five classic works of Stoicism
Stoic philosophy has been around for several centuries now, but the principles of Stoicism are not as widely known as the word itself. We tend to use the words ‘stoic’ and ‘stoicism’ to refer to a sort of ‘stiff upper lip’ attitude to life – the sort of thing that Rudyard Kipling recommended in his classic poem, ‘If’. Below, we’ve picked five of the best ancient works on Stoicism and related philosophical ideas. Modern titles are, of course, available – but these might be considered the founding texts of the Stoic worldview.
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations. One of the great things about this book is the circumstances in which Marcus Aurelius compiled it: he wrote it as a sort of journal, writing in it during the evenings when he had a moment to reflect, and with himself as the chief readership – the idea being to teach himself how to be a better person. It is a ‘self-help’ book in the most literal sense: Read the rest of this entry
The best children’s books
What are the top ten greatest children’s novels ever written? This is going to prove a contentious list, but below we’ve compiled what we think are ten of the best works of children’s fiction in all of English literature. We’ve had to make some (regrettable) omissions, but we think these are all classic books which children of around the ages of 5-11 would especially enjoy (though, being classics, they’re for ‘children of all ages’). They span from the 1860s until the 1990s. We’ll offer some interesting background trivia about each book as we go.
Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Along with Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll was the master of Victorian nonsense literature, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is his best-known book. First published in 1865, the story originated in a boat trip that took place in Oxford on 4 July 1862, on which Charles Dodgson (the real name of Lewis Carroll) entertained the children of his friend Henry Liddell – children who included Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in the book – with a humorous story involving illogical conversations and nonsensical events. The Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Cheshire Cat have been firm favourites with readers of all ages ever since. Read the rest of this entry
The best Gothic novels
The following list is not supposed to represent the ten most definitive Gothic novels ever published – it’s a list to inspire debate and discussion as much as it is a list of recommendations of classic Gothic works of fiction. Nevertheless, we reckon the reader of Gothic fiction could do worse than seek out these ten important Gothic novels. We’ve included some of our favourite interesting trivia about each novel as we go.
William Baldwin, Beware the Cat. What’s this? Surely any list of the best Gothic novels in English has to begin with The Castle of Otranto? But no: that book comes second on our list. Instead, we begin with this obscure short novel written during the early 1550s, during the reign of the boy-king, Edward VI (1547-53). Contrary to what many scholars of the novel claim, the English novel didn’t begin in 1719 with Robinson Crusoe – and nor, we would contend, did the Gothic novel begin with The Castle of Otranto. Instead, the first recognisably ‘Gothic’ novel in English is this wonderfully inventive comic skit that features werewolves, talking cats, jokes about poo, jibes at Catholicism, and even – anticipating Terry Pratchett by some four-and-a-half centuries – jokey footnotes and marginal glosses to the text. We discuss Beware the Cat in more detail in our book, The Secret Library: A Book-Lovers’ Journey Through Curiosities of History. You can read Baldwin’s novel online here. Read the rest of this entry