The best books about writers’ lives

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m an award-winning biographer and critic. My essays and reviews appear regularly in the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement, and I teach literature and creative writing at King’s College London. I’ve always loved stories about the lives of great writers – stories that seek to illuminate genius, without ever explaining it away.


I wrote...

The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography

By Edmund Gordon,

Book cover of The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography

What is my book about?

Angela Carter’s life was as unconventional as anything in her fiction. Through her fearlessly original and inventive books, including The Bloody Chamber and Nights at the Circus, she became an icon to a generation and one of the most acclaimed English writers of the last hundred years. This is her first full and authorised biography.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Blue Flower

Edmund Gordon Why did I love this book?

Biographical fiction treads a fine line: if it sticks too close to the known facts it can seem rather pointless, but if it strays too far from them it often feels dishonest. Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel about the early life of Friedrich von Hardenberg (better known as the poet Novalis) achieves the perfect balance. A moving love story, an immersive portrait of 19th century Germany, and a subtle meditation on the mystery of art, it is a work of soaring originality and tremendous beauty.

By Penelope Fitzgerald,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Blue Flower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Penelope Fitzgerald's final masterpiece.

One of the ten books - novels, memoirs and one very unusual biography - that make up our Matchbook Classics' series, a stunningly redesigned collection of some of the best loved titles on our backlist.

The year is 1794 and Fritz, passionate, idealistic and brilliant, is seeking his father's permission to announce his engagement to his 'heart's heart', his 'true Philosophy': twelve-year-old Sophie. His astounded family and friends are amused and disturbed by his betrothal. What can he be thinking?

Tracing the dramatic early years of the young German who was to become the great romantic…


Book cover of Dickens

Edmund Gordon Why did I love this book?

This is one of the great literary biographies: impeccably researched, stylishly narrated, refreshingly indifferent to academic convention, and authentically Dickensian in its pungency of atmosphere and solidity of characterisation.

By Peter Ackroyd,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dickens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Dickens was a landmark biography when first published in 1990. This specially edited shorter edition takes the reader into the life of one of the world's greatest writers.

Here, Ackroyd attempts to peel away the mask of a man whose life was outwardly a picture of Victorian rectitude, but whose love life was as complicated (and unconventional) as any modern writer's. Dickens had everything - fame, success and riches - but he died harbouring a deep sadness he had experienced all his life. He was a man of mercurial character, had enormous vitality and humour, but he also had a…


Book cover of The Savage Detectives

Edmund Gordon Why did I love this book?

Bolaño’s masterpiece follows two fictional poets (one of whom is closely modelled on the author himself) from their youthful heyday in 1970s Mexico through twenty years of wandering the globe. Narrated in a polyphonic array of voices, the novel is a funny, sexy, playful, surreal and deeply moving vision of the wasting away of youthful potential and the joys and agonies of devoting one’s life entirely to literature.

By Roberto Bolaño, Natasha Wimmer (translator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Savage Detectives as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With an afterword by Natasha Wimmer.

Winner of the Herralde Prize and the Romulo Gallegos Prize. Natasha Wimmer's translation of The Savage Detectives was chosen as one of the ten best books of 2007 by the Washington Post and the New York Times.

New Year's Eve 1975, Mexico City. Two hunted men leave town in a hurry, on the desert-bound trail of a vanished poet.

Spanning two decades and crossing continents, theirs is a remarkable quest through a darkening universe - our own. It is a journey told and shared by a generation of lovers, rebels and readers, whose testimonies…


Book cover of Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Edmund Gordon Why did I love this book?

Richard Holmes is a wonderful biographer – at once romantic and erudite, stylish and empathetic – and this is my favourite of his books. In each of its four chapters, Holmes follows in the footsteps of a different nineteenth-century author: Robert Louis Stevenson, Percy Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Gerard Nerval. The book contains elements of travel-writing, biography, autobiography, and meta-biographical reflection, and adds up to a masterclass in the art of life-writing.

By Richard Holmes,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Footsteps as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard Holmes knew he had become a true biographer the day his bank bounced a check that he had inadvertently dated 1772. Because for the acclaimed chronicler of Shelley and Coleridge, biography is a physical pursuit, an ardent and arduous retracing of footsteps that may have vanished centuries before.
 
In this gripping book, Holmes takes us from France’s Massif Central, where he followed the route taken by Robert Louis Stevenson and a sweet-natured donkey, to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Revolutionary Paris, to the Italian villages where Percy Shelley tried to cast off the strictures of English morality and marriage. Footsteps is a…


Book cover of Experience: A Memoir

Edmund Gordon Why did I love this book?

This is a magnificent autobiography, a work of intricate self-portraiture that takes in everything from the author’s dental troubles, through his relationship with his father, to his reaction to his cousin’s murder. Amis’s comic energy and stylistic brio are on sizzling display throughout, but so are qualities that aren’t often associated with his fiction: gentleness, generosity, emotional vulnerability…

By Martin Amis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this remarkable work of autobiography, the son of the great comic novelist Kingsley Amis explores his relationship with his father and writes about the various crises of Kingsley's life, including the final one of his death. Amis also reflects on the life and legacy of his cousin, Lucy Partington, who disappeared without trace in 1973 and was exhumed twenty years later from the basement of Frederick West, one of Britain's most prolific serial murderers.

**ONE OF THE GUARDIAN'S 100 BEST BOOKS OF THE 21st CENTURY**


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Tiny Tales: A Year of Daily Prompted Stories

By Beth C. Greenberg,

Book cover of Tiny Tales: A Year of Daily Prompted Stories

Beth C. Greenberg Author Of First Quiver

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Perpetual Student Encourager Frustrated Golfer Puzzler

Beth's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Tiny Tales is a collection of 365 bite-sized stories and poems, written each day of 2023 to a one-word prompt created by one of the official #vss365 (very short story, 365 days a year) ambassadors on Twitter ("X").

Tweet-sized (280 characters or fewer) storytelling (aka "Twitterature") inspires experimentation and variety, and that is exactly what you'll find in this collection of compositions ranging from true stories to playful limericks, romantic fiction to war-inspired tales, wistful observations from a long-ago childhood to fantastical imaginings of a distant future.

Whether you want to read a story a day or use the prompts (included in their original order at the end of the book) as a springboard to jumpstart your own writing, Tiny Tales will keep you entertained and inspired throughout the year. It is a perfect gift to yourself or for any aspiring or avid writer in your life.

Tiny Tales: A Year of Daily Prompted Stories

By Beth C. Greenberg,

What is this book about?

Tiny Tales is a collection of 365 bite-sized stories and poems, written each day of 2023 to a one-word prompt created by one of the official #vss365 (very short story, 365 days a year) ambassadors on Twitter ("X"). Tweet-sized (280 characters or fewer) storytelling (aka "Twitterature") inspires experimentation and variety, and that is exactly what you'll find in this collection of compositions ranging from true stories to playful limericks, romantic fiction to war-inspired tales, wistful observations from a long-ago childhood to fantastical imaginings of a distant future.

Whether you want to read a story a day or use the prompts…


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