Why Sarah Bakewell Tends to Avoid Thrillers and Mysteries

Why Sarah Bakewell Tends to Avoid Thrillers and Mysteries

“Never mind guessing the solution,” says the British , whose new book is “Humanly Possible.” “I often can't understand that solution even when it's explained at the end.” What books are on your night stand? There are no visible ones, because bed is one of the few places where I read e-books: They are so good on a low light in the dark. By this means, I'm currently drifting darkly down the Mississippi with Jonathan Raban's “Old Glory” — my second reading of this sublime book. My day stand (or coffee table) has a lot more books on it — ridiculous quantities, because I keep buying them, or borrowing them from libraries, and I tend to jump from book to book instead of following each one calmly to the end. Among others, I've been reading my way through the biographies by Victoria Glendinning: of Jonathan Swift, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Bowen and others. She's so good: Every page is full of the sharp, tasty details that make a biography absorbing, as well as interesting thoughts on what these details reveal the subject. What's the last great book you read? “Old Glory” is passing one test of greatness, which is whether you can read it again a year or two after the first time, and be just as enthralled as before — or more so. A great book for me recently has been Chaucer's “The Canterbury Tales,” which I started during the pandemic and have slowly continued. […]

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