Little Women (1868-1869) by Louisa May Alcott

Lovely sense of character, especially with Jo March, who instantly feels so fully-formed and real, like she could spring off the page. The other characters all receive some powerful and striking moments (Meg and her husband’s struggles with loving each other but not loving their financial solution were particularly well-realised), but it’s Jo who consistently…

Lyra'x Oxford (2003) by Philip Pullman

I’m never really a huge fan of adding little bits of material to a series after it’s very definitively concluded, especially a series like HIS DARK MATERIALS where the ending had such power and finality. But a little short story like this certainly has its charms, especially with its accompanying illustrations and in-universe media like…

A Christmas Carol (1843) by Charles Dickens

Very short, and surprisingly not as mawkish as the reputation (and many of the adaptations) would indicate. A short and sweet, efficient even, distillation of Dickens’s sense of Christmas, the Christmas spirit, the zeitgeist of Christmas. It feels almost Biblical in how the moral lesson unfolds methodically and with such clarity. Scrooge seeing when he…

Dracula (1897) by Bram Stoker

Perhaps the most striking thing about reading DRACULA in 2019 is how overwhelmingly modern it feels. An epistolary, formed of faux-letters and phonograph recordings and the like, it feels like a precursor to found-footage horror films. The real-time way the story develops through these scattered texts creates a sense of tension and suspense that just…

The Amber Spyglass (2000) by Philip Pullman

The first two books of HIS DARK MATERIALS were mainly told from the perspectives of the child main characters, Lyra and Will respectively. Each childhood character gets their own story and adventures told, their characters built up, and their relationships with others filled out. Nipping at the edges of their stories is a much grander…

The Subtle Knife (1997) by Philip Pullman

THE SUBTLE KNIFE is a rare sequel in what it doesn’t do. It doesn’t immediately follow up on the previous book, it takes its time following the characters of the previous book (and it only follows some), it immediately differs sharply in tone…it’s jarring, and one could even find it to feel more like a…

The War of the Worlds (1897) by H. G. Wells

THE WAR OF THE WORLDS is a novel predicated on a self-reflexive fear of death and domination, a kind of catharsis of the imagination during the height of the British empire. Being alive invites the fear of being dead, and being so powerful and in domination of other lands and peoples invites the fear of…