“Essays in Biography” by Joseph Epstein


British cast members include: George Eliot, Maurice Bowra, Isaiah Berlin and Hugh Trevor-Roper.

As entertaining as Gore Vidal (also in), as witty as Saul Bellow (also in), as pretentious (at times) as Susan Sontag (also in). 

Eric Hobsbawm dies

His three AgesThe Age of Revolution, 1789-1848; The Age of Capital, 1848-1875, and The Age of Empire 1875-1914 – were the first serious history books I read. 

In praise of reading bad books

I miss reading bad books. My addiction to reviews means I end up intentionally avoiding a lot of wonderful writing. Worst of all I have almost forgotten the surprise of unearthing a masterpiece. High five-star expectations only cause bigger disappointments.

We need to read bad books to know how good they can be. We should not take good writing for granted. It is hard and it is rare. 

“Life is too short for bad books and bad wine,” a wonderful LSE professor once told me. Since I hardly remember what corked books taste like, I am not even sure whether most of what I read is actually a good vintage.