Barbara Kingsolver

Through her novels, essay collections and poems, Barbara Kingsolver an ecologist and biologist by training, writer and political activist by inclination, combines grand and sometimes controversial themes with the gift of a true storyteller.

Her best-known novels concern the endurance of people living in often inhospitable environments and the beauty to be found even in such harsh circumstances, but Kingsolver likes to take a difficult subject and spin it into the most appealing package she can find, so that readers can enjoy wandering among her thorny questions. With each new book she publishes she is able to draw deeper on our complex relationships with the environment.

The Bean Trees
Her first novel, now widely regarded as a modern classic, is the charming tale of rural Kentucky native Taylor Greer, out of money and seemingly out of options, settles in dusty Tucson and begins working at Jesus Is Lord Used Tires while trying to make a life for herself.

Pigs in Heaven
An unforgettable road trip from rural Kentucky and the urban Southwest to Heaven, Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation, testing the boundaries of family and the many separate truths about the ties that bind.

The Poisonwood Bible
An international bestseller and a modern classic, the epic story of one family’s tragic undoing and their remarkable reconstruction is told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it – from garden seeds to Scripture – is calamitously transformed on African soil.

Prodigal Summer
Over the course of one humid, Appalachian summer, four distinct and disparate characters find their connections of love to one another and to the surrounding nature with which they share a place.
With its strong balance of narrative and drama, Prodigal Summer is stands alongside The Poisonwood Bible and The Lacuna as one of Barbara Kingsolver’s finest works.

The Lacuna
Born in America and raised in Mexico, Harrison Shepherd is a liability to his social-climbing mother, Salome. When he starts work in the household of Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo – where the Bolshevik leader, Lev Trotsky, is also being harboured as a political exile – he inadvertently casts his lot with art, communism, and revolution.

Flight Behaviour
On the Appalachian Mountains above her home, a young mother discovers a beautiful and terrible marvel of nature: the monarch butterflies have not migrated south for the winter this year. Is this a miraculous message from God, or a spectacular sign of climate change.

Willa Knox stands braced against a world which seems to hold little mercy for her, her family – or their old, crumbling house. Willa’s two grown-up children, a new-born grandchild, and her ailing father-in-law have all moved in at a time when life seems at its most precarious. But when Willa discovers that a pioneering female scientist lived on the same street in the 1800s, could this historical connection be enough to save their home from ruin and keep the family together?

Small Wonder
This collection of essays is an extended love song to the world live in. Whether she is contemplating the Grand Canyon, her vegetable garden, motherhood, adolescence, genetic engineering, TV-watching, or the history of civil rights, these essays are grounded in the author’s belief that our largest problems have grown from the earth’s remotest corners as well as our own backyards, and that answers may lie in those places, too.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: Our Year of Seasonal Eating
Barbara Kingsolver and her family attempt a year of eating only local food, much of it from their own garden. Inspired by the flavours and culinary arts of a local food culture, she shows us how to put food back at the centre of the political and family agenda. Part-memoir, part journalistic investigation, this book is full of original recipes that celebrate healthy eating, sustainability and the pleasures of good food.

James Baldwin

James Baldwin was a black writer before the Civil Rights movement; a gay writer in homophobic mid-century America; a passionate maverick stylist who was swept into the destructive arena of politics.

In fiction, he drew heavily on his own self and was prepared to explore difficult truths about his life. He understood guilt and rage in a way few of his contemporaries did. But it was in his essays, Hilton Als argues that, unencumbered by the requirements of narrative form, character, and incident, that his voice was most fully realized.

Go Tell It on the Mountain

First published in 1953, Baldwin’s first novel is a short but intense, semi-autobiographical exploration of the troubled life of the Grimes family in Harlem during the Depression.

Giovanni’s Room

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend’s return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened, while Giovanni’s life descends into tragedy.

Another Country

The story of the suicide of jazz-musician Rufus Scott and the friends who search for an understanding of his life and death, discovering uncomfortable truths about themselves along the way.

The Fire Next Time

Since it was first published, this famous study of the Black Problem in America has become a classic.
Powerful, haunting, and prophetic, it sounds a clarion warning to the world.

Notes of a Native Son

Written during the 1940s and early 1950s, the essays collected in ‘Notes of a Native Son’ capture a view of black life and black thought at the dawn of the civil rights movement. This book inaugurated Baldwin as one of the leading interpreters of the dramatic social changes erupting in the United States in the 20th century and it is the book that established Baldwin’s voice as a social critic.

Nobody Knows My Name

In his introduction to the book Baldwin describes the writer as requiring ‘every ounce of stamina he can summon to attempt to look on himself and the world as they are’. This collection contains ‘Fifth Avenue, Uptown: A Letter from Harlem’, polemical pieces on the tragedies inflicted by racial segregation and a poignant account of his first journey to ‘the Old Country’, the southern states.