Simon Winchester

The author of Atlantic gives a list of books to entice the imagination and soothe the soul.

A former foreign correspondent for the Guardian, Simon Winchester started his career studying geology and working on oil rigs. The author’s wide-ranging background should come as no surprise to readers of works like The Professor and the Madman, Krakatoa, The Map that Changed the World, and The Man Who Loved China. With a magpie love for historical detail and a gift for weaving narrative enchantments, Simon Winchester roves in his books through centuries and continents to tell tales of historical confluence, human invention, and the many wonders of the world. His latest book, Atlantic, is so capacious that it needed the following subtitle: “Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories.” Simon Winchester offered us a typically unpredictable list of reader’s delights from his own bookshelf.

Books by Simon Winchester

The Riddle of the Sands

By Erskine Childers

“Once a year at least I return to this most wonderful of spy stories, containing as it does everything I happen to like: the wild North Sea, oiled-wool sweaters, the smell of pipe-smoke and Edwardian slang. Churchill was alarmed by the book’s fictional portrait of the Kaiser’s burgeoning navy; Childers himself was later executed for Fenian gun-running; his son became President of Ireland. What more excitement could a reader want? Read it in bed, a winter storm rattling the windowpanes.”

Life: A User’s Manual

By Georges Perec

“This astonishing masterpiece is from the young French writer best remembered for A Void, his novel written entirely without using the letter ‘e’. It is a memorably complicated book, at least partly centered on a curious Parisian story involving jigsaw-puzzle solving. One gets the feeling that almost every possible human pursuit and all human knowledge somehow lies hidden in the stories, somewhere.”

Crossing to Safety

By Wallace Stegner

“Whenever a literary frenzy greets a fashionable new novel, as it did this year with Freedom, I like to turn away and return to the calm world of Wallace Stegner and the trials and travails of his uniquely American lives. Of all his works, this is surely the most tender—an almost impossibly moving hymn to friendship, landscape and human goodness.”