David Mitchell

I don’t like fantasy, horror or ghost stories. I’ve never read Harry Potter or Narnia. I’ve never seen a single “Star Wars” movies.


I like my fiction real, my make-believe believable, if you know what I mean.


And yet – you knew that was coming – I couldn’t put down David Mitchell’s new novel, Slade House. I downed in quick feral slurp, like one of his soul-sucking spooks.

I can’t say why: The creepy English house, the weird twins, the first person tales of magic and doom are common elements in this gimme a break genre. All that talk of apertures, lacunae, orisons, suborisons and astral projection is, for me, the literary equivalent of bad breath on a first date. Next!

Except that Mitchell has such a magic way with words that I’d probably be entranced by his version of the phone book.

This is not a great book. Unlike his masterpiece, Cloud Atlas, it is not a profound meditation on history, literature and hope. It is a fun diversion that provides real spiky pleasure.

David Mitchell’s Top Ten List

1. The Duel by Anton Chekhov (1891) - a novella, I know, but I would save it from a burning house before everything else I've ever read.
2. 1984 by George Orwell (1948).
3. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899).
4. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen (1811).
5. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1966).
6. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1930).
7. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding (1749).
8. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1964).
9. W, or The Memory of Childhood by Georges Perec (1975).
10. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
Wild Card: Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926).


New List

Joyce Carol Oates

1. The Possessed by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1872).
2. In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (1913–27).
3. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847).
4. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
5. Ulysses by James Joyce (1922).
6. Independent People by Halldór Laxness (1934).
7. Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner (1936).
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
9. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
10. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).


Classic List

Charles Palliser


1. Adolphe by Benjamin Constant (1816).
2. At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien (1939).
3. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824).
4. Anton Reiser by Karl Philipp Moritz (1785-90).
5. The Golovlyev Family by Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin (1876).
6. The Slaves of Solitude by Patrick Hamilton (1947).
7. The Tale of Genji by Shikibu Murasaki (c. 1001–1010 c.e.).
8. The Dukays by Lajos Zilahy. (1949)
9. Effi Briest by Theodor Fontane (1896).
10. The Maias by Eca de Queiroz (1888).


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