Good Omens: Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

This delightfully subversive look at the Apocalypse and everything that went before is one of my favourite books. Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, have been living on Earth since the beginning. Crowley, who starts out as the serpent in the Garden of Eden but has taken on human form, has “dark hair and …

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The Sultanpur Chronicles—Shadowed City: Achala Upendran

Welcome to a world of magic, flying carpets and rakshasas[1]! Before I go any further, full disclosure: Achala Upendran is a friend. This is her first novel. Sultanpur is a vast empire, ranging from mountainous Firozia to the cities of Dastakar. It is home to humans, djinns and other beings. Peace has come after a …

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Frankenstein in Baghdad: Ahmed Sadaawi

Translated from Arabic by Jonathan Wright Ahmed Sadaawi takes the story of Frankenstein and transposes it to Baghdad in the early 2000s, in the aftermath of the US invasion of Iraq. Bombs go off regularly on the streets and people die every day. But not all of them get a decent burial—bits of bodies lie …

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Two Years, Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights: Salman Rushdie

“This is the story of a jinnia, a great princess of the jinn…who loved a mortal man long ago, in the twelfth century…and of her many descendants.” This is Salman Rushdie as Scheherazade, narrating events that take place over 1,001 nights. Jinns are creatures of smoke and fire that can change shape, grant wishes and …

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The Book of Dust, Book 1: La Belle Sauvage—Philip Pullman

A mysterious substance called Dust; the alethiometer, an instrument that can reveal the truth; and daemons, animal-shaped manifestations of people’s inner selves: we are in familiar territory, the world of Philip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials. Almost 20 years after the last book in the trilogy was published, Pullman is revisiting its universe, taking us …

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Ghost Stories: E.F. Benson (selected and introduced by Mark Gatiss)

This collection comes with an introduction by Mark Gatiss, best known for playing Mycroft in the TV series, Sherlock. I discovered that Gatiss and I share a love of Victorian ghost stories: he made a documentary on the life of the greatest of them, M.R. James, a writer who was Benson’s contemporary and influenced him. …

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Keeping company with ghosts

Today is Christmas Eve: the perfect time for pulling our chairs closer to the fire, virtually speaking, and telling stories about ghosts. Ghosts have fascinated me ever since I was a child and was on the lookout for beautiful churels (female ghosts or demons) who lure away wandering children. (You could tell them by their …

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child—JK Rowling, John Thorne and John Tiffany

So you thought we’d come to the end of the Harry Potter story…well, think again. JK Rowling, with some help this time, has written another instalment. This one takes place 19 years after the events of the last Potter book, and the plot revolves around Harry’s second son, Albus Severus Potter. (Note: I’m writing this …

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