John Pipkin's first novel Woodsburner brings to life an incident that Henry David Thoreau, America's greatest transcendentalist philospher/arsonist, left out of Walden, the time he accidentally burned down 300 acres of Maine birch and pine forest and earned the enmity of the locals. As Ron Charles writes in his review: "Over the course of this momentous day, Pipkin moves back in time and across the Atlantic, describing several other characters whose lives are lit by their own fires and altered by Thoreau's conflagration."
Thatcher's Britain through the eyes of the generation of 1979; Philip Hensher for The Guardian reads Durrell, Golding, Lessing, Greene, Pym, and Ballard.
Two hundred years after the birth of Edgar Allen Poe, Jill Lepore reflects on the economy of horror, the story of an author who never made much money at the genre he created, and died trying. "Poe didn't write "The Raven" to answer the exacting demands of a philosophic Art," she writes; but "in a world of banking collapse, financial panic, and grinding depression that had a particularly devastating effect on the publishing industry," he knew the value of good nightmare.
After five years as a colonial policeman, George Orwell "goes native in his own country" and discovers himself to be a writer: George Packer reads Down and Out in Paris and London in The New Yorker.
On the occasion of the author's 90th birthday, Tom Leonard confirms that J.D. Salinger is still pretty much the most reclusive famous author possible: "The man who stopped talking to the world more than 50 years ago doesn't intend to start now."