Celebrating books that have delighted, edified or enchanted me, including lavish spreads of illustrated quotations and metaphors, word-mosaics for the mind.

By the age of 70, he who doesn’t read will have lived only one life. He who reads will have lived 5,000 years. Reading is immortality working backwards.

Umberto Eco, ‘El Pais’, 23 Feb. 2016

The latest review for you …

Book cover - Durrell - Reflections on a Marine Venus

The bestellar list

In praise of books which have ‘gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind’ (Emily Bronte). ‘Bestellar’ unhitches the quality of a book from the quantity sold. Featured below alphabetically by author. 

‘Do you prefer reading to cards?’ said he; ‘that is rather singular’.

Jane Austen, Pride & Prejudice 

Readers create writers who in turn create readers.

Alberto Manguel, The City of Words, CBC Massey Lecture Series

“I’ve had time to read and work out new things,” The Rat said.  “Reading is like traveling.”  

Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Lost Prince 

Book cover - Dante - Divine Comedy - Clive James trans.

Your chosen literary family can extend over thousands of years and beyond the borders of empires, poet connecting to poet, sharing the mitochondria of imagination.

Molly Peacock, The Paper Garden

They read, they choose, they love: they read forever, and what they read never passes away.  In reading, they choose, and, in choosing, they love. 

St. Augustine, Confessions

Book cover - Mervyn Peake - Titus Groan
Book cover - Mervyn Peake - Titus Groan

Appreciation is a better mode for the understanding of achievement than are all the analytical kinds of accounting for the emergence of exceptional individuals.  Appreciation may judge, but always with gratitude, and frequently with awe and wonder.  

By ‘appreciation’ I mean something more than ‘adequate esteem’.  Need also enters into it, in the particular sense of turning to the genius of others in order to redress a lack in oneself, or finding in genius a stimulus to one’s own powers, whatever these may emerge as being.

Source: Harold Bloom, Genius (London: Fourth Estate, 2002), p. 5


  1. Liisa Välikangas

    Dear Beatrice,

    I have recommended your selection of books for many friends who, like me, are looking for summer reading. Thank you for continuing to provide a most charmed collection of books with your marvellous commentaries.

    Best summer wishes, Liisa

    • beatriceotto

      Thank you so much Liisa, it really encourages me to create these recommendations, knowing that you and others are finding inspiration in them. They are less ‘reviews’ than love letters to individual books. All best and hope to speak with you soon, Beatrice

  2. Liisa

    Dear Beatrice, I believe I have read most of the books soon that you recommend. Reading these books has given me great joy.

    I hope you continue to suggest books for us to read as I am getting to the end of the list!

    Thank you.

    Best wishes, Liisa

    • beatriceotto

      Many thanks Liisa – good to know. I will try to keep at least one or two book reviews ahead of your reading, so you don’t run out of suggestions. All best, Beatrice

  3. Liisa

    Thank you for the wonderful reading recommendations. Just finished reading Vasily Grossman’s ‘An Armenian Sketchbook’. It was like making the journey to Yerevan and beyond myself.

    A warm thanks for great reading suggestions.

    • beatriceotto

      Great to hear Liisa, thank you. It’s deeply gratifying to know someone has been inspired by one of the reviews, and has found the book rewarding.

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