80 Great Books from a Lifetime of Reviews
Imprint: Yale University Press
In 1977, newly installed as a professor of English at Oxford, John Carey took the position of chief reviewer for the Sunday Times. In a career spanning over 40 years and upwards of 1,000 reviews, Carey has kept abreast of the brightest and best books of the day, distilling his thoughts each week for the entertainment of Sunday readers.
Contained in this volume is the cream of that substantial crop: a choice selection of the books which Carey has most cherished. Covering subjects as diverse as the science of laughter, the art of Grayson Perry, the history of madness, and Sylvia Plath’s letters, this is a collection of treats and surprises, suffused with careful thought, wisdom, and enjoyment. The result is a compendium of titles that have stood the test of time, offered with Carey’s warmest recommendation.
“For Carey, as this ridiculously enjoyable selection of his greatest hits 1986–2021 demonstrates, the reconciliation of high learning and popular reach is not a headache, but an art. . . . From Sherlock Holmes to Germaine Greer, these reviews prove that John Carey is the finest literary critic of our age.”—Sebastian Faulks, Sunday Times
“John writes for the casual reader rather than the expert and cleverly mines the books for their best anecdotes—making this an engaging read.”—Thomas Barrie, House and Garden, “Gifts for Bookworms”
“There’s much to savour in this collection of journalism by one of Britain’s most perceptive literary critics. . . . Sunday Best is a pleasure, and one can only marvel at the facility with which, over and over again, Carey distinguishes the signal from the noise.”—Rhodri Lewis, Prospect
“Surely the sharpest and wisest of our current critics—and the one who makes us laugh too.”—Claire Tomalin
“John Carey is the finest literary critic of the age, and this collection of his reviews is a calling card of his many virtues—the breadth of his interests, his incisiveness, his fearlessness, his wit, his wonderfully fierce moral vision, and above all his clarity—you may search in vain for a semi-colon—and his desire to communicate as broadly as possible. An exemplary collection from an exemplary writer.”—Andrew Holgate, literary editor, Sunday Times
“Whether he’s discussing the appeal of Sherlock Holmes or the popularity of cannibalism in the siege of Leningrad, John Carey’s reviews are always marvels of clarity, revelation, human warmth and acerbic wit. This is literary journalism at its stylish pinnacle.”—John Walsh, former literary editor, Sunday Times
“Unlike the majority of his colleagues and descendants, Carey never switches code or shifts guises, speaking now as a populist, now as a specialist. He has no need to—for more than 50 years, his taut, spry, flexible, idiomatic style has enabled him to engage a large non-specialist audience without, for the most part, stinting his deep infectious belief that literature is serious, and matters.”—Leo Robson, lead fiction reviewer, New Statesman