LRB Books

Collections and Selections from the ‘London Review of Books’

An image of 10 of the LRB Collections standing in a row

Rediscover classic pieces, recurring themes, and the dash the London Review of Books has cut through the history of ideas, for the past 40 years, with LRB Collections and now LRB Selections: two series of collectible volumes exclusively available at the London Review Bookshop and from our online store.

1. Royal Bodies: Writing about the Windsors

‘I used to think the interesting question was whether we should have a monarchy or not. But now I think that question is rather like, should we have pandas or not?’ – Hilary Mantel

Featuring: Jenny Diski, William Empson, Paul Foot, Thomas Jones, Hilary Mantel, Ferdinand Mount, Caroline Murphy, Tom Nairn, Glen Newey and Bee Wilson.

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2. Foodists: Writing about eating

‘If, as Lévi-Strauss once opined, “to eat is to fuck,” then that coconut kirsch roulade is just asking for it.’ – Angela Carter

Featuring: John Bayley, Joanna Biggs, Angela Carter, John Lanchester, James Meek, Emma Rothschild, Steven Shapin, Adam Smyth, E.S. Turner, Margaret Visser, Bee Wilson and Francis Wyndham.

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3. The Flood: Writing about rising seas

‘Soon it will be everywhere, overheard conversations with no human source. Soon we will all think it. And then it will happen.’ – Iain Sinclair

Featuring: Meehan Crist, James Davidson, Frank Kermode, James Meek, Patrick O’Brian, Iain Sinclair, Rebecca Solnit, Theo Tait, Margaret Visser, Marina Warner and Emily Witt.

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4. Four in a Bed: Writing about sex

‘Ten, no, five seconds
after coming all
over the place
too soon

I was lying there
where to put the
line-breaks in.’

– Hugo Williams

Featuring: Mary Beard, Jenny Diski, Wendy Doniger, Frank Kermode, Andrew O’Hagan, Adam Phillips, Amia Srinivasan, David Sylvester, Barbara Taylor, Hugo Williams and Mary-Kay Wilmers.

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5. Sinomania: Writing about China

‘What a European Old China Hand said had to be listened to carefully for the bits absurd enough to be repeated.’ – William Empson 

Featuring: William Empson, Isabel Hilton, Christopher Hitchens, Long Ling, Hilary Mantel, Zheng Peidi, Roy Porter, Nikil Saval, Eliot Weinberger, Sheng Yun and Slavoj Žižek.

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6. Frock Consciousness: Writing about clothes

‘I don’t know when I’ll be going, but at least now I know what I’ll be wearing.’ – Elaine Showalter

Featuring: Joanna Biggs, Anita Brookner, Angela Carter, Jenny Diski, Rosemary Hill, Anne Hollander, Kevin Kopelson, David Nasaw, Elaine Showalter, Alice Spawls and E.S. Turner.

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7. Broom, Broom: Writing about witches

‘the witches eat your book
then you
then everything’
– Rebecca Tamás

Featuring: John Bayley, Wendy Doniger, Malcolm Gaskill, Jeremy Harding, Hilary Mantel, Rosalind Mitchinson, Rebecca Tamás, Robert Tashman, Lee Palmer Wandel, Marina Warner and Leslie Wilson.

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8. The Meaninglessness of Meaning: Writing about the theory wars

‘Shall I batter the cat, and then stew
it, thus turning the cru to the cuit?
And when I am had up for cru-
elty, plead it was only écrit?’
– Penny McCarthy

Featuring: Pierre Bourdieu, Brigid Brophy, Judith Butler, Terry Eagleton, Frank Kermode, Penny McCarthy, Richard Rorty, Lorna Sage, Adam Shatz, John Sturrock, Sherry Turkle and Michael Wood.

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9. Anyone for gulli-danda? Writing about sport

‘We were learning to cope with the ordinary truth sport brings out more clearly than any other endeavour: there is always somebody better.’ – Benjamin Markovits

Featuring: Tariq Ali, Gabrielle Annan, Terry Castle, Marjorie Garber, Jane Holland, Benjamin Markovits, Karl Miller, David Runciman, Amia Srinivasan and Heathcote Williams. 

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10. Why Goldwyn Wore Jodhpurs: Writing about Hollywood

‘It must be the light that sends them crazy, that white light now refracting from the sibilant Pacific, the precious light that, when it is distilled, becomes the movies.’ – Angela Carter

Featuring: Gabriele Annan, Betsy Blair, Angela Carter, Jenny Diski, Stephen Frears, David Hare, Andrew O’Hagan, Michael Rogin, David Thomson, Bee Wilson and Michael Wood.

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Book cover of volume number 2 of LRB Selections, Penelope Fitzgerald

LRB Selections 1: Frank Kermode

‘Papers speak through their writers. And of all the London Review’s writers Frank Kermode was the one through whom we spoke most often and most eloquently.’ – Mary-Kay Wilmers

Without Frank Kermode there would have been no London Review of Books. In July 1979, during the management lock-out at the Times, he wrote an article in the Observer calling for a new magazine to fill the gap left by the Times Literary Supplement. The first issue of the LRB appeared three months later. One of the reviews in it was by Kermode, of a book on popular millenarianism. Nearly 250 pieces would follow over the next thirty years, on subjects ranging from Paul de Man to Muriel Spark, from Empson and the Renaissance to Jesus and sex. Here, for his centenary, are 18 of the best, with a new introduction by Michael Wood, an afterword by Mary-Kay Wilmers and a cover by Jon McNaught.

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LRB Selections 2: Penelope Fitzgerald

Penelope Fitzgerald complained to her older daughter in 1999:

I have at the moment two pieces for the LRB to do (but have written to get out of one of them), an intro for Folio Society for Middlemarch, an intro for J.L. Carr’s A Month in the Country . . . a serious piece for the New York Times on Vol 2 of Richard Holmes’s Coleridge and a vexatious piece which I’m also trying to get out of, for the New York Times magazine on the Best Idea of the Past Millennium, an absurd subject.

Susannah Clapp, who worked on many of her pieces, has described her as an ideal contributor who needed no ‘handling’: ‘She wrote to length, she wrote to time, she wrote without fuss, she wrote a lot, and she wrote always with a steady brilliance.’ As a reviewer, she was appreciative, knowledgeable, succinct, and usually, though not always, benign. From Hermione Lee’s introduction

Featuring pieces for the LRB on subjects including Stevie Smith, Alain-Fournier, Adrian Mole, girls’ schools, Wild Swans, wartime London and Anne Enright, half of which haven’t been anthologised before, by the Booker Prize-winning author of Offshore and The Blue Flower.

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