Brenda Maddox, a former Economist editor, has written acclaimed biographies of Nora Joyce and D.H. Lawrence. Her most recent is the award-winning Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (Penguin, $9). The book that showed me, and many others, the way out of the Catholic Church. With wit and what he called the scholastic stink, Joyce elegantly decided to serve only himself. Was he going to turn Protestant? I said that I had lost the faith not that I had lost self-respect, says his protagonist, Stephen Dædalus. Buy it at Amazon
Scoop by Evelyn Waugh (Back Bay, $15). The funniest book ever written, in the cleanest prose. Would I love it so much had I not thrown my lot in with journalism? The novel illustrates my conviction that journalism is not a profession. It is a craftopen to anybody who can get an assignment and an expense account. Buy it at Amazon
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brönte (Penguin, $8). Feminism started here: the story of a plain woman with no fortune earning money the only honest way she could, by becoming a governess and shutting her ears to the shrieks of the madwoman in the attic. What female does not identify with Jane sitting behind the curtain in the window seat while the boorish gentry make fun of her low status? Buy it at Amazon
The Selected Letters of D.H. Lawrence (Cambridge, $26). Forget the embarrassing Lady Chatterleys Lover, the tedious Women in Love, even Sons and Lovers. Lawrence is his letters, the most vivid and engaging self-portrait left by any English writer since Keats. Unlike Keats, Lawrence traveled the world knowing that his life would be short, and he captured the spirit of each place in unforgettable phrases. Buy it at Amazon
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster (Harvest, $13). Forsters masterpiece, displaying well-intentioned but incurable misunderstanding between two cultures that have good manners and understatement in common.Buy it at Amazon
Houses of the Welsh Countryside