The Ladies of Grace Adieu, Susanna Clarke
Susanna Clarke’s novel Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell bears a distinct similarity to the Harry Potter series: although written for an older audience, Clarke’s novel similarly presents an alternative vision of Britain, in which British history is entwined with the realm of Faerie and the development of magic. These stories are set, for the most part, within this world and provide an enriching accompaniment to the novel for the enamoured reader.
Highlight: ‘The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse.’ This story isn’t set in Clarke’s Britain, but instead takes place in the world of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust.
Necronomicon, H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft is truly the master of horror: authors including Stephen King and Neil Gaiman have acknowledged their debt to Lovecraft as the founder of the suspense genre. Lovecraft created an entire mythology for his short fiction, and generations of readers have succumbed to the seductive call of Cthulu. If you haven’t already bought Lovecraft’s stories, I can’t recommend the commemorative edition highly enough. It’s an arm-achingly massive hardback, full of wonderfully haunting illustrations, and its a strong contender for the most beautiful book in my collection.
Highlight: I couldn’t choose a single story for this list, as the whole collection is phenomenal. Though if you really twist my arm, maybe ‘The Dunwich Horror’ or ‘The Cats of Ulthar’.
A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, Yiyun Li
I love everything I’ve read by Yiyun Li (she has released three works so far: the others are her novel The Vagrants and Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, another collection of short stories). A Thousand Years of Good Prayers is Li’s stunningly impressive debut collection. These stories transport the reader into the company of a wide variety of seemingly insignificant people, and provide a compelling account of modern China along the way.
Highlight: As with Lovecraft, this collection should be devoured as a whole, but if you need further convincing, then I’d suggest starting either with ‘Extra’ or ‘Immortality’.