From Jam and Idleness:
What is the one book you love so much that you can’t be objective about other people not loving it as well?
I know you’re expecting me to say Middlemarch, but actually I have worked with it so often professionally that—while of course I love it profoundly—I have had to develop a thick skin for dealing with haters. The books I absolutely cannot be objective about are all six volumes in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles. This amazing series captured my imagination utterly the first time I read it, decades ago now, and I have only to flip through a few pages to find myself once again under its spell—and especially under Lymond’s. If you have tried them and not loved them, I have nothing to say to you! Well, OK, I’d still talk to you, but I’d always quietly count it against you as a character flaw.
What is your favourite either unknown or underappreciated book?
I hardly ever run into anyone else who has read Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Disturbances in the Field, which is one of my very favorite contemporary novels. It is beautifully written and structured, and exceptionally smart. It’s a novel about women’s friendships and about families, but more than that it’s a novel about the examined life and the myriad ways our hearts perplex our heads. It contains some of the best writing I know about music—and about loss.