Summer Reading: Novels by O'Brien and Okri and a Life of Havel
Jury, Louise, The Independent (London, England)
The new millennium has created a strain of nostalgia in the books out this autumn. Almost everyone is looking back in time. J M Roberts, the author of the best-selling Penguin History of the World, has focused on the 20th century to produce the authoritative guide - The History of the World, 1901 to the Present.
Peter Watson treads a similar path in Terrible Beauty, The Ideas that Shaped the Century (Orion), in which he describes the philosophical breakthroughs, scientific discoveries and artistic movements that have made the century what it is.
If that sounds a little serious, a lighter note comes from pop journalist Nick Johnstone and the Melody Maker History of 20th Century Popular Music (Bloomsbury). And on a smaller scale, the South African writer Nadine Gordimer takes stock of the century in a collection of personal reflections, Living in Hope and History, published by Bloomsbury in October. A clutch of elder statesmen take historical themes or figures for their new works. Roy Hattersley turns his attention to the founders of the Salvation Army in Blood and Fire (Little, Brown), while, in A World Restored (Orion), Henry Kissinger analyses the Europe of 1812- 1822. Delving further back in time, Anthony Holden, Prince Charles's biographer, produces what publishers Little, Brown claim is the first popular, mainstream biography of Shakespeare since that of Anthony Burgess nearly 30 years ago. Meanwhile, Simon Schama, the professor/author of the bestseller Citizens, turns his attention to Rembrandt. Yet the future is also a strong theme. The novelist Umberto Eco, the evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and others engage in suitably millennial Conversations about the End of Time, published by Penguin in September. And the recent science fad continues with Jacobson's Organ (Penguin), a book on the nature of smell by life scientist Lyall Watson. Dava Sobel follows her international bestseller Longitude with Galileo's Daughter (Fourth Estate), the story of the scientist's illegitimate child. …