Bedside Table: Three Books Sam Leith Is Reading Now

Literary editor and author SAM LEITH shares three books on his bedside table now …


Sam Leith is literary editor of The Spectator. His new book is a guide to clear and effective writing, covering everything from why splitting an infinitive isn’t as bad as all that, and what a restrictive relative clause really is. It’s sensible advice for sensible people, and contains enough jokes not to be boring. Write To The Point: How To Be Clear, Correct and Persuasive on the Page, Profile Books, £14.99stg.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt

I’m reading this one to review it. The privilege of being a literary editor is picking out the plums for yourself. It’s a hugely absorbing canter through the thousands of years of that story’s history and percolation through western culture from Milton’s masterpiece to Van Eyck’s altarpieces, and right up to the present day. A particular treat, because Greenblatt has been a bit of an academic hero ever since I read his Renaissance Self-Fashioning as an undergraduate. Bodley Head, 28.

Dead Lions by Mick Herron

I’m behind with Herron’s droll, well-paced and wanly cynical series about a gang of cashiered spooks operating under the auspices of the cunning but disreputable spymaster Jackson Lamb. This is the second in the series – I adored the first, Slow Horses – and I have the rest to look forward to afterwards. Friends who share my interest in Herron advise me to ration myself, which is what I’m doing. John Murray, €9.

The Descent by Jeff Long

This one is pure cobblers. But very enjoyable cobblers. It takes me back to the adventure thrillers I gobbled up when I was in my teens. In the near future, humankind discovers that a race of ferocious, cannibalistic creatures has been living in a network of underground tunnels honeycombing the world. None of it remotely adds up but it’s full of imagination, and subterranean thrills and spills. Plus, it has a spelunking nun as its heroine, which you don’t get in Henry James. Berkley Books, €7.

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