Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. John le Carré. Sceptre paperback edition 2011, first published in 1974 by Hodder & Stoughton, London.
This successful spy story, written in 1974, was recently made into a film directed by Tomas Alfredson and starring Gary Oldman, Colin Firth and Mark Strong. Set during the Cold War, veteran British spy George Smiley is forced out of semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6. He is pitted against his Soviet rival, Karla, in one of the greatest battles in spy fiction. Tasked with rooting out a high-level mole of thirty years’ standing, Smiley is required to spy on the spies. John le Carré, born in 1931, spent five years in the British Foreign Service, during which time he wrote three novels, including The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, his first worldwide bestseller. All those novels featured George Smiley, who later played a central role in the “Karla” trilogy, of which Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the first book. Le Carré’s more recent novels include The Constant Gardener, A Most Wanted Man and Our Kind of Traitor.
The Professor. Charlotte Brontë. Oxford World’s Classics paperback, 2008.
Born in 1816 as the daughter an Anglican curate, Charlotte Brontë has – together with her sisters Emily and Anne – changed the perception of literature, characters, and also of women writers, although she received most acclaim only after her death. This novel is surprising measured by Victorian standards. It is short, no main character dies, its hero is a bespectacled schoolteacher, and its heroine insists on continuing to teach after her marriage. Offered to publishers in 1846 as a work by the virtually unknown Currer Bell (Charlotte Brontë’s pen-name), it was refused by six of them before Elder Smith saw promise in it. Brontë’s other novel, the more imaginative and poetical Jane Eyre has overshadowed its quieter forerunner but The Professor has its own values, containing the germ of the later and more popular novels. This edition includes ‘Emma’, Brontë’s last, unfinished attempt to write a novel after Villette; has been edited by Margaret Smith and Herbert Rosengarten, and includes an introduction by Smith.
Steve Jobs. Walter Isaacson. Little, Brown, 2011.
This book by renowned biographer Walter Isaacson (the author of Einstein: His Life and Universe, Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, and Kissinger: A Biography) was approved by Jobs himself, who also cooperated with the author. Starting with a complicated childhood – or rather with the life stories of both his adoptive and biological parents – through his early friendship with business partner Steve Wozniak, garage experiments and drop-out from college, the book gives an exhausting but also enthralling image of Jobs the phenomenon. Capturing both his personal – including an extramarital daughter he fathered at 23 – and professional development, the story of a life full of ups and downs fills 42 chapters until his death from cancer in 2011. The last chapter is called Legacy and tries to sum up his importance, his role and his turbulent private life. This biography manages to capture the switch from a young art, technology and Eastern-philosophy enthusiast and drug-experimenting vegan into a computer freak who changed the world of communication forever. It includes key moments in the fight between his firm Apple and its rival Microsoft, his departure from and triumphant return to Apple, as well as his resignation for health reasons.
1920s Omnibus. Agatha Christie. HarperCollins UK, 2006.
This is an Agatha Christie omnibus, bringing together all four stand-alone novels that she wrote in the 1920s: The Secret Adversary, The Man in the Brown Suit, The Secret of Chimneys and its sequel The Seven Dials Mystery. Agatha Christie’s imaginative crime novels and thrillers made her a household name from the 1920s right through to her final books in the early 1970s. Although she has been best known as the creator of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, twenty of her crime novels featured neither of these. Instead, a wide range of ingenious plots would be played out by a selection of amateur sleuths, professional detectives, young adventuresses or unwary bystanders caught up in unforeseen events. This book is part of a collection of five omnibuses that gathers the 20 stand-alone novels, presenting them chronologically and providing a fascinating window on a changing world though six decades of investigation.
This column is a selection by The Slovak Spectator of English-language books recently released in Slovakia; it does not represent an endorsement of any of the books selected. The column is prepared in cooperation with the Oxford Bookshop Bratislava.