The English writer is well known for her biographies, whose subjects range from Mary Wollstonecraft to Thomas Hardy to Jane Austen; meanwhile, Tomalin’s 2017 memoir, A Life of My Own, out now in paperback from Penguin, showed readers a different side of the literary biographer, one able to both grapple with and movingly express the loaded subjects of trauma, grief, marriage, parenthood, and career. Here, Tomalin’s literary itinerary takes readers from current times back to the 1800s, with stops along the way.

Go, Went, Gone, by Jenny Erpenbeck

Go, Went, Gone is a heartbreaking, funny, and truthful novel translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky. It takes us to Berlin, where African immigrants are seeking to make new lives and a retired professor is drawn into trying to help them. Published in 2015, it’s essential reading for our times.