Roald Dahl (1916-1990)
As the creator of candymaker Willie Wonka, Dahl is most famous for his children’s books Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. His stories for children are characterized by wild exaggeration and sarcastic humor that also appeals to an adult audience. By contrast, his stories for adults reveal a dark side to this writer; they typically lead you off in a most misleading direction, before smacking you in the face with a twisted ending filled with sick humor. Many a parent has been scandalized to learn that this seemingly harmless children’s author has also written such adult and frequently naughty books as Switch Bitch, My Uncle Oswald, and Skin.
Skin and Other Stories
This is one of Dahl’s infamous “not for kids” books. The stories all feature his trademark twists at the end. In the title story, Skin, for example, the lead character decades earlier befriended a Parisian starving artist, who tattooed a painting of a beautiful woman on his back. As fate would have it, the artist eventually got famous, his paintings fetching huge sums. You’ll be surprised by the lengths collectors appear willing to go to in order to possess an undiscovered work by this renowned painter, even if it does happen to be attached to another man’s back.
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T.E. Lawrence (1888-1935)
The life of the legendary “Lawrence of Arabia” may read like a superhero comic book, but it was in fact the real deal. Lawrence served as British Military liaison to the Arab Revolt during the First World War, an experience expertly chronicled in his classic work, Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Prior to the war, Lawrence spent time on archaeological digs in Iraq, and for the balance of his life he was a tireless promoter of Arab independence. In a manner befitting his hyper-adventurous life, Lawrence died from injuries sustained from being thrown off a motorcycle.
A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence, by John E. Mack
It may seem unusual to recommend a book about Lawrence rather than by him, but not when one considers his days were so richly and colorfully lived. John E. Mack, a Harvard psychiatrist and acclaimed author, does Lawrence justice in this skillfully told biography that delves into the inner man.
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Dylan Thomas (1914-1953)
As is the case with many famous writers, Dylan Thomas became a legend not only for the quality of his work but also the quantity of his lifestyle. He was a sickly child who did well in English, but failed other classes and dropped out of school at 16. He attracted instant critical acclaim, when, at 20, he published Eighteen Poems. Impassioned reading tours of the United States cemented his worldwide reputation; he died in New York City at the tail end of a protracted alcoholic binge.
The Poems of Dylan Thomas, New Revised Edition [with CD]
This is the most complete edition obtainable of the poems of Dylan Thomas. The 352-page collection includes 192 poems arranged chronologically in order of composition; introduction and extensive notes by Thomas' lifelong friend and fellow poet, Daniel Jones; biographical information; Thomas' own "Notes on the Art of Poetry"; and a bonus CD featuring Thomas himself reading eight of his poems. Standing out from a fairly crowded field, this truly remarkable (and reasonably priced) collection is the one to get.
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R.S. Thomas (1913- 2000)
Not merely a skilled poet, Thomas was also a classics scholar, theology student, and clergyman for six rural Welsh parishes. He won the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1964.
The poems of this important writer have unfortunately not been widely published. This volume is one of the few compilations of his work still in print, and remains the best collection available.