‘There is no friend as loyal as a book’, said Hemingway. (Quite a long sentence for him.) He wasn’t talking specifically about novels, but the point holds true. Disappearing into a novel, letting it shelter, transport and transform you… this is deep, reliable pleasure.

If they represented my bookshelves at home, the what the afternoon knows bookshelves would house a vast collection of semi-disintegrated Penguin Classic editions of the great Victorian novels. Each volume would have a full cockade of post-it notes blooming crazily from the top edge of the pages, and marginalia of various dates (and standards) scribbled in pencil against key passages. I wouldn’t let anyone read those scribbled comments. But I hope that as I (slowly) add to these shelves you might feel tempted to seek out some of these great works.

The bookshelves would also have an extremely heterogeneous collection of non-fiction texts. Each is here here because—in true William Morris fashion!—I have found something useful or beautiful in it. I hope as you browse these shelves you’ll find some things to help you feel less alone, too.