1. _The Northern Caves_, a novelette by tumblr-user nostalgebraist. Very well written, with a genuinely bone-chilling idea at its core (though the genre isn’t horror), this stands far above the usual level of quality of fanfic or original fic I’ve encountered in rationalist circles. In my opinion it’s also far superior to the author’s other novelette, _Floornight_. I wish the author would try to publish it; I think he’s convinced that since much of the story is told through the medium of an early-2000s web forum posts, lovingly preserved in style and form, it isn’t publishable. I don’t know if that’s really so; in my ideal world, it’d get the Hugo.
2. W.G.Sebald, _The Emigrants_. Four tales about four different people who ended up leaving their native countries for different reasons, though that isn’t necessarily the most important fact in their lives. Purports to be semi-autobiographical in that the people are claimed to be acquaintances or relatives of the author. Sebald’s prose (in translation) is beautiful, and somehow manages to be both wistful and precise. A quirk of the book is that Nabokov makes a cameo appearance or mention in each one of the otherwise unconnected tales.
3. Penelope Fitzgerald, _Human Voices_. A short (all of Fitzgerald’s novels are short) novel about the inner goings-on at the BBC during the Blitz. Wonderfully funny and moving. Here's an excerpt:
[The large concert-hall inside the BBC headquarters has been turned into a dormitory for the workers, who found it difficult to get home when the attacks came]
Quantities of metal bunks were dragged into Broadcasting House. […] The bunks were fitted on top of each other in unstable tiers, and the platform, including the half-sacred spot where the grand piano had once stood, was converted into cubicles. […] At length a cord was stretched across the great hall, dividing it in half, and grey hospital blankets were draped over it in place of a curtain. Barnett and his staff thought this part of the job by no means up to standard.
‘It’ll provide privacy for the ladies, which is the main point. But I don’t like to see a job left like that.’
And might not the makeshift nature of the blankets lead to moral confusion? There were a lot of very young people among the temporary staff. Barnett was asked whether he thought there’d be goings on?
‘Surely not while England’s in danger.’ he replied.
4. Julian Barnes, _Cross Channel_. My favorite, and I think underappreciated, book by this author, a collection of short stories each of which deals with the English-French connection in some way. _Evermore_, the story about an old woman making an annual pilgrimage to all the WWI grave memorials of British soldiers in France, in honor and memory of her brother lying in one of them, is heartbreaking.