I started reading John Sutherland because of his literary puzzles series. Each book takes topics and issues from classic novels and tries to answer questions that you might have had, as well as plenty that never occurred to you. But, Sutherland goes on further than that, with a full collection of other literary criticism and study for your reading enjoyment.

Is Heathcliff a Murderer? Why are we so disturbed by The Picture of Dorian Gray? Why is The Woman in White inherently flawed? Rather than trying to prove authors wrong or catch the in an inconsistency, Sutherland looks at all the facts at hand, and then tries to formulate perfectly plausible reasons for each choice made in the book, and in the process answers many questions you didn’t realize you had. This collection contains questions based on 19th century classics.

In the sequel, Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?, Sutherland explores more big questions in literature. Check out this volume to learn about everything from why Robinson Crusoe only finds one footprint to how Magwitch was able to swim with an iron on his leg.

Lovers of the macbre will enjoy this book, which focuses exclusively on the big questions presented in Dracula. Who is Dracula’s Father addresses everything from the origins of the term “nosferatu” to why Dracula is an aristocrat, and who Quincy Morris really is. But, my favorite part was definitely “Dracula Digested”, a hilarious abridgment of Bram Stoker’s classic.

Whether your favorite Brontë is Charlotte, Emily, Anne (or poor old Branwell) then The Brontësaurus is the book for you. Sutherland explores an A-Z about the famous writing family, including who was more of a “cat person”, how Mr. Rochester earned his fortunes, and what “Wuthering” means. Unlike the previous collections on this list (which focus more on the works themselves), this book looks at both the Brontë novels and the women behind them.

The setting of a book can be just as important as the plot and characters. Can you imagine how different your favorites would be if they were set in a different place or time? Wuthering Heights wouldn’t have the same sense of mystery if it took place in London, and John Steinbeck’s stories don’t fit anywhere quite as well as California. In Literary Landscapes, Sutherland explores the settings of a series of classic novels.


I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.