A Life in Books: Claire Tomalin

1. "La Chartreuse de Parme" by Stendhal. Conjures the post-Napoleonic period, from the battlefield of Waterloo to the intrigues at an Italian court where politics conflict with love.

2. "The Oxford Book of Sixteenth Century Verse" edited by E. K. Chambers. Here are the glories of English poetry: Wyatt, Campion, Shakespeare, giving sparks of genius as they play with words and verse forms.

3. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. One of the twin jewels of the English language. The other? Below.

4. The Bible. No one can live without the Bible in the Authorized Version.

5. "The Diary of Samuel Pepys" edited by Latham and Matthews. Pepys was a young man on the make; I love his openness and lyrical appreciation of London.

A book you hope parents read to their kids: Charles Dickens's "David Copperfield." Humorous, delicate and intense, it's a story every child responds to, and never forgets.