By the Book With Claire Tomalin: “We all enjoy heroines who don’t always behave themselves”

From a By the Book interview in the New York Times headlined “Claire Tomalin’s Favorite Fictional Heroine? It ‘Must Be Natasha’ in ‘War and Peace'”:

“Joined of course by Emma, Elizabeth Bennet, Anne Elliot, Marianne — well, that’s enough.,” says the renowned British biographer Claire Tomalin, whose latest book is “The Young H.G. Wells.” “We all enjoy heroines who don’t always behave themselves.”

What books are on your night stand?

Beside my bed this week is Anil Seth’s “Being You” a book about consciousness, which he describes as the “continual process of prediction error minimization” that takes place as your brain makes predictions while your senses inform you of what is actually there in front of you.

He also tells us about the Japanese roboticist who builds “Geminoids” — robots as similar to human beings as possible, including one resembling himself, which delivered a 45-minute lecture to a large audience of students. It is a brilliant book, and far above my level — so I have to be content with enjoying the parts I can just about manage to understand.

Atul Gawande’s “Better” a doctor writing about his work, with a special emphasis on the treatment of cystic fibrosis — is just a truly magnificent piece of descriptive writing….

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

Well, honestly I am as happy reading on the bus as anywhere else, although I gave up reading in the bath, which I used to do when my children were young — the bath protected me effectively. I like reading by the fire at home, or in the garden when it is warm. I always take plenty of books to read on holiday, and I enjoy reading in trains and on hotel balconies.

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