Keith Waterhouse: 'Billy Liar'

I first heard about 'Billy Liar' while watching a BBC Documentary on iPlayer. It was from a series called 'Novels That Shaped Our World' -- a three-part series covering the history of literature from different perspectives (gender, race, and class). 'Billy Liar' fits into the class category, concerned, in particular, with the life of working-class Billy, and his aspirations to move up in the world, symbolised by his desire to leave Bradford and get a script-writing job in London.

Charlotte Perkins Gilman: 'The Rocking Chair'

The ‘gotcha!’ moment can make or break a ghost story. You can’t cheat the reader, you can’t make it too obvious, you can’t have it too early. In her story ‘The Rocking Chair’, Gilman toys with the idea of a ‘gotcha’ moment by having two protagonists constantly try to catch each other out, revealing their true relationship to the elusive 'gold-haired girl'. They, like us who read ghost stories, yearn for the point when the secret is revealed, when the tense, misty atmosphere is removed and we see the truth.

Franz Kafka: ‘The Men Running Past’

My first encounter with Kafka, as is the case for many people, was in Metamorphosis, in which Gregor Samsa awakes one morning to find himself transformed into a cockroach. Later, I read the short story 'The Hunger Artist', and then The Trial, the former concerned with the titular character's pain-staking descent into insignificance, the latter depicting a man battling the absurd complexities of society and perhaps losing his mind in the process. Each of these are later works than 'The Men Running Past', but those distorted, ambiguous characters and themes of mental deterioration and spiralling complexities are present here, too.