Katy Guest

Katy Guest is the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday

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I'm no toff, but I'd prefer a pro-Oxbridge bias

Educationists were celebrating last week after the announcement by a leading law firm that it will alter its recruitment process to eliminate what it calls its own "pro-Oxbridge bias". Clifford Chance, one of the most prestigious firms in Britain, promises to make final interviews "CV blind", meaning that interviewers will not know which schools or universities applicants attended. It is a move presumably designed to placate left-leaning meritocratists just like me. But I'm furious about it.

Not every childhood heroine grows with us

As a bookish child with an oddly Americanised first name, I was more than once given the 1872 children's book What Katy Did. I was named as I was because my mum happened to have read the Susan Coolidge books, but never Katie Boyle, and to adults the novel must have seemed a perfect gift for a little girl called Katy. Unfortunately, to my young mind, what Katy did was this: had a mind of her own and, apparently somehow linked to this character flaw, unforgivably unruly hair; refused to take "because I said so" for an answer; fell off a swing; ended up paralysed (and deserved it); learnt the lesson that girls are to be seen and not heard; became meek and quiet, and accepted that her role in life was to give up her writing ambitions and mother her five siblings instead.

The best of next year: 2014 book preview

Literary Editor Katy Guest takes a look at what the next 12 months offer the avid reader

It's been a year of geeks bearing gifts

When 2012 ended and we had to look back and reflect, it was easy to label it the year of the Olympics. But 2013 will be harder to categorise. Will we remember it for all the twerking? As the year of the food bank? Finding out that domestic goddesses sometimes have feet of clay? I'm with the Collins Dictionary people and I hope that 2013 will be remembered as the year of the geek. They have announced that "geek" is its word of the year, redefining it in a more positive way and adding that "the idea of future generations inheriting a more positive definition of the word 'geek' is something that Collins believes is worth celebrating."

Join the gold rush with a weighty winner: literary fiction

This was the year of big books: two 800-page-busters on the Man Booker longlist alone had bookworms lifting weights. The winner, Eleanor Catton’s  The Luminaries (Granta, £18.99), is a good old-fashioned page-turner set in New Zealand during the 19th-century gold rush, but it was its narrative structure, mirroring astrological movements in a beautifully-wrought minuet, that really set it apart.

From Malala to Mandela: biography & memoir Christmas reviews

In a year that saw the death of a true 20th-century hero, it seems appropriate to begin the list of best biographies and memoirs with the life of a new one for the 21st: I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb (W&N, £18.99). It is barely a year since Malala was shot in the face for speaking up for girls’ education in Pakistan, and now the girl-who-would-not-be-shut-up is surviving being a global icon. Honest, insightful, and piercingly wise, this is the celebrity memoir to give your teenaged daughter this Christmas.

People embrace by the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, in southern England, as access to the site is given to druids, New Age followers and members of the public on the annual Winter Solstice on 21 December 2012 AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Rejoice! The days will get longer from now on

Everything is getting better, unless your other half has listened to the adverts and bought you some anti-wrinkle cream and a diet book

The royal nuts have given me a few ideas

I bet that the Queen is kicking herself on hearing that the law against “being an incorrigible rogue” has been removed from the statute book just as rumours emerged about naughty footmen pinching her nuts.

Stocking fillers: pop-ups, poems and smut

Amazon had better set its drones to attack because beautiful paper books just get better and better. Anyone left disappointed by the Fifty Shades phenomenon might prefer some literary smut in the form of Erotic Stories, edited by Rowan Pelling (Everyman’s Pocket Classics, £10.99). A collection of stories and fragments from Boccaccio to Sarah Waters, it tiptoes from the suggestive – in Guy de Maupassant’s “Idyll”, which begins with a train “plunging abruptly into the black-mouthed tunnels like an animal into its lair” – to the rather shocking – a piece by Edith Wharton, “My Little Girl”, discovered after her death.

Don't eat sprouts if you'd rather not

It's only early December and already I am sick of supermarkets getting all confused about the meaning of Christmas. There's Iceland, spoiling Christmas for everyone by associating it in our minds with prawn rings and some horror called a "beef garland". Then there's Sainsbury's, whose adverts claim to show "the moments that make Christmas special – brought to you by Sainsbury's", while actually showing all the special things that can't be bought in a shop.

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The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
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Paul Scholes column

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