Jonathan Raban is best known for his often unsparing autobiographical travel books which mix rivers and oceans, history, human foibles and societal change - the topics of Waxwings.

Raban, who dreamt as a child of being Huckleberry Finn, was friends with Philip Larkin and once lodged with Robert Lowell. His 2003 novel Waxwings introduces a disparate cast of characters, all in some way troubled by identity, based around Seattle (Raban lives there, although he was born in England) during the dot-com boom.

The title refers to the birds who flock to strip trees of their berries before moving on: ‘This, I thought, is the settlement of the West in miniature,’ Raban has said, with the birds ‘migrating from gold rush to gold rush, getting high, falling out of the tree…’

Jonathan Raban

All nominated books

Waxwings