James Wood is a critic, novelist and literary academic who divides other littérateurs, and about whom no piece has been written that doesn’t include the phase: ‘pre-eminent critic of his generation’.

Wood ascended to the top of the lit crit tree in both his native Britain and in America through writing reviews and essays for a range of thoughtful newspapers and magazines. He has also written a cluster of books about how fiction works (which is the title of one of them) and taught at both Oxford and Harvard universities. His understanding of fiction comes not just through reading - he is the great proselytiser for realism in the novel - but as a novelist himself and the husband of distinguished one, too, in Claire Messud (who was Booker Prize longlisted in 2006).