Candide is the earliest book on the list, and you really don’t need me to tell you how great it is. But I will tell you why I love it. I don’t suppose Voltaire invented the narrative device of the ‘innocent abroad’, but he certainly brought it to perfection. Candide, the sweet-natured hero, is the perfect medium through which Voltaire can satirise the wicked world in which he travels, and it’s a particular stroke of genius that made him sexually irresistible to all and sundry. I suppose it’s the forerunner of all the ‘satirical biographies’ that pepper this list (Little Me, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes etc), and there’s a vein of extremely cynical humour beneath the surface of goodness and innocence that I find particularly appealing. Weirdly, for a book by a philosopher, the overall message seems to be ‘just get on with it and make the most of things’, but I’m probably missing something.