Why we should read: The world’s bestselling author Agatha Christie

· Popular culture

Agatha Christie has been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare, and is the most successful novel writer of all time. She was born in 1890 and died in 1976 at the age of 85. Why was so she special? And why should people read her more than 80 books? First, she had a world view that was intoxicating. She had a great sense of humour and wrote about people in a way that saw the funny in people, and situations.

Second, she had a fascinating personal life and it is very interesting to see where real life ends and the fiction begins. She disappeared in 1926 for eleven days because she wanted to spite her husband because he had been cheating on her and wanted a divorce. She underestimated the publicity that would ensue as a result, and pretended that she had amnesia, meaning that she wanted people to think that she had lost her memory because she did not want everyone to know her real reason for disappearing. She was discovered at a luxury hotel on December 14, 1926. She wrote a book under a fake name that tells the story of the breakdown of her marriage, but not her disappearance. This was published in 1934 and was called Unfinished Portrait. Her pseudonym was Mary Westmacott.

Third, her first book was published in 1920, and was called The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Her last book was published in 1973, Postern of Fate. By 1973, she was over 80 years old and her books were generally not as good, although when she was 77, she published Endless Night, one of her very best books with a conclusion that left many people thunderstruck. She was an amazing woman. Because of the wide span of publication of her work, although this was not her intended purpose, her books overall serve as a lesson in British history from the First World War to 1970s England. So for those of you interested in social history, or England, she is a must read for that reason alone. In her first book, for example, there were plenty of servants, although even in that book the author was saying how hard it was to find good servants! By the 1970s, of course, servants were not seen nearly as much in her books.

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, she wrote brilliant murder mysteries (the major of her work) that had surprising conclusions. In her books, you try to guess the murderer. A lot of times, the identity of the murderer is very surprising but if you go back and read the book, you will see that you should have guessed the truth. Sometimes she did not always play fair, but when she did, it wasexhilarating to read her books. Her masterpiece was published in 1926 (just before her famous disappearance), and was entitled The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I remember reading it in the late 1970s, and can still remember my great surprise when I discovered who the murderer was. Even if you do not like to read, but if you want to improve your English, Agatha Christie is a great place to start. She has also been published in more than 100 languages, more than any other author, so if you want to read her in, say, Arabic, it is probably fairly easy to do so. I hope at least one person, because of this column or blog, reads her. If you do, enjoy!

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