Thomas Hardy Clare Tomalin (Viking, £25) Hardy's novels have an assured modern audience, partly because his interest in landscape, weather and character transfers perfectly to film. Tomalin's subtitle - The Time-torn Man - comes from a Hardy love-poem: "Once you, a woman, came to soothe a time-torn man." Hardy's poetry takes pride of place in this book, which begins with the death of his wife Emma Hardy in 1912, which was followed by an outpouring of poems. Emma burnt all Hardy's love letters, the only ones to survive being two fragments copied by Hardy into his notebooks. Biographers are therefore free to speculate on this sadly fated marriage, and Tomalin shows clearly the pain on both sides. She also brings out the Dorset folk songs and hymns which influenced his writing style, while regarding his great Oxford tragedy, Jude the Obscure, as "deliberate torture" whose roots in Hardy's life remain a mystery. Clare Tomalin will talk about the book on Thursday at the Oxford Literary Festival.

The Other Side of You Salley Vickers (HarperPerennial, £7.99) oPsychiatrist Dr David McBride tells the story of one of his patients, a failed suicide called Elizabeth Cruikshank. Readers who enjoyed Vickers's bestselling earlier novel, Miss Garnet's Angel, set in Venice, will recognise some of the themes, particularly the power of art to console and give meaning to life. The author will speak about the book at the Oxford Literary Festival on Friday, March 23.

The Meaning of Life Terry Eagleton (OUP, £9.99) oMarxist bad-boy and former Oxford lecturer Eagleton whizzes through Shakespeare, Schopenhauer, Sartre and Beckett - as well as Karl himself - in search of an answer to the Big Question. Eagleton will be at the festival on Thursday at 2.30pm.