Dalrymple has written before of his admiration for the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novels (as well as for the country where it is set, Botswana). In the New Criterion he reviews a book on Auden by the author of those novels, Alexander McCall Smith:
His approach to the poet—and by extension, to all literature—is that of the common man, not that of the literary academic, especially the literary academic of our times who views his own theorizing about literature as more significant than the literature he is theorizing about. McCall Smith restores the link between poetry and life, a link that encourages us to linger and reflect on every line or couplet. He demonstrates that Auden was capable of compressing a great deal of thought allusively into a few words, and suggests a technique that we can then apply ourselves.