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The Casual Vacancy
J K Rowling
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Building Stories
Building Stories (Hardback)
Chris Ware
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The Dinner
The Dinner (Paperback)
Herman Koch
 
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Yes, it’s about a dinner at a restaurant in Amsterdam, where two couples meet to discuss the behaviour of their teenage sons. I’ll say no more about the story, but it very quickly becomes a no-holds-barred compelling family drama, with flashes of humour and a number of unsettling revelations. It would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall at this dinner!

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
A Delicate Truth
A Delicate Truth (Hardback)
John le Carre
 
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I’ve been a Le Carré fan for years, so it’s always exciting when he comes out with a new book. Though it’s not quite up there with the Smiley novels and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, A Delicate Truth is still a terrific read, and it’s always joy to immerse myself in Le Carré's unique style of writing and story-telling.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
The Hunger Games
The Hunger Games (Paperback)
Suzanne Collins
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The idea of putting children in an enclosed space and having them fight for survival has long been a familiar trope in human entertainment, featured in works from Lord of the Flies to the movie Battle Royale. Suzanne Collins' series The Hunger Games subverts the format by promoting this juvenile blood-fest from a fringe pursuit, to an annual ritual central to the society in which it is held. Being the most recent work on this list, The Hunger Games embodies particularly modern concerns: the rise of reality television, the lust for fame, and the necessity for humans to be heavily armed when embarking on camping trips.

AKH48 . - 30/07/2013
A Foreign Country
A Foreign Country (Paperback)
Charles Cumming
 
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This is an espionage thriller that grips right from the start. Charles Cumming, author of five previous novels, has a keen sense of character and pacing, and he always brings something interesting and new to the genre. His 2011 novel, The Trinity Six, was an absorbing look at the Cambridge spy ring, and in this new novel the first female head of MI6 has disappeared six weeks before she is to take on the job, and a disgraced MI6 officer is given the chance to redeem himself by finding her. In the meantime, it is imperative that her disappearance remains a secret. Thrilling stuff.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Where'd You Go, Bernadette?
Maria Semple
 
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This is a very funny, clever, modern epistolary novel. The majority of it is told via emails, newspaper articles, school reports, letters, notes and so on. I loved this book, the twisting story and the addictive eccentric characters. Reading it feels like watching the most fantastic film. You are totally engrossed.

Nina Stibbe - 29/11/2013
The Lowland
The Lowland (Hardback)
Jhumpa Lahiri
 
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I made the mistake of reading some Lahiri when I was writing my new book and it made me want to give up entirely. I don’t know why anyone else even bothers to write when there is talent like this in the world – she is lucid in a way that is completely impossible to dissect. And this book comes close to poetry in places. Hope it wins the Booker.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
This Is How You Lose Her
Junot Diaz
 
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I’ve been obsessed with Junot Diaz ever since I picked up The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I think he is the most original voice to have appeared in the last decade. As it happens, I was initially wary of this collection of short stories just because it was so slim. It seemed cheeky to charge so much for so few words. But it totally blew my mind. Funny and moving and incredibly modern – the last story was so good that, as soon as I finished, I read it again.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated...
Tim Birkhead
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A superb piece of scientific popularization. As a leading ornithologist the author is committed to the importance of disciplined and testable scientific research on bird behaviour and ecology, but is also (and much more unusually) a real expert at conveying its significance and excitement to a large lay audience. The book is a very engaging and well-written blend of science, history and personal experience. His new book, Bird Sense, has all the same virtues.

Jeremy Mynott - 13/03/2012
The Girl Who Circumnavigated ...
Catherynne M. Valente
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Embellished: New Vintage
Karen Nicol
 
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This is a very new book, but already one of my favourites. Karen’s distinguished career has included working with designers, exhibiting her own textile art and teaching students. In this very modern and stylish book, she explains how thrifted finds and ancient sewing and embroidery techniques inform her work. It’s a stylish guide to the power and possibilities of textiles and has made me excited about sewing all over again.

Katie Allen - 04/10/2012
An English Affair: Sex, Class and...
Richard Davenport-Hines
 
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The Profumo affair fascinated just about every adolescent boy in the UK back in the early 60s, and I doubt that many of us forget the risqué photographs of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice Davies that were splashed all over the place. This is a thorough and comprehensive look at the affair from all sides, and a fascinating view of the times. It makes for compelling reading.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Modernity Britain: Book One: Opening...
David Kynaston
 
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I've enjoyed all David Kynaston's forays into the recent past, and this is no exception. It's not just a history of the politics of the Macmillan era, but a social history full of detail and colour, anecdotes and revealing vignettes, of a time when Britain was changing rapidly, when Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told the assembled members of his Conservative party, 'Most of our people have never had it so good.'

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
Kiss Me First
Kiss Me First (Hardback)
Lottie Moggach
 
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Lottie is a good friend, but I only got to read this when it was at proof stage, and it was a very strange experience. I understood where a lot of the references came from, and what the story was inspired by, but I still couldn’t get my head around the fact that Lottie had written it. Leila, the first person narrator, is just so utterly convincing and real. And the story is totally fresh and creepy and brilliant. Debut of the year.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
The Peregrine: The Hill of Summer &...
J. A. Baker; Mark Cocker; John Fanshawe
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The best edition is the 2010 one from Harper Collins, edited by Mark Cocker and John Fanshawe, which also contains Baker’s wonderful Hill of Summer and some interesting extracts from his diaries. Baker draws on both close observation and literary imagination to fashion his startling metaphors and extraordinary prose and has an almost shamanistic identification with the wildlife he responds to so sensitively.

Jeremy Mynott - 13/03/2012

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