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Five on a Treasure Island
(Paperback)
Enid Blyton
 
Detectives doesn’t get jollier than the Famous Five. They’re not always the best crime solvers, but they can always be relied on to stumble over a dastardly smuggling plot at exactly the right moment. And they are excellent at picnics. Ginger beer and macaroons all round!

Robin Stevens - 05/06/2014
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Two Boys Kissing
(Paperback)
David Levithan
 
What makes Levithan’s tenth novel – which follows the stories of several teen boys as they watch two young men attempt to break the world record for the longest kiss – is not just a heartbreaking and hopeful story. It’s not just the fact that it’s narrated by ghost uncles, the generation of gay men killed by AIDS, witnessing a world wholly changed, and still the same. It’s the fact that Levithan himself, a pioneer in writing and publishing stories about queer teens, paved the way for this book to be published.

Gayle Forman - 26/01/2015
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The Peregrine: The Hill of Summer &...
(Paperback)
J. A. Baker; Mark Cocker; John Fanshawe
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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The Disreputable History of Frankie...
(Paperback)
E. Lockhart
 
Frankie is a smart, prickly heroine, angry at being underestimated simply because she’s a pretty girl, and the lengths she goes to in order to prove herself – a series of escalating pranks – are both funny and satisfying. The more times I read this book, the more resonant it becomes. It’s as much a meditation on gender and power as it is a hilarious revenge tale.

Gayle Forman - 26/01/2015
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The Lowland
(Hardback)
Jhumpa Lahiri
 
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
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Modernity Britain: Book One: Opening...
(Hardback)
David Kynaston
 
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
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The Pale King
(Paperback)
David Foster Wallace
 
The first great novel of the 21st century uses the sinister beauty of the American Tax Code as a springboard from which to launch into a genuinely serious discussion of the origins and importance of civic responsibility amidst the hazy, blurred stupidity of a country in quick decline. Contrary to many reviews, I don't think it's about boredom, and it's certainly not boring. Another posthumous editor-to-manuscript resuscitation, the book hangs heavy with the clotted spectre of Wallace's suicide, which makes the writing glow all the more painfully through it.

Chris Ware - 02/10/2012
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The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated...
(Paperback)
Tim Birkhead
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
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The Dinner
(Paperback)
Herman Koch
 
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
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An English Affair: Sex, Class and...
(Paperback)
Richard Davenport-Hines
 
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
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The Garden of Evening Mists
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(Paperback)
Tan Twan Eng
Booker shortlisted and my favourite to win (which it didn't). Somehow takes the final testament of a woman with very little time, once an inmate of a brutal prison camp, and turns it into a story of healing and redemption. At every turn it surprised me, and it never lost my attention. Unmissable.

Nick Harkaway - 25/01/2013
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Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel
(Paperback)
Philip Kerr
 
I've been a fan of Bernie Gunther ever since the Berlin Trilogy. After a long gap, I caught up with him again in The One from the Other in 2006, and now I’m moving at a leisurely pace with, I think, still two more books in hand before the next one is published. Field Grey is set in a number of locations before and after the Second World War, but mostly it concerns events during the fall of France and the beginnings of the German occupation in 1940. In this, it mirrors the era of Suite Française, though it’s a completely different kind of story. Bernie Gunther is an ex-cop turned private eye, and his capacity for surviving tyrannical regimes whilst retaining most of his integrity is awe-inspiring! He's also a witty, wise-cracking PI, likely to make exactly the kind of remark that will earn him another twist of the thumbscrews. Philip Marlow takes on the Nazis.

Peter Robinson - 14/08/2013
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The Small Hours
(Paperback)
Susie Boyt
 
This book is only 200 pages long, and I read it all in one go on a transatlantic flight, but it felt like I had devoured 500 pages worth of material. The heroine, Harriet, is such a brilliantly drawn character, properly three dimensional, full of dark and shade and light and contradictions. I don’t know how Boyt did it.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
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Where Good Ideas Come from: The Seven...
(Paperback)
Steven Johnson
 
A fresh perspective on the importance of timing, collaboration, and the right setting for ideas - challenging the time honored 'Eureka!' moment of the lone inventor.

Biz Stone - 16/06/2014
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How to Save a Life
(Paperback)
Sara Zarr
 
Nobody writes redemption stories like Sara Zarr, and this tale, about a mother and daughter in the aftermath of their husband/father’s death, and a pregnant teen, is a stunner. A look at grief and what it means to be a family, this book had me sobbing the ugly cry at the end.

Gayle Forman - 26/01/2015
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Embellished: New Vintage
(Hardback)
Karen Nicol
 
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
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