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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
Five on a Treasure Island
Enid Blyton
 
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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
The Pale King
The Pale King (Paperback)
David Foster Wallace
 
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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
The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin
Archie Burnett; Philip Larkin
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We already knew Larkin was - is! - a great poet, but this huge volume shows us that he was also far more productive than we thought. Indispensable.

John Banville - 18/06/2012
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
The Complaints
The Complaints (Paperback)
Ian Rankin
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'The Complaints' is the second Ian Rankin novel since John Rebus, his police hero, retired in 'Exit Music', and Inspector Malcolm Fox, the hero of "The Complaints", shares Rebus's integrity and a dogged determination to get the job done. 'The Complaints' is the colloquial name for the section dedicated to detecting the most serious police offences and this Fox does with honesty and persistence, accepting that to work in The Complaints can make you a pariah to your colleagues. Rankin is a master at the integration of setting, plot, characters and the theme, which, for Rankin, is the moral dimension never far from his writing.

P D James - 16/06/2014
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
Pulphead: Notes from the Other Side ...
John Jeremiah Sullivan
 
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I was totally blown away by this collection of the new new new journalism, or however many "news" we’re up to these days. I think I like it as much – at times, even more – than Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never do Again. And that, for me, is saying a lot.

Zadie Smith - 10/08/2012
Field Grey: A Bernie Gunther Novel
Philip Kerr
 
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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
MetaMAUS
MetaMAUS (Hardback)
Art Spiegelman
 
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I thought that my generation was doing pretty well following Art's example of how to make serious comic books for adults, but this book demonstrates just how pale and paltry our efforts have been; via interviews, documents, photographs and preparatory sketches (and an interactive DVD) it's clear that Art not only created the graphic novel, but that graphic novel may also never be bettered.

Chris Ware - 02/10/2012
The Small Hours
The Small Hours (Paperback)
Susie Boyt
 
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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
Where Good Ideas Come from: The Seven...
Steven Johnson
 
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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
Bronze Summer
Bronze Summer (Paperback)
Stephen Baxter
 
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Baxter is unafraid of the uglinesses of life, as science fiction continues to serve up its great variety of lives, possible or impossible, not only to lighten our darkness but to darken our lightness.

Brian Aldiss - 05/07/2013
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress...
Steven Johnson
 
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Besides mapping the ways our connected society will be both different and better, 'Future Perfect' makes a timely and aspirational case that progress is still possible.

Biz Stone - 16/06/2014
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

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