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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 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
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
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
Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story of Modern Pop
Bob Stanley
 
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If Nik Cohn's book is 'Pop From The Beginning' then maybe Bob Stanley's work should be re-titled 'Pop At The End'. He valiantly attempts to encompass all developments and movements in Pop as captured during the age of the 7" 45RPM single. With the death of the singles chart as a national pastime Stanley seems to imply that some kind of Golden Age has come to an end. Reluctantly, I guess I kind of have to agree with him... you can prove me wrong if you like though.

Jarvis Cocker - 12/06/2014
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
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 Garden of Evening Mists
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Tan Twan Eng
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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
The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren
Iona Opie; Peter Opie; Marina Warner
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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
Freedom
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Freedom (Paperback)
Jonathan Franzen
 
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Like Middlemarch inasmuch as this is a lengthy novel about love and marriage that is also deeply engaged with what the author considers the major political issues of the era (here the 'freedom loving' Bush years): the liberal burden in the age of American empire; planetary overpopulation; and the plight of a songbird called the cerulean warbler.

Tim Glencross - 13/05/2014
A World on Fire: An Epic History of...
Amanda Foreman
 
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A hefty book about Anglo-American diplomacy during the American civil war. It sounds daunting, but is a brilliant piece of exposition and story-telling.

Bernard Cornwell - 26/09/2013
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
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
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

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