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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
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
The Secret History
The Secret History (Paperback)
Donna Tartt
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This was one of the first novels where I remember being genuinely aware of the brilliance of the writing as I was reading it – there are sentences and paragraphs that still take my breath away now, despite the number of times I’ve read it. It’s a long, slow, relentless novel – a beautifully drawn mystery woven through a painfully moving story of class, classics and what it means to belong, carried along by a group of the most unforgettable characters you’ll ever come across.

Will Hill - 15/03/2012
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A...
Hunter S. Thompson; Ralph Steadman
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This is pure adrenaline- (and other substances) fuelled literary chaos – the pinnacle of Thompson’s gonzo style that he developed as a journalist for Rolling Stone. It’s theoretically an account of he and his lawyer attending a motorcycle race in Las Vegas, but in reality it’s nothing less than an anarchic, mind-bending peek inside the carnage that Thompson caused wherever he went, full of bad people and worse drugs, hallucinations and violence and destruction, described in some of the most distinctive prose ever committed to a page by a true literary genius. Completely indispensable.

Will Hill - 15/03/2012
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby (Paperback)
F. Scott Fitzgerald
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I love the lyrical quality of the writing against the tightly constructed narrative.

Lauren Kate - 15/06/2012
In Search of Lost Time: v.1: Swann's Way
Marcel Proust; Terence Kilmartin; ...
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Reading Proust is a major project, but one well worth undertaking. This is the first volume of his great novel, and provides a good introduction to his astonishing prose. Reading Proust is like bathing in words – and requires a life-jacket.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011
The Line of Beauty
The Line of Beauty (Paperback)
Alan Hollinghurst
 
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Caleb Crain recently described this novel of the Thatcher era in The New Yorker as “one of the best to have been written in English in the past quarter century.” By way of supporting evidence, here is a line from the book featuring the young protagonist, Nick Guest, and the Lady herself: "There was the soft glare of the flash—twice—three times—a gleaming sense of occasion, the gleam floating in the eye as a blot of shadow, his heart running fast with no particular need of courage as he grinned and said, 'Prime Minister, would you like to dance?'"

Tim Glencross - 13/05/2014
The Shipping News
The Shipping News (Paperback)
Annie Proulx
 
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I love this book. It's relatively well-known, but it came out a while ago and people forget terrifyingly quickly. A man rediscovering himself in a small, strange, hilarious community. Compassionate, uplifting, elegant.

Nick Harkaway - 25/01/2013
Herzog
Herzog (Paperback)
Saul Bellow; Malcolm Bradbury
 
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This is really one of the great American novels, combining a shrewd understanding of everyday American life and its language, with large ideas.

Justin Cartwright - 03/09/2013
Home
Home (Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson
 
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I was astounded when I first read Marilynne Robinson’s three novels, Home, Housekeeping and Gilead. They are all wonderful. Underneath the quietness of style, almost Jane Austen in tone, is the urgent beating of the wider world at the rectory windows of the deep Mid-West.

Justin Cartwright - 03/09/2013
Music from Big Pink
John Niven
 
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Kill Your Friends author blurs fact and fiction, beaming drug dealing central character Greg Keltner into Woodstock, 1968, as The Band create their masterpiece.

Tom Doyle - 17/09/2014
Blood Meridian
Blood Meridian (Paperback)
Cormac McCarthy
 
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In my opinion, our greatest American novel of the last fifty years (despite Beloved's great scope and considerable claim), an heir to Melville and Faulkner. Takes a garbage genre, the western, and raises it to high literature. Offers no access to thoughts or feelings but tells character entirely through landscape and violence written as landscape. Borrowing from Faulkner, extends literal landscapes into figurative landscapes. As with Proulx's The Shipping News, I reread this book simply for the sentences, for their unlikely existence.

David Vann - 26/09/2013
Beauty: A Very Short Introduction
Roger Scruton
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Roger Scruton is a philosopher who writes on a wide range of subjects within aesthetics. His observations on art and music are profound and stated with great clarity.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011
Mapp and Lucia
Mapp and Lucia (Paperback)
E. F. Benson
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Benson wrote a number of novels about two warring women. They are, I believe, among the funniest books written in English in the last century. Lucia is a queen among snobs. Her piano-playing friend, Georgie, is utterly memorable.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011
Mary
Mary (Hardback)
Vladimir Nabokov
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Get it in the recently issued Penguin Classics hardback series.

John Banville - 18/06/2012
England's Dreaming Tapes
Jon Savage
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Simply the transcripts of the interviews Savage conducted for the England's Dreaming book. What could have been a silly cash-in underscores Savage's enormous knowledge of and sensitivity to his subject.

Dylan Jones - 24/07/2012

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