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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
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 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
The Sound and the Fury
William Faulkner
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A book that rewards rereading and rereading and rereading.

Lauren Kate - 15/06/2012
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
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
Frankenstein
Frankenstein (Paperback)
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
 
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The story of how the novel came to be written - a trip along the Rhine, a sojourn on the banks of Lake Geneva and friends, including Byron and Shelley and the eighteen year old Mary, daring one another one to tell ghost stories - is as famous as the novel itself. I first knew the story from the small and big screen. When I finally read the book, I discovered that it was extraordinary: faith, the occult and alchemy, the blurred line between good science and bad, a story that was moving, sad, elegant, subtle and full of jeopardy. Victor Frankenstein and the Monster he creates are both terribly human, wounded creatures, both beautiful and repulsive. The story is one of the collision of science and faith, of the terrible unintended consequences of our choices, of prejudice, of the possibility of love. The gloomy university laboratory in Ingolstadt and the isolated 1am streets, the magnificence of the isolated Orkney Islands and, finally, the incredible final scenes of death, remorse and grief out on the ice floes make this both a superb Gothic novel and a work of imaginative genius. Its power has not diminished, as the success of Nick Dear and Danny Boyle's stage version at the National Theatre in 2011 proved.

Kate Mosse - 08/09/2014
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
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of...
J. K. Rowling
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For me, this is the book where the Harry Potter series really took flight. There’s a confidence at work here that lifts the story, which is far darker and more ambitious than in the first two books in the series. The characters are familiar by now, and Rowling puts them through the emotional ringer as she deftly deals with time travel, escaped prisoners and the history of the terrible events at the heart of her story. It’s a beautiful novel that stands alone while also setting up the rest of the series, and a huge achievement.

Will Hill - 15/03/2012
The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje
 
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In a deserted Italian villa during the Second World War, Hana nurses a badly burned man, who appears to have forgotten his identity. The story of the unknown man's great and forbidden love emerges alongside the deaths that resulted from the actions he took in its name. This heartbreaking novel explores the tensions between personal and national loyalties and the whole notion of who, or what, is one's 'country'.

Judith Allnatt - 11/02/2014
Mary
Mary (Hardback)
Vladimir Nabokov
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Get it in the recently issued Penguin Classics hardback series.

John Banville - 18/06/2012
The Chill
The Chill (Paperback)
Ross Macdonald
 
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I probably wouldn’t be writing without the influence of Ross Macdonald, and I certainly wouldn’t be writing the kind of novels that I do. Macdonald is one of the four great Californian crime novelists of the last century (Hammett, Chandler and Cain being the others, I think), but he’s also the most neglected. He fell out of fashion for a generation or so, his reputation taking a kicking from a new breed of hardboiled writers who mistook the compassion in his work for sentimentality, and confused cynicism with realism in the work of others. The Chill, written in 1963, is one of the most perfectly plotted mystery novels ever written, with a jaw-dropping twist at the end, but it’s also infused with a humanity and empathy that’s lacking, or at least less pronounced, in the writing of the other three novelists mentioned above. When I began reading Macdonald he was largely out-of-print on this side of the Atlantic, and the copies I collected were used Fontana titles with mildly sexualized and hence hugely inappropriate covers, given that Archer, Macdonald’s P.I., is largely celibate for most of the series. Thankfully, Penguin Classics has begun reissuing Macdonald’s books in lovely new editions. They’ll be an adornment to any mystery lover’s bookshelf.

John Connolly - 03/06/2013
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
The Complete Psychological Works of...
Sigmund Freud
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Freud can be read as literature. The case of Little Hans is memorable and reminds us of the theatrical nature of the Freudian enterprise. Freud wrote up relatively few cases, but they provide a remarkable insight into the world of one of the towering figures of modern times.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011

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