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The Casual Vacancy
J K Rowling
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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
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
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 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
Wolf Hall
Wolf Hall (Paperback)
Hilary Mantel
 
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Mantel’s work is characterised by incredible attention to detail – a period and characters made real. She has the ability to take an historical event which we know must have taken place – such as a conversation – and then creating that conversation so well, it’s easy to believe we are reading a verbatim account. Her research is impeccable and of course, she has elevated the genre of historical fiction to a higher art-form by winning the Booker prize twice. Wolf Hall in particular is a masterwork.

Conn Iggulden - 11/09/2013
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
Excellent Women
Excellent Women (Paperback)
Barbara Pym; Alexander McCall Smith
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Barbara Pym has been described as the Jane Austen of our times, and I would concur with this view. She created a whole world of people living rather mousy lives, illuminated with poignant detail. She is extremely funny in an understated way.

Alexander McCall Smith - 28/07/2011
The Secret Garden
The Secret Garden (Paperback)
Frances Hodgson Burnett
 
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The story of Mary Lennox, the unloved, unloveable orphan warmed to life along with her secret garden, gave me one of my first female heroes. They should try moving her from the kiss-of-death Children’s Classics shelf, let her slug it out with the newcomers and see what happens.

Moira Young - 09/08/2012
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
Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas (Paperback)
David Mitchell
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From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil...
E. L. Konigsburg
 
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A modern classic in the States, something of a cult title in the UK, this is a lovely tale of Claudia, who runs away from home, taking her little brother with her. And where do they end up? The Metropolitan Museum of Art, of course…

Marcus Sedgwick - 26/09/2013
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson...
Tove Jansson
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Specifically the story called 'The Spring Tune' - the best description I've read about the elusive nature of the tunes that we carry around in our heads & how we must be careful as to how & when we try to 'harvest' them. All songwriters need to read this story.

Jarvis Cocker - 12/06/2014
The Road
The Road (Paperback)
Cormac McCarthy
 
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In The Road, a man and his son must roam a post-apocalyptic wasteland, avoiding roving packs of marauders, and resisting the temptation, despite their hunger, to resort to cannibalism. The moral of this tale is, as with most human endeavors: pack a lunch. Cormack McCarthy is a very good writer. He reminds me of a young Marvelle Wyatt.

AKH48 . - 29/07/2013
The Time Traveler's Wife
Audrey Niffenegger
 
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. Like Cloud Atlas, one of our Richard and Judy Book Club choices and, like Cloud Atlas, there's an inferior film version, which totally failed to capture the magic and pathos of this sweeping novel; the story of a man cursed to fall into cracks in space-time, and to fall in love with a woman he can only ever be fleetingly with. Heartwarming and heartbreaking in equal measure.

Richard Madeley - 07/06/2013

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