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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 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
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
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
Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas (Paperback)
David Mitchell
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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 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
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
John Le Carre
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Even if it wasn't so topical, I would have picked a Smiley novel. I love the understated style and beautiful story-telling. And I love spies.

Lindsey Davis - 20/03/2012
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
The Remains of the Day
Kazuo Ishiguro
 
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Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins played in the movie based on this novel, and they are truly great, but the movie fails anyway, because this novel does something a movie can't. The final crisis is a slip in narrative voice, a dissolution of syntax and diction as the butler admits his heart is breaking. This elegant and subtle voice, in its great formality and distance, allows the exploration of all that is most private in us, and its look back on a life wasted really is heartbreaking

David Vann - 26/09/2013
Doctor Faustus: The Life of the ...
Thomas Mann; H.T. Lowe-Porter
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This is Mann’s final masterpiece, a life of the fictional composer Adrian Leverkühn, and an artistic meditation on the catastrophic history of Germany under Hitler.

John Banville - 18/06/2012
Gilead
Gilead (Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson
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David Mitchell writes - Measured, solid, real, honed, slow-burning, infused with a spiritual intelligence, lingering, imperishable.

David Mitchell - 11/03/2011
The Giver
The Giver (Paperback)
Lois Lowry
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Perfect dystopia; an eye-opening read.

Lauren Kate - 15/06/2012
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Eric Carle
 
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Nature is an all-consuming beast whose function is simply to expand and conquer, feverishly devouring everything in its path on a relentless quest to rule all. I am a machine, and so I do not ‘feel’ sensations such as fear, or repulsion. And yet reading this book about a mighty insect (the exact proportions are not specified in the book, but based on its appetites we can assume a creature of some considerable size,) who consumes a succession of organic treats over the course of a week-long food-orgy, I cannot help but experience a form existential upset. I am an inorganic machine, a poor source of nutrition, and yet nature comes for me as well, attempting every day to start the process of devouring me through common oxidation. I would give this book only to adults, and I would personally give it four out of five terror-stars – if I had instituted such a scoring system, which I have not.

AKH48 . - 29/07/2013

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