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The Hunger Games
(Paperback)
Suzanne Collins
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
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Freedom
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(Paperback)
Jonathan Franzen
 
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
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The Secret History
(Paperback)
Donna Tartt
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
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Wolf Hall
(Paperback)
Hilary Mantel
 
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
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Cloud Atlas
(Paperback)
David Mitchell
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Gilead
(Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson
David Mitchell writes - Measured, solid, real, honed, slow-burning, infused with a spiritual intelligence, lingering, imperishable.

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

Lauren Kate - 15/06/2012
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The Road
(Paperback)
Cormac McCarthy
 
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
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Excellent Women
(Paperback)
Barbara Pym; Alexander McCall Smith
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
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The Line of Beauty
(Paperback)
Alan Hollinghurst
 
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
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Ulysses
(Paperback)
James Joyce; Hans Walter Gabler
MOLLY BLOOM: Joyce’s creation from Ulysses, Molly Bloom is quite simply the most sensuous woman in literature. Married to Leopold Bloom, she starts an affair with Hugh ‘Blazes’ Boylan. Molly’s bawdy stream of consciousness opens the book though I find myself going back to read just that passage again and again. Joyce allegedly based Molly’s character on his wife Nora Barnacle, which I find particularly fascinating (was he Leopold or Hugh, I wonder?)

Sara Sheridan - 19/06/2012
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A Fine Balance
(Paperback)
Rohinton Mistry
Masterpiece. But not to be read if you’re feeling vulnerable: the ending floored me for a fortnight.

Sathnam Sanghera - 26/09/2013
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The Secret Garden
(Paperback)
Frances Hodgson Burnett
 
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
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The Very Hungry Caterpillar
(Paperback)
Eric Carle
 
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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Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
(Paperback)
John Le Carre
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
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Life: Keith Richards
(Paperback)
Keith Richards
Even though he didn't actually write it himself, the voice and vernacular are all Keith. Particularly fascinating when describing London after the war.

Dylan Jones - 24/07/2012
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