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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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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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In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living...
(Paperback)
Michela Wrong
Of all the works inspired by Heart of Darkness, this one offers the most absorbing and astonishing chronicle of “the horror” of Congo after Conrad, under the grotesque dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.

Maya Jasanoff - 29/05/2012
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Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A...
(Paperback)
Hunter S. Thompson; Ralph Steadman
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
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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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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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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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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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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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Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont: A ...
(Paperback)
Elizabeth Taylor; Paul Bailey
Still much underrated: would she be better known if she didn't have somebody else's name?

Julian Barnes - 21/03/2012
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