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The Sisters Brothers
(Paperback)
Patrick deWitt
If Cormac McCarthy suddenly developed a sense of humour, or the Coen Brothers decided to adapt Cervantes’ Don Quixote, The Sisters Brothers is what you might get. Eli Sisters is an unhappy man. He’s unhappy with his new horse, Tub. He’s unhappy about his lack of a wife. But mostly, he’s unhappy with his line of work. With his brother Charlie, he is one half of the notorious Sisters Brothers. At the height of the great Californian Gold Rush, the brothers have been tasked with the assassination of a particular prospector, the wonderfully named Hermann Kermit Warm. Along the way the bickering brothers meet a carousel of strange characters and odd situations, all of which lead Eli to question his sorry lot in life. - Christopher
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The Last Hundred Days
(Paperback)
Patrick McGuinness
This is a fictionalised account of the final days of communism in Romania. McGuiness tells the story of an English Professor who has found himself teaching at a Bucharest university in late 1989. He arrives into a totalitarian communist state led by the brainless Nicolae Ceaucescu and his sinister ‘Securitate’. In 100 days time the Ceaucescus will be dead and Romanians will be caught up in a bloody revolution. This novel tells the story of the months leading up to that day. Having been to Romania several times I found so much I could identify with in this novel about the people and their wit, warmth and cynicism! - Andrew
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The Complaints
(Paperback)
Ian Rankin
You may be disappointed if you thought Malcolm Fox, Rankin’s latest protagonist, is a duplicate of Inspector Rebus. Sure he’s middle-aged and grumpy, but he’s teetotal and enjoys his work: he is ‘The Complaints’, policing the police with Internal Affairs. But like Rebus, ‘Foxy’ works a case to the end, which is just as well, since two have simultaneously landed in his lap. A colleague’s credit card details have been logged on a [ahem] questionable website and his sister’s good-for-nothing boyfriend has been found murdered. It wouldn’t be Rankin if the two weren’t linked now would it? - James
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Neverwhere
(Paperback)
Neil Gaiman
You’d think helping a clearly distressed, injured girl out of a cold night, there’d be better thanks than suddenly becoming invisible to your colleagues and losing your flat to some more people who can’t seem to see you. Unfortunately for Richard, this girl is Door, from London Below, and on the run from some truly fantastical characters. So in order to get his life back, he will have to work on some serious suspension of disbelief. Unlike the reader, because Neil Gaiman’s softly quirky and yet darkly edgy voice makes all of it sound like everyday occurrences to us. Of course there’s a Floating Market in Harrods! You’ll never take the tube quite the same way again. - Julia
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Bad Monkeys
(Paperback)
Matt Ruff
The set-up is basic: Jane is an operative for the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, aka Bad Monkeys. Or is she? Surreality ensues. They’re not half lying about what it says on the back: The Silence of the Lambs meets The Matrix just about hits the nail on the head! A rollercoaster read of the best kind; head-turningly pacy, light of touch, and leaving you wanting just that little bit more without giving you a frustrating ending. If you get a chance to pick up any of Ruff’s other books, do! (Fool on the Hill is actually my favourite, but sadly out of print.) - Julia
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Ronia, the Robber's Daughter
(Paperback)
Astrid Lindgren
Honestly, what eight-year-old girl doesn’t want to be a robber’s daughter? Live in a rugged old fortress, the most loving bear of a dad you could ask for, the world’s most protective mother, and a raggedy bunch of robbers to entertain you and indulge your every whim! Until it all goes belly-up, and then you find yourself battling scary harpies and trolls and having to make it through the winter in a cave with your best friend—who just happens to be the rival robber chief’s son, big deal!—because adults are selfish and stubborn and prejudiced and just plain wrong sometimes. An adventure story as much as one about family and friendship, and one I keep coming back to even now every couple of years or so. - Julia
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Sixty Stories
(Paperback)
Donald Barthelme; David Gates
Donald Barthelme was one of the most innovative and experimental short-story writers of his period, but he also understood people in a way few writers ever do. Stories like 'A Shower of Gold' and 'The Balloon' are very surreal and unusual, but they’re also beautiful statements about how hard it is to live in a world that is often confusing and absurd. He’s not for everyone, but for those who are on his wavelength he’s one of the best writers of the 20th century. - Adam
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Leviathan
(Paperback)
Philip Hoare
I have become obsessed with whales since reading this book. I now tell total strangers and colleagues (what I imagine to be) very interesting facts about whales. Some appreciate it more than others. Whales are amazing and mysterious creatures and remain so because we know so little about them. Phillip Hoare conveys his fascination through a history of whales, whaling and whalers, both mythic and factual. He writes with such enthusiasm and love for his subject, it’s hard not to become equally infatuated. I even read Moby Dick to satiate my desire to know more. I highly recommend both books. They both exceeded my expectations. - Rebecca
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Invisible Cities
(Paperback)
Italo Calvino; William Weaver
The framing story of Invisible Cities is slight - Marco Polo describes the fantastic imaginary cities that he has supposedly visited on his travels to Kublai Khan - but these descriptions, most of which are no less than a page - are beautiful, lyrical gems of prose. Calvino uses this device to explore the various ways in which humans interact with their surroundings and each other, resulting in a book which is profound, moving and a perfect balance between form and content. - Adam
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Bad Faith: A History of Family and...
(Paperback)
Carmen Callil
The sheer volume of work on WWII often makes it difficult to choose what to read. Bad Faith is a sobering account of life in France under German and Vichy rule. Focusing on the life of Louis Darquier de Pellepoix, it gives great insight into how petty prejudices, weaknesses and seemingly insignificant acts of normal human beings, can have devastating consequences. Pellepoix is truly a despicable individual whose actions led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews. He is largely forgotten and died in relative peace, unpunished for his crimes, in 1980. Read this. Some people don’t deserve to escape quietly and fall through the cracks of history. If you find this interesting you might want to try Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl by Stephen Bach. She was responsible for Hitler’s propaganda films and also died relatively recently, denying any allegations of collaboration, despite using concentration camp prisoners as extras in her films. She went on to photograph the Nuba in Africa. - Rebecca
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The Mayor of Casterbridge
(Paperback)
Thomas Hardy
Ever thought about selling your wife? At a country fair in 19th century Wessex, Michael Henchard – brimming with alcohol – trades his wife and baby daughter for five guineas to a sailor. Nineteen years later and now Mayor of Casterbridge, the now teetotal Henchard is haunted by the wrong he cannot right. That is, until, his now-impoverished wife and daughter arrive in town. Although difficult to empathise with, Henchard’s strength in character makes for compelling reading, whilst the richly detailed prose consistently capture the reader’s affections. Classic Hardy. - James
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The Secret Ministry of Frost
(Paperback)
Nick Lake
A dark adventure, ranging from Ireland to the Artic, with an unusual heroine in Light – half Inuit, half Irish and all albino, The Secret Ministry of Frost is a fantastic debut novel from Nick Lake. Similar to His Dark Materials in the search for a lost father and in the desolate setting, Light’s epic journey into the artic wasteland to confront a force older than mankind, pulls you in right from the very start. The Inuit folklore she thought to be fairy tales merges with reality when Light is drawn into an age-old intrigue between Setna, the ruler of the sea and Frost, king of the cold. The action is relentless and at times brutal, not surprising given that her friends include the Tupilak, half shark, half polar bear, and a Raven God. Frightening (in a good way) and intelligent - all kids’ books should be as good as this. - Rebecca
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Northline: A Novel
(Paperback)
Willy Vlautin
Willy Vlautin is sadly under read as an author but better known as the front man of Richmond Fontaine. In both his music and his writing he tells tales of people on the edge - drifters, grifters, losers and lost souls all across small town America. Northline tells of a burned out, pregnant woman on the run from an abusive ex who finds solace in talking to an imaginary Paul Newman. Vlautin’s novels are almost unbearably melancholic with simple stories compellingly told. Although they could be considered bleak he writes with such understanding and warmth, you find yourself uplifted by the both the banality and beauty of the world that he describes. - Rebecca
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The Power of the Dog
(Paperback)
Don Winslow
If you find yourself wishing the Wire had never ended and fruitlessly surfing the channels for a satisfactory replacement, look no further. There are a few great books that fill the void but none better, in my opinion, than The Power of the Dog. Taking the drug war to South America, it follows the lives and exploits of CIA agents, drug barons and everyone else caught up in between. Winslow is not especially well known over here but is steadily building a cult following. Read him first before everyone jumps on the bandwagon. - Rebecca
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Moon Lake
(Paperback)
Eudora Welty
“All around swam the fireflies. Clouds of them, trees of them, islands of them floating, a lower order of brightness(…)The stars barely showed their place in the pale sky – small and far from this bright world.” This is so short; it almost seems like reading a dream. I’ve gotten into the bad habit of skim reading but this made me slow down. Long, hot, hazy Southern days are perfectly mirrored in the rhythms and cadences of the language. It is a fantastic account of the odd, surreal limbo between childhood and adulthood. - Rebecca
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Fish: Recipes from the Sea
(Hardback)
Carol-Jane Jackson; First Edition...
I don't have this book, but whenever everyone's back is turned you'll find me sneakily browsing it. It's a recent aspiration of mine to become better at cooking fish and seafood, and of all the books we have on the subject this one appeals to me the most. The recipes are simple, but not too simple and the book's full of charming illustrations and mouth-watering photographs. A must for fish lovers! - Adam
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