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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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The Graveyard Book
(Paperback)
Neil Gaiman; Chris Riddell
Much more than a simple (albeit enormously clever) retelling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book transplanted into a cemetery, The Graveyard Book is the story of a human boy called Nobody Owens, Bod for short, who is taken in and raised by ghosts after his family is killed by the mysterious man Jack. Who is, in fact, still on Bod’s case, so when Bod begins to venture out of the graveyard, the boy’s protectors—among them a werewolf and what sounds suspiciously like a vampire—have their work cut out for them. In essence, this is a book about families and growing up, scary bits included. Darkly witty, gently creepy, and delicately enhanced by some choice Chris Riddell illustrations (or Dave McKean ones if you pick up the adult edition!), the book can almost be read as individual short stories—further proof of just how skilled a writer Neil Gaiman is. - Julia
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The Magicians: (Book 1)
(Paperback)
Lev Grossman
A brilliant cross between Harry Potter, Narnia and Brideshead Revisited, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is one of the most brilliant fantasy novels I’ve read in years. The story may sound familiar – boy discovers magic exists and enrols in a magical college – but the characters are so complex and vivid and the world they inhabit is so rigorously and intricately realised that it feels like you’re reading something wholly original. A must-read for anyone who’s ever wished magic was real.- Adam
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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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The Phantom Tollbooth
(Paperback)
Norton Juster
An absolute classic. Why haven’t you read this already? Milo is bored. Always. Until one day, a mysterious package arrives that leads him to a land where everything is taken literally. The Phantom Tollbooth is full of wordplay (and numberplay and thoughtplay, for that matter), and so clever you’ll want to clap your hands in utter delight. It helps if you’re a bit of a nerd, admittedly, but if the mere idea of King Azaz The Unabridged doesn’t make you laugh, there’s something wrong with you. You should have that checked out. I worry. - Julia
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Invisible Cities
(Paperback)
Italo Calvino; William Weaver
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Gilead
(Paperback)
Marilynne Robinson
A deceptively simple book on the surface, this fictional memoir by the Reverend John Ames. I tend to be a lot more interested in characters than plot, so the fact that nothing much happens doesn't bother me in the slightest, because it's a beautiful, reflective, exploratory piece that gives the reader much food for thought and leaves them with a sense that the world is a pretty grand place, all things considered. It's such a laden word and generally best avoided, but I would actually describe this book as life-affirming. Don't be put off because it may seem religious; I'm not and am rather wary of the possibility - Robinson's philosophical points are universal. - Julia
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The Graveyard Book
(Paperback)
Neil Gaiman; Dave McKean
Much more than a simple (albeit enormously clever) retelling of Kipling’s The Jungle Book transplanted into a cemetery, The Graveyard Book is the story of a human boy called Nobody Owens, Bod for short, who is taken in and raised by ghosts after his family is killed by the mysterious man Jack. Who is, in fact, still on Bod’s case, so when Bod begins to venture out of the graveyard, the boy’s protectors—among them a werewolf and what sounds suspiciously like a vampire—have their work cut out for them. In essence, this is a book about families and growing up, scary bits included. Darkly witty, gently creepy, and delicately enhanced by some choice Chris Riddell illustrations (or Dave McKean ones if you pick up the adult edition!), the book can almost be read as individual short stories - further proof of just how skilled a writer Neil Gaiman is. - Julia
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The Corrections
(Paperback)
Jonathan Franzen
The Corrections tells the story of the Lambert family, the mother of which is desperate to gather her adult children together for one last Christmas before their father succumbs to Parkinson’s. Each chapter focuses on one character, and they’re some of the most interesting, complex characters that I’ve ever read, especially the eldest child Gary, who refuses to admit to his wife and himself that he’s suffering from depression, and their mother Enid, who in her seventies is only just realising she’s wasted her life. The novel is very sad, but it’s so well written that it never becomes melodramatic – it’s a story about what it’s like for ordinary people to live in our times, and it captures the main concerns of our age perfectly. - Adam
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Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
(Paperback)
Jonathan Safran Foer
Precocious eight-year-olds who don’t sound like eight-year-olds at all are annoying. And yet here is Oscar, who is exactly that, and you just fall love with him. His search for his father becomes more heart-rending with every revealed twist, until it finally breaks you. In a good way. Foer plays with both narrative and layout conventions and it makes the book one of those you want to hand on down to not only your nearest and dearest, but random strangers. Seldom have I been so engaged and invested in a character’s fate. Oscar’s story and his relationships with those around him are invariably touching and it all stays with you for a long time afterwards. - Julia
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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 Amazing Adventures of Kavalier ...
(Paperback)
Michael Chabon
Joe Kavalier, having escaped the Nazi occupation of Prague via Lithuania and Japan (with a little escapade with a Golem thrown in) finally gets some rest in New York. His bed fellow is his cousin, Sam Clay: a failed comic artist, but gifted with imagination and a brash charm. Together, the boys write their own superhero, The Escapist! They make their names and their fortunes, but Joe is conflicted. What good can the Escapist do against the prospect of a real war? How can he help his family back in Prague? Chabon’s playful, heartbreaking tale won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I really felt for the boys, and their rogues’ gallery of supporting characters. I actually lost sleep to lamplight readings, just as I did aged ten, with the exploits of Batman and Spiderman spread in front of me. - Christopher
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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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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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Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in...
(Hardback)
Lewis Carroll; Yayoi Kusama
‘’A polka dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing, polka dots are a way to infinity.’’ – Yayoi Kusama. Whimsical dots of all sizes invade the pages of this new edition of Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as illustrated by Yayoi Kusama who refers to herself as the modern-day Alice. Cloth-bound, this version is stunning – I especially like pages 44-51 when the text expands at the alarming rate that Alice becomes taller after consuming the 'Drink Me' potion! - Aida
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World War Z: An Oral History of the...
(Paperback)
Max Brooks
The zombie apocalypse has finally happened; this is its chronicle, comprised of first person accounts from survivors both military and civilian. The only thing requiring suspension of disbelief is not even the existence of zombies, but merely the possibility! What makes this book so utterly fantastic and truly spine-chilling is the matter-of-fact tone of its presentation, leaving you wondering at times why you don’t remember some of the events described. You’ll want to read Brooks’ spookily earnest, frighteningly practical Zombie Survival Guide next, and invest in a machete and some self-defence lessons. - Julia
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