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A discerning critic's eclectic choice of literature
The Master and Margarita (Penguin Modern Classics)
"The devil brings havoc to 1930's Moscow. Extraordinary and compelling. It's important to get a good translation: I say, Go for the Pevear/Volokhonsky one in Penguin."
Emma (Penguin Popular Classics)
"I read a Janie once every 3-4 years. She's the greatest of our 19th century novelists."
A Wild Sheep Chase
"Most people and bookshops seem to recommend his Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I prefer this one, which has a similar premise, but is shorter and better."
"Brave and beautifully written treatment of Germany's recent past and its effects on the present by the world's greatest living novelist."
"Well-written thriller with a subtext: how the selfish are unable to form a community"
Strandloper (Harvill Panther)
"Outstanding poetic short novel by a writer better known for his children's stories. One of the best British books of the last 1/2 a century"
Midnight In Sicily (Panther)
"Most travel books are driven by gimmicks and rustled up by people on the make who can't write. Peter Robb writes beautifully and spent over a decade in southern Italy before putting pen to paper."
Kiss Of The Spider Woman (Arena Books)
"70's Argentina. One prisoner confronts the reality of dictatorship, another, a child molester, hides from it in the stories of old films which he beautifully evokes in conversations with his cellmate."
Lord of the Flies
"At school this used to be compulsory forced reading, because it's about kids. I hated it back then. Only adults see Golding's true worth."
"Relentless, staccato forced march through the violence and intrigues of the 1984 miners' strike."
The Loser: A Novel (Phoenix Fiction)
"Linguistically beautiful exploration of creative failure based on three concert pianists. Bernhard deserves a wider audience in English; hopefully the translation does him justice."
"Rightly acclaimed masterpiece of and by the Sicilian aristocracy which took over 25 years to write."
"Scotland's greatest modern novel."
"Golding had a lapidary genius: brilliant, hard and cold. This is one of his finest-wrought gems."
Crime and Punishment (Penguin Classics)
"Unputdownable despite its length and depth. The McDuff translation (shown here) is a good one."
Katz Und Maus
"Well-written German is a beautiful language which always loses slightly in translation. Read this in the original if you can, otherwise get the English version as a good second-best."
"It's his masterpiece. Spectacular breadth of imagination."
In Evil Hour (International Writers)
"García Márquez had a wonderful gift for observing the foibles of human behaviour which is dazzlingly visible in this tale of small-town scandal."
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Harper Perennial Modern Classics
"Worth buying for the first two pages alone."
The Moonstone (Penguin Popular Classics)
"The grandaddy of the English crime story and a 19th century classic. Sufficiently well-written to keep you intrigued long after you've guessed who the culprit is."
The Following Story (Harvill Panther)
"Short but incredibly wonderful poetic novel. Nooteboom, a Dutchman, is one of Europe's finest authors."
The History of Twentieth-century Russia: From Nicholas II to Putin
"Truth is stranger than fiction, and much more terrifying. The mind-boggling scale of its transformation and the unimaginable tally of deaths, fascinate and horrify simultaneously."
"Saramago justly won the Nobel prize for literature. His recent work maintains his reputation as a writer of the highest standing."
"Zadie Smith's kaleidoscope of modern London updates the English 19th century novel to the modern age. It almost works, not quite completely, but enough to merit a strong vote of confidence."
Pride and Prejudice (Penguin Popular Classics)
"I do like Janie, so here's another classic to round off the list."
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