The LetterPress Project

Books Can Change Your World


Inspiring Older Readers

Collected Lyrics 1970 – 2015

posted on 21 Jan 2018

When Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel prize for literature it kick-started a lively debate about whether song lyrics could really be thought of as poetry

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The Inheritors

posted on 20 Jan 2018

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn continues his reading of William Golding's novels and this time he takes on the author's second effort

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The Cement Garden

posted on 18 Jan 2018

Back in 1978 the young Ian McEwan had a couple of slim volumes of short stories to his name and a growing reputation ...

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Oryx and Crake

posted on 11 Jan 2018

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, The Snowman, possibly the last human left alive, sleeps in a tree to avoid the attentions....

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One Fat Englishman

posted on 07 Jan 2018

I’ve read very little Kingsley Amis – I certainly loved Lucky Jim when I first encountered it ...

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The Movie-Goer

posted on 06 Jan 2018

The Movie-goer was Walker Percy’s debut novel published in 1961, winning the US National Book Award ....

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The New Moon with the Old

posted on 02 Jan 2018

Last night I dreamed that a handsome and dignified older man sought me out and pressed a secret message into my hand

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The Bookman’s Wake

posted on 29 Dec 2017

In the luxurious position of having Christmas Day and Boxing Day stretching out in front of me with no commitments ....

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The Unlimited Dream Company

posted on 28 Dec 2017

Most critical appraisals of J.G. Ballard’s work tend to see The Unlimited Dream Company as something of an outlier in his oeuvre.

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Slouching Towards Bethlehem

posted on 24 Dec 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reads this classic collection of essays by Joan Didion and finds 'she remains an irresistible and compelling voice'.

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The Haunted Tea-Cosy

posted on 19 Dec 2017

Given my distinctly Scrooge-like attitude towards Christmas, this is probably not the site to come to for Yuletide bonhomie

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Poor Cow

posted on 18 Dec 2017

Published in 1967, Nell Dunn’s Poor Cow looks like a classic slice of life in the ‘kitchen sink drama’ mould ...

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As Kingfishers Catch Fire

posted on 17 Dec 2017

It’s not the least bit surprising to discover that the combination of Alex Preston’s words and Neil Gowers artwork landed As Kingfishers Catch Fire a ...

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posted on 16 Dec 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn celebrates the 100th birthday of Diana Athill with a review of her memoir of the publishing industry

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Life and Punctuation…?

posted on 15 Dec 2017

I rather liked the overall design of these two rather unusual, slim books – there was something in their clean lines and brevity that appealed to me.

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The Mediterranean

posted on 13 Dec 2017

This is one of the most powerful and emotional books about refugees and asylum-seekers that I have ever read.

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Paris Interzone

posted on 12 Dec 2017

Paris has exercised an extraordinary influence on the imagination of writers ...

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Kitchen Confidential

posted on 10 Dec 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn looks at the book that launched the notion of 'gonzo' cookery..

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Myra Breckinridge

posted on 10 Dec 2017

I’ve always found Gore Vidal a slightly troublesome character. At his best he’s witty, engaging, intelligent and sharp ...

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Romantic Moderns

posted on 08 Dec 2017

In the years between the end of World War One and the start of World War Two a new artistic and cultural sensibility swept across Europe.

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Moments of Being

posted on 06 Dec 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads Virginia Woolf's short collection of biographical essays that cast a light on the writer's development and state of mind.

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Means-Test Man

posted on 05 Dec 2017

Published in 1935, Walter Brierley’s Means-Test Man was, by 1939, considered as essential to understanding the working class experiences

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Why Dylan Matters

posted on 03 Dec 2017

When I read several early and extremely positive reviews of the Classics scholar, Richard Thomas’ book about Bob Dylan I was pretty keen to get hold of..

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The Violet Hour

posted on 02 Dec 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads a book of essays that illuminate the last days of some great 20th century writers and thinkers

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The Electric Michelangelo

posted on 24 Nov 2017

I remember Sarah Hall’s book being published in 2004 to significant acclaim and although I bought a copy I somehow never got around to reading it.

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The Borrower

posted on 22 Nov 2017

As I am an avid reader and also a lover of mysteries, this first novel by Rebecca Makkai promised to be right up my street.

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The Moor

posted on 17 Nov 2017

I’m not an outdoors type. I really don’t like walking in nature and I would much rather spend my time in the labyrinths of a city......

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Overbooked in Arizona

posted on 12 Nov 2017

This is a relatively short cautionary tale about how a passionate interest in books can become a dangerous...

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The Romantics

posted on 11 Nov 2017

Radical historian and activist, E.P. Thompson published a major new work about every ten years or so...

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Play It As It Lays

posted on 06 Nov 2017

I was recently driving somewhere and listening to the first album by Lloyd Cole and Commotions which is entitled Rattlesnakes........

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The Lost Continent

posted on 31 Oct 2017

I’m inherently suspicious of ‘funny’ books – they are usually quite the opposite ...

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Prick Up Your Ears

posted on 29 Oct 2017

I was recently reading a magazine article about the extraordinary things people do in libraries ...

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Do Not Sell At Any Price

posted on 28 Oct 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reviews a book that explores the boundary line between the collector and the hoarder.

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Assorted Bric-a-Brac

posted on 27 Oct 2017

This is a recently published collection of fifty poems written between 1984 and 2016 by award winning Kevin Cowdall,

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Journey To the Border

posted on 24 Oct 2017

At the age of 29, Upward was a teacher at an independent school in Dulwich and in the same year he also joined the Communist Party

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A Life With Books

posted on 19 Oct 2017

I found this modest 27 page essay a haunting read – primarily because it contained so many echoes of my own relationship with books.

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Deadly Lies

posted on 18 Oct 2017

You always have to wonder what you're going to think when you reread a book ...

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The Strange Library

posted on 17 Oct 2017

So another year slips past and once again, much to the chagrin and puzzlement of his fans, Haruki Murakami doesn’t get the Nobel prize for literature.

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Keeping On Keeping On

posted on 14 Oct 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn falls for the charm of one of contemporary literature's great diarists.

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Hard Travellin’

posted on 13 Oct 2017

Kenneth Allsop died at the age of 53 in 1973, very possibly as the result of a deliberate barbiturate overdose.

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Diary of a Bookseller

posted on 09 Oct 2017

Anyone who has ever worked in a book shop – second hand or not – will know that there is endless entertainment to be had ...

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Winds of October

posted on 06 Oct 2017

Given that this year marks the one hundredth anniversary of the start of the 1917 Russian Revolution, it’s probably not too surprising ....

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posted on 02 Oct 2017

Regular guest reviewer, Alun Severn takes a look at a book he thinks sits alongside the best of Le Carre, Greene or Ambler.

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Wild Things

posted on 30 Sep 2017

I really wanted to love this book – especially in light of a whole series of very positive reviews it received on publication.

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A Fire On The Moon

posted on 29 Sep 2017

A couple of weeks ago we published a really excellent review of Mailer’s A Fire On The Moon by one of our regular guest reviewers, Alun Severn

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When Breath Becomes Air

posted on 27 Sep 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reviews the emotional memoir of a brilliant surgeon and his untimely death.

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Time of Desecration

posted on 25 Sep 2017

I have half a dozen of Moravia’s novels on my bookshelves but I must confess that it’s been the best part of 30 years since I last read one.

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posted on 21 Sep 2017

This is the shortest of short stories but one that never fails to give me pleasure.

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The Day of the Locust

posted on 20 Sep 2017

History has plenty to tell us about the kind of society we have today and Nathanael West’s icy little satire of Hollywood America...

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New Boy

posted on 17 Sep 2017

I have always thought that Othello is a pretty unpleasant play about possessiveness and jealousy...

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A Fire on the Moon

posted on 16 Sep 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn finds that 'a Fire on the Moon is an unforgettable experience'

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The Van

posted on 10 Sep 2017

Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy is a rumbustious celebration of working class life in North Dublin at the end of the 1980s ...

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posted on 08 Sep 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn champions the cause of Fred Uhlman's unjustly neglected novella.

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Nothing But Propaganda

posted on 05 Sep 2017

Iris Morleyis now a largely forgotten novelist who published primarily during the years of the Second World War and in the immediate aftermath

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The Adversary

posted on 01 Sep 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads Emmanuel Carrère's journey into the heart of darkness

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Architecture: A Modern View

posted on 30 Aug 2017

Although the quality of our built environment has such a significant impact on our mental and physical health and well-being, it’s astonishing ...

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Long Road From Jarrow

posted on 28 Aug 2017

Journalist, author, broadcaster, DJ and cultural commentator, Stuart Maconie is something of a popular polymath.

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The Brightfount Diaries

posted on 27 Aug 2017

The recent death of Brian Aldiss triggered an affectionate outpouring of obituaries from other authors keen to nominate him...

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posted on 24 Aug 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn gets back inside the head of brain-surgeon Henry Marsh as the doctor reflects on life, retirement and death

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Home Fire

posted on 22 Aug 2017

Kamila Shamsie is the author of several prizewinning novels, many of which explore aspects of identity, family and the complications of having a dual Briti

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The Feast

posted on 21 Aug 2017

I can’t imagine I would ever have stumbled across this book had it not been for a slightly mysterious email ....

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Riceyman Steps

posted on 18 Aug 2017

I’ve always thought of Arnold Bennett (1867 – 1931) as an moderately interesting but essentially second division novelist...

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Writing In An Age of Silence

posted on 15 Aug 2017

Like me, you might have thought that US politics had pretty much scraped the bottom of the barrel when it elected George W. Bush.

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The Bookshop

posted on 13 Aug 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads Fitzgerald's superb second novel and considers the development of her writing career

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The Music Shop

posted on 11 Aug 2017

You might be tempted to think that Rachel Joyce’s latest novel owes something or shares similar territory to that explored in Nick Hornby’s ...

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The Bull From The Sea

posted on 10 Aug 2017

I think it’s important to tell you about my reading failures as well as about the books that surprise and delight me.

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Direct Red

posted on 05 Aug 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn puts on his scrubs, washes his hands and dips into Gabriel Weston's memoir of life as a surgeon.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray

posted on 04 Aug 2017

I have always felt that one of the best things about Wilde’s only novel was the intemperate, frothing outrage it caused among contemporary book reviewers

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S is for Space

posted on 01 Aug 2017

Ray Bradbury who died at the ripe old age of 91 in 2012 was American literary aristocracy.

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One For The Books

posted on 29 Jul 2017

I remember reading and thoroughly enjoying Joe Queenan's newspaper columns back when big Sunday broadsheet newspapers seemed the height of sophistication.

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On Boxing

posted on 21 Jul 2017

Even after reading Joyce Carol Oates’ book on what she sees as the ‘art’ of boxing, , I remain fundamentally puzzled....

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The Shining

posted on 16 Jul 2017

This is the first Stephen King novel I’ve ever read.

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Refugee Tales II

posted on 15 Jul 2017

This is the second volume of stories told by asylum seekers to poets and novelists , a format that is inspired by The Canterbury Tales.

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Lies of Silence

posted on 13 Jul 2017

Lies of Silence by Brian Moore The fragility of the Good Friday power-sharing agreement which brought an end to the Troubles that so scarred Northern Irela

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On the Trail of the Waitaha

posted on 11 Jul 2017

This fascinating travel book tells the story of the Waitaha people who have, in all likelihood, lived in Aotearoa for something like 5,000 years.

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The Call of the Wild

posted on 10 Jul 2017

Jack London can claim to be one of the most idiosyncratic novelists  of the late 19th and early 20th century ...

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Men Without Women

posted on 08 Jul 2017

This set of seven short stories, five of which have appeared in other periodicals, is Murakami’s first short story collection for some time.

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What I Loved

posted on 06 Jul 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads Siri Hustvedt's novel and finds it 'has everything except that strange, inexplicable spark of life'.

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Killing Hapless Ally

posted on 03 Jul 2017

This is an intriguing story about the personal struggle for identity and meaning for Alison, a woman with a range of serious mental health problems ...

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Winter's Bone

posted on 02 Jul 2017

My God. If you think that Cormac McCarthy is a brutally hard read and his world is a vision of bleak nihilism, try Daniel Woodrell's 'Winter's Bone'.

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The Last Picture Show

posted on 01 Jul 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn comes belatedly to a novel of 'underlying sophistication' that has plenty to say about the human condition.

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The Uses of Literacy

posted on 20 Jun 2017

A recent article in The New Statesman reminded me that it was time to revisit some of Richard Hoggart’s 1957 classic

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Cotton Comes To Harlem

posted on 18 Jun 2017

Chester Himes (1909 – 1984) frequently gets tagged with the label the ‘Black Raymond Chandler’ ...

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Put Out More Flags

posted on 16 Jun 2017

Regular guest reviewer, Alun Severn offers an alternative take on a book that previously got less than rave reviews on this site.

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Scenes From A Bookshop

posted on 15 Jun 2017

The dividing line between fiction and memoir is almost impossible to distinguish in this slim book of stories/reminiscences....

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Love On The Dole

posted on 12 Jun 2017

It’s interesting the way in which certain books come to stand as representative of particular points in history or end-up being emblematic ....

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posted on 09 Jun 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn reads the 'extraordinary memoir' of David Thomson, a sensitive and troubled man.

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The Refugees

posted on 05 Jun 2017

I understand that the short story form is notoriously difficult for authors to do well ...

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Fools of Fortune

posted on 02 Jun 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn is impressed by William Trevor's special brand of Irish Realism

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The Secret History

posted on 02 Jun 2017

First published in 1992, The Secret History, Tartt’s first novel was a smash hit from the outset.

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Hurry On Down

posted on 27 May 2017

You’ve got to feel sorry for poor old John Wain. His reputation as a writer has metaphorically slipped down the back of the literary sofa..

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The Missing of the Somme

posted on 19 May 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reviews a short book by 'one of the most deceptively hard-working slackers in literature'

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posted on 17 May 2017

Neuromancer by William Gibson Some books appear with a metaphorical puff of smoke and flash of lightening and go down to history as game-changers.

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Prater Violet

posted on 14 May 2017

This novella ( it’s only a touch over a hundred pages long) packs a deceptive amount between its covers.

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The Last Poets

posted on 09 May 2017

Dutch writer and music journalist Christine Otten is completely in thrall to the legend of The Last Poets...

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Memoirs of Hadrian

posted on 07 May 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reviews 'Memoirs of Hadrian' and concludes that it is 'a Proustian triumph of imaginative historical writing'.

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The Slynx

posted on 04 May 2017

The Slynx was published in 2003 in the US after its original release in Russia in 2000 and garnered almost universal praise...

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Dear Ijeawele

posted on 03 May 2017

This is a little jewel of a book by the very readable award winning Nigerian author,  

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The Dancer and the Drum

posted on 25 Apr 2017

The first thing to say is that this is a book that is a  lovely thing  to read because it is printed on a sumptuous creamy paper...

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House of the Rising Sun

posted on 23 Apr 2017

Elsewhere on this site I have written about my love of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux sequence of novels ...

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Thin Air

posted on 17 Apr 2017

What’s the best way to spend a rather cold, dismal Easter day when the shops are closed and there’s no real incentive to set foot out of doors

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In Place of Fear

posted on 12 Apr 2017

In general terms, it has not been my experience that political tracts travel well down through time.

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The Chrysalids

posted on 09 Apr 2017

I’m not sure how well the name of John Wyndham (1903 – 1969) is remembered these days ...

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posted on 05 Apr 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reviews a book dealing with the Munich Olympics in 1972 when terrorists murdered eleven Israeli athletes.

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Maximum Bob

posted on 29 Mar 2017

Kathy Diaz Baker’s not having a great day. Her marriage to her narcissistic husband is over....

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Exit West

posted on 24 Mar 2017

Exit West is the latest novel from Mohsin Hamid who is probably best known as the author of The Reluctant Fundamentalist.

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The West Pier

posted on 19 Mar 2017

The West Pier (1952) turned out to be the first of a trilogy of books featuring the truly obnoxious Ernest Ralph Gorse

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Soft City

posted on 15 Mar 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, revisits Jonathan Raban's classic mix of sociology and autobiography and finds things to admire despite his reservations.

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The Night Cleaner

posted on 10 Mar 2017

The collapse of the banking system in 2008 was an event that has exposed global capitalism for what it really is...

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Night Shift

posted on 09 Mar 2017

On a recent trip to Waterstones we were grazing the new children’s book when we came across Debi Gliori’s Night Shift.

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The Book

posted on 04 Mar 2017

This review is a two for the price of one offer – the first part dealing with the content and the second part highlighting the aesthetics of this book ..

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The Gate & River of Time

posted on 03 Mar 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reads two different takes on the horrifying events of the Cambodian civil war of the early 1970s.

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Spike Island

posted on 25 Feb 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reads Philip Hoare's history of 'the extraordinary quarter-mile long neo-gothic Royal Victoria Military Hospital'

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posted on 17 Feb 2017

For a slim book of only 160 pages this is a physically and emotionally exhausting read.

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Pincher Martin

posted on 12 Feb 2017

When I'm doing book reviews for use on the Letterpress site I try and make it a rule ...

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posted on 07 Feb 2017

This is the special and very ambitious biography of Tom Carew, who was described by The Times of India as ‘Lawrence of Burma’

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The Grass Beneath The Wire

posted on 07 Feb 2017

I make a point of trying to collect and read books by authors who come from what we might call in the current jargon 'outsider groups'

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Reading Turgenev

posted on 02 Feb 2017

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, considers two contrasting novellas from William Trevor

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Goat Music

posted on 31 Jan 2017

The stories and myths of the Classical World remain an enduring source of inspiration to contemporary authors....

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posted on 26 Jan 2017

Published in 1980 and nominated in that year for the Nebula Award, Walter Tevis’s dystopian novel which is set at some undefined time in the future ..

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posted on 25 Jan 2017

Guest writer and reviewer, Alun Severn, reads John McGahern's beautiful memoir.

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A Good Death

posted on 23 Jan 2017

I always look forward to the next gripping instalment in this Birmingham based detective series and this was another page turner ...

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Novel On Yellow Paper

posted on 17 Jan 2017

In a rather lazy way I’ve always thought of Stevie Smith as a kind of British Dorothy Parker

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The Crossing

posted on 15 Jan 2017

Guest writer, Alun Severn, moves on to read the second part of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy - and he's disappointed.

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Hide & Seek

posted on 07 Jan 2017

Go into any bookshop and you’ll almost certainly find that they have a section of the shelving dedicated to ‘crime’

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All The Pretty Horses

posted on 05 Jan 2017

Guest writer, Alun Severn considers what is possibly the finest novel by one of America's greatest living authors.

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Titus Groan

posted on 01 Jan 2017

Writing in an article carried by The Guardian newspaper in 2014, novelist Marcus Sedgwick waxed lyrical about his love for Mervyn Peake

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posted on 28 Dec 2016

Prior to his untimely death from an aggressive cancer in 2013, I would make a point of trying to read any new releases by Iain Banks ..

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Orwell's Nose

posted on 25 Dec 2016

The writing of George Orwell has been a constant in my life for as long as I’ve been a serious reader...

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The Sellout

posted on 23 Dec 2016

Being the first novel by a US author to win the Booker Prize was always likely to be a mixed blessing for the writer.

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Silent Quarter

posted on 08 Dec 2016

It’s no secret that new artists and writers struggle to get their work published – however creative and accomplished they are.

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The Evenings

posted on 05 Dec 2016

This novel is generally thought to be a classic of post-war Dutch literature ...

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Veering North-Easterly

posted on 04 Dec 2016

Veering North-Easterly : Poems by Kevin Crossley-Holland, Paintings by Gillian Crossley-Holland This elegant little gem of a book brings together former hu

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Chicago Poems

posted on 29 Nov 2016

I doubt very much whether the poetry of Carl Sandburg has ever featured prominently on the literature curricula of schools ...

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City Boy

posted on 25 Nov 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, rereads a slice of Edmund White's memoirs.

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Women and Ghosts

posted on 09 Nov 2016

I’ve always been a little surprised that I like the work of the Chicago born Alison Lurie quite so much.

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The Pope's Bookbinder

posted on 30 Oct 2016

Don’t be fooled by the title – this book has really got very little to do with providing the head of the Catholic Church with customised bindings

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posted on 25 Oct 2016

I tend to read most books about books – it’s become something of a habit – but probably my favourite in the whole genre are books about bookshops.

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My Name Is Leon

posted on 22 Oct 2016

This is one of those books that is clearly based on real experience because the characters and the circumstances ring true ...

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The Pigeon Tunnel

posted on 19 Oct 2016

I’ve always felt conflicted about John Le Carré as an author – some of his books I really love and some don’t speak

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Red Shelley

posted on 11 Oct 2016

Paul Foot died at the comparatively early age of 66 in 2004 ....

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Hitler's Children

posted on 07 Oct 2016

Guest reviewer Alun Severn goes in search of some historical background on terrorism and pulls up a dud.......

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Boy In Darkness

posted on 05 Oct 2016

Back in the late Sixties when I was still a teenager, I desperately wanted to be associated with the ideas and lifestyle of the counter-cultural....

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Darkness At Noon

posted on 29 Sep 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, rereads Arthur Koestler's anti-totalitarian masterpiece.

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The Thirty-Nine Steps

posted on 25 Sep 2016

Buchan wrote his first thriller (or ‘shocker’ as he called them) in 1914 in something of a rush before the start of the Great War

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The Trap

posted on 18 Sep 2016

The Trap by Alan Gibbons I’m guessing that the adjective most likely to be applied to this book is ‘controversial’.

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posted on 04 Sep 2016

There are some very special books that will stay with you forever and I think that this will be one of them.

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posted on 03 Sep 2016

For fans of dystopian literature, Yevgany Zamyatin’s 'We' has a legendary status

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The War of the Worlds

posted on 24 Aug 2016

It’s odd the way that certain stories embed themselves into our cultural consciousness and, as a result, feel like they’ve always been around.

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Faceless Killers

posted on 21 Aug 2016

  I am a big fan of detective novels including some that are often described as 'Scandinavian noir '.

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Ragged Banners

posted on 18 Aug 2016

This novel was published in 1931 and could only really have been written in the friable atmosphere of those inter-war years.

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posted on 14 Aug 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reads Michael Herr's 'Dispatches' - a classic of war reportage.

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The Black Cloud

posted on 11 Aug 2016

Just imagine that it's a cold, wet Sunday afternoon in January and all you want is something on television to settle down and watch.

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Love Letters On Blue Paper

posted on 09 Aug 2016

The great Arnold Wesker died in April of this year and future readers will almost certainly get to know his work as a dramatist

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The Muse

posted on 08 Aug 2016

I was really looking forward to this second novel by Jessie Burton as I had enjoyed The Miniaturist very much...

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Dirt Road

posted on 04 Aug 2016

For someone who has won the Booker Prize – and a host of other literary prizes – Kelman doesn’t seem to have the sort of public profile....

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Bonjour Tristesse

posted on 29 Jul 2016

Bonjour Tristesse - which translates as 'Hello Sadness' - is one of those books that has sat unread in my book collection for forty years.

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Sons and Lovers

posted on 24 Jul 2016

Guest reviewer Alun Severn, never a great Lawrence fan, takes another look at one of his classic novels.

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The Other

posted on 21 Jul 2016

For many people Ryszard Kapuscinski, the Polish journalist, poet, photographer and traveller, who died in 2007, was the ultimate foreign correspondent

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Last Exit To Brooklyn

posted on 20 Jul 2016

I guess that the old adage, ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’, could also apply to books that get banned

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Now and Then

posted on 19 Jul 2016

Unbelievably, it’s been a little over five years since the untimely death of musician and poet Gil Scott-Heron.

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The Little World of Don Camillo

posted on 15 Jul 2016

Not too long ago I found myself puzzling over what had made Italians turn to fascism during the years before the outbreak of World War Two.

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American Gods

posted on 12 Jul 2016

Published in 2001 and quite early in his novel-writing career, American Gods, remains one of Gaiman’s  most ambitious books

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posted on 10 Jul 2016

British social attitudes towards prostitution have had one consistent feature – inconsistency.

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Eating People Is Wrong

posted on 07 Jul 2016

In the late Fifties and early Sixties a generation of writers including Bradbury, Kingsley Amis and John Wain...

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Refugee Tales

posted on 04 Jul 2016

The premise of basing this profound book on the structure of an existing classic is a clever one

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Butcher's Crossing

posted on 29 Jun 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, takes a look at John Williams' sometimes brutal novel of the West and finds echoes of Joseph Conrad.

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The Book Collector

posted on 27 Jun 2016

Alice Thompson has developed a reputation for producing unusual and challenging narratives

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Claudine's House

posted on 25 Jun 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, takes a look at a writer at the peak of her powers.

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The Plague (Le Peste)

posted on 24 Jun 2016

When the rats start to leave the cellars and sewers and drop dead, the population of Oran in Algeria is puzzled but not unduly upset

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The Hare With Amber Eyes

posted on 20 Jun 2016

Alun Severn has been rereading Edmund de Waal’s remarkable book, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

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Close The Coalhouse Door

posted on 11 Jun 2016

Based on the inspirational writings of Sid Chaplin, this play-script by Alan Plater takes a playful but ultimately thoughtful and even rueful look ..

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Child of God

posted on 07 Jun 2016

Who is the greatest living novelist in the US? I realize that's probably a stupid question...

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Against Nature

posted on 05 Jun 2016

A guest review by Alun Severn examining the classic of Decadence by J.K. Huysmans

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The Day of the Sardine

posted on 03 Jun 2016

Sid Chaplin (1916 – 1986) is a real working class son of the North East and was a pioneer of what is sometimes called proletarian literature

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Play Dead

posted on 30 May 2016

A guest post by Newman University student, Aaminah Rauf

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posted on 29 May 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, introduces us to Bruce Chatwin's " tiny, fiercely imagined tragic masterpiece.".

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A Garden Of Sand

posted on 26 May 2016

Thompson died young of heart disease in 1978 – he was only 47 years old – just as his reputation as a writer was becoming established.

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High Fidelity

posted on 21 May 2016

Hornby’s book was first published in 1995 and there were plenty of lazy critics at the time who said its popularity was down to the fact that it...

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posted on 16 May 2016

I suspect that Erich Kästner is best known in the UK as the author of the children’s classic Emile and the Detectives

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The Dumas Club

posted on 08 May 2016

I wonder how many people who are familiar with the Johnny Depp / Roman Polanski movie collaboration called The Ninth Gate...

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The Red Hourglass

posted on 04 May 2016

A guest review from Alun Severn that takes a look at a book that redefines the phrase 'red in tooth and claw'

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Stuart: A life backwards

posted on 04 May 2016

I first read Stuart : A Life Backwards in 2005 when it was first published and it has stuck with me ever since.

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Love Lies Bleeding

posted on 01 May 2016

When I first encountered the novels of Edmund Crispin I just couldn't get enough of them.

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The Secret Scripture

posted on 26 Apr 2016

I belong to a book club where members choose a book that they like for us all to read and discuss.

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The Informer

posted on 22 Apr 2016

Published in 1925 and dealing with Ireland immediately after the declaration of independence, O’Flaherty’s novel is ...

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The Ampersand

posted on 11 Apr 2016

Jack Common has virtually disappeared from public view - a state of affairs that would have dismayed much of the literary establishment

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Out of the Pit

posted on 08 Apr 2016

I’m pretty sure that this 1951 novel by John Barclay Pick is currently out of print

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Alma Cogan

posted on 05 Apr 2016

Gordon Burn died at the age of 61 in 2009, a victim of bowel cancer. His reputation within parts of the literary and artistic community...

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My Salinger Year

posted on 03 Apr 2016

I've developed a completely jaundiced and probably largely unfair impression that the world of publishing relies on...

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Kafka Was the Rage

posted on 03 Apr 2016

I think I discovered Anatole Broyard’s Kafka Was the Rage as a consequence of reading Philip Roth’s The Human Stain.

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The Machine Stops

posted on 31 Mar 2016

It would be tempting to read this short story ( it's only around 12,000 words long) as in some way prophetic

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The Year of the Runaways

posted on 25 Mar 2016

Towards the end of this beautifully written but sometimes harrowing story, Narinder who is the main female character reflects, 'Who would be a man'?

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The Library At Night

posted on 24 Mar 2016

Every discipline needs it’s public intellectual – someone to articulate their cause and to make the difficult simple

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The Outsider

posted on 21 Mar 2016

Colin Wilson died at the age of 82 in 2013 and although he went to his grave believing that he was "the major literary genius of our century"

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posted on 18 Mar 2016

Guest reviewer, Alun Severn, reads Roger Deakin’s superlative Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees,

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The Lie Tree

posted on 15 Mar 2016

I usually try to avoid looking at reviews before writing my own but must confess...

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Updike’s short stories

posted on 10 Mar 2016

By the time he died, aged 76, in January 2009, John Updike’s position in the pantheon of great American writers was not unchallenged

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The Shadow of the Wind

posted on 08 Mar 2016

Originally written in Spanish and published in 2001, this world-wide blockbuster was translated into English in 2004

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A Pound Of Paper

posted on 28 Feb 2016

When this book first came out in 2002 I sat and read it a virtually a single sitting.

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Johnny Got His Gun

posted on 24 Feb 2016

In an age when superlatives are commonly lavished on the ordinary and mundane it somehow feels niggardly to call this book extraordinary

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Fahrenheit 451

posted on 17 Feb 2016

I last read this book at some point in my early 20s and to be quite honest I can’t say that I had a detailed memory of the world Bradbury had created for

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posted on 14 Feb 2016

  Over the past month several people whose opinions I respect have told me that the recently released movie of Carol is a fabulous experience

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The Book Thief

posted on 07 Feb 2016

When the book was published in the UK in 2007 it was on the back of quite a lot of hype ...

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Winter Pollen

posted on 05 Feb 2016

A guest book review from Alun Severn... Reading poetry is an acquired skill, but one that needs to be kept up...

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The Rose Garden

posted on 29 Jan 2016

I bought this book of short stories last summer in Charlotte, USA, where the works of Maeve Brennan seem to be considerably more popular

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On The Beach

posted on 25 Jan 2016

Somehow I’ve grown up thinking of Nevil Shute as a plodding second division author.

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The Miniaturist

posted on 20 Jan 2016

Even now, the city of Amsterdam is an enchanting mixture of orderliness and unorthodoxy...

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posted on 18 Jan 2016

So what is this? A memoir written under the pseudonym of William Lee or a novel written by William Burroughs – or maybe both?

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The Waterworks

posted on 13 Jan 2016

When  E. L. Doctorow died in the summer of 2015 it was a sad loss that went largely unnoticed in the wider news media.

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The Girl On The Train

posted on 10 Jan 2016

“Hang on a minute”, I thought as I started reading this recent and highly acclaimed psychological thriller by Paula Hawkins, “surely this is...

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A Place Called Winter

posted on 08 Jan 2016

Warning: it’s really difficult to review this book without detail that some people might construe as a ‘spoiler’.

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A Clergyman's Daughter

posted on 05 Jan 2016

Quite a lot of critics are pretty sniffy about Orwell’s skills as a novelist. I can understand why...

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posted on 01 Jan 2016

I suspect that most people will only know Larry McMurtry as a novelist and screen-writer. His early novel, Horseman, Pass By, 

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The Wonder Boys

posted on 28 Dec 2015

This is an out-of-control, bob-sleigh ride of a book that’s a blast from beginning to end.

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Walking Away

posted on 28 Dec 2015

We saw Armitage talking about and reading extracts from this book at a Ledbury Poetry festival event earlier this year...

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posted on 20 Dec 2015

Jon Savage’s mighty new book, 1966, confirms him as one of the premier documenters and analysts of twentieth century popular culture.

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Number 11

posted on 19 Dec 2015

We have enjoyed seeing Jonathan Coe talking about his work and reading extracts from his books on several occasions...

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Brokeback Mountain

posted on 16 Dec 2015

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx The other day when I was browsing in a charity shop I came across a US first edition of Annie Proulx’s collection of Wyo

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A Clockwork Orange

posted on 13 Dec 2015

A couple of years ago my much put-upon former doctoral supervisor, Mark Rawlinson, gave me a copy ...

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18 Bookshops

posted on 12 Dec 2015

I suspect you may not have heard of Anne Scott, some time journalist and BBC Scotland broadcaster, but you might just possibly have heard of her son

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The Maltese Falcon

posted on 08 Dec 2015

In truth I’m not much of a fan of detective or crime fiction. What I do read tends to be American...

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Put Out More Flags

posted on 02 Dec 2015

I have to put my cards on the table - I really disliked this book and didn't finish it.

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Cults of Unreason

posted on 01 Dec 2015

There are some books I return to on a regular basis and which I don’t feel I have to read from cover to cover.

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posted on 27 Nov 2015

Estates: An Intimate History by Lynsey Hanley   I first read Lynsey Hanley’s memoir / political polemic when it was first published in 2007 ..

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The Worm in the Bud

posted on 26 Nov 2015

A guest review by Gill McGillivray. The Worm in the Bud, published in 2004, introduces the reader to D.I. Tom Mariner ....

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Once in a House on Fire

posted on 11 Nov 2015

Guest post by Yushra Fatima. I first saw this book in my brother’s room after he had to read it for his assignment a few years ago. ...

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I Am Legend

posted on 09 Nov 2015

Richard Matheson’s sci-fi / horror hybrid has become something of a classic and is cited by many authors – Stephen King included....

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The Pearl

posted on 31 Oct 2015

Steinbeck’s novella reworks and fleshes-out a Mexican folk tale about what happens when a poor fisherman and his family find....

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Rabbit, Run

posted on 30 Oct 2015

I think it must be the best part of forty years since I read Updike’s breakthrough novel, Rabbit, Run.

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Slade House

posted on 30 Oct 2015

When I started reading Mitchell’s latest, shortish, novel I thought I was going to get an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek chiller....

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Careless People

posted on 20 Oct 2015

By the time I'd finished reading this book I really couldn't answer a fundamental question..........

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The Prison Book Club

posted on 18 Oct 2015

Walmsley is a Canadian journalist who spent some time living in London and, during her stay, found herself the victim...

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The Blue Guitar

posted on 16 Oct 2015

I always find that reading a book whose main characters are almost all hateful a slightly alienating experience...

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Sentenced to Life

posted on 07 Oct 2015

I’ve always struggled with Clive James. To be honest I always found myself irritated by his bluff smugness...

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posted on 04 Oct 2015

I have to admit it - I failed. 200 and something pages into this 560 slab I just had to give up..........

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The People

posted on 29 Sep 2015

I have had a long term interest in the history of what might be called ‘working class studies’ and I’m always intrigued...

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posted on 26 Sep 2015

This is a good meaty read with a satisfyingly varied cast of characters who all live in the same London road.

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posted on 20 Sep 2015

I hate to have to say this, I really do. This ‘novel’ is not at all my cup of tea – in fact, I couldn’t even finish...

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Catcher in the Rye

posted on 20 Sep 2015

A guest post by  Rosemary Chrimes who chose to introduce her book club members to J.D.Salinger’s  Catcher in the Rye

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A Canticle For Leibowitz

posted on 14 Sep 2015

Walter Miller was a regular contributor to the science fiction magazines which were proliferating in the US....

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The Demon-Haunted World

posted on 11 Sep 2015

The premature death of the US cosmologist and astronomer, Carl Sagan, at the age of 62 robbed the scientific community....

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The Man Who Wasn’t There

posted on 09 Sep 2015

This is a slim, even cryptic novel of life in post-war, black and white Britain. 12 year old Colin has no father......

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Go set a Watchman

posted on 30 Aug 2015

It has been difficult not to look at any of the countless reviews of this book so that I could read it with a fresh eye....

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Paris Trout

posted on 16 Aug 2015

Published in 1988, Pete Dexter's Paris Trout is most frequently described as a study of 1950s Deep South bigotry ...

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A Capful O' Nails

posted on 11 Aug 2015

Lost and forgotten books are frequently lost or forgotten for very good reasons....

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A Whiff of Burnt Boats

posted on 06 Aug 2015

I’d be willing to bet that not too many people outside of a small group of children’s literature aficionados

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A Dangerous Game

posted on 02 Aug 2015

A Dangerous Game  by Friedrich Dürrenmatt Dürrenmatt is one of those authors who I’ve been aware of since my university days but who I have never read

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Crystal Spirit

posted on 02 Aug 2015

Crystal Spirit  by Roger Granelli It’s not really surprising to find that a novel about International Brigade volunteers in the Spanish Civil War is...

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posted on 01 Aug 2015

  I’m fascinated by the way in which some authors become famous and feted while others, just as skilful and just as compelling,...

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The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

posted on 31 Jul 2015

  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre  by B. Traven Just who was B. Traven? The mystery of the identity of the man who took this pseudonym ....

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Citizen: An American Lyric

posted on 31 Jul 2015

Citizen: An American Lyric  by Claudia Rankine The fact that this book is subtitled An American Lyric  and has been nominated for awards in the category...

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How To Be Both

posted on 31 Jul 2015

How To Be Both by Ali Smith Ali Smith's reputation as a novelist continues to grow. She is one of those rare writers who seems to be able to blend ...

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Little Steel

posted on 31 Jul 2015

Little Steel  by Upton Sinclair Despite being a Pulitzer Prize winner I suspect that very few people now read much written by Upton Sinclair ...

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Domestic Relations

posted on 31 Jul 2015

Domestic Relations by Frank O'Connor Try as I might, I find it hard to warm to short stories. That's not to say that I never read them or dislike them all.

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The Dust that falls from Dreams

posted on 31 Jul 2015

The Dust that falls from Dreams by Louis de Bernieres I absolutely loathed 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' which, unlike most people, I found to be tedious ..

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The Children Act

posted on 31 Jul 2015

Ethical dilemmas dominate in Ian McEwan’s latest novel, 'The Children Act' How does a judge in the Family Division of the High Court protect the interests.

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