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Times+ online book club launch

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At an exclusive online Times+ event which took place on June 4, Robbie Millen, literary editor for The Times and Andrew Holgate, literary editor for The Sunday Times, shared their top book recommendations and launched our new Times+ online book club.

Here is a list of 20 recommendations of favourite reads from Robbie Millen and Andrew Holgate, some more obvious, some that will hopefully intrigue and surprise you.

Recent recommendations

 

Redhead by the Side of the Road  by Anne Tyler (Chatto)

Though slight, this is a powerful portrait of a middle-aged man who has a tidy but loveless life. Can he break his rules and find happiness? 

The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel (4th Estate)

The final volume of the Wolf Hall trilogy, a study of power and politics. We follow Thomas Cromwell from the heights of power to the executioner's block 

1234: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown (Fourth Estate)

A wonderful collection of vignettes by the Private Eye satirist about all things Beatles, from Yoko Ono to taking a tourist tour round John and Paul’s childhood homes.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett (Bloomsbury)

An engrossing novel about two children ejected from their childhood home by their wicked stepmother, and their lifelong obsession with it.

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith (No Exit Press)

American Noir set in rural Mississippi. A strange, vagabond family appears in town and then some local children disappear. . . 

Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener (Fourth Estate)

A nonfiction memoir of this New Yorker writer`s experience working in the weird world of Silicon Valley tech start-ups

Golden Hill by Francis Spufford (Faber)

Someone called this the best 18th-century novel written outside the 18th century. Right or not, it’s certainly hugely entertaining as it tells of the arrival of a mysterious Englishman in 1746 in small and provincial New York.

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (Bloomsbury)

One of the more deserved of recent Booker winners, a multi-voice take of a 19th-century Washington graveyard inhabited by ghosts in limbo, all watching as President Lincoln grieves for his dead young son. 

The Sellout by Paul Beatty (Oneworld)

The first Booker win by a person of colour, and a really excoriating satire about race in America that recent events have given an even more bitter tinge to.

West by Carys Davies (Granta)

A miniature jewel of a novel, almost a fable, about a restless father in 19th-century America who goes off in search of the giants who he assumes still inhabit the mid-West, and the daughter he leaves behind.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Bloomsbury)

This story of a young African-American woman who is falsely accused of kidnapping a child she was babysitting is a witty look at America’s fraught race relations at the individual level of personal misunderstanding. 

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout (Viking)

Strout's prequel to this, Olive Kitteridge, about a curmudgeonly former school teacher, is one of the best novels of the 21st century so far. This sequel, again in the first of a series of linked stories, takes the story on brilliantly.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan 

American novelist Egan won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel in stories form about the music industry.

The Green Road by Anne Enright

Another novel in stories, written by Booker-winner Enright and focusing on the children and mother in a troubled Irish family. Beautiful and truly immersive.

Classic books recently read and thoroughly recommended

The Great Fortune by Olivia Manning (first volume of The Balkan trilogy)

A superb semi-autobiographical portrait of a young British couple living in Bucharest in 1939 as the war comes ever closer

Beloved by Toni Morrison

This was a re-read for me, says Andrew, but Toni Morrison’s most famous novel, about the spirit of a young child returning in the mid 1800s to haunt her black mother is as intense and powerful as I remembered it.

English Passengers by Matthew Kneale 

Set in the 1850s, as a ditty vicar leads a quixotic expedition to Tasmania to find the location of the garden of Eden. A funny but sharp look at the dark side of Victorian imperialism.

Old Filth by Jane Gardam

A witty and touching novel about Eddie Feathers, an ancient barrister and “Raj Orphan”, who looks back on his long life. There are secrets and sadnesses beneath his venerable old buffer status.

Mrs Bridge Evan S Connell 

Connell wrote a companion volume to this novel about a stultifying middle-class life, Mr Bridge, but this first book is the one to read - funny, tragic and beautifully written. One of those books you want to press into everyone’s hands when you’ve read it.

They Came Like Swallows by William Maxwell

Another short American novel you will find hard not to recommend to all your friends, about two sons and their in an Illinois family touched by grief in the aftermath of the First World War. Maxwell was famous for being a brilliant editor but showed himself here also to be a mesmeric novelist.

The Inugami Curse by Seishi Yokomizo

Yokomizo was huge in Japan - their equivalent of Agatha Christie - and his series hero Detective Kindaishi was a match for Poirot. Here he has to unravel the mystery surrounding a series of grisly murders in a rich family awaiting the reading of the dead patriarch’s will. 

Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler

A British engineer working on an important defence project in wartime Turkey is under threat from a Romanian hitman working for the Nazis. He escapes on an Italian ship but can he trust the other passengers? A tense story told by a superb thriller writer

If this is a Man by Primo Levi

If you have not read this extraordinary memoir of his time in Auschwitz by the Italian chemist and celebrated author Primo Levi, you will be surprised by how remarkably humane the book is. The cumulative effect, though, is devastating.

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles

Charles Smithson becomes obsessed with the fallen woman Sarah Woodruff, the “French Lieutenant`s whore”. . . Will he break off his engagement to his silly fiancee? This clever pastiche of a Victorian novel played with different possible endings.

Bad Debts by Peter Temple

Jack Irish, a former, drunken lawyer, gets dragged back into an old case from the past. It soon becomes a tale of murder, corruption and skulduggery in Melbourne, all told with a superbly Aussie turn of phrase.