Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The original teenage novel. Holden Caulfield, a misguided adolescent, escapes from his boarding school (from which he is about to be permanently removed) and spends several days running around New York and using the word ‘phony’ whenever it becomes possible.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
How do you enslave people without the slightest chance of rebellion? You give them exactly what they want, and condition them to within an inch of their lives. In a society dominated by the enduring memory of Henry Ford, humans are grown without a family and are taught never to experience suffering. Only one man’s visit can change anything.
The Fault In Our Stars – John Green
The ‘it’ book at the moment. I need hardly explain about Hazel and Augustus, save that the most eagerly-repeated line of the last couple of weeks, “it’s a metaphor” is wrong. It’s not a metaphor, it’s an analogy.
On the Road – Jack Kerouac
Young, naïve and penniless, Sal Paradise (a thinly disguised version of Kerouac himself) meets the incorrigible rogue Dean Moriarty and spends a year or two cavorting from one side of America to the other. Guaranteed to provoke wander-lust in even the most timid and home-loving of us.
The Liar – Stephen Fry
In few places does Stephen Fry flaunt his considerable intelligence more than in his first novel, The Liar. Through the mouthpiece of Adrian Healey (who flounces around his boarding school in an astrakhan coat), Fry tells the story of a distinctly stereotypical spy ring of Cambridge which contains a little more than reaches the eye. Top class, borderline alcoholic reading.
Legion of the Damned – Sven Hassel
My father and his friends used to love this thirty years ago. No-one has quite written about war since the Danish Hassel, and it has lost none of its potency through translation. The antics of Joseph Porta & co, looting and swearing, mingles elegantly with Hassel’s stark indictments of warfare.
The Eyre Affair – Jasper Fforde
Swindon hasn’t produced many native sons of note, but that one that it has made a name for it a few years ago. Following the antics of the oddly-named Thursday Next in a post-apocalyptic 1987, this is the only book you’ll ever read wherein Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is prosecuted for dangerous driving, and dies in a motorway crash. Just forget everything you ever knew about how the world works. Jasper Fforde is so well-known in Swindon that there is an annual ‘Fforde Festival’ there.
Catch-22 – Joseph Heller
This is without a doubt one of the greatest novels ever written. While the humour might seem a little circular and repetitive at first, no one has quite mastered the art of repeating the same sentence over and over again and making it funny since Heller. Don’t attempt this if you tend to lose your place on a page – people have been known to spend hours finding their place again.
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
*Warning: GCSE English spoilers ahead.* A cautionary tale: don’t follow your dreams, or you’ll end up killing a dog, a woman and then being shot in the head by your ‘best friend’. Also, this will teach you the meaning of tedious analysis.
The Trial – Franz Kafka
Though translation from Czech has not been kind to the narrative voice in this book, this is a wonderfully claustrophobic read about totalitarianism and bureaucracy; so much so that ‘Kafkaesque’ has become a by-word for pointless interrogation and paper-work. This is Catch-22’s more serious cousin, and a long though ultimately rewarding read.