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Looking for books that are transcendent, were released decades ago yet remain current to this day? Then look no further. This section of the LoveReading site is dedicated to the books that we think will stand the test of time and continue to capture the hearts of their readers for many years to come.
20th Anniversary Edition When Griet’s father, a notable tile-maker, is blinded she goes to work for artist Vermeer to support her destitute family. She’s an outsider from the start, a poor Protestant in a well-to-do Catholic household who’s regarded with suspicion by her fellow staff, especially when she alone is entrusted to venture into the master’s studio. Soon enough Griet experiences the magic of artistic creation, of seeing colour anew, of seeing everything anew. But, as her passion for art is aroused so too is an ache of guilt as she grows ever distant from her family. Then there’s the attention and lusts of the handsome butcher’s son who seeks her hand in marriage, and the lascivious approaches of her master’s wealthy patron. The intrigue and tension of the Vermeer household, and the ebb and flow of life in a 17th century Dutch market town are described in painterly detail through Griet’s keenly observant eyes as a swelling scandal spills to the outside world from within the duplicitous household. At once a compelling page-turner and a tour de force of tension and coming-of-age turmoil, this novel remains a must-read for historical fiction fans some twenty years after publication.
Three lively retellings of Daniel Defoe's classic novels, plus two bonus programmes about his extraordinary life and far-reaching influence. Robinson Crusoe and his Farther Adventures An imaginative blend of the famous castaway tale and its lesser-known sequel, this thrilling drama sees Crusoe setting sail for the far north. Facing danger in the Siberian wastes, he keeps terror at bay by telling his companions campfire tales of his many adventures on his beloved island. Starring Tim McInnerney as Crusoe. Moll Flanders When Daniel Defoe meets Elizabeth Atkins in Newgate jail, she recounts her stranger-than-fiction story of a rags-to-riches life that took her from prostitution to prosperity - but culminated in destitution. Inspired, Defoe mixes fact and fiction to re-invent her as one of his most engaging characters: Moll Flanders. Starring Ben Miles as Defoe and Jessica Hynes as Elizabeth Atkins. A Journal of the Plague Year Writing a fictional journal of the Great Plague of 1665, Defoe soon comes to be haunted by the characters he is conjuring. Starring Ben Miles as Defoe. This exciting new collection of reinvented tales will also include two bonus programmes about Daniel Defoe himself:Defoe: Merchant, Writer, Convict, Spy by Philip Palmer - A biographical drama about Defoe's life, starring Ben Miles as Defoe and Niamh Cusack as his wife Mary. Defoe: The Facts and Fictions - A documentary by Mark Lawson, exploring the far-reaching influence of the pioneering author.
Lud-in-the-Mist - a prosperous country town situated where two rivers meet: the Dawl and the Dapple. The latter, which has its source in the land of Faerie, is a great trial to Lud, which had long rejected anything 'other', preferring to believe only in what is known, what is solid. Nathaniel Chanticleer is a somewhat dreamy, slightly melancholy man, not one for making waves, who is deliberately ignoring a vital part of his own past; a secret he refuses even to acknowledge. But with the disappearance of his own daughter, and a long-overdue desire to protect his young son, he realises that something is changing in Lud - and something must be done. Lud-in-the-Mist is a true classic, an adult fairy tale exploring the need to embrace what we fear and to come to terms with 'the shadows' - those sweet and dark impulses that our public selves ignore or repress.
A 2012 World Book Night selection. Voted 3rd in the Books of the Decade by Lovereading readers. Shortlisted for the Newcomer of the Year Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards 2008. This is the story of a street of ordinary German people living in the horrors of the Nazi regime. Interestingly it is narrated by Death but the central character is an 11-year old girl who steals a gravedigger’s handbook and gets hooked on reading. It’s grim yet uplifting, immensely sad yet light in style and touch. A very interesting view of World War II and an unforgettable book, it’s aimed at both children and adults and should be read by both. Larry Finlay, Managing Director of the Publisher of The Book Thief said: “It is a great, great book, one that calls out to your head and your heart whatever your age. Its success is due almost entirely to word-of-mouth for unlike many bestsellers it has not been made into a film (yet), nor was it picked by a Book Club such as Richard and Judy.” A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘The Book Thief is one of those word-of-mouth bestsellers that has made its way into reader’s hearts entirely on its own merits. When this book came to me by way of the Children’s Division, my heart took that legendary leap. I met for the first time the delightful Liesel, Rudy and of course Death, the narrator, all of whom have joined the galaxy of best-loved characters in world literature. Rare is the reader who doesn’t close this book with a tear in their eye.' Jane Lawson, Editorial Director at Transworld
The Help is a deeply moving, timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we won't. It is about how women, whether mothers or daughters, the help or the boss, relate to each other - and that terrible feeling that those who look after your children may understand them, even love them, better than you...
Fifty-one years, nine months and four days have passed since Fermina Daza rebuffed hopeless romantic Florentino Ariza's impassioned advances and married Dr Juvenal Urbino instead. During that half-century, Flornetino has fallen into the arms of many delighted women, but has loved none but Fermina. Having sworn his eternal love to her, he lives for the day when he can court her again. When Fermina's husband is killed trying to retrieve his pet parrot from a mango tree, Florentino seizes his chance to declare his enduring love. But can young love find new life in the twilight of their lives?
The classic Cold War thriller, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time. Alec Leamas is tired. He must travel deep into the heart of Communist Germany and betray his country, a job that he will do with his usual cynical professionalism. But when George Smiley tries to help a young woman Leamas has befriended, Leamas's mission may prove to be the worst thing he could ever have done.
The hilarious 1980s political satire by Jonathan Coe, published as a Penguin Essential for the first time. Newspaper-columnist Hilary gets thousands for telling it like it isn't; Henry's turning hospitals into car parks; Roddy's selling art in return for sex; down on the farm Dorothy's squeezing every last pound from her livestock; Thomas is making a killing on the stock exchange; and Mark is selling arms to dictators.
'It is impossible to do justice here to the subtleties, comedy and wisdom of this very beautiful novel. The author of The Joke is clearly one of the best to be found anywhere.' Salman Rushdie, Observer
When Marlowe next encounters Lavery, he's denying nothing - on account of the two bullet holes in his heart. Now Marlowe's on the trail of a killer, who leads him out of smoggy LA all the way to a murky mountain lake ...
Winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction 2005. Narrated by a mother, Eve, in letters to her estranged husband, this is a truly horrific story of a 15-year old boy’s killing spree but it is more the tale of how he got there than of the crime itself. It harks back to Eve’s relationship with her husband and the upbringing of the child. The big question is how much she is, or not, to blame for the tragedy that unfolds. Stark and unbelievably painful, it touches on truths not often spoken of. A great book. ~ Sarah Broadhurst
When the downtrodden animals of Manor Farm overthrow their master Mr Jones and take over the farm themselves, they imagine it is the beginning of a life of freedom and equality. But gradually a cunning, ruthless elite among them, masterminded by the pigs Napoleon and Snowball, starts to take control. Soon the other animals discover that they are not all as equal as they thought, and find themselves hopelessly ensnared as one form of tyranny is replaced with another.
A wonderful fantasy adventure, Tailchaser’s Song is the debut of Tad Williams, first published in 1985. Fritti Tailchaser is a young cat who embarks on an epic quest in search of a friend who has disappeared, as his adventure continues, despair and destruction start to stalk the pages. If we could hear cats talk, we would hear them tell this heroic adventure, it would be one of their great sagas, spoken of and passed down the years. Tad Williams ensures that we see, feel and become part of this fantasy world by setting customs, folklore and society in the story. There are some thoughts by the author himself, written in 2000, set at the beginning of the novel, however if this is your first foray into his work, you may want to read these at the end. Williams has a little gentle fun along the way with a couple of references that Lord of the Rings fans will undoubtedly pick up. Yes this could be described as a mix between Watership Down and The Hobbit, however it’s also a classic fantasy tale in its own right and a perfectly captivating read for older teens and adults alike. ~ Liz Robinson
The History of Love explores the lasting power of the written word and the lasting power of love. The book was short-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2006 and was the winner of the 2006 Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger. Published as a Penguin Essential for the first time.
Esther Freud's best-known novel, which inspired the Kate Winslet film, published as Penguin Essential for the first time.
But Claudia's life is entwined with others and she must allow those who knew her, loved her, the chance to speak, to put across their point of view. There is Gordon, brother and adversary; Jasper, her untrustworthy lover and father of Lisa, her cool conventional daughter; and then there is Tom, her one great love, found and lost in wartime Egypt.
Allie Fox is going to re-create the world. Abominating the cops, crooks, junkies and scavengers of modern America, he abandons civilisation and takes the family to live in the Honduran jungle. There his tortured, messianic genius keeps them alive, his hoarse tirades harrying them through a diseased and dirty Eden towards unimaginable darkness.
When Adela Quested and her elderly companion Mrs Moore arrive in the Indian town of Chandrapore, they quickly feel trapped by its insular and prejudiced 'Anglo-Indian' community. Determined to escape the parochial English enclave and explore the 'real India', they seek the guidance of the charming and mercurial Dr Aziz, a cultivated Indian Muslim. But a mysterious incident occurs while they are exploring the Marabar caves with Aziz, and the well-respected doctor soon finds himself at the centre of a scandal that rouses violent passions among both the British and their Indian subjects.
'In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent ...
Peter Jernigan's life is slipping out of control. His wife's gone, he's lost his job and he's a stranger to his teenage son. Worse, his only relief from all this reality - alcohol - is less effective by the day. And when the medicine doesn't work, you up the dose. And when that doesn't work, what then? (Apart from upping the dose again anyway, because who knows?) Jernigan's answer is to slowly turn his caustic wit on everyone around him - his wife Judith, his teenage son Danny, his vulnerable new girlfriend Martha and, eventually, himself - until the laughs have turned to mute horror. But while he's busy burning every bridge back to the people who love him, Jernigan's perverse charisma keeps us all in thrall to the bitter end.
His aim was to take stock of the nation's public face and private parts (as it were), and to analyse what precisely it was he loved so much about a country that had produced Marmite; a military hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy; place names like Farleigh Wallop, Titsey and Shellow Bowells; people who said 'Mustn't grumble', and 'Ooh lovely' at the sight of a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits; and Gardeners' Question Time. Notes from a Small Island was a huge number-one bestseller when it was first published, and has become the nation's most loved book about Britain, going on to sell over two million copies.
If you have only recently discovered Coelho, or if you have yet to discover this utterly brilliant and breathtaking author, who until quite recently was one of the world’s most unsung authors then jump into one of his novels right now and The Alchemist was his first. His books have such a rare quality that if you have a heart you can’t fail to be captivated.
This book was shortlisted for the Booker prize it has been described as 'triumphant' (Sunday Telegraph) and 'dazzling' (New York Review of Books). Blessed with a quick wit and sparkling charm, Robert Merivel rises quickly, soon finding favour with the King, and privileged with a position as 'paper groom' to the youngest of the King's mistresses. But by falling in love with her, Merivel transgresses the one rule that will cast him out from his new-found paradise...
Michael Marshall Smith's surreal, groundbreaking, and award-winning debut which resonates with wild humour interlaced with dark recollections of an emotional minefield. May we introduce you to Stark. Oh, and by the way - good luck. Stark is the private investigator who goes to work when Something Happens to you. And when a Something happens it's no good chanting 'go away go away go away' and cowering in a corner, because a Something always comes from your darkest past and won't be beaten until you face it. And that's not easy in a city where reality is twisting and broken, a world in which friends can become enemies in a heartbeat - and where your most secret fear can become a soul-shredding reality. And the worst of it is, for this nightmare you don't even have to be asleep...
Editor's Comments: Since its publication in 1993 Birdsong has established itself as one of the most important novels of recent years. A novel that brings alive the horrors of war and the redemptive power of love there are few books that have moved people as much as Birdsong or that continue to have such resonance years after publication.Voted one of the fifteen Vintage Future Classics (one of the books that readers across the country thought that we will still be reading in 100 years time) Birdsong is at times moving, emotional, horrifying and enchanting but above all else it is a truly wonderful read.
Editor's Comments: Since its publication in 1993 Birdsong has established itself as one of the most important novels of recent years. A novel that brings alive the horrors of war and the redemptive power of love there are few books that have moved people as much as Birdsong or that continue to have such resonance years after publication.Recently voted one of the fifteen Vintage Future Classics (one of the books that readers across the country thought that we will still be reading in 100 years time) Birdsong is at times moving, emotional, horrifying and enchanting but above all else it is a truly wonderful read.
An absolute classic of children’s literature, the great adventure of Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarfs. It’s important to remember how long ago this book was written, the style is not that of a modern children’s book, but the magic of the tale shines through the old-fashioned language. It is, and always has been, a little treasure of a book. If you would like to purchase through the official Tolkien site then click here.
A well observed novel about an American family. We follow each family member’s story and are given a great insight in to modern day America through each one's story and how they need to change their lives. A very clever, intelligent novel that put Franzen up in the big league of writers. Well worth a read. Click here to see Jonathan Franzen's new book, Purity, which is published in September 2015.
Who would have believed back in 1985 that this first introduction into the madcap Discworld which satirised fantasy novels and introduced us to some fantastic characters would turn into the Discworld series numbering some thirty works. If you have wondered where to start in this huge series (which need not be read in order) then start here and read The Light Fantastic straight after it. They are great books. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘The very first novel in what turned into the celebrated, magisterial Discworld series, this novel was first published by Corgi in 1985. Although the more recent novels in the series have become more layered, satirical and thoughtful (number thirty-seven, Unseen Academicals, is the most recent) The Colour of Magic must remain one of my all-time favourites, for its soaring inventiveness, sparky parody and madcap humour – and for introducing us in the first place to that flat World so very different from, yet so very like our own. ' Marianne Velmans, Publishing Director at Transworld
One of Sue Perkins' favourite books. This is a much-loved classic but as relevant today as it was when first published over 40 years ago. Its vivid and colourful illustrations and cut back and die-cut pages together with some very simple text provide a wonderful story that is immensely satisfying for parents and child alike. It’s a book that’s more threadbare than most in the nursery in my house. Here are some wonderful resources inspired by The Very Hungry Caterpillar, whichyou can print off and enjoy: Ideas for a Very Hungry Caterpillar birthday party Make your own Very Hungry Caterpillar collage The Very Hungry Caterpillar Colouring Sheet The Life of a Very Hungry Caterpillar Draw your own Very Hungry Caterpillar lunch
July 2013 Guest Editor Cath Staincliffe on The Handmaid's Tale... A story about a terrifying dystopian world, ruled by a military and religious dictatorship which is homophobic, racist and misogynistic. Where infertility is rife, the handmaid’s role is to bear children for the ruling class. This chilling book imagines what a backlash to feminism might lead to and though it is horrifying there is also humanity, wit and humour in the writing. One of Hardeep Singh Kohli's favourite books. September 2010 Guest Editor Belle de Jour on Margaret Atwood... Atwood’s books hugely influenced my reading style (though probably not my writing style!). I love the way she weaves research so seamlessly into her stories. In the hands of a lesser writer, some of her books might be mere dystopian sci-fi, but she makes the characters as real as documentary. The Handmaid’s Tale, in particular, influenced a lot how I think about politics, religion, and feminism.
October 2014 Guest Editor Cecelia Ahern on The Celestine Prophecy... The main character goes on a journey to find and understand a series of nine spiritual insights on an ancient manuscript in Peru. It’s a first person narrative of the main character’s spiritual awakening as he goes through a period of transition in his life. It discusses various psychological and spiritual ideas. I read this when I was twenty-one and going through a period of change and it really spoke to me and opened my mind. It was given to me by someone who read it during a time of change in their own life and I do the same to others. I’d like to read it again and see how it impacts me now.
Published over 20 years ago this book is still a best seller, bringing complicated science to the masses. Gravity, black holes, the Big Bang - all kinds of topics are covered in a way that helps the less scientifically gifted among us get some way to grasping these concepts. Fascinating stuff. A "Piece of Passion" from the publisher... ‘Steven Hawking is responsible for enthusing millions worldwide and on an unprecedented scale with the world of science. His A Brief History of Time has broken all records for a bestselling science book and its sheer brilliance continues to stimulate and inspire the thousands of people curious about the origins of the universe’. Sally Gaminara, Publishing Director at Transworld
You may have read this but it certainly deserves another read. It’s the sort of book that becomes more profound with each reading. It is quite simply brilliant, a tale of prejudices and injustice in small town America which should be part of everyone’s collection. ~ Sarah Broadhurst Comparison: J D Salinger (Catcher in the Rye), William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Joseph Heller (Catch 22).
The Evergreens - For books that stand the test of time.
Research carried out by Nielsen BookScan revealed twelve titles that have remained in their top 5,000 chart for every week since 1995 (The Bookseller, 1 August 2008). These evergreen titles have sold at least 100 copies a week in the UK in order to remain in the top 5,000. The twelve books are:
Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong
Eric Carle, The Very Hungry Caterpillar
J. R. R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
Delia Smith, Complete Cookery Course
Michael Rosen, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy
Terry Pratchett, The Colour of Magic
Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time
M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Travelled
Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic
Terry Pratchett, Mort