1. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst
A guilty pleasure of sorts. Seriously sumptuous prose, and a storyline that flits between the alarmingly raunchy and the surprisingly poignant. Set in the edgy world of gay 1980s London, there’s enough Thatcher-bashing to keep everyone happy.
2. The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Angela Carter
Above all, these stories are just a lot of fun. Take famous and well-loved fairy tales, and expose the underlying sexuality and violence in all of them as vividly as humanly possible. Aside from being hilarious to the adult reader, it highlights the problematic elements of the stories we tell our children at bedtime and giving a dark twist on those happily-ever-after Disney films.
3. The Almost Nearly Perfect People: The Truth About The Nordic Miracle, Michael Booth
I’m sure people who know more about these things could tell me of its many flaws, but, filled with fun facts (more Icelanders believe in the existence of elves than God), idiosyncratic analyses of national psyches (the historically authoritarian pseudo-socialist state as a cause of Swedes’ reluctance to cross the road before the light turns green), and other tidbits, it’s a joy to read, and educational, too.
4. Outliers: The Story Of Success, Malcom Gladwell
Hugely divisive, some hail Gladwell as bringing the useful knowledge of psychological and social sciences to the masses, whilst others think him a waste of paper. However, this book is a cracker. He reveals the secrets behind the successes of some of the world’s greatest people, and leaves the ‘anyone can make it to the top’ rhetoric of the Right in tatters.
5. In The Frame: 2012-2014, Tom Humberstone
The New Statesman’s most regular cartoonist is a genius, and this book collates the best of his weekly work in one great coffee-table book. Highlights include Michael Gove pretending to be human (terrifying) and “the ghost of your ability to feign surprise” at increasingly depressing headlines over the past two years. A worthy investment.