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June 1, 2010updated 10 Jan 2016 3:56pm

What We’re Reading

By Spear's

Spear’s writers recommend what they’re reading now and what they’ve loved in the past. All of these books are available in the Spear’s/Amazon store
Clive Aslet
I have just read a brilliant book, I have to say because I was reviewing it but that doesn’t detract from the impact, called The Making of the British Landscape by Francis Pryor.

I am otherwise in the middle of rereading Middlemarch by George Eliot, which I took on a recent trip to Thailand, thinking that I would need something pretty chunky given the chance of being stuck there for weeks. It is often said to be the greatest novel in English literature and I find Eliot’s intelligence and subtlety, imaginative scope and elegance of writing to be, in the literal sense, awesome: I am humbled before it.

I am looking forward to reading Antony Woodward’s The Garden in the Clouds and Nicholas Foulkes’s Gentlemen and Blackguards which are treats waiting on my shelf.

If you would like to know about my new book Villages of Britain, published this autumn, click here.
Nick Foulkes
I have been having a Mitteleuropa moment. I’ve been reading Miklos Banffy’s Transylvanian trilogy and before that Stefan Zweig

I’m researching a new book and have just finished the memoirs of the Baron de Redé, edited by the brilliant Hugo Vickers, and am now embarking on Beaton’s Glass of Fashion.

This summer I will be reading some more Balzac, more gripping than many modern page turners. 

When it comes to contemporary novels I am a bit behind, although having seen The Ghost I was interested to read the book and I have to say that Robert Harris’s novel is a deftly put together piece of work, a model of the modern thriller – huge fun.

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Gentlemen and Blackguards: Gambling Mania and the Plot to Steal the Derby of 1844 is published on May 27th
Andrei Navrozov
Stalin’s Grand Design to Start WWII: the only true and complete history of WWII ever published.
Caroline Phillips
I’m currently reading: Moni Mohsin, The End of Innocence; Hughes, Building the Bonds of Attachment; Sterne, Tristram Shandy; and the Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl. Nothing new there – and madly eclectic! (The world divides in two: those who read one book at a time and the others.)
Vanessa Neumann

I’m reading or trying to read Nostromo by Joseph Conrad (about a South American country called Costaguana, actually based on Venezuela — no one beats Conrad for his evocation of place), Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Helperin (because I’m obsessed by politics) and The Devil’s Casino by Vicky Ward (because she’s a friend, I went to her book launch and mutual friends of ours helped her with it — she thanks them in the foreword — and it has a good solid “baddie”).

John Updike and Vladimir Nabokov are my favourite writers for their ability to transfigure the mundane into the poetic without schmaltz. The philosopher Soren Kierkegaard is the poet amongst the philosophers, particularly for his understanding of “the musical erotic” in the “Either” portion of his book Either / Or. But above all others stands Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling on the irrational nature of religious faith.

He’s a thinker and writer of great love, and the only philosopher to approximate the ideal of bringing together the religious, the moral and the aesthetic into one comprehensive system of thought. He comes closer than anyone ever has, and he’s underrated as a philosopher, mainly because he’s such a good writer (philosophers generally can’t write and hate those that can).

Another old book to recommend to Spear’s readers is The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. I remember enjoying it, though the details are now hazy, but it entailed family and banking — like market corrections. And Franzen will be out with his fourth novel in September.

There are of course a few Latin American classics, esp. by “El Gabo,” as Latinos nickname Gabriel García Márquez. The opening scene of his Of Love and Other Demons is of a dead girl’s hair continuing to grow even as she lays in the coffin and sixteen years later I can’t stop thinking about it. One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera are almost too classic to mention.

I continue to be haunted by Mario Vargas Llosa’s political masterpiece La Fiesta del Chivo (The Party of the Goat) about dictatorship in the Dominican Republic. It has the most harrowing scenes of pedophilia, political assassination and torture ever written.

Book that remains to be written: mine. But watch this space, because I’m halfway through and will finish in the next couple of months.
Stephen Hill

Well, of course, my favourite book is Countdown to Catastrophe (which I wrote)! This book was sent to the printers on 31 December 2009 with predictions for 2010 as follows: cold winter heralding in a new minima (and global warming is for the cuckoos), earthquake and volcanic action, a Greek debt-deflation crisis, a German banking crisis, a Spanish depression, Japan and US deficit crises, civil riots, all of which have already occurred in 2010, leaving Banking Crisis 2 for the summer leading to a double-dip in the Autumn and Great Depression 2 and a period of global hyperinflation when gold will go through 5,000. Don’t bet against it!

My other reading, apart from the Spear’s Book Awards books (shortlist here) are: 
The Art of Contentment, and The Governance of the Tongue, both by Dr. Richard Allestree
Churchill the Finest Years by Max Hastings – brilliant
The Quants, by Scott Patterson – first 70 pages are a bit of a plough, but rest v. good
The Suicide Run, by William Styron
The Atlantic and its Enemies, by Norman Stone – excellent

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