top ten all-time books
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10. Paris Trance, Geoff Dyer
Two boys. Two girls. One city of love. Arguably the most underrated novel in the entire English language. Paris Trance is a book which at first appears to be about nothing but is in fact about everything. Love. Sex. Friendship. Youth. Life and death. And all told in the most beautiful, deceptively simple prose. It’s like reading a dream you never want to wake up from.

9. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby
His best book by far (although the movie version isn’t quite as good as the film of About A Boy). In fact, I think the obsession for lists which runs through it inspired this section of the website. Funny, sad, clever, honest and accessible – everything you want from a novel.

8. Madame Bovary, Gustav Flaubert
Bored, sexually-frustrated French housewife Emma Bovary decides to breach her marriage contract for a passionate affair. It may be 150 years old but Madame Bovary remains the best novel ever written about wedding dreams and marriage realities. Although widely celebrated as ‘the book which invented modern literature’ with its occasional use of stream-of-consciousness techniques and
clever scene-switching, it is also interesting to view it as an example of nineteenth century chick-lit. After all, most of the themes are there. The danger of romantic fantasies, shopaholism (Emma Bovary was an early believer in retail therapy), adultery, the cost of pursuing pleasure regardless of the consequence. As with chick-lit, this novel has also been considered to be feminist by some critics, and anti-women by others. Judge for yourself.

7. Glamorama, Bret Easton Ellis
One of the few truly successful satires on the fashion world and the cult of celebrity, Glamorama is essential reading for anyone who loves great dialogue. You’ve lost the ‘plot’ by the second chapter but it doesn’t really matter. In fact, that’s probably the point. It’s just fantastic to see what comes out of the characters mouths. Typical example: ‘Victor, I’m twenty-six. That’s a hundred and five in model years.’ A very funny, supremely stylish read. This is Gucci for your brain cells (as one of his characters might put).

6. Sushi for Beginners, Marian Keyes
Marian Keyes has an army of fans, and anyone who reads this novel can easily see why. It’s a chatty, witty and warm-hearted slice of romantic fiction which makes you genuinely care for the characters. But be warned: once you start to read it, you will be unable to put it down. I was there for hours! Anyone who is snobby enough to dismiss the whole category of popular women’s fiction, should read this book and reassess their opinion. Sushi for Beginners is like a cup of warming hot chocolate in print form. A genuine comfort read.

5. The Rotters Club, Jonathan Coe
I cannot think of a funny novel which is also quite so sad. You cannot read this book without laughing or crying out loud. As such, it is probably better to read it in bed than on public transport. It’s set in 1970s Birmingham but don’t let that put you off. The central character of Benjamin Trotter, and the tragic relationship he has with his sister Lois, makes it one of the most touching novels of recent times.

4. My Lovers Lover, Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell is one of the best women’s novelists around and this, in my opinion, is her strongest work. The story centres around the relationship between Lily, the novel’s heroine, and Marcus, a charismatic architect. Lily moves into Marcus’s vast apartment – first as a flatmate, then as a lover – but soon finds himself wondering about his previous partner, Sinead. Marcus is unwilling to tell her what happened to her, which only fuels Lily’s (and our) curiosity. Has she died? And if so, how? A sensual, and often extremely tense novel which explores one of my favourite themes: how formers lovers can haunt present relationships. A must-read.

3. Going Out, Scarlett Thomas
This brilliant novel from Elle magazine’s writer of the year focuses on next-door neighbours Luke and Julie. Neither of them ever go out – in Luke’s case this is due to his allergy to sunlight, in Julie’s it’s a matter of choice. She doesn’t like to socialise. The novel charts their progress as both characters search for ways to deal with the world outside. Sounds depressing? It isn’t. The mix of subtle humour, realistic dialogue and stripped-down prose style makes for a very entertaining and stimulating read. Cool, understated Brit lit at its best.

2. The God of Small Things, Arundati Roy
It may be an obvious choice but I absolutely love this book and have read it several times. This novel proved in the most evocative way that stylish, inventive writing does not have to be emotionally shallow. Unlike much literary fiction embraced by highbrow critics, it manages to make you laugh and cry at the same time as it makes you think. As good stylistically as comic writers such as Martin Amis or Will Self, and as funny too, but The God of Small Things has added warmth. The writing is there not just to impress, but to breathe real life into the Indian family it portrays and throbs with the sights and sounds and smells of the world they are a part of. Stunning, sexy and breathtaking – there simply aren’t enough adjectives to do it justice. The only disappointment is that Roy still vows never to write another work of fiction.

1. The Last Family in England, Matt Haig
Okay, my boyfriend wrote it. But this is the book that made me fall in love with him all over again. I guarantee you will cry and laugh out loud. For anyone who's ever had a family . . . or a dog. If I'd never known him this would still be my favourite book (in fact, knowing him was kind of off-putting as it was hard to imagine him as a Labrador).