x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Their good books

Taking refuge from the summer heat? A good page-turner is the perfect way to make those hours fly by. Five literary professionals reveal their red-hot reads


A managing director of the books division of the Curtis Brown Agency, where he represents Jake Arnott, Sacha Baron Cohen and Tracy Chevalier, among others. Karoo by Steve Tesich: The Serbian-American screenwriter, playwright and novelist's Karoo was published posthumously in 1998. Arthur Miller called it "fascinating - a real satiric invention full of wise outrage".

JG says: "A forgotten classic of male rage and self-destructiveness that is as funny as it is sad. He died three months after completing it in 1997." The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford: This 1915 novel, much admired for its narrative innovations, is set just before the First World War and chronicles the dissolution of two seemingly perfect marriages. JG says: "The art of the unreliable narrator has never been better explored."

A Perfect Spy by John le Carré: Le Carré's most autobiographical novel (his father, like that of the book's hero, Magnus Pym, was a crooked con man) has much to say about loyalty and betrayal and Englishness. JG says: "Including this may be unethical as I have the honour of representing this author, but this book is a masterpiece. Gripping, sweeping, complex and every sentence is worth savouring."

Therese Raquin by Émile Zola: A young woman, Therese, has an affair with one of her cousin's friends after being married off by an overbearing aunt. But the pair are unable to enjoy the fruits of their subsequent crime. JG says: "The ultimate psychological thriller. A template for all that followed." One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez: The book credited with inventing magical realism was an instant hit when it was published in 1967. It's a history of the fictional Colombian town of Macondo spanning the hundred years of the title. JG says: "Its opening sentence is worth spending a lifetime appreciating and the ending is the most magical of any book I have read."

A senior editor at the publisher Hodder & Stoughton in London. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates: Frank and April Wheeler are confident suburbanites in mid-1950s Connecticut. But professional and domestic pressures are building that will soon destroy their American dream.

JB says: "A devastating portrait of a marriage. Line by line, the writing is magnificent. Once you've read this, you'll want to read everything else Yates has written." Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell: An unlikely bestseller after it was championed by the Richard & Judy Book Club in the UK, Cloud Atlas comprises six stories that take us from the remote South Pacific in the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future.

JB says: "This is a thrilling roller coaster of a novel that's part political thriller, part historical pastiche and part science fiction. Once you've finished it, you'll want to begin it again." The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon: Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2001, Chabon's novel follows the intertwined lives of the Czech artist Joe Kavalier and the Brooklyn-born writer Sam Clay during the 1940s - the golden age of the American comics industry.

JB says: "Wildly entertaining, this is a page-turning epic about the Second World War seen through the eyes of two comic-book writers."  Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides: A coming-of-age story that contains elements of family saga, Eugenides' ingenious 2002 novel is narrated by Cal Stephanides, a man (and woman) of Greek descent growing up in Detroit, Michigan. JB says: "Cal/Callie is a wonderful narrator who possesses a guilty family secret. With wit and exuberance, he/she tells the story of the Stephanides family, from their roots in a tiny village overlooking Mount Olympus."

  Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood: Echoing her earlier dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake is set in a future where genetic engineering has led to the creation of transgenic animals such as "wolvogs". JB says: "An inventive, prescient, darkly funny and terrifying vision."

The bestselling author of The Promise of Happiness. His new novel, To Heaven by Water, is out now. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy's masterpiece, set during and around the Napoleonic wars, boasts a huge cast of characters, many of them actual historical figures. JC says: Nobody can afford not to read the great Russian novel. Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev: Turgenev was one of the first Russian novelists to find success in the rest of Europe. Fathers and Sons (1862) is about the growing tensions in his homeland between liberals and nihilists (the "sons" of the title).

JC says: "I love this, partly because of Isaiah Berlin's introduction." The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby (1925) has come to define the era that Fitzgerald christened the Jazz Age. It's the story of a shady financier's destructive passion, played out against a backdrop of Long Island glamour. JC says: "Somebody said this book arrived in the world perfectly formed, like an egg, and it is."

Herzog by Saul Bellow: Herzog (1964) chronicles the mid-life crisis of a Jewish intellectual, Moses E Herzog, who is driven close to breakdown by his second wife's relationship with a close friend. JC says: "In some ways my favourite novel of all time: intellectual, funny, human." Rabbit at Rest by John Updike: The fourth and final novel in Updike's Rabbit sequence. The former jock Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom and his wife have marked his retirement by moving to Florida. But overweight, underexercised Rabbit's poor diet will have terrible consequences. JC says: "Probably the best of all Updike's 40 or so novels. A masterpiece."

He has been called "one of the finest critics at work today" by the Irish author John Banville. He writes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly and the London Review of Books. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: Dostoevsky intended The Brothers Karamazov (1880) - about a patricide in which each of the murdered man's sons is complicit - to be the first part in an epic story. But he died less than four months after its publication.

JW says: "This is a novel written by a fervent believer (Dostoevsky was a convinced Christian) which is also one of the great statements of religious doubt, unsettling all certainties." King Lear by William Shakespeare: Anxious to retire, a king decides to divide his realm among his three daughters, and offers the largest share to the one who loves him best? JW says: "It's at once ancient and modern, both about kingship and the difficulties of ageing and the authority of fatherhood."

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: (See Justin Cartwright's choices, above.) JW says: "All of life is here, warfare and death and love. At once the culmination of the western novel, and a book that explodes the conventions of the novel, because there is nothing else like it." The Lady With the Little Dog by Anton Chekhov: This much-loved story from 1899 describes a liaison between a married man and a married woman that seems casual and inconsequential - yet they find themselves repeatedly drawn to each other. JW says: "Only a few pages long, but surely one of the most beautiful stories ever written. Chekhov ends it with a shrug of his shoulders, as if to say: how do I know how these two will work things out?"

The head of buying at the famous independent London bookstore Foyles on Charing Cross Road. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf: Woolf's modernist classic from 1925 pioneered the use of "interior monologue". It opens one fine June morning, as Clarissa Dalloway sets off to buy flowers for a party she will be hosting in the evening.

KG says: "Pretty much Woolf's finest hour, this is a great London novel and a brilliant portrait of a woman poised at a very particular point in her life."   The Quiet American by Graham Greene: Greene's 1955 novel, inspired by his experiences as a spy during the Second World War, is named for Alden Pyle, a young idealist sent to promote democracy in Vietnam by means of a mysterious "third force".

KG says: "Greene's understated, limpid prose is so good that this novel, especially the opening and closing passages, reads like a masterclass in how to write."  Footsteps by Richard Holmes: A highly original, semi-autobiographical travel diary, Footsteps finds Holmes retracing the footsteps of the writers Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Wollstonecraft, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Gérard de Nerval. KG says: "A moving and beautifully written book whose innovatory approach redefined the way biography was regarded."

  A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth: The former economist Seth's panoramic novel about four large families in post-Independence India was a huge hit upon publication in 1994. KG says: "My favourite contemporary novel, with the scope of Tolstoy and social comment to compare with Austen or Dickens."   The Human Stain by Philip Roth: Professor Coleman Silk's life is transformed when an offhand remark he makes during a class leads to a bogus accusation of racism.

KG says: "A jaw-dropping story told in Roth's incomparable, muscular prose."