90th Anniversary Reading List

In celebration of our ninetieth anniversary this year, current Faber staff members have been given the tricky task of selecting their three favourite Faber books. Find out which books have made their mark from ninety years of publishing.

 

Hayley Sothinathan, Faber Members Manager

The Sense of Movement by Thom Gunn

I stumbled on this collection in a bookshop knowing nothing about Thom Gunn – and what a find. It’s taught me to take more risks when buying books and to go with instinct when I’m drawn to something.

 

 

The Whitsun Weddings by Philip Larkin

Poems that I still think about in my daily life having studied The Whitsun Weddings at A-Level. As with so many Faber books, an encounter at school set up a lifelong love.

 

 

An Elegy for Easterly by Petina Gappah

A subtle and moving book about fears, jealousies and how personal and political violence interact.

 

 

 

Sam Brown, Head of UK Sales Reps

The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson

Everything you want in a superb crime novel – twists and turns and genuine OMG moments, plus one of the best endings ever!

 

 

 

Mrs Sartoris by Elke Schmitter

A short but beautifully observed and haunting piece of writing which is part thriller and part confessional of a seemingly ordinary housewife.

 

 

 

Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin

A novel I sobbed my way through but which I loved and will stay with me forever.

 

 

 

 

Stephen Page, CEO

Memorial by Alice Oswald

A long poem of extraordinary energy, power and beauty. The language in itself is enough to recommend it, but her retelling of The Iliad is like no other, nor any other poem, and leaves the reader transported. Also listen to the poet’s own superb reading.

 

 

Foster by Clare Keegan

A girl is sent away to live with foster parents while her mother gives birth. In this new home she receives a warmth and affection that is new and begins to blossom in the care of her temporary parents. But the idyll is threatened as a secret is revealed. One of the best pieces of shorter fiction published this century.

 

 

The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera

Simply one of the great twentieth-century novels. A novel in the form of seven variations, its wit, originality and intelligence can be relived with each reading. Unfailingly brilliant and, ahem, unforgettable.

 

 

 

Richard Evans, Sales Rep

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

I discovered this as a teenager, I don’t remember how, and it’s one of very few books in my life that I have read more times than I can actually remember. I still read it again every couple of years and it never disappoints.

 

 

Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis by Wendy Cope

A long, long time ago, I was a little bit in love with a girl who would forever be out of my reach. She loved this book, and that was enough for me to buy it too. My love of Wendy Cope’s poetry has hugely outlived my infatuation…

 

 

Rip it Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds

This one covers such an important period in my own musical journey and is music writing at its very best: it’s passionate, enthusiastic, authoritative and accessible and is written from the heart, which is where all the best books come from.

 

 

 

Hannah Marshall, Marketing Manager

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich by Danilo Kiš

I think Danilo Kiš is one of the most underrated writers of the last century. Comprising seven short stories, this book (now sadly out of print) weaves together fact and fiction in a style that Kiš mastered. Overtly the stories criticise Stalinism. Below the surface they warn us about the perils of totalitarian rule – irrespective of its political leanings – and the danger of signing up unquestioningly to an all-consuming ideology. It’s a book of its time and, more than ever, it’s a book for our times too (I wrote this blog post on it back in 2016).

 

Ariel by Sylvia Plath

This is a book that has, over many, many years, been a companion to me and I often return to the poems to find that my understanding of them has altered. Always present though, when confronted by Plath’s brilliance, is my shock and awe: at the vivid, often visceral, imagery she creates, her masterly control of language, the way she expresses, with immediacy and intimacy, her felt experience, her ability to make you feel intense moments of pain – and joy.

 

Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman

No book in recent years has given me as much reading pleasure as Lizzy Goodman’s oral history of the New York music scene in the late nineties and early 2000s. If this was your era, and you loved The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Interpol, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, etc., then this book is one big nostalgia-fest. It made me feel like I was twenty years old all over again (and somehow magically living in Manhattan).

 

 

Ruth O’Loughlin, Paperbacks Manager

 

Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son by Gordon Burn

One of the greatest works of true crime. Burn spent three years living in the home town of Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, researching his life. There’s no one better at vividly evoking the general grime and misogyny of Britain in the 1970s.

 

 

Pilcrow by Adam Mars-Jones

One of the warmest, funniest books I’ve ever read, and one I always push into people’s hands whenever I can. I defy anyone not to fall in love with John Cromer, an unlikely and hugely likeable hero.

 

 

Rip It Up and Start Again by Simon Reynolds

Covering post-punk, this is a seminal work of music writing by one of the greatest music writers, and a core book of the Faber Social list. A must-read for music-lovers.

 

 

 

Rachel Darling, Trade Marketing Executive

The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell

Structurally based on the relativity principle, Durrell’s tetralogy tells and retells the same story from different perspectives, interweaving narrative strands and voices to create a heady and remarkable evocation of wartime Alexandria, the nature of love, and art’s (in)ability to represent reality.

 

 

Nightwood by Djuna Barnes

An intoxicating, trippy novel set between the wars – reading Nightwood is an intense experience that haunts and bewilders in the most glorious way.

 

 

 

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride

A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing is easily one of the most remarkable books of the twenty-first century. Told in fractured, traumatised sentences this is the inner story of a girl’s strained relationship with her family and the world.

 

 

 

Emmie Francis, Editor

My all-time favourite is Eliot’s essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’, but here’s a cherished trio:

Open City by Teju Cole

A novel that changed my twenties; it changed the way I look at human behaviour, it changed the way I believed what fiction could achieve and it – I’m not kidding – changed the way I . . . walk.

 

 

Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus

I remember my dad talking about Greil Marcus in the same breath as writers such as Joan Didion and Susan Sontag, so I had to find out why he was somehow as cool as those women writers who I admired. This cultural history is as stylish and full of an amorphous verve as it feels seminal, landmark, permanent. What I love about it is that it’s not really about music at all, really. Who will tell the story of our times going forward like Marcus . . . ?

 

Three Poems by Hannah Sullivan

Sullivan is a poet, writer, thinker who expands literature to its porous potential. She is one of the all-time greats on the list and I cannot wait to see what she publishes at Faber next.

 

 

 

Robert Brown, Archivist

The Mouse and his Child by Russell Hoban

A gripping, philosophical story that really works for all age groups.

 

 

 

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

The device of time-travelling a young person back to Elizabethan England works very well, and has allowed this to remain a children’s classic in our own time.

 

 

 

The Hawk in the Rain by Ted Hughes

I heard Hughes give a reading from this in the Cambridge Union; and his shamanistic ability to bring alive the visceral world of wild animals still gives me shudders when I hear recordings.

 

 

 

Luke Crabb, Sales Rep

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

The most beautiful, lyrical love story.

 

 

 

The Country Girls Trilogy by Edna O’Brien

Edna is a master of her craft and this is the most amazing work of fiction depicting the social scene of Ireland in the sixties. An author who doesn’t get the recognition that she deserves.

 

 

Golden Child by Claire Adam

A wonderful new voice to the Faber list. Golden Child asks the reader thought-provoking questions about parenting and sibling rivalry – a book for now and a future classic.

 

 

 

Kate Ward, Editorial Design Manager

The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore by Lorrie Moore

I’d read a lot of Faber books before I started working here but when, in my first week, a colleague put a pile of Lorrie Moore books on my desk and said, ‘Read these’, I’d never heard of her. Lorrie’s writing was something new to me, full of wit, honesty and stylish delivery. It’s great to see ‘Terrific Mother’ in the Faber Stories this year, and I hope she finds a whole new generation of readers.

 

 

Days Without End by Sebastian Barry

To me this is the perfect novel: original voice, beautiful writing, lovable characters, heart-stopping narrative and (spoiler alert) a happy ending.

 

 

 

Mr Lear by Jenny Uglow

I could have chosen pretty much any of Jenny’s books here – The Lunar Men, Nature’s Engraver, The Pinecone – but Mr Lear holds a special place in my heart. Such warmth and lightness of touch carrying a huge amount of research, beautifully chosen illustrations and, as always, the cleverest named part and chapter titles.

 

 

Joey Connolly, Head of Faber Academy

No, this is impossible! Plath, Hughes, Eliot, Heaney, Walcott, MacNeice, Seidel, Moore, Gunn, Hofmann, Larkin, Oswald, Graham, Paterson, Muldoon, Riviere, Berry, Underwood, Kunial, Collins, Sullivan, Scott, Allen, Dunthorne . . .

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