Alone in Berlin, by Hans Fallada

I’m ashamed to say I’d never heard of this chap until I happened to catch a Radio 4 program with Simon Day of The Fast Show singing his praises. He wasn’t wrong – this book is bleak as you like but ultimately uplifting, a vivid account of life under Nazi rule in the early days of WWII. You’re left thinking, “So that’s what it was like”. Strong stuff. Roger Horberry




Stack Magazine

Stack magazine subscription. Who doesn’t love getting mail, and who doesn’t love surprises? No one. So that’s why everyone should sign up to receive a different independent magazine each month. You’ll never know what’s going to arrive, but it’s always something gorgeous, thoughtful, insightful or unusual. Shelley O’Neill





Harry Potter:

I feel ridiculous just writing this down, but stop what you’re doing immediately and start reading this extraordinary piece of Harry Potter fan fiction, “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality”. Sometimes inspiration comes from the most surprising places, and this is possibly the most intelligent thing I have ever read. Richard Beer




Why be happy when you could be normal

Why be happy when you could be normal is Jeanette Winterson’s memoir, focusing particularly on her relationship with her adoptive mother. The book lives up to the idiosyncrasy of the title. It makes you laugh, then it makes you cry, and every so often it stops you with a phrase that just has to be admired. John Simmons



Like Dickens?

Escaped the bicentenary and kept interested in the man who walked from Kent to London to cool off after a barney with Mrs D? Claire Tomalin’s new Dickens biography is a choice balance of facts, selection, comments and wonderful photos that bring those eminent Victorians back to life. Nigel Grant



Yayoi Kusama, Tate Modern until 5 June 2012

Yayoi Kusama did dots before Damien, but hers are more fun. They are fluorescing primary circles stuck onto furniture in a darkened room, polka dots painted on naked bodies or dots on a ‘togetherness’ tent for two – the ‘perfect orgy outfit’ for non- exhibitionists. Best of all, they are tiny spherical lights in a bewitching infinity mirrored room. Go – and allow time for full immersion. Fiona Thompson


Chad Harbach, The Art of Fielding, 4th Estate.
This is a debut novel from the latest young American wunderkind. Think Jonathan Franzen when the The Corrections came out a decade ago. It’s a lovely, elegiac, coming of age novel with a central cast of three young baseball players at a backwater mid-western college. Beautifully written, with a compelling story, it’s that perfect combination of a literary novel with the pace and narrative propulsion of a thriller. Some passing acquaintance with baseball is handy, without being a showstopper (or indeed short stopper…) if you haven’t got it. Martin Lee

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