My favourite books 10: Age Of Austerity

Age of Austerity, 1945-1951.  Edited by Michael Sissons and Philip French.

Hodder & Stoughton, 1963; this edition Penguin, 1964.

An early entry into the ground now tilled so effectively by David Kynaston and others.  On the sixtieth anniversary of the Festival of Britain, a look back to the time when we never had it so bad.

My favourite books 9: The Life And Times Of Private Eye

The Life and Times of Private Eye, 1961-1971:  edited by Richard Ingrams

Published by Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1971

Last night’s Heath/Wilson documentary on BBC Four was a reminder of a different, half-forgotten world.  The first comprehensive Eye anthology documents that era rather better than Crossman.

My favourite books 8: Vile Bodies

Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh

Published Chapman & Hall, 1930; this edition Penguin, 1974.

Sometimes, paperback publishers get the “look” of an author spot-on, and the Bentley/Farrell/Burnett covers for Penguin’s Evelyn Waugh edition in the 1970s are as right today as they were forty years ago.  (Pan’s James Bond covers in the 1960s are another never-bettered example.)

Vile Bodies is a brilliant social and political satire.  Forget the witless movie adaptation, and devote an afternoon to the too divine original.

My favourite books 7: English Shops And Shopping

English Shops and Shopping: Kathryn A Morrison

Paul Mellon/Yale University Press, 2003

300 beautifully printed, magnificently illustrated and well-written pages, detailing the history of English shops.  Starts at ancient market places, but rapidly gets stuck into department stores, chains, shopping centres and the rest.  The great brands – Boots, Woolworth, M&S, Sainsbury, WH Smith, Burton – are fully covered.

My favourite books 6: Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom

Awopbopaloobop Alopbamboom by Nik Cohn

Weidenfeld & Nicolson 1969; this edition: Paladin 1970

One of the finest books ever written about pop music – vigorous, pithy and highly opinionated.  Like the very best of pop, it is ephemeral and immediate, but has lasting quality. 

My favourite books 5: Reluctant Capitalists

Following the Waterstone’s announcement, we’ll have to go with this one today:

Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption – Laura J Miller

University of Chicago Press, 2006/2007

A dense and – at five years old – historic text.

My favourite books 4: Then We Came To The End

Then We Came To The End: Joshua Ferris

Little, Brown (New York), 2007; this edition: Penguin, 2008

Something a little more contemporary.  This is lighter (and better) than “The Unnamed”, with plenty of dark humour – the story of an ad business slowly failing, and how this plays out among employees.  A great, pertinent read with a style we really got into.