Books Recommended

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The Independent Culture
The Collision of Two Civilisations by Alain Peyrefitte, Tr. Jon Rothschild, Harvill, pounds 20. Excellently researched study of the relationship between China and Britain during the 19th century. Review by Godfrey Hodgson, 20 February.

The Blindfold by Siri Hustvedt, Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 8.99. Sinister, elegantly written first novel about a young woman's life in New York. Review by Justine Picardie, 13 February.

Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories by Jenny Uglow, Faber, pounds 20. Readable and rigorous biography of the 19th-century novelist with a talent for life. Review by Sue Gaisford, 6 February.

Sentimental Journeys by Joan Didion, HarperCollins, pounds 15. Clever, singular musings on the heart and mind of America. Review by Natasha Walter, 30 January.

Swing hammer swing] by Jeff Torrington, Secker & Warburg, pounds 8.99. Deep and affecting novel about Glasgow life, and winner of this year's Whitbread Prize. Interview by Marianne Brace, 30 January.

I am the Clay by Chaim Potok, Heinemann pounds 13.99. Dramatic, solemn fiction that describes a rescued boy's struggle to live during the war in Korea. Review by Tim Jackson, 23 January

The Dictionary of National Biography edited by C S Nicholls, Oxford, pounds 65. Expensive but marvellous compendium, more than a thousand lives rescued from oblivion. Review by Robert Winder, 22 January.