RECOMMENDED BOOKS

The Film Explainer by Gert Hofmann, translated by Michael Hofmann (Secker, pounds 9.99). Brilliant autobiographical novel set in Thirties Germany. Winner of the 1995 Independent Foreign Fiction Award.

Shards of Memory by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (John Murray, pounds 15.99). East meets West in cosmopolitan comedy of manners. Her best novel since "Heat and Dust".

Robert Graves: Life on the Edge by Miranda Seymour (Doubleday, pounds 20). Perceptive account of the writer who lived "as he thought a poet should - on an emotional tightrope".

The Mahler Album edited by Gilbert Kaplan (Thames and Hudson, pounds 48). Over 300 photographs of the most handsome composer in history, with a fascinating memoir by one of his contemporaries.

Life Without Armour: An Autobiography by Alan Sillitoe (HarperCollins, pounds 18.99). Gritty life story of the Northern autodidact. Best on his pre- war Nottingham childhood.

Dark Spectre by Michael Dibdin (Faber, pounds 15.99). Claustrophobic thriller about a sinister American sect. Perfect holiday reading.

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