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The Independent Culture
Paul Gauguin: A Complete Life by David Sweetman (Hodder & Stoughton, pounds 25). Meticulous, if occasionally over-detailed, biography of the syphilitic painter who sought paradise in Tahiti.

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

Life in the English Country Cottage by Adrian Tinniswood (Weidenfeld, pounds 19.99). Beautifully illustrated history with sprightly, intelligent text.

Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez translated by Edith Grossman (Cape, pounds 13.99). Brief, intoxicating novel full of sensual delights but short on plot.

Treasure and Deceit: Schliemann of Troy by David Traill (John Murray, pounds 19.99). Fascinating story of the great archeologist, who turns out to have been a liar and a cheat despite his brilliance.

Lost Cowboys: From Patagonia to Alamo by Hank Wangford (Gollancz, pounds 16.99). Testosterone-rich write-up of a visit to cowboy country by the gynaecologist- turned-country-and-western singer.

Gridiron by Philip Kerr (Chatto and Windus, pounds 14.99). Brilliant thriller about a computerised building that turns into a killing machine.

A Great Task of Happiness: The Life of Kathleen Scott by Louisa Young (Macmillan, pounds 20). Exuberant biography of the flamboyant sculptor wife of Scott of the Antarctic by the subject's grand-daughter.