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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.

The Oxford Book of Letters edited by Frank and Anita Kermode (Oxford, pounds 20). Joyous celebration of lettres intimes across the centuries from Thomas More to Groucho Marx via Herbert Henry Asquith.

Robert Graves: Life on the Edge by Miranda Seymour (Doubleday, pounds 20). Perceptive account of the poet's storm-tossed life.

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

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

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

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