Trainspotting and singles sex instead of Trollope

What they read
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The Independent Online
They choose less Trollope, more Irvine Welsh. The reading habits of the new crop of MPs say as much about the changed face of the Commons as any parliamentary profile.

Welsh's seedy tale of Scottish drug life, Trainspotting, is one of the favourite books among the new generation. While Margaret Atwood did not even make it into the list last year, her novel Alias Grace is a winner this time. And the popularity of The Independent's own Bridget Jones - as told in the book form of her diary - may point to the relative youth of the new Westminster intake.

Dillons the Bookstore wrote to all 659 MPs and 160 replied. "Clearly this is a House that's committed to books and to reading," said Findlay Caldwell, the store's marketing director.

Mentions of Williams Burroughs, Will Self and even the Fulham football club 1996/7 yearbook mark a radical departure, although the Bible remains the best book ever by an even greater margin. As for holiday reading, a mixed literary delight of Bill Bryson's Notes From a Small Island, Edward Rutherford's London, Eric Hobsbawm and books by Ken Follett will be in suitcases across the country as the Commons breaks for the summer.

Alan Clark, Kensington and Chelsea's Tory MP, has just started Max Egremont's biography of Edward Spears. "It's a marvellous book, very pleasing and very vividly written." He never reads novels and plans to take James Lees- Milne's new volume of diaries on holiday.

Barbara Follett, credited with Labour's sartorial make-over, will read the first draft of Out of the Mouth of the Dragon, the new novel by her husband, Ken. Gary Streeter, Tory spokesman on European affairs, is taking his new post seriously. He has "various books on the European Union" to tackle. And Ben Bradshaw, the new MP for Exeter, intends to track down a book on the American Civil War whose title eludes him. "I haven't had any time to think of any other reading - I've been so busy," he said.

Dr Evan Harris, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, is a Bridget Jones fan: "It's just so funny and all my friends relate to it." Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, plans to read Primary Colors, the controversial novel of sex and politics broadly based on President Clinton's election campaign.

Meanwhile, Sir Richard Body, the man synonymous with "the flapping of white coats" in John Major's phrase, will be writing a book of his own - on England and Englishness. So his holiday reading will comprise a few histories of the nation.

Yet the lists would be quite different if the MPs took any notice of their friends. Asked what they have been urged to read and not got round to yet, Will Hutton's economic treatise, The State We're In, came top of the list. And you thought it was required new Labour reading ...

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