The Howling Miller

Arto Paasilinna - 1981
    He's big. He's a bit odd. And he's a stranger. Everyone loves his brilliant animal impressions but these feelings soon sour when he starts to howl wildly at night.And once the mean-spirited, small-minded locals realise Gunnar won't conform, they conclude he must be mad. Hounded from his mill and persecuted for being different, only the love of his life and the local drunk stand by him. Can he survive? And how?

Up the Down Staircase

Bel Kaufman - 1964
    It has been translated into sixteen languages, made into a prize-winning motion picture, and staged as a play at high schools all over the United States; its very title has become part of the American idiom.Never before has a novel so compellingly laid bare the inner workings of a metropolitan high school. Up the Down Staircase is the funny and touching story of a committed, idealistic teacher whose clash with school bureaucracy is a timeless lesson for students, teachers, parents--anyone concerned about public education. Bel Kaufman lets her characters speak for themselves through memos, letters, directives from the principal, comments by students, notes between teachers, and papers from desk drawers and wastebaskets, evoking a vivid picture of teachers fighting the good fight against all that stands in the way of good teaching.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All

Jónas Jónasson - 2015
    Then his life takes an unexpected turn when he meets a female Protestant vicar (who also happens to be an atheist), and a homeless receptionist at a former brothel which is now a one-star hotel. The three join forces and concoct an unusual business plan based on Hitman Anders’ skills and his fearsome reputation. The vicar and receptionist will organize jobs for a group of gangsters, and will attract customers using the tabloids’ love of lurid headlines.The perfect plan—if it weren’t for Hitman Anders’ curiosity about the meaning of it all. In conversations with the vicar, he turns to Jesus and, against all odds, Jesus answers him! The vicar can’t believe what’s happening. When Hitman Anders turns to religion, the lucrative business is in danger, and the vicar and the receptionist have to find a new plan, quick.Fast-paced and sparky, the novel follows these bizarre but loveable characters on their quest to create a New Church, with all of Sweden’s gangsters hunting them. Along the way, it explores the consequences of fanaticism, the sensationalist press, the entrepreneurial spirit and straightforward human stupidity—and underlying all of it, the tenuous hope that it’s never too late to start again.

The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman

Bruce Robinson - 1998
    The cult classic novel of growing up in 1950s England from the writer of Withnail and I

Naïve. Super

Erlend Loe - 1996
    He writes lists, obsesses over the nature of time, and finds joy in bouncing balls--all in an effort to find out how best to live life. An utterly enchanting meditation on experience, Naive. Super was a #1 best-seller in Erlend Loe's native Norway.

Elliot Allagash

Simon Rich - 2010
    Now comes Rich’s rollicking debut novel, which explores the strangest, most twisted, and comically fraught terrain of them all: high school.Seymour Herson is the least popular student at Glendale, a private school in Manhattan. He’s painfully shy, physically inept, and his new nick-name, “chunk style,” is in danger of entering common usage. But Seymour’s solitary existence comes to a swift end when he meets the new transfer student: Elliot Allagash, evil heir of America’s largest fortune.Elliot’s rampant delinquency has already gotten him expelled from dozens of prep schools around the country. But despite his best efforts, he can’t get himself thrown out of Glendale; his father has simply donated too much money. Bitter and bored, Elliot decides to amuse himself by taking up a challenging and expensive new hobby: transforming Seymour into the most popular student in the school.An unlikely friendship develops between the two loners as Elliot introduces Seymour to new concepts, like power, sabotage, and vengeance. With Elliot as his diabolical strategist and investor, Seymour scores a spot on the basketball team, becomes class president, and ruthlessly destroys his enemies. Yet despite the glow of newfound popularity, Seymour feels increasingly uneasy with Elliot’s wily designs. For an Allagash victory is dishonorable at its best, and ruinous at its worst.Cunningly playful and wickedly funny, Elliot Allagash is a tale about all of the incredible things that money can buy, and the one or two things that it can’t.

About a Boy

Nick Hornby - 1998
    He's single, child-free, goes to the right clubs and knows which trainers to wear. He's also found a great way to score with women: attend single parents' groups full of available (and grateful) mothers, all hoping to meet a Nice Guy.Which is how Will meets Marcus, the oldest twelve-year-old on the planet. Marcus is a bit strange: he listens to Joni Mitchell and Mozart, looks after his mum and has never owned a pair of trainers. But Marcus latches on to Will - and won't let go. Can Will teach Marcus how to grow up cool? And can Marcus help Will just to grow up?

Augustus Carp, Esq. by Himself, Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man

Henry Howarth Bashford - 1924
    But there are times, and surely the present is one of them, when to do so is manifestly unnecessary. In an age when every standard of decent conduct has either been torn down or is threatened with destruction; when every newspaper is daily reporting scenes of violence, divorce, and arson; when quite young girls smoke cigarettes and even, I am assured, sometimes cigars; when mature women, the mothers of unhappy children, enter the sea in one-piece bathing-costumes; and when married men, the heads of households, prefer the flicker of the cinematograph to the Athanasian Creed -- then it is obviously a task, not to be justifiably avoided, to place some higher example before the world. For some time -- I am now forty-seven -- I had been feeling this with increasing urgency. And when not only my wife and her four sisters, but the vicar of my parish, the Reverend Simeon Whey, approached me with the same suggestion, I felt that delay would amount to sin. That sin, by many persons, is now lightly regarded, I am, of course, only too well aware. That its very existence is denied by others is a fact equally familiar to me. But I am not one of them. On every ground I am an unflinching opponent of sin. I have continually rebuked it in others. I have strictly refrained from it in myself. And for that reason alone I have deemed it incumbent upon me to issue this volume. Illustrations by "Robin" (Marjorie Blood).

They're a Weird Mob

Nino Culotta - 1957
    The comedy of the novel revolves around his attempts to understand English as it was spoken in Australia by the working classes in the 1950s and 1960s. Nino had previously only learned 'good' English from a textbook.The novel is a social commentary on Australian society of the period; specifically male, working class society. Women mostly feature as cameos in the story with the exception of Kay (whose surname is not revealed in the novel), who becomes Nino's wife. In the novel, Nino meets Kay in a cafe in Manly and their introduction is effected by Nino trying to teach Kay that she cannot eat spaghetti using a spoon.The final message of the novel is that immigrants to Australia should count themselves fortunate and should make efforts to assimilate into Australian society, including learning to speak Australian English. However, there is also a satirical undercurrent aimed at Australian society as a country of migrants.

The More You Ignore Me

Jo Brand - 2009
    Her family, tucked in a cottage in deepest Herefordshire, are a bit weird. When her mother Gina is whisked off to the local psychiatric hospital, the only thing that gives Alice's life hope & meaning is her love for Morrissey of The Smiths.

Zigzag Street

Nick Earls - 1996
    Richard Derrington's doing it tough.Since Anna trashed him his job seems pointles, Tuesday seems moderately fucked by ten, his tennis appalling.....long periods of complete crap, punctuated by flashes of very random glory and the future bleka.This is a hiatus? There I was thinking I was sinking and it's just a hiatus.Apart from his friens, the only thing keeping Richard going is his wicked sense of humour.Then things look up.

Changing Places

David Lodge - 1975
    David Lodge, portraying two American and British professors who replace one another at their respective institutions, gives greed, pettiness, and pretense full rein.

The Fan Man

William Kotzwinkle - 1974
    It is told in the first-person by the narrator, Horse Badorties, a down-at-the-heels hippie living a life of drug-fueled befuddlement in New York City c. 1970. The book is written in a colorful, vernacular "hippie-speak" and tells the story of the main character's hapless attempts to put together a benefit concert featuring his own hand-picked choir of 15-year-old girls.Horse is a somewhat tragic, though historically humorous, character with echoes of other famous characters in popular culture such as Reverend Jim Ignatowski of Taxi fame. In his inability to follow anything through to completion he displays symptoms of attention-deficit disorder though this could equally be drug-induced. His defining characteristic is his joy in renting or commandeering apartments which he fills with street-scavenged junk articles until full to bursting he moves on to his next "pad". The name "fan man" is a reference to another of his traits; the collecting of fans of all shapes and sizes.

The Death of a Beekeeper

Lars Gustafsson - 1978
    Told through the journals of this schoolteacher turned apiarist, The Death of a Beekeeper, is his gentle, courageous, and sometimes comic meditation on living with pain. Westin has refused to surrender the time left him to the impersonation of a hospital, preferring to take his fate upon himself, to continue solitary, reflective life in the Swedish countryside. "I took little walks and noticed that in the last months the pain had actually colored the landscape in a peculiar way. Here and there is a tree where it really hurt, here and there is a fence against whose post I struck my hand in passing." His inner landscape is also re-forming: "This constant concern with an indefinite dangerous secret in one’s own body, this feeling that some dramatic change is taking place, without one’s being able to have any clarity about what really is... reminds me of prepuberty. I even recognize this gentle feeling of shame again." The relentlessly intimate burning in his gut provides a point of psychic detachment, rendering his survival "a unique art form whose level of difficulty is so high that no one exists who can practice it.” Yet he insists, "We begin again. We never give up."

The Life and Loves of a She Devil

Fay Weldon - 1983
    Rather the opposite in fact -- simply a tall, not terribly attractive woman living a quiet life as a wife and mother in a respectable suburb. But when she discovers that her husband is having a passionate affair with the lovely romantic novelist Mary Fisher, she is so seized by envy that she becomes truly diabolic. Within weeks she has burnt down the family home, collected the insurance, made love to the local drunk and embarked on a course of destruction and revenge. A blackly comic satire of the war of the sexes, LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE DEVIL is the fantasy of the wronged woman made real.