Reviews for Jonathan Coe and Simon Schama, the Literary Calendar makes its first appearance on the Digest, plus we're giving away a trip to the Lincoln Book Festival and the Man Booker Prize shortlist.
Win a trip to the Lincoln Book Festival!
Win the Man Booker Prize shortlist!

Yes, this week we've got two amazing prizes up for grabs. One lucky reader (and friend) can win tickets to the Lincoln Book Festival (running from 30 September to 5 October, it has a brilliant line-up including A.N. Wilson and William Dalrymple) and two nights' accommodation at the recently restored Lincoln Hotel, which has stunning views over the cathedral. Another reader can get their hands on the entire Man Booker Prize shortlist. Announced yesterday, it includes books by Colm Tóibín and the youngest ever nominee, Eleanor Catton. To be entered into the draw for either, or both, of the prizes, all you need to do is complete a very short, entirely confidential survey. Here's the link. Deadline for entries is Friday 20 September.

Expo 58 by Jonathan Coe
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"Expo 58, triumphantly, is as compelling as it is entertaining." Robert McCrum, The Observer VS "It’s a spy thriller for people who don’t much like spies or being thrilled – for whom Le Carré is a bit complex, Fleming too dark and ’Allo ’Allo a little on the sexy side." Hannah McGill, The Scotsman
The Story of the Jews by Simon Schama
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"Schama has done a splendid job ... [A] spirited, immensely enjoyable and wide-ranging account" David Abulafia, Financial Times VS "It is too long, full of digressions on pet subjects such as art and archeology, and it is not always clear what thread is holding it all together." Josh Glancy, Sunday Times


"The authors are not the kind of people you see at the neighbouring desk in the rare books room," said John Sutherland in his review of Salinger, the much-hyped biography of Holden Caulfield's creator by David Shields and Shane Salerno, who wrote the screenplay for Alien vs Predator: Requiem. Less polite was The New Yorker's Adam Gopnik:

"Bizarre… they are no more interested in Salinger the writer or artist than the people who go through Dylan’s garbage cans are really interested in Dylan … from now on, if you want to understand why the young J. D. Salinger fled New York publishing, fanatic readers, eager biographers, disingenuous interpreters, character assassination in the guise of “scholarship,” and the literary world generally, you need only open this book."

Read all reviews for Salinger

One Night in Winter by Simon Sebag Montefiore
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"I opened One Night in Winter, a sort-of sequel set in Moscow in 1945, with a feeling of imminent edification, and could hardly have been more surprised. This isn’t worthy at all. It is Arthur Koestler, rewritten by Philippa Gregory – think of it as The Other Beria Girl or The Commissar’s Concubine – and it is seriously good fun." Oliver Bullough, The Telegraph
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
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"Lahiri requires a high degree of patience from her readers, but those who stick with her will be amply rewarded. She has an extraordinary power of empathy for her characters" Edmund Gordon, Sunday Times VS "The writing in The Lowland is everywhere ostentatiously quiet, extravagantly precise, distractingly ceremonial, at least when it’s not cloyingly precious." Randy Boyagoda, Financial Times
The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
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"A dazzling feat of a novel, the golden nugget in this year’s Man Booker longlist, a pastiche quite unlike anything I’ve ever come across, so graceful is its plotting and structure" Lucy Scholes, The Guardian VS "Catton’s pastiche Victorian prose can be painfully slow, especially when coupled with her habit of introducing each of the many characters by telling, rather than showing us, what they are like." Paul Dunn, The Times
Best of the rest
The Maid’s Version by Daniel Woodrell, A French Novel by Frédéric Beigbeder, Mr Loverman by Bernardine Evaristo, Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.

Pick of the paperbacks
Grimm Tales by Philip Pullman, A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks, Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'Farrell
Danubia: A Personal History of the Hapsburg Empire by Simon Winder
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"Anyone with an interest in a part of Europe and a section of history largely ignored in our schools and universities will find this book richly rewarding." Allan Massie, Literary Review VS " wonders whether his editors, like Habsburg court flunkies embarrassed before the emperor, were simply frightened to tell him that some passages go on too long." Tim Judah, Guardian
A Classless Society: Britain in the 1990s by Alwyn W Turner
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"...ravenously inquisitive, darkly comical and coolly undeceived … His research is phenomenal." Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday VS " vivid is his interest in popular and semi-popular culture, that he takes its specific forms to be a kind of proxy for what the population at large is thinking and doing. If you believe this then Jack Dee, say, becomes as significant as the Governor of the Bank of England" David Aaronovitch, The Times
Tudor: The Family Story by Leanda de Lisle
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"Notoriously, modern schoolchildren are taught only about the Nazis and the Tudors. This book reminds us why. Both stories are lurid, and while the Nazis managed to sustain the pitch of horror and excitement for a mere 12 years, the Tudors kept up a cracking pace for 10 times longer." Charles Moore, Telegraph
Best of the rest
The Tragedy of Liberation by Frank Dikotter, Four Fields by Tim Dee, A Very British Murder by Lucy Worsley

Pick of the paperbacks
Winter Journal by Paul Auster, Ban This Filth! Letters from the Mary Whitehouse Archive ed. Ben Thompson, Servants by Lucy Lethbridge

What's the sexiest thing you've ever read?
"Norman Mailer’s An American Dream stands out in my mind. There is an unforgettable four-page-long sex scene between the war veteran protagonist and his wife’s German chambermaid. It reads as an existential battle where he struggles to decide between the heavenly sanctuary where babies are made, and the fiery sodomous pit beneath. Verboten!"
Jessica, 28, Bethnal Green
Which book would you give someone you’re trying to impress?
Christopher Logue’s translation/adaptation of the Iliad, War Music. It feels like a gift from the cosmos, the result of some miraculous alignment of planets. I often re-read the death of Sarpedon to give myself some strength. At the very least, it would get their blood up.
Alex, 27, east London

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More Ketchup than Salsa by Joe Cawley

Where did you get the idea for your book?
It’s a true account of my foolish notion that the grass would be greener anywhere that wasn’t Bolton fish market. Actually, it was greener… it just concealed an assortment of sub-tropical dangers, mainly in the form of British ex-pats and a psychotic cat called Buster.

If you had to sum up your book in a “Hollywood pitch”, how would you describe it?
Shirley Valentine meets Little Britain.

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