Jonathan Raban and Denis Lehane have done similarly with James Crumley's “The Last Good Kiss” which is easily the best book I've ever read about drinking and I was so pleased at their praise because I hitherto thought I was alone in my admiration.
However, I'd guess John Sutherland's choices are not going to have the same effect. Which makes me feel like having my own go. Here's a book to read, and to read now.
Born Yesterday by Gordon Burn.
No, not him out of The Krypton Factor (my best friend won The Krypton Factor one year don'tcha know). Where was I? Ah yes, Born Yesterday, written in 2007, not long before his death, and which has come to seem a pivotal year in history, and if not in western history, in my history.
Gordon Burn interlinks the news stories – Madeleine McCann, incipient banking crisis, foot and mouth, floods, Brown and Blair, Katie Middleton, venn diagrams of overlapping celebrities and 1%ers, etc – into a kind of novel, into a kind of story, into a very modern melange.
I read it in 2008 when it first came out because I am a fan, though more of his non fiction than his fiction which is often unfathomable. But it was too soon, the stories didn't carry enough weight, were too close. I've just re-read it, in one day, and right now seems like the perfect distance. It seems like a different age, but one you can reach out and touch – the summer we were flooded. We are indeed bit parts in the narrative. It's a profound mix of news and fact that holds a mirror up to storytelling.
I've no idea how it will stand the test of time but, right now, it seems like genius.