Not meant to be a classics list (there are more than enough of those), but a catalogue of (for the most part) modern reads that will be parked on my bookshelf forever. And like the Freebie Five, it will be shifted, adjusted, and modified accordingly.

Would love to know your list too – please do send and share recommendations. And please visit this section often for updates.



PS. Please don’t hate on the teen fiction. LOVE teen fiction!

On Beauty

Zadie Smith

It is her masterpiece. And she is only 32. Only 32! Barbed, brilliant, soooo smart, married to poet (of course), and she spent part of 2006 in Tuscany catching up on her reading. Ugh!

The Tender Bar

J.R. Moehringer

Favourite book of 2006. Perhaps favourite memoir ever. In short – a boy who grows up without a father and is raised by the men at the local pub. Moehringer is a journalist so he tells a great story. But he’s also a beautiful writer – long, intricate, original sentences, descriptions more vivid than a painting, authenticity in every word. Scott Rudin has acquired the film rights to the book. Rudin’s recent projects include There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Notes on a Scandal, and The Queen – all Oscar nominees and/or winners. So far so good.

We Need to Talk About Kevin

Lionel Shriver

I do not have children because I am not suited to be a mother. Am convinced I would birth a serial killer. Just like Eva birthed a serial killer. A hateful child and an ambivalent mother – not because she was dropped on her head, but just because. Just because rarely, on a few rare occasions, some women just aren’t “transformed” by pregnancy and parenthood. Maybe Britney just wasn’t transformed by pregnancy and parenthood. Discuss.

The Sheltering Sky

Paul Bowles

I live in fear every month that Oprah will come along and pick The Sheltering Sky for her book club, just as she did with Middlesex, leaving the MiniVan Majority to rape its legacy, though I am curious as to how she and her lambs would analyse the ending. That ending haunted me for days. Knowing the flock, they’d probably turn it into a conventional love story. Ugh.

Running With Scissors

Augusten Burroughs

Augusten Burroughs’s memoir – his depressed mother, her depraved psychiatrist, his dysfunctional family. They lived in squalor, were exposed to psychotics and pedophiles, and still the story is wildly hilarious. Probably embellished but so what? Embellished or not, it’s a great read. An all-time read. Period. The end.

Live From New York

Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. If you are a fan of the show, it’s required reading – unprecedented access yielding fascinating smut from backstage at Studio 8H. Battling the censors, Chevy Chase’s ego, Lorne Michaels’s departure and comeback, the bitter criticism from those who couldn’t cut it, and above all, how the comedy came together. Of course my Gwyneth gets to pontificate endlessly about how amazing she is too. There’s actually a passage where she actually has to recount a story about how she shaved 30 seconds off a skit and received some rare praise from none other than Lorne himself. Because she’s better than you, remember?

The Secret History

Donna Tartt

Google her picture and then read the book and then don’t even try to say you don’t feel spooked. She’s creepier than her friend Brett Easton Ellis. And you know that’s saying something. Some authors just make you feel stupid. This is Donna Tartt. And I’m now happy they still haven’t been able to turn this thing into a movie. Gwyneth was attached for a while and somehow things fell through. Which is a good thing. Hollywood would only succeed in making it less creepy.


Curtis Sittenfeld

Teen fiction on the surface but subversively dark as it progresses, and a main character who is not likeable. Because she’s 17. And confused. And despite bucking so desperately against the cliché actually becomes the cliché. Also – the “boy”… his name is Cross Sugarman. Cross! Cross the hot athlete! Prep is… wait for it… BETTER than Gossip Girl, the tv show. Gossip Girl the books aren’t worth discussing.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves

Lynne Truss

Grammar is sexy. But good grammar, like good taste, is dying a quick death. “The Hills” generation won’t care, but proper punctuation can be cool and chic. Especially when honoured by an uptight English bitch who rightly believes that consistent and flagrant abuse of the English language should be punishable by flogging. In fact, I can’t even imagine the sh*t losing that Truss must have experienced over the statement the Spears family released to CNN’s Anderson Cooper about Britney:

"As parents of an adult child in the throws (sic) of a mental health crisis, we were extremely disappointed this morning to learn that over the recommendation of her treating psychiatrist, our daughter Britney was released from the hospital that could best care for her and keep her safe.”

The THROWS??? The THROWS??? Gah!

Wild Swans

Jung Chang

The story of Chang’s mother and her grandmother and their suffering pre, during, and post Mao, the man with absurd ideas who ended up leading a country further into famine and suffering resulting in the deaths of over 50 MILLION Chinese. And still his image and his body are held in a place of honour in Tiananmen Square. Wild Swans is banned in China. Sometimes my people can’t handle the truth.

Thank You For Smoking

Christopher Buckley

The movie was critically acclaimed still not even close to the brilliance of the book. The book is f&cking hilarious. And mean. And unapologetic. And Nick Naylor is a sexy beast.


Diana Evans

Enough with these talented brilliant bitches and their astonishingly impressive first efforts. If you ever run into either one of those two twin Olsen twats, shove this book into her Balenciaga.

The Post Birthday World

Lionel Shriver

Sliding Doors for the unfaithful. And the results are painfully uncomfortable. Because who hasn’t been tempted? And who hasn’t doubted the one they’re with? And what if you do everything you’re supposed to but you end up cheating anyway? Shriver has a way of confronting those “Oprah” ideals. And tearing off those illusions about the existence of “the right thing”.

Thing of Beauty

Stephen Fried

Was OBSESSED with Gia Carangi a few years ago… BEFORE Angelina’s HBO movie. One of the first supermodels, along with Janice Dickinsin, she died of AIDS, diseased and destitute at only 26. Cindy Crawford was compared to her when she first broke. Rumour has it, in a shoot for Vogue, the track marks on Gia’s arms had to be airbrushed out of the images. They said Gia had the most perfect breasts ever. Her life is so sad I felt like my apartment was haunted just reading the book. And you can’t stop.

It’s Not About the Bike

Lance Armstrong

Once upon a time, Lance was #1 on the Freebie Five, not because of his victories but because of the book. Ran out of things to read on holiday, found a copy in the hotel library, and two hours later was obsessed. Unlike most pro athlete autobiographies, the ghost writing isn’t disingenuous or contrived. On the contrary, you can legitimately hear Lance’s voice – his arrogance, his courage, his gratitude, and his humility. Back then he wasn’t so much of a douchebag and it is because of this book that I, perhaps naively, refuse to believe that Lance Armstrong has ever used performance enhancing drugs. Because just as I believe in pure evil and wickness, so I also have to believe in the opposite – that we live in a world where it really is possible to come from the brink and win the Tour de France 7 times on pure dedication, training, and divine inspiration alone.

Sloppy Firsts

Meghan McCafferty

Authors in the young adult genre are often underrated, and deservedly so. But the Jessica Darling series is beyond YA. Sure, teenagers get it but the content and the tone are way funnier and way more enjoyable for adults. And that is Megan McCafferty’s gift. She is much more accomplished, much more talented, much more profound that she’s given credit for. And the evolution of her character is a testament to her depth as a writer. Every turn, every development, every story decision makes sense. Jessica’s choices are so real and so poignant, even when they hurt, even when you don’t like them, that at the end of the read you still wouldn’t change a thing. Because they are right. It sounds ridiculous to applaud an author for being “right” about her character but isn’t it amazing how often the opposite is true?

The Dogs of Babel

Carolyn Parkhurst

When Dogs was released, my mother was fresh from her kidney transplant having received, literally, a new lease on life. While we were nursing her, I often selfishly wondered what I would do with my father if…he had to be alone. Sometimes I think it’s worse for men. That it would be worse for my husband if I went first, simply because men have not been traditionally encouraged to develop coping and communication skills that become paramount after tragedy, and such is the case with Paul Iverson, our hero, who loses his wife and decides to teach his dog how to speak hoping that his dog might be able to tell him how she died. Sounds sadistic but I love books that make you ache in a very real way – a lingering ache that stays with you for days. An ache that still throbs a little when you walk by the book case and see the binding. And I do love Rhodesian Ridgebacks.

A Thread of Grace

Mary Doria Russell

One of our book club selections a while back that I wasn’t able to finish on time and am sorry for it. Have since re-read it, twice, back to back and am amazed at how the writing doesn’t suffer for the overwhelming amount of detail she has to cover, to say nothing of how she manages so many characters interweaving into a complex but heartbreaking narrative about the Second World War and the everyday sacrifices that people made every day to save lives. Her talent comes off the page and slaps you in the face. Hate her. Love her!

Regret the Error

Craig Silverman

It’s not just The News of the World. Or Life & Style Weekly. The “classy” publications f&ck up all the time. Badly. And more often than not, their mistakes are even more egregious. Because so many of us think the NY Times is the bible. Makes you doubt the legitimacy of the “legitimate” media and next time you’re faced with one of those hoity toity blog haters, you can give them a copy. Bet your boob job there’s no error in this sentence: John Travolta is gay.

Madame Tussaud: A Life in Wax

Kate Berridge

Berridge asserts that Madame Tussaud was the first tabloid journalist, creating waxwork from scandal and bringing it to the masses. Her exhibits fuelled and continues to fuel the gossip of the day – from Marie Antoinette through the revolution and now even the Chosen One Shiloh Jolie Pitt, who has already graced countless tabloid covers and can boast her very own figure at the Tussaud Museum in New York. Madame lived a fascinating life, especially relevant in the age of TMZ. Because gossip is immortal. And she could very well be the Original Gossip Blogger.