We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Great Contemporary Books

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
Pocket-sized set of aphorisms that sound like they were written by a medieval monk but were actually the product of a Lebanese-American alcoholic who died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1931. The Prophet is a beautifully phrased exercise in pointing out the obvious but Sixties hippy kids loved it. SD

THIRTIES . . .

Journey to the End of Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline (1932)
Céline's vile political views are well documented but his first novel, Journey to the End of Night, was a groundbreaking modernist novel and a fine satire on war and the medical profession. Céline is considered one of the great French prose stylists of the 20th century. Martin Chilton

by Vera Brittain (1933)
A record of a lost generation in the shape of the contemporaries Vera Brittain loved and lost in the First World War, this memoir is also a poignant, passionate and perfectly poised study of a woman trying to find her place in a changing world. A bible to the generation who read it on publication, its influence continues thanks to a Virago reprint. Sarah Crompton

The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
Modern travel writers such as Colin Thubron and Bruce Chatwin were inspired by Robert Byron. Travelling through the Middle East and Asia in the 1930s, Byron provides detailed descriptions of Islamic architecture, with pungent asides: "The Arabs hate the French more than they hate us. Having more reason to do so, they are more polite; in other words, they have learnt not to try it on, when they meet a European.Siddhartha by Herman Hesse This makes Damascus a pleasant city from the visitor's point of view." Sameer Rahim

FORTIES . . .

The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
"Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don’t know." The beach, the sun, the Arab, the gunshots, the chaplain: the stuff of millions of adolescents' fevered imaginings. If you don't love this when you're 17, there’s something wrong with you. In the film Talladega Nights, Sacha Baron Cohen's snooty French racing driver reads it on the starting grid. Strange but true: George W Bush read it on holiday when he was President. Dominic Sandbrook

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. SalingerThe Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
Bewilderingly popular and extremely silly Nietzschean melodrama, in which Ayn Rand gives her mad arch-capitalist philosophy a run round the block in the person of Howard Roark, a flouncy architect. Loved by the kind of person who tells you selfishness is an evolutionary advantage, before stealing your house/lover/job. Tim Martin

Baby and Child Care by Doctor Benjamin Spock (1946)
Childcare experts go in and out of fashion, but Dr Benjamin Spock remains the daddy of them all. From his reassuring first sentence – "You know more than you think you do" – he revolutionised the way parents thought about their children, asserting the right to cuddle, comfort and follow your instincts. He also tells you how to deal with croup. SC

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
This heady mix of romance and reality opens with its teenage heroine Cassandra Mortmain writing while sitting in the kitchen sink. It ends with the words "I love you" scribbled in the margins of the imaginary journal that forms the substance of the novel. In between a story unfolds that feeds the fantasies of every lovelorn young girl; but its status owes much to the way that, as in life, things don’t end happily ever after. SC

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf
Source: www.telegraph.co.uk
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