John Sutherland's Lives of the Novelists (Profile Books, £30) is a modern take on a reassuringly ancient format - a Lives of the Most Eminent
Poets for the 21st-century reader who fancies grazing in the pastures tilled by authors from Laurence Sterne to Julian Barnes. Sutherland neatly interweaves stories of the lives of writers with quirky insights into their work. No deconstruction here - there is plenty of dehors de texte in his survey and joyous detail about literary sex lives. He's a bit silly about feminism, preferring sturdy masculine thrillers, but serendipity and controversy combine to make this highly readable. Make up your own mind which of his choices you rate or disdain.
In a thin year for political books, Sonia Purnell's Just Boris: the Irresistible Rise of a Political Celebrity (Aurum Press, £20) stood out as a critical, illuminating view of London's great blond egomaniac.