What was the best legal book of 1996? The Lawyer's reviewers give their verdicts

Best legal book of 1996: The Future of Law, Richard Susskind, Clarendon Press, £19.99

This highly readable book challenges every lawyer to consider what role he or she may have in 10 years time, when IT turns lawyers in to legal information engineers interpreting legal information available to all.

Best book of 1996: Behind the Scenes at the Museum, Kate Atkinson, Black Swan, £6.99

This is a first novel and winner of the Whitbread Book of the Year award. It is what a good book should be: sheer pleasure, leaving a sense of loss when you finish it. It is tragic but so funny it made me laugh out loud.

Favourite book of all time: The Pillows of the Earth, Ken Follett, MacMillan and Pan, £6.99

Usually a thriller writer, Follett indulges his obsession with the splendours of cathedral architecture with this story of an idealistic stonemason caught up in the anarchy following the death of Henry I. This is an enjoyable novel which entertains, instructs and satisfies – and leaves you wanting to visit all the fine cathedrals of Europe.

Which book would you have liked to receive for Christmas?Scorn: With Added Vitriol, Edited by Matthew Parris, Penguin, £5.99

A delightful collection of abuse, insults, tactless remarks and skilful invective. Disraeli, for example, thought Gladstone "had not a single redeeming defect". Delicious!

Julian Knowles, barrister, 3 Raymond Buildings

Best legal book of 1996: Capital Punishment: Global Issues and Prospects, Hodgkinson and Rutherford (editors), Waterside Press, £3

A considerable number of lawyers in the UK are involved in representing capital defendants overseas. This book is required reading for them, and for anyone with an interest in human rights or the death penalty.

Best book of 1996: Faber Book of Reportage, Carey (editor), £9.99

A collection of eyewitness accounts of moments in history, some momentous, some significant only for the author. The World War I accounts are refreshingly direct and written in the ordinary language of the men who fought. When I was at school I was always more interested in what eating with Attila the Hun would have been like rather than the date of the Battle of Waterloo. This book finally gave me the answer.

Favourite book of all time: Nice Work, David Lodge, Penguin, £6.99

Like all of Lodge's novels, this is a deceptively complex work. On one level it is simply an engaging tale of role reversal. But really it is a multi-targeted satire: academia, Thatcherite greed, naive liberalism, feminism and sexism all come under fire. It is also fantastically funny and very sexy.

Which book would you have liked to receive for Christmas? Any exercise book that can tell me how to get rid of the paunch I have acquired since coming to the Bar.

Dinah Rose, barrister, 2 Hare Court

Best legal book of 1996: In the Name of the Law, David Rose, Jonathan Cape, £17.99

This is an excellent analysis of the current state of the criminal justice system.

Best book of 1996: Konin: A Quest (1995), Theo Richmond

Nothing I have read that was published in 1996 has affected me as deeply as this book, an immaculate re-creation of life in a single, annihilated, Polish Jewish community.

Favourite book of all time: James Boswell's Journals

Boswell's enthusiasm for the company of famous men, and his talent as a journalist and observer, make his journals a fascinating portrait of his time. His descriptions of own follies and failures, including uncontrollable outbreaks of the "whoring rage" and the misery of the inevitable bouts of venereal disease that follow, make for a wonderfully entertaining read.

Which book would you have liked to receive for Christmas? A good book on child care.

Elizabeth Wall, Group director, Cable & Wireless

Best legal book of 1996: The Future of Law, Richard Susskind, Clarendon Press, £19.99

This book is an interesting and individual insight into the future of legal practice, the wider implications of which we ignore at our peril.

Best book of 1996: Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson, Bloomsbury, £4.99

Set in my favourite part of the world, the US Pacific North West, it has an extraordinarily evocative sense of time and place. I found this 'courtroom drama with a difference' a haunting and spellbinding read.

Favourite book of all time: A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, Eric Newby, Pan, £5.99

A career diplomat and a refugee from the rag trade embark upon an improbable adventure across the Hindu Kush after only a weekend's climbing practice in Snowdonia. I know of no other book which so vividly captures the "bulldog breed's" spirit of dogged determination and intrepid eccentricity. It always makes me laugh and lifts my spirits.

Which book would you have liked to receive for Christmas? Anything written by David Attenborough.

Monty Raphael, SENIOR PARTNER, PETERS & PETERS

Best legal book of 1996: In the Name of the Law, David Rose, Jonathan Cape, £17.99

This is a well-balanced and well-written description of the crime control versus civil liberties debate.

Best book of 1996: Snow Falling on Cedars, David Guterson, Bloomsbury, £4.99

I nominate this book for its beautiful sense of place and its timeless compassion.

Favourite book of all time: Middlemarch, George Eliot

A masterpiece of English literature. Three poignant novels interwoven. I hope I get a chance to re-read it.

Which book would you have liked to receive for Christmas?

Any really fat, satisfying book about London, its people, past, present, and its buildings.