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I take the titles for these monthly posts from a number of sources, including the highlighted books on The Bookseller, my own knowledge of authors to watch, and various lists around the web, and while I can’t claim to have read them, they definitely seem to have merit — or, at least, buzz. Unless indicated otherwise, descriptions are taken from Goodreads, Amazon, or the publisher’s site.
The most reliable place to find UK books in the original British English and at the date at which they come out in the UK is bookdepository.com, though you may also have some luck with wordery.com and bookwitty.com.
Melmoth, by Sarah Perry (UK, 2nd October, US, 16th October, literary fiction)
Twenty years ago Helen Franklin did something she cannot forgive herself for, and she has spent every day since barricading herself against its memory. But her sheltered life is about to change. A strange manuscript has come into her possession. It is filled with testimonies from the darkest chapters of human history, which all record sightings of a tall, silent woman in black, with unblinking eyes and bleeding feet: Melmoth, the loneliest being in the world. Condemned to walk the Earth forever, she tries to beguile the guilty and lure them away for a lifetime wandering alongside her. Everyone that Melmoth seeks out must make a choice: to live with what they’ve done, or be led into the darkness. Helen can’t stop reading, or shake the feeling that someone is watching her. As her past finally catches up with her, she too must choose which path to take.
XX, by Angela Chadwick (UK, 4th October, fiction)
When Rosie and Jules discover a ground-breaking clinical trial that enables two women to have a female baby, they jump at the chance to make history. Fear-mongering politicians and right-wing movements are quick to latch on to the controversies surrounding Ovum-to-Ovum (o-o) technology and stoke the fears of the public. What will happen to the numbers of little boys born? Is there a sinister conspiracy to eradicate men at play? In this toxic political climate, Jules and Rosie try to hide their baby from scrutiny. But when the news of Rosie’s pregnancy is leaked to the media, their relationship is put under a microscope and they’re forced to question the loyalty of those closest to them, and battle against a tirade of hate that threatens to split them apart…
A Better Me: The Official Autobiography, by Gary Barlow (UK and US, 4th October, autobiography)
A Better Me is a remarkably frank memoir of Gary’s life as he battled with weight, stress, fitness and depression and staged one of the most thrilling professional comebacks in years. In his warm, witty and authentic voice, he recounts his story with compelling insight, captivating honesty and a human side that people rarely see. Here is one of the UK’s most beloved pop stars open, honest and raw and as we’ve never seen him before.
Bloody Brilliant Women: Pioneers, Revolutionaries & Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention, by Cathy Newman (UK, 4th October, non-fiction)
Were it not for women, significant features of modern Britain like council housing, municipal swimming pools and humane laws relating to property ownership, child custody and divorce wouldn’t exist in quite the same way. Women’s drive and talent for utopian thinking created new social and legislative agendas. The women in these pages blazed a trail from the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – through to Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from Downing Street. Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, Bloody Brilliant Women uses the stories of some extraordinary lives to tell the tale of 20th and 21st century Britain. It is a history for women and men. A history for our times.
Best of Today: 60 Years of Conversations, Contradictions and Controversies, by Nick Robinson and the BBC (UK, 4th October, non-fiction)
The first ever book from the Today programme takes an original approach to our nation’s history, exploring the events as they happened and the outcomes that have gone on to transform our modern age. From the Fall of the Berlin Wall; the Falklands War; the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Rise of Islamic State to Gay Rights Activism; the Pill and the Sexual Revolution; the Salman Rushdie Affair; the Emergence of Brit Art; Engineering the Channel Tunnel; Stephen Hawking’s Black Hole Paradox & Peter Higgs’ ‘God Particle’ and Tomorrow’s World of AI and Machine Learning. Today is much more than a daily news and current affairs radio programme – it’s a perennial British staple, and the Best of Today is a ground-breaking reflection of the history of our nation as it unfolded live on air.
The Story of NOW That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists, by Michael Mulligan (UK, 4th October, non-fiction)
To celebrate the release of the 100th NOW album, The Story of NOW That’s What I Call Music in 100 Artists looks back at some of the most memorable – and occasionally regrettable – hits of the last 35 years! Jam packed with amazing facts and ‘Well I never!’ moments about the 4,000+ artists to have graced the NOW track listings – from Phil Collins to Pharrell, Bananarama to Lady Gaga and Peter Andre to Pet Shop Boys – The Story of NOW is a celebration of pop music through the decades. So plug in your earphones and pump up the volume, because this party is just getting started!
Brief Answers to the Big Questions, by Stephen Hawking (UK and US, 16th October, non-fiction)
Stephen Hawking was recognized as one of the greatest minds of our time and a figure of inspiration after defying his ALS diagnosis at age twenty-one. He is known for both his breakthroughs in theoretical physics as well as his ability to make complex concepts accessible for all, and was beloved for his mischievous sense of humor. At the time of his death, Hawking was working on a final project: a book compiling his answers to the “big” questions that he was so often posed–questions that ranged beyond his academic field. Within these pages, he provides his personal views on our biggest challenges as a human race, and where we, as a planet, are heading next. Each section will be introduced by a leading thinker offering his or her own insight into Professor Hawking’s contribution to our understanding. The book will also feature a foreword from Academy Award winning actor Eddie Redmayne, who portrayed Hawking in the film The Theory of Everything, and an afterword by Hawking’s daughter, Lucy Hawking, as well as personal photographs and additional archival material.
The Railway Adventures: Places, Trains, People and Stations, by Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe (UK, 16th October, US, 2nd April 2019, non-fiction)
The railways are one of our finest engineering legacies – a web of routes connecting people to each other and to a vast network of world-class attractions. It is also the best route to enjoying the landscape of Great Britain. Within these pages Vicki Pipe and Geoff Marshall from All the Stations (YouTube transport experts and survivors of a crowd-funded trip to visit all the stations in the UK) help you discover the hidden stories that lie behind branch lines, as well as meeting the people who fix the engines and put the trains to bed. Embark on unknown routes, disembark at unfamiliar stations, explore new places and get to know the communities who keep small stations and remote lines alive.
The Life and Times of a Very British Man, by Kamel Ahmed (UK, 18th October, non-fiction)
Kamal Ahmed’s childhood was very ‘British’ in every way – except for the fact that he was brown. Half English, half Sudanese, he was raised in 1970s London at a time when being mixed-race meant being told to go home, even when you were born just down the road. Heartfelt, witty and profound, this is a modern state-of-the-nation from a man who adopted the name Neil growing up (it was better than ‘camel’) and went on to occupy one of the most elite positions in the British establishment. It is also a call to recognise that it is this very mix of white and black and brown that is the foundation for Britain as we know it – from Linford Christie taking Olympic gold to the era-defining music of Soul II Soul – and a study of why, when we consider the often fractious debate about our identity, there are still great grounds for optimism.
The Book of the Year 2018: Your Definitive Guide to the World’s Weirdest News (No Such Thing As a Fish), by No Such Thing As a Fish (UK, 18th October, non-fiction)
Following hot on the heels of the success of The Book of the Year (or, more precisely, twelve months later) The Book of the Year 2018 will be making its way into the nation’s bookshops this autumn. Compiled and written by the creators of the award-winning hit comedy podcast No Such Thing As A Fish, all of whom are researchers for QI, The Book of the Year 2018 will bravely delve behind the headlines to sniff out the best and most bizarre facts of the last twelve months. Among many other things, it will establish that- A Britain’s first robot shop assistant was sacked after a week. A Donald Trump claimed the US sells F52 planes to Norway, even though F52 planes only exist in the game Call of Duty. A During the Winter Olympics, it was so windy during the Women’s Slopestyle Final that every single competitor was blown off her snowboard. A A snail racing competition in Plymouth was postponed because the snails were too ‘sluggish’ to take part. Ranging from the distinctly offbeat to the wonderfully ludicrous – from the South Africans who were rationed to just one toilet flush per day, to the Nutella riots spreading across France, via the Miami bitcoin conference that stopped accepting bitcoin – The Book of the Year promises a fact for every occasion and will prove the perfect Christmas gift for all trivia buffs.
Bedtime Stories for Grown-ups (UK, 18th October, mixed genre)
Holden combines his own illuminating storytelling with a treasure trove of timeless classics and contemporary gems. Poems and short stories, fairy tales and fables, reveries and nocturnes – from William Shakespeare to Haruki Murakami, Charles Dickens to Roald Dahl, Rabindranath Tagore to Nora Ephron, Vladimir Nabokov to Neil Gaiman – are all woven together to replicate the journey of a single night’s sleep. Some of today’s greatest storytellers reveal their choice of the ideal grown-up bedtime story: writers such as Margaret Drabble, Ken Follett, Tessa Hadley, Robert Macfarlane, Patrick Ness, Tony Robinson and Warsan Shire. Fold away your laptop and shut down your mobile phone. Curl up and crash out with the ultimate bedside book, one you’ll return to again and again. Full of laughter and tears, moonlight and magic, Bedtime Stories for Grown-upsjoyfully provides the dream way to end the day – and begin the night…
Murder by the Book: A Sensational Chapter in Victorian Crime, by Claire Harman (UK, 25th October, US, 26th March 2019, non-fiction)
Early in the morning of 6 May 1840, on an ultra-respectable Mayfair street, a footman answered the door to a panic-stricken maid from a nearby house. Her elderly master, Lord William Russell, was lying in bed with his throat cut so deeply that the head was almost severed. The whole of London, from monarch to street urchins, was gripped by the gory details of the Russell murder, but behind it was another story, a work of fiction, and a fierce debate about censorship and morality. Several of the key literary figures of the day, including Dickens and Thackeray, were drawn into the controversy, and when Lord William’s murderer claimed to having been inspired by the season’s most sensational novel, it seemed that a great deal more was on trial than anyone could have guessed. Bringing together much previously unpublished material from a wide range of sources, Claire Harman reveals the story of the notorious Russell murder case and its fascinating connections with the writers and literary culture of the day. Gripping and eye-opening, Murder by the Book is the untold true story of a surprisingly literary crime.
Write a Letter: Put Pen to Paper and Put a Smile on the Face of a Stranger, a Friend or Yourself, by Jodi Bickley (UK, 25th October, non-fiction)
There are more ways than ever to communicate with people. But none match the intimacy, care and fulfilment found in sending and receiving letters. A letter can be the greatest gift. It’s a keepsake, a captured memory, an heirloom. This book contains everything you need — from the prompts to get you writing to the paper to write on — to begin connecting with people in this slower, more personal way. Say it with a letter. Spark up new conversations, reconnect with old friends, and discover the joy of correspondence.
What Would the Spice Girls Do?: How the Girl Power Generation Grew Up, by Lauren Bravo (UK, non-fiction)
The words ‘girl power’ will, for some, bring back vivid memories of short skirts and platform boots and the five young women who wore them. But it wasn’t just about the look – for many of us, those women and those words meant so much more. This was about identity, courage and fun… this was about feminism.The Spice Girls gave a generation their first glimpse of the power of friendship, of anger, of staying true to yourself, of sheer bloody-mindedness. They gave us everything, all that joy can bring, and we took it to heart. The girl power generation have since stood up, grabbed a mega phone and kick started a new wave of women’s liberation. And The Spice Girls’ particular brand of feminism is as relevant today as it was twenty years ago – we still need that fun and fearlessness, we still need accessible and all-embracing equality… we still need a zig-a-zig-ah.