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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. Blackwells.com also has free international postage.
Unscripted, by Claire Handscombe (UK, US ebook, 4th April, women’s fiction)
Nobody is a bigger fan of actor Thomas Cassidy than Libby is. Nobody. That’s why she’s totally going to marry him.
She is going to write a novel, name the main character after Thom, and find a way to get it to him. Intrigued and flattered, he will read it, fall in love with her prose, write to her and ask to turn it into a movie. She will pretend to think about it for a week or so, then say, sure, but can I work on it with you? Their eyes will meet over the script, and fade to black.
It is a fail-proof plan. Except for the fact that Thom is a Hollywood star, and she is, well, not. Except for the fact that he lives in America. Except, too, for the tiny age gap. Not even twenty years! Totally overcomable.
All of the obstacles are totally overcomable. It’s all about determination.
The Language of Birds, by Jill Dawson (UK, 4th April; literary fiction)
In the summer of 1974, Mandy River arrives in London to make a fresh start and begins working as nanny to the children of one Lady Morven. She quickly finds herself in the midst of a bitter custody battle and the house under siege: Lord Morven is having his wife watched. According to Lady Morven, her estranged husband also has a violent streak, yet she doesn’t seem the most reliable witness. Should Mandy believe her? As Mandy tries to shield her young charges from harm, her friend Rosemary watches from the wings – an odd girl with her own painful past and a rare gift. This time, though, she misreads the signs.
The Strawberry Thief, by Joanna Jarris (UK, 4th April, women’s fiction)
Vianne Rocher has settled down. Lansquenet-sous-Tannes, the place that once rejected her, has finally become her home. With Rosette, her ‘special’ child, she runs her chocolate shop in the square, talks to her friends on the river, is part of the community. Even Reynaud, the priest, has become a friend. But when old Narcisse, the florist, dies, leaving a parcel of land to Rosette and a written confession to Reynaud, the life of the sleepy village is once more thrown into disarray. The arrival of Narcisse’s relatives, the departure of an old friend and the opening of a mysterious new shop in the place of the florist’s across the square – one that mirrors the chocolaterie, and has a strange appeal of its own – all seem to herald some kind of change: a confrontation, a turbulence – even, perhaps, a murder…
Black, Listed, by Jeffrey Boakye (UK, 4th April, non fiction)
Taking a panoramic look at global black history, interrogating both contemporary and historical culture, Black, Listed investigates the ways in which black communities (and individuals) have been represented, oppressed, mimicked, celebrated, and othered. Part historical study, part autobiographical musing, part pop culture vivisection, it’s a comprehensive attempt to make sense of blackness from the vantage point of the hilarious and insightful psyche of Jeffrey Boakye. Along the way, it explores a far reaching range of social and cultural contexts, including but not limited to, sport, art, entertainment, politics, literature, history, music, theatre, cinema, education and criminal justice, sometimes at the same time.
Some Kids I Taught And What They Taught Me, by Kate Clanchy (UK, 4th April; non-fiction)
Kate Clanchy wants to change the world and thinks school is an excellent place to do it. She invites you to meet some of the kids she has taught in her thirty-year career. Join her as she explains everything about sex to a classroom of thirteen-year-olds. As she works in the school ‘Inclusion Unit’, trying to improve the fortunes of kids excluded from regular lessons because of their terrifying power to end learning in an instant. Or as she nurtures her multicultural poetry group, full of migrants and refugees, watches them find their voice and produce work of heartbreaking brilliance. While Clanchy doesn’t deny stinging humiliations or hide painful accidents, she celebrates this most creative, passionate and practically useful of jobs.
The Science of Storytelling, by Will Storr (UK, 4th April; non-fiction)
In this scalpel-sharp, thought-provoking book, Will Storr demonstrates how master storytellers manipulate and compel us, leading us on a journey from the Hebrew scriptures to Mr Men, from Booker Prize-winning literature to box set TV. Applying dazzling psychological research and cutting-edge neuroscience to the foundations of our myths and archetypes, he shows how we can use these tools to tell better stories – and make sense of our chaotic modern world.
How to Fail: Everything I’ve Ever Learned From Things Going Wrong, by Elizabeth Day (UK, 4th April, non-fiction)
Part memoir, part manifesto, and including chapters on dating, work, sport, babies, families, anger and friendship, it is based on the simple premise that understanding why we fail ultimately makes us stronger. It’s a book about learning from our mistakes and about not being afraid.
Uplifting, inspiring and rich in stories from Elizabeth’s own life, How to Fail reveals that failure is not what defines us; rather it is how we respond to it that shapes us as individuals. Because learning how to fail is actually learning how to succeed better. And everyone needs a bit of that.
Lost in a Good Game: Why we play video games and what they can do for us, by Pete Etchells (UK, US, 4th April; non-fiction)
When Pete Etchells was 14, his father died from motor neurone disease. In order to cope, he immersed himself in a virtual world – first as an escape, but later to try to understand what had happened. Etchells is now a researcher into the psychological effects of video games, and was co-author on a recent paper explaining why WHO plans to classify ‘game addiction’ as a danger to public health are based on bad science and (he thinks) are a bad idea.
In this, his first book, he journeys through the history and development of video games – from Turing’s chess machine to mass multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft- via scientific study, to investigate the highs and lows of playing and get to the bottom of our relationship with games – why we do it, and what they really mean to us.
What Dementia Teaches Us About Love, by Nicci Gerrard (UK, 4th April; US, 13th April; non-fiction)
After her own father’s death from dementia, the writer and campaigner Nicci Gerrard set out to explore the illness that now touches millions of us, yet which we still struggle to speak about. What does dementia mean, for those who live with it, and those who care for them? This truthful, humane book is an attempt to understand. It is filled with stories, both moving and optimistic: from those living with dementia to those planning the end of life, from the scientists unlocking the mysteries of the brain to the therapists using art and music to enrich the lives of sufferers, from the campaigners battling for greater compassion in care to the families trying to make sense of this ‘incomprehensible de-creation of the self’. It explores memory, language, identity, ageing and the notion of what it truly means to care. And it asks, how do we begin to value those who become old, invisible, forgotten? What do we owe them, and each other as humans? What, in the end, really matters?
You Are What You Read, by Jodie Jackson (UK, US ebook only, 4th April, non-fiction)
In You Are What You Read, campaigner and researcher Jodie Jackson helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society.
Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the negativity bias. You Are What You Read is not just a book, it is a manifesto for a movement: it is not a call for us to ignore the negative but rather a call to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world.
The Parisian, by Isabella Hammad (US, 9th April; UK, 11th April; literary fiction)
As the First World War shatters families, destroys friendships and kills lovers, a young Palestinian dreamer sets out to find himself. Midhat Kamal picks his way across a fractured world, from the shifting politics of the Middle East to the dinner tables of Montpellier and a newly tumultuous Paris. He discovers that everything is fragile: love turns to loss, friends become enemies and everyone is looking for a place to belong. Isabella Hammad delicately unpicks the tangled politics and personal tragedies of a turbulent era – the Palestinian struggle for independence, the strife of the early twentieth century and the looming shadow of the Second World War. An intensely human story amidst a global conflict, The Parisian is historical fiction with a remarkable contemporary voice.
Queenie, by Candice Carty-Williams (US, 19th March; UK, 11th April, women’s fiction)
Queenie Jenkins can’t cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there’s her boss who doesn’t seem to see her and her Carribbean family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested). She’s trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her. It’s no wonder she’s struggling. She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?
The Heat of the Moment: A Firefighter’s Stories of Life and Death Decisions, by Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton (UK, 11st April; non-fiction)
Dr Sabrina Cohen-Hatton has been a firefighter for eighteen years. Taking us to the very heart of firefighting, she reveals the skills and qualities that are essential to surviving – and even thriving – in such a fast-paced and emotionally-charged environment. And she immerses us in this extraordinary world; from scenes of devastation and crisis, through triumphs of bravery, to the quieter moments when these assumed heroes question themselves, their choices, and decisions made in the most unforgiving circumstances. Ultimately, we are asked to step into their boots. In the face of urgency and uncertainty, would you respond analytically or trust your instincts? How would you decide who lives and who dies? Sabrina’s award-winning research into decision-making in the emergency services has transformed policy at a global level. This is her astonishing account of a profession defined by the most difficult decisions imaginable and by overwhelmingly challenging situations. Honest, eloquent and empowering, here is the truth about how we respond in our most extreme moments.
Machines Like Me, by Ian McEwan (UK, 18th April; US, 23rd April; literary fiction)
Machines Like Me occurs in an alternative 1980s London. Charlie, drifting through life and dodging full-time employment, is in love with Miranda, a bright student who lives with a terrible secret. When Charlie comes into money, he buys Adam, one of the first batch of synthetic humans. With Miranda’s assistance, he co-designs Adam’s personality. This near-perfect human is beautiful, strong and clever – a love triangle soon forms. These three beings will confront a profound moral dilemma. Ian McEwan’s subversive and entertaining new novel poses fundamental questions: what makes us human? Our outward deeds or our inner lives? Could a machine understand the human heart? This provocative and thrilling tale warns of the power to invent things beyond our control.
The Flatshare, by Beth O’Leary (UK, 18th April; US, 28th May; women’s fiction)
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…
Small Days and Nights, by Tishani Doshi (UK, 18th April; literary fiction)
Escaping her failing marriage, Grace has returned to Pondicherry to cremate her mother. Once there, she finds herself heir to an inheritance she could not have expected – a property on the beaches of Madras, and a sister she never knew she had: Lucia, who was born with Downs Syndrome and has spent her life in a residential facility. Grace sets up a new and precarious life along the coast of Madras, with Lucia, the village housekeeper Mallika, the drily witty Auntie Kavitha and an ever-multiplying litter of puppies. But Grace’s attempts to play house prove first a struggle, then a strain, as she discovers the chaos, tenderness, fury and bewilderment of life with Lucia.
Our Life in a Day, by Jamie Fewery (UK, US audio only, 18th April)
The rules are simple. Choose the most significant moments from your relationship – one for each hour in the day. You’d probably pick when you first met, right? And the instant you knew for sure it was love? Maybe even the time you watched the sunrise after your first night together? But what about the car journey on the holiday where everything started to go wrong? Or your first proper fight? Or that time you lied about where you’d been? It’s a once in a lifetime chance to learn the truth. But if you had to be completely honest with the one you love, would you still play?
The Bad Mothers’ Book Club, by Keris Stainton (UK, 18th April, women’s fiction)
Bored and lonely, when Emma is cordially invited to the exclusive cool school-mums’ book club, hosted by Head of PTA and footballer’s wife, Jools Jackson, she thinks her luck may finally be about to change. She soon realises she may have made a grave mistake when she realises it’s all about books, and less about wine and gossip – but it’s always better to stick things out, isn’t it? Or not. After a few months and a few awkward moments involving a red wine on white carpet accident and a swear-word incident involving Jools’s daughter, Emma is ungraciously kicked out of the book club. Exhausted and exiled, she decides it’s about time she fights back against the shame and humiliation. Enlisting the help of some similar-thinking mums, Emma sets up her own book club – no cleaners, polite conversation or reading required: this is the Bad Mother’s Book Club.
Going Solo: My choice to become a single mother using a donor, by Genevieve Roberts (UK, 25th April; non-fiction)
Aged thirty-seven, single and having experienced two miscarriages, Genevieve Roberts found out that her fertility levels were dwlindling. On hearing this news, she made the courageous decision to embark on motherhood solo and eventually became pregnant using a sperm donor. Going Solo is for anyone whose life has taken an unexpected twist; for people who are interested in modern families and for those who want to take control of their life and follow their dreams of parenthood. It celebrates the fulfilment that comes from following what makes you happy, and reminds us that beauty may be found when life offers a surprise or a deviation from convention.