Note: Patreon subscribers get access to these monthly posts at the beginning rather than the end of the month. To join them, click here!
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 blackwells.com, which has free international delivery, including to the US, though you may also have some luck with wordery.com and bookwitty.com, as well as bookdepository.com, which is owned by Amazon.
Mother Ship, by Francesca Segal (UK, US, 6th June, memoir)
After her identical twin girls were born ten weeks prematurely, Francesca Segal finds herself sitting vigil in the ‘mother ship’ of neonatal intensive care, all romantic expectations of new parenthood obliterated. Her gripping diary of those months combines the tenderness of a love poem with the compulsive pace of a thriller. As each day brings a fresh challenge for her and her babies, Francesca makes a temporary life among a band of mothers who are vivid, fearless, and inspiring, taking care not only of their children but of one another. MOTHER SHIP is an intimate, raucous, sublime and electrifying memoir. It is a hymn to the sustaining power of women’s friendship, and a loving celebration of the two small girls – and their mother – who defy the odds.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, by Balli Kaura Jaswal (US, 30th April, UK, 13th June)
British-born Punjabi sisters Rajni, Jezmeen and Shirina have never been close but when their mother died, she had only one request: that they take a pilgrimage across India to carry out her final rites. While an extended family holiday is the last thing they want, each sister has her own reasons to run away from her life. As the miles rack up on their jaunt across India, the secrets of the past and present are sure to spill out…
The Heartland: finding and losing schizophrenia, by Nathan Filer (US, 4th June, UK, 6th June)
Schizophrenia: whether it’s the associations it conjures or the people it brings to mind, it is a word we all have a view on. How we perceive it – and how we treat people living with it – is at the core of how we understand mental health. InThe Heartland Nathan Filer, mental health nurse and award winning writer, takes us on a journey into the psychiatric wards he once worked on. He also invites us to spend time with world-leading experts, and with some extraordinary people who share their own stories – true stories – about living with this strange and misunderstood condition. The Heartland debunks myths, challenges assumptions and offers fresh insight into what it means to be mad. And what it means to be human.
Fabulous: Stories, by Lucy Hughes-Hallett (US, 7th June, UK, 13th June, literary short stories)
Each of these startlingly original stories is set in modern Britain. Their characters include a people-trafficking gang-master and a prostitute, a migrant worker and a cocksure estate agent, an elderly musician doubly befuddled by dementia and the death of his wife, a pest-controller suspected of paedophilia and a librarian so well-behaved that her parents wonder anxiously whether she’ll ever find love. They’re ordinary people, preoccupied, as we all are now, by the deficiencies of the health service, by criminal gangs and homelessness, by the pitfalls of dating in the age of #metoo. All of their stories, though, are inspired by ones drawn from Graeco-Roman myth, from the Bible or from folk-lore.
Diary of a Somebody, by Brian Bilston (UK, 13th June, commercial fiction/humour)
It’s January 1st and Brian Bilston is convinced that this year his New Year’s resolution will change his life. Every day for a year, he will write a poem. It’s quite simple.
Brian’s life certainly needs improving. His ex-wife has taken up with a new man, a motivational speaker and indefatigable charity fundraiser to boot; he seems to constantly disappoint his long-suffering son; and at work he is drowning in a sea of spreadsheets and management jargon.
So poetry will be his salvation. But there is an obstacle in the form of Toby Salt, his arch nemesis at Poetry Club and rival suitor to Liz, Brian’s new poetic inspiration. When Toby goes missing, just after the announcement of the publication of his first collection, This Bridge No Hands Shall Cleave, Brian becomes the number one suspect. If he is to regain his reputation and to have a chance of winning Liz, he must find out what has happened to Toby before it is too late.
Your Truth or Mine?, by Trisha Sakhlecha (UK, 13th June, thriller)
At their wedding Mia and Roy Kapoor promised to love and cherish each other. Whilst not perfect, their marriage is sacred and their commitment absolute. But a knock at the door changes everything when Roy is questioned over the disappearance of a young woman. As Roy and Mia’s life unravels, they must question everything they know about each other if their marriage is to survive. But what if the real truth is not what they, or you, think?
This Green and Pleasant Land, by Ayisha Malik (UK and US, 13th June)
For years Bilal Hasham and his wife Mariam have lived contented, quiet lives in the sleepy rural village of Babbel’s End. Now all that is about to change. On her deathbed, Bilal’s mother reaches for his hand. Instead of whispering her final prayers, she gives him a task: build a mosque in his country village. Mariam is horrified by Bilal’s plan. His friends and neighbours are unnerved. As outrage sweeps Babbel’s End, battle lines are drawn. His mother’s dying wish reveals deeper divisions in their village than Bilal had ever imagined. Soon Bilal is forced to choose between community and identity, between faith and friendship, between honouring his beloved mother’s last wish and preserving what is held dear in the place that he calls home.
Dressed: The Secret Life of Clothes, by Shahida Bhari (UK, US, 13th June)
We are all dressed. But how often do we pause to think about the place of our clothes in our lives? What unconscious thoughts do we express when we dress every day? Can memories, meaning and ideas be wrapped up in a winter coat? These are the questions that interest Shahidha Bari, as she explores the secret language of our clothes. Ranging freely through literature, art, film and philosophy, Dressed tracks the hidden power of clothes in our culture and our daily lives. From the depredations of violence and ageing to our longing for freedom, love and privacy, from the objectification of women to the crisis of masculinity, each garment exposes a fresh dilemma. Item by item, the story of ourselves unravels.
The Body Lies, by Jo Baker (UK, 13th June, US, 18th June, literary fiction/thriller)
When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of a new life and single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing group. When a troubled student starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?
The Lido Guide, by Janet Wilkinson and Emma Pusill (UK, US ebook only, 13th June, non-fiction)
From beautiful Art Deco lidos to humble, fiercely loved community pools, this is the definitive photographic guide to around 130 lidos in the UK and Channel Islands. Collected together for the first time, each entry details what makes the pool unique and what swimming there is like, as well as providing information about refreshments, accessibility and much more. This guide is organised geographically and includes information on how to find the lidos, it also suggests other nearby pools so you can plan your own lido road trips.
Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson (UK, 18th June, US, 25th June, literary fiction)
Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village in North Yorkshire, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son Nathan and ageing Labrador Dido, both at the discretion of his former partner Julia. It’s a picturesque setting, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes. Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, seems straightforward, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network―and back into the path of someone from his past. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking new novel, both sharply funny and achingly sad, by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.
Everything You Ever Wanted, by Luiza Sauma (UK, US, 27th June, literary fiction)
You wake up. You go to work. You don’t go outside for twelve hours at a time. You have strategy meetings about how to use hashtags. After work you order expensive drink after expensive drink until you’re so blackout drunk you can’t remember the circumstances which have led you to waking up in bed with your colleague. The next day you stay in bed until the afternoon, scrolling through your social media feeds and wondering why everyone else seems to be achieving so much. Sometimes you don’t get out of bed at all. Then you hear about Life on Nyx, a programme that allows 100 lucky winners the chance to escape it all, move to another planet and establish a new way of life. One with meaning and purpose. One without Instagram and online dating. There’s one caveat: if you go, you can never come back. But you aren’t worried about that. After all, what on Earth could there possibly be to miss?
When We Were Rich, by Tim Lott (UK, 27th June, literary fiction)
Millennium Eve and six people gather on a London rooftop. Recently married, Frankie Blue watches with his wife, Veronica, as the sky above the Thames explodes into a kaleidoscope of light. His childhood companion, Colin, ineptly flirts with Roxy, an unlikely first date, while another old friend, Nodge, newly ‘out’, hides his insecurities from his waspish boyfriend. New Labour are at their zenith. The economy booms, awash with cheap credit. The arrival of the smartphone heralds the sudden and vast expansion of social media. Mass immigration from Eastern Europe leave many unsettled while religious extremism threatens violent conflict. An estate agent in a property boom, Frankie is focused simply on getting rich. But can he survive the coming crash? And what will become of his friends – and his marriage – as they are scoured by the winds of change?
Our Stop, by Laura Jane Williams (UK, US, 27th June, commercial fiction)
What if you almost missed the love of your life? Nadia gets the 07.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 07.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his Dad died. One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper: To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime? So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.
Fangirls: Scenes From Modern Music Culture, by Hannah Ewans (UK, US, 27th June, non-fiction)
From the Byromaniacs of the 19th century (who can still be found now, if you look hard enough), through to the Beatle hysteria of the early 60s and the OneDirectioners of today, female fans have long driven the objects of their affection to the giddy heights of life-changing fame. So why don’t these women and other marginalized groups get any credit? Why are they derided and frequently the butt of jokes? Without these people, in the past, books and records would have gathered dust on shelves, unsold and forgotten. Now, concerts wouldn’t sell out, revenue streams from merchandising would disappear and the music industry wouldn’t be much of an industry at all. In Fangirls, journalist Hannah Ewens is on a mission to give these individuals their rightful due. A self-confessed fangirl herself, she traces the path of fans through recent history: the ups, the downs, the lengths they go to; but also the communities and camaraderie created by these communities off- and online and the lifeline they can provide.
Taking Up Space: The Black Girl’s Manifesto for Change, by Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiy (UK, 27th June, US, 1st October)
As a minority in a predominantly white institution, taking up space is an act of resistance. And in higher education, feeling like you constantly have to justify your existence within institutions that weren’t made for you is an ongoing struggle for many people. Chelsea Kwakye and Ore Ogunbiyi, two recent Cambridge graduates, wrote Taking Up Spaceas a guide and a manifesto for change: tackling issues of access, unrepresentative curricula, discrimination in the classroom, the problems of activism, and life before and after university. Featuring honest conversations with students past and present, Taking Up Space goes beyond the buzzwords of diversity and inclusion and explores what those words truly mean for young black girls today.
Wordy, by Simon Schama (UK, US, 27th June)
Sir Simon Schama has been at the forefront of the arts, political commentary, social analysis and historical study for over forty years. His commissioned subjects over the years have been numerous and wide ranging – from the music of Tom Waits, to the works of Sir Quentin Blake; the history of the colour blue, to discussing what skills an actor needs to create a unique performance of Falstaff. Schama’s tastes are wide-ranging as they are eloquent, incisive, witty and thought provoking and have entertained and educated the readers of some of the world’s most respected publications – the Times, the Guardian, the New Yorker, Harper’s Bazaar and Rolling Stone magazine. Wordy is a celebration of one of the world’s foremost writers. This collection of fifty essayschosen by the man himself stretches across four decades and is a treasure trove for all those who have a passion for the arts, politics, food and life.
No. 10: The Geography of Power at Downing Street, by Jack Brown (UK, 30th June)
Fronted by one of the world’s most iconic doors, 10 Downing Street is the home and office of the British Prime Minister and the heart of British politics. This is the story of the intimately entwined relationships between the house and its post-war residents, telling how each occupant’s use and modification of the building reveals their own values and approaches to the office of Prime Minister. Number 10 was designed in the late seventeenth century as little more than a place of residence, with no foresight of its current purpose, meaning that constant adaptation has been necessary to accommodate the changing role and requirements of the premiership. Written by Number 10’s first ever `Researcher in Residence’, with unprecedented access to people and papers, No. 10: The Geography of Power at Downing Street sheds new light on unexplored corners of Prime Ministers’ lives. The book reveals how and why Prime Ministers have stamped their personalities and philosophies upon Number 10, and how the building has constrained the ability of some Prime Ministers to perform the role. Both fascinating and extremely revealing, this is an intimate account of power and the building at its core. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the nature of British politics.