Below is my usual monthly roundup of British books, for January.
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 as well as bookdepository.com, which is owned by Amazon.
Also, you may be able to find some of these books as audiobooks on Libro.fm — enter code BRITLIT to get your first 3 books for less than $5 each!
How To Break Up With Fast Fashion: A guilt-free guide to changing the way you shop – for good, by Lauren Bravo (UK, US ebook only, 9th January, non-fiction), by Lauren Bravo
Journalist Lauren Bravo loves clothes more than anything, but she’s called time on her affair with fast fashion in search of a slower, saner way of dressing. In this book, she’ll help you do the same. How To Break Up With Fast Fashion will help you to change your mindset, fall back in love with your wardrobe and embrace more sustainable ways of shopping – from the clothes swap to the charity shop. Full of refreshing honesty and realistic advice, Lauren will inspire you to repair, recycle and give your unloved items a new lease of life without sacrificing your style.
The Girl Who Stole an Elephant, by Nizrana Farook (UK, US ebook only, 9th January, 9-12-year-olds)Chaya, a no-nonsense, outspoken hero, leads her friends and a gorgeous elephant on a noisy, fraught, joyous adventure through the jungle where revolution is stirring and leeches lurk. Will stealing the queen’s jewels be the beginning or the end of everything for the intrepid gang? With cover illustration by David Dean.
Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London Between the Wars, by Francesca Wade (UK, 16th January, US, 7th April, non-fiction/history)
Mecklenburgh Square, on the radical fringes of interwar Bloomsbury, was home to activists, experimenters and revolutionaries; among them were the modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and writer and publisher Virginia Woolf. They each alighted there seeking a space where they could live, love and, above all, work independently. Francesca Wade’s spellbinding group biography explores how these trailblazing women pushed the boundaries of literature, scholarship, and social norms, forging careers that would have been impossible without these rooms of their own.
Miss Austen, by Gill Hornby (UK, 23rd January, US, 7th April, historical fiction)
1840: twenty three years after the death of her famous sister Jane, Cassandra Austen returns to the village of Kingbury, and the home of her family’s friends, the Fowles. She knows that, in some dusty corner of the sprawling vicarage, there is a cache of family letters which hold secrets she is desperate should not be revealed. As Cassandra recalls her youth and her relationship with her brilliant yet complex sister, she pieces together buried truths about Jane’s history, and her own. And she faces a stark choice: should she act to protect Jane’s reputation? Or leave the contents of the letters to go unguarded into posterity …
The 24-Hour Café (UK, 23rd January, US, 9th July, women’s fiction), by Libby Page
Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door. Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?
People Like Us: Social Mobility, Inequality and Making it in Modern Britain, by Hashi Mohamed (UK, 16th January, non-fiction)
Raised on benefits and having attended some of the lowest-performing schools in the country, barrister Hashi Mohamed knows something about social mobility. In People Like Us, he shares what he has learned: from the stark statistics that reveal the depth of the problem to the failures of imagination, education and confidence that compound it. We live in a society where the single greatest indicator of what your job will be is the job of your parents. Where power and privilege are concentrated among the 7 per cent of the population who were privately educated. Where, if your name sounds black or Asian, you’ll need to send out twice as many job applications as your white neighbour. Wherever you are on the social spectrum, this is an essential investigation into our society’s most intractable problem. We have more power than we realise to change things for the better.
Dear Life: A Doctor’s Story of Love and Loss, by Rachel Clarke (UK, 30th January, US, 1st September, non-fiction)
As a specialist in palliative medicine, Dr Rachel Clarke chooses to inhabit a place many people would find too tragic to contemplate. Every day she tries to bring care and comfort to those reaching the end of their lives and to help make dying more bearable. Rachel’s training was put to the test in 2017 when her beloved GP father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She learned that nothing – even the best palliative care – can sugar-coat the pain of losing someone you love. And yet, she argues, in a hospice there is more of what matters in life – more love, more strength, more kindness, more joy, more tenderness, more grace, more compassion – than you could ever imagine. For if there is a difference between people who know they are dying and the rest of us, it is simply this: that the terminally ill know their time is running out, while we live as though we have all the time in the world.
Harry Potter Knitting Magic: The Official Harry Potter Knitting Pattern Book, by Tanis Grey (UK, US, 28th January)
Channel the magic of the Harry Potter films from the screen to your needles with the ultimate knitter s guide to the Wizarding World. Featuring over 25 magical knits, the book includes patterns for clothing, home projects and keepsakes pulled straight from the movies and even includes a few iconic costume pieces as seen on-screen. With yarn suggestions based on the true colours used in the films, projects ranging from simple patterns like the Hogwarts house scarves to more complex projects like Mrs. Weasley’s Christmas jumper, knit your own wizarding world.