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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 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!

 

strange anticsStrange Antics: A History of Seduction, by Clement Knox (UK, 1st February, US, 4th February, history)

Seduction is a problem that refuses to go away. Seemingly laid to rest during the sexual revolution, as men and women across the world shrugged off the taboos and strictures of the past, it has exploded back into public consciousness as we grapple with a world populated by pick-up artists, incels, and online dating algorithms. Modern, big-thinking and enormously entertaining, Knox offers an extraordinary range of stories, and shows how our ideas about desire, courtship, and power have always developed in step with a changing world.

me and white supremacyMe and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, by Layla Saad (UK, 4th February, US, 28th January, non-fiction)

When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #MeAndWhiteSupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 90,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook. The updated and expanded Me and White Supremacy takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and and further resources.

rendangRendang, by Will Harris (UK, 6th February, poetry)

Drawing on his Anglo-Indonesian heritage, Harris shows us new ways to think about the contradictions of identity and cultural memory. He creates companions that speak to us in multiple languages; they sit next to us on the bus, walk with us through the crowd and talk to us while we’re chopping shallots. They deftly ask us to consider how and what we look at, as well as what we don’t look at and why. Playing eruditely with and querying structures of narrative, with his use of the long poem, images, ekphrasis, and ruptured forms, RENDANG is a startling new take on the self, and how an identity is constructed. It is intellectual and accessible, moving and experimental, and combines a linguistic innovation with a deep emotional rooting.

one of themOne of Them: From Albert Square to Parliament Square, by Michael Cashman (UK and US, 6th February, memoir)

Michael Cashman has lived many lives, all of them remarkable: as a beloved actor of stage and screen; as a campaigner for gay rights; as an MEP and as a life peer. Born in the post-war East End of London, young Michael’s life is changed when he is spotted in a school play, cast in Lionel Bart’s Oliver! and is transported to the glittering West End. Acting on stage and screen into adulthood, he finds his most defining role as Colin in Eastenders, making television history as one half of the first gay kiss ever broadcast on a British soap. But it is a chance encounter in a Butlins resort that leads Michael to the great love of his life: Paul Cottingham, who would become his husband and partner of 31 years. One of Them contains as many multitudes as its author: glorious nostalgia, wicked showbiz gossip, a stirring history of a civil rights movement, a sorrowfully clear-eyed exposition of Britain’s standing in Europe, and an unforgettable love story. Told with warmth, wit and humanity, it is an account of a life lived both left-of-field and firmly embedded in the heart of all that makes Britain liberal and good.

a bit of a stretchA Bit of a Stretch: The Secret Diaries of a Prisoner, by Chris Atkins (UK and US, 6th February, US, memoir)

Welcome to Her Majesty’s Prison Service. Like most people, documentary-maker Chris Atkins didn’t spend much time thinking about prisons. But after becoming embroiled in a dodgy scheme to fund his latest film, he was sent down for five years. His new home would be HMP Wandsworth, one of the largest and most dysfunctional prisons in Europe. With a cast of characters ranging from wily drug dealers to senior officials bent on endless reform, this powerful memoir uncovers the horrifying reality behind the locked gates. Filled with dark humour and shocking stories, A Bit of a Stretch reveals why our creaking prison system is sorely costing us all.

the merciesThe Mercies, by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (UK, 6th February, US, 11th February, literary fiction)

On Christmas Eve, 1617, the sea around the remote Norwegian island of Vardø is thrown into a reckless storm. As Maren Magnusdatter watches, forty fishermen, including her father and brother, are lost to the waves – the menfolk of Vardø wiped out in an instant. Vardø is now a place of women. Eighteen months later, a sinister figure arrives. Summoned from Scotland to take control of a place at the edge of the civilized world, Absalom Cornet knows what he needs to do to bring the women of Vardø to heel. With him travels his young wife, Ursa. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa finds something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place flooded with a terrible evil, one he must root out at all costs.

how to argue with a racistHow to Argue With a Racist, by Adam Rutherford (UK, 6th February, US, 21st April, non-fiction)

Race is real because we perceive it. Racism is real because we enact it. But the appeal to science to strengthen racist ideologies is on the rise – and increasingly part of the public discourse on politics, migration, education, sport and intelligence. Stereotypes and myths about race are expressed not just by overt racists, but also by well-intentioned people whose experience and cultural baggage steer them towards views that are not supported by the modern study of human genetics. Even some scientists are uncomfortable expressing opinions deriving from their research where it relates to race. Yet, if understood correctly, science and history can be powerful allies against racism, granting the clearest view of how people actually are, rather than how we judge them to be.

the lost pianos of siberiaThe Lost Pianos of Siberia, by Sophy Roberts (UK, 6th February, US, 16th June, non fiction)

Siberia’s story is traditionally one of exiles, penal colonies and unmarked graves. Yet there is another tale to tell. Dotted throughout this remote land are pianos – grand instruments created during the boom years of the nineteenth century, and humble, Soviet-made uprights that found their way into equally modest homes. They tell the story of how, ever since entering Russian culture under the influence of Catherine the Great, piano music has run through the country like blood. How these pianos travelled into this snow-bound wilderness in the first place is testament to noble acts of fortitude by governors, adventurers and exiles. That stately instruments might still exist in such a hostile landscape is remarkable. That they are still capable of making music in far-flung villages is nothing less than a miracle. But this is Siberia, where people can endure the worst of the world ― and where music reveals a deep humanity in the last place on earth you would expect to find it.

my wild and sleepless nightsMy Wild and Sleepless Nights: A Mother’s Story, by Clover Stroud (UK, 20th February, memoir)

Mother to five children, Clover Stroud has navigated family life across two decades, both losing and finding herself. In her touching, provocative and profoundly insightful book, she captures a sense of what motherhood really feels like – how intense, sensuous, joyful, boring, profound and dark it can be. My Wild and Sleepless Nights examines what it means to be a mother, and reveals with unflinching honesty the many conflicting emotions that this entails: the joy and the wonder, the loneliness and despair.

what makes us strongerWhat Makes Us Stronger, by Freya Lewis (UK, US ebook and audio, 20th February)

Freya Lewis was just three metres away from the terrorist who detonated the bomb at the Manchester arena on the night of 22nd May 2017. Her best friend Nell was tragically killed, but Freya – thrown forwards by the blast – somehow survived. She suffered 29 separate injuries, was in a coma for five days, and wheelchair-bound for three months. Yet just 12 months later, she was on her feet, running the Junior Great Manchester Run and raising £60,000 for the hospital that saved her. From her darkest moment, she found the determination to live life to the fullest, for herself, and for those who lost their lives. This is Freya’s courageous story. But it is also the story of the amazing community that surrounded her, uplifted her, and ultimately saved her life.

the book of echoesThe Book Of Echoes, by Rosanna Amaka (UK, 20th February, US, 19th March, literary fiction)

Over two hundred years ago in Africa, a woman tosses her young son to safety as she is hauled off by slavers. After a brutal sea passage, her second child is snatched away. Although the woman doesn’t know it yet, her spirit is destined to roam the earth in search of her lost children. It will make its way to 1980s Brixton, where she watches teenage Michael attempt to stay out of trouble as riots spit and boil onthe streets; and to a poor village in Nigeria, where Ngozi struggles to better her life. As the invisible threads that draw these two together are pulled ever tighter, The Book of Echoes asks: how can we overcome the traumas of the past when they are woven so inextricably with the present? Humming with horror and beauty, Rosanna Amaka’s remarkable debut marks her as a vibrant new voice in fiction.

jeremy hardyJeremy Hardy Speaks Volumes: words, wit, wisdom, one-liners and rants, by Jeremy Hardy (UK, 20th February, humour)

Jeremy Hardy, who died in February 2019, was perhaps the most distinctive and brilliant comedian to arise from the 80s Alternative Comedy circuit. He regularly entertained the millions who heard his outrageous rants on The News Quiz, his legendary singing on Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, or his hilarious monologues and sketches on the award-winning Jeremy Hardy Speaks to The Nation and Jeremy Hardy Feels It. Jeremy Hardy Speaks Volumes is a fitting celebration of this brilliant comedian. With an introduction from Jack Dee and containing material from his stand-up to his radio monologues and political satire to the joyfully silly gems – and curated to encompass everything about Jeremy that fans adored — Jeremy Hardy Speaks Volumes is wise, daft, outrageous, personal and, above all, very funny: like Jeremy himself.