Note: Patreon subscribers get access to these monthly posts at the beginning rather than the end of the month. To join them, click here! Having said that, since this is a strange time, the world is topsy-turvy, people are hungry for books, and authors need us more than ever, this month I’m sending it out to everyone early.
What a world, eh, readers? Thank goodness we have books.
I know the authors of these new releases would really appreciate your support — it’s rough having a book out right now. Yes, I am giving you permission to spend money on books by calling it a public service.
Wherever you can, please use bookshop.org to buy books published in the US — you’ll be supporting independent bookshops, who really need you right now. Besides, that other big online store is “de-prioritising books”, which means that you’ll get them much more slowly. For UK published books, Blackwells.com is the way forward. Plus, if you follow my links, you’ll be sending a few affiliate pennies my way, too, which is much appreciated — and is at no extra cost to you.
Anywayyyy, on with the show!
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 all, 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. (If you follow my link and most of the links in this post, you’ll also be generating a few pennies to support the podcast, and I really appreciate that!) You might 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!
A Theatre for Dreamers, by Polly Samson (UK, 2nd April, literary fiction)
1960. The world is dancing on the edge of revolution, and nowhere more so than on the Greek island of Hydra, where a circle of poets, painters and musicians live tangled lives, ruled by the writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston, troubled king and queen of bohemia. Forming within this circle is a triangle: its points the magnetic, destructive writer Axel Jensen, his dazzling wife Marianne Ihlen, and a young Canadian poet named Leonard Cohen.
Into their midst arrives teenage Erica, with little more than a bundle of blank notebooks and her grief for her mother. Settling on the periphery of this circle, she watches, entranced and disquieted, as a paradise unravels.
Burning with the heat and light of Greece, A Theatre for Dreamers is a spellbinding novel about utopian dreams and innocence lost – and the wars waged between men and women on the battlegrounds of genius.
Hashim and Family, by Shahnaz Ahsan (UK, 2nd April, US, audio, 4th June, literary fiction)
It is New Year’s Eve, 1960. Hashim has left behind his homeland and his bride, Munira, to seek his fortune in England. His cousin and only friend, Rofikul, introduces Hashim to life in Manchester – including Rofikul’s girlfriend, Helen. When Munira arrives, the group must learn what it is to be a family.
Over the next twenty years, they make their way in the new country – putting down roots and building a home. But when war breaks out in East Pakistan, the struggle for liberation and the emergence of Bangladesh raises questions about identity, belonging and loyalty.
Hashim & Family is a story of family ties, of migration and of a connection to home, and is the debut of an extraordinary new talent.
You People, by Nikita Lalwani (UK, 2nd April, literary fiction)
The Pizzeria Vesuvio looks like any other Italian restaurant in London – with a few small differences. The chefs who make the pizza fiorentinas are Sri Lankan, and half the kitchen staff are illegal immigrants.
At the centre is Tuli, the restaurant’s charismatic proprietor and resident Robin Hood, who promises to help anyone in need. Welsh nineteen-year-old Nia, haunted by her troubled past, is running from her family. Shan, having fled the Sri Lankan civil war, is desperate to find his.
But when Tuli’s guidance leads them all into dangerous territory, and the extent of his mysterious operation unravels, each is faced with an impossible moral choice.
In a world where the law is against you, how far would you be willing to lie for a chance to live?
No Modernism Without Lesbians, by Diana Souhami (UK, US ebook only, 2nd April, biography)
The extraordinary story of how a singular group of women in a pivotal time and place – Paris, Between the Wars – fostered the birth of the Modernist movement.
Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney, and Gertrude Stein. A trailblazing publisher; a patron of artists; a society hostess; a groundbreaking writer.
They were all women who loved women. They rejected the patriarchy and made lives of their own – forming a community around them in Paris.
Each of these four central women interacted with a myriad of others, some of the most influential, most entertaining, most shocking and most brilliant figures of the age. Diana Souhami weaves their stories into those of the four central women to create a vivid moving tapestry of life among the Modernists in pre-War Paris.
Stim, by Lizzie Huxley-Jones (UK, US ebook only, 2nd April, essays)
Around 1 in 100 people in the UK are autistic, but the dialogue around autism often follows a bleak and predictable path – ‘problem’ children, unemployment, parents desperately seeking answers. It is rare that autistic people get to talk about their own experiences, or show how creative, smart and funny they are, how different to the stereotypical image most people hold.
Recently, the tide has started to turn, and this anthology represents an important step in autistic people reclaiming the power to speak for themselves. It brings together some of the UK’s most exciting writers and artists to showcase the immense talents of people who just happen to be on the spectrum. Featuring essays about what it is to be autistic, alongside fiction and visual art, Stim is an enjoyable, insightful collection for anyone who wants to discover and champion unheard voices.
Lost, Found, Remembered, by Lyra McKee (UK, 2nd April, journalism)
When the Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee was murdered in Derry in April 2019 aged just 29, she was survived by her articles that had been read and loved by thousands worldwide.
This memorial anthology will weave together the pieces that defined her reputation as one of the most important and formidable investigative journalists of her generation. It showcases the expansive breadth of McKee’s voice by bringing together unpublished material alongside both her celebrated and lesser-known articles.
Released in time for the anniversary of her death, it reveals the sheer scope of McKee’s intellectual, political, and radically humane engagement with the world – and lets her spirit live on in her own words.
One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time, by Craig Brown (UK, 2nd April, biography)
One Two Three Four traces the chance fusion of the four key elements that made up The Beatles: fire (John), water (Paul), air (George) and earth (Ringo). It also tells the bizarre and often unfortunate tales of the disparate and colourful people within their orbit, among them Fred Lennon, Yoko Ono, the Maharishi, Aunt Mimi, Helen Shapiro, the con artist Magic Alex, Phil Spector, their psychedelic dentist John Riley and their failed nemesis, Det Sgt Norman Pilcher.
From the bestselling author of Ma’am Darling comes a kaleidoscopic mixture of history, etymology, diaries, autobiography, fan letters, essays, parallel lives, party lists, charts, interviews, announcements and stories. One Two Three Four joyfully echoes the frenetic hurly-burly of an era.
Sway, by Pragya Agarwal (UK, US ebook, 2nd April, US hardback, 2nd June, non-fiction)
Unconscious bias has become a frequently used term in our vocabulary, but there are still so many myths around it. For the first time, behavioural scientist, activist and writer Dr Pragya Agarwal unravels the way our implicit or ‘unintentional’ biases affect the way we communicate and perceive the world, and how they affect our decision-making, even in life and death situations. She takes a unique inter-disciplinary approach combining case studies, personal experience, interviews and real world stories underpinned by scientific theories and research. She covers a wide range of implicit biases in depth, including age-ism, appearance, accents, sexism and aversive racism. Throughout, Pragya answers questions such as: do our roots for prejudice lie in our evolutionary past? What happens in our brains when our biases are activated? How has bias affected technology? If we don’t know about it, are we really responsible for it?
At a time when partisan political ideologies are taking centre stage, and we struggle to make sense of who we are and who we want to be, it is crucial that we understand why we act the way we do. This audiobook will enable you to reflect and consider the forces that shape us all, opening your eyes to your own biases in a scientific and nonjudgmental way.
Good Company: How to Build a Business without Losing Your Values, by Julietta (UK, 2nd April, non-fiction)
In a highly competitive world, many think business success means being ruthless: maximising short-term return for shareholders, cutting overheads, crushing competition, and expanding at an exponential pace. Nothing says this more than Silicon Valley with its macho mantras like ‘Move fast and break things’ (Facebook) or ‘We’re a team not a family’ (Netflix). But this model is looking increasingly flawed.
What if there were another more compassionate way? Julietta Dexter believes there is. In this powerful and hopeful book, the award-winning CEO of The Communications Store explains how she built one of the world’s most respected PR & communications companies without compromising her morals and without screwing over her staff or her clients. Highlighting a new paradigm for business, she explains why profit should be just one consideration among several, and why honesty, reliability and diversity are the best foundations for long-term success.
Seven Lies, by Elizabeth Kay (UK, 16th April, thriller)
Jane and Marnie have been inseparable since they were eleven years old. They have a lot in common. In their early twenties they both fell in love and married handsome young men.
But Jane never liked Marnie’s husband. He was always so loud and obnoxious, so much larger than life. Which is rather ironic now, of course.
Because if Jane had been honest – if she hadn’t lied – then perhaps her best friend’s husband might still be alive . . .
The Dead Line, by Holly Watt (UK, 16th April, thriller)
Investigative journalist Casey Benedict is used to working on stories that will take her from the bottom to the top of society – stories with a huge human cost. And her latest case is no different.
A frantic message is found hidden in clothes manufactured for the British high street. They take the girls.
Casey and her team at the Post know they are on the brink of a major exposé but identifying the factories in which the clothes have been made is one challenge, following the trail of those taken is another.
Their attempts to find the girls will take Casey from her London newsroom across the world and into the very heart of families who will be destroyed if what she uncovers is ever revealed.
The Switch, by Beth O’Leary (UK, 16th April, US, 9th June, fiction)
When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.
Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.
Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?
The Way Back, by Jamie Fewery (UK, 30th April, fiction)
The three Cadogan children, Jessica, Kirsty and Patrick, haven’t spoken to each other for three years. An argument after their mother’s death was the latest excuse to blame one another for their family’s troubles in a long, unhappy series that’s lasted almost a decade.
When their father, Gerry, dies they are given instructions as to where he wants his ashes to be scattered. But first they must together drive his old camper van up the country to the Scottish Isle of Islay. For the journey, he’s given them his old fishing tackle box containing three photo albums through which they can explore their past, and a bottle of single malt whisky he had been saving for the 70th birthday he never reached.
Along the way, they’ll be forced to confront the most painful moments in their shared history, lay to rest a ghost who’s haunted them for years – and maybe even become a family again.