We’re excited to bring you our latest collection of must read paperbacks…
Yet again we’ve brought together the best of new paperback fiction, powerful non-fiction and even a couple of rediscovered classics in our new Book Club selection.
Each week we’ll continue to bring you a podcast discussing our Book Club book of the week, starting this week with Derek B. Miller‘s Norwegian By Night, which you’ll find not only here on our blog, but also on Soundcloud and iTunes.
So, here’s a quick run down of the latest Book Club selection from our buying teams, including Chris White and Susanne Ard…
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
A few months ago I was recommended two books which were described to me as the great lost classics of American literature. At the time I wasn’t aware of either and was only dimly familiar with the authors. The first was an obscure novel with an odd title called Stoner which had recently been reissued by Vintage. I was intrigued, read the book, loved it and the next thing I knew, Ian McEwan was talking about on the Today programme. The other book was Crossing to Safety. Where Stoner relates the life of one man’s quiet struggle told against the backdrop of a provincial American university, Crossing to Safety charts the relationship of four friends set against the backdrop of a provincial American university over the best part of the Twentieth Century. Stegner has created a complete and immersive fictional world which lingers long in the minds of all who read this wonderful novel. Woefully overlooked on this side of the Atlantic since its publication in 1987, Stegner’s novel has been lauded by the likes of Jane Smiley and Gillian Slovo and we’re delighted to be bringing it to a wider audience by including it in Book Club.
Set against the background of the Great Migration, in which six million black Americans headed north over a period of six decades to escape the iniquities of Jim Crow, it tells in turn the stories of one woman, her eleven children, and one grandchild – the twelve tribes of the title. A startling accomplished novel which will leave you feeling both stimulated and moved. The perfect book club book, in short.
This being the year of Stoner we were intrigued to discover what else John Williams had written. He wrote only four novels, as well as several collections of poetry and numerous essays. All four are very different. As a bit of an I, Claudius fan I was intrigued to stumble across this National Book Award winning novel, first published in 1972. As you may have gleaned from the title, the novel tells the story of the Emperor Augustus but does it by means of fictionalised letters and diary entries from real life characters of the period so we view the man throughs the thoughts of Virgil, Horace, Mark Anthony et al. Although on the surface a very different novel to Stoner it nevertheless shares significant similarities. Both essentially are the stories of two men coming to terms with their their own mortality, it’s just that in Stoner that man is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Missouri and in Augustus he is the leader of the Roman Empire. It’s an absolutely fascinating book and deservedly holds the accolade of the finest American historical novel every published.
From the author of Q&A, the novel which became Danny Boyle‘s multi-award winning Slumdog Millionaire, comes an extraordianary novel which once again gets to the heart of contemporary India’s problems – corruption, child labour, and forced marriage, to name but a few – while leaving the reader feeling strangely elevated.
To describe The Middlesteins as a bittersweet, family drama in no way does justice to the subtle power which this novel wields. Centred around the break-up of a Chicago couple who have been married for thirty years, the novel delves into the dark heart of family life but manages to retain a warmth and vibrancy which few novels can to match.
A Thousand Pardons is a book we just loved. A superbly well-written, sharply observed page-turner about our need for reinvention. Ben is sleepwalking to disaster and, when his recklessness puts him under the spotlight, his family starts to unravel. Dee writes about scandal with grace, clarity and wit.
Norwegian By Night is a powerful, literary crime thriller that puts character front and centre. Like all the best crime fiction though, it comes with a wicked sense of humour – it’s one of the funniest, yet at the same time compassionate, books about dementia and war crimes you’ll ever read. Ludicrously enjoyable, profoundly moving and perfectly debatable, this is a great book club book.
From the Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, this collection of short stories probes into the very depths of our relationships and examines the glue which seals them together and the human frailty which tears them apart. Packed full of Diaz’s familiar wit, warmth and humanity this should be on the book shelf of anybody who considers themselves a lover of contemporary literature.
The follow-up to Ben Goldacre’s phenomenally successful Bad Science, Bad Pharma is his expose of the $600b global pharmaceutical industry, and the tricks of the trade used to distort drug trials and push through inadequate medicines and procedures, cheating both the medical profession, and the public. Reading this book will make you furious, as it shows how the drug trade and governments often put profit before patient welfare, with sometimes fatal and heart-breaking results. Nonetheless, it is utterly compulsive reading – you’ll never feel the same way about your medicine cabinet again.
A Hologram for the King sees Dave Eggers delivering the novel of his career. Following one man’s last-ditch effort to stave off foreclosure, provide for his family and – finally – do something great, this is a book powerfully of the moment. Think Death of a Salesman in the Saudi desert…
The World Until Yesterday is the third book in Jared Diamond’s ‘Human’ trilogy, following on from the bestselling Guns, Germs and Steel (one of my favourite Popular Science books ever) and Collapse. This title delves further into Diamond’s life work studying traditional societies, looking at how, in evolutionary terms, these societies are still largely similar to our traditional ancestors, and how despite the vast developments in Western culture, we still potentially have a great deal to learn from these cultures. From childcare and family life; health, diet and lifestyle; through to issues of war and conflict resolution, there is much that traditional cultures and societies can teach us about the essentially ‘human’ problems that affect all our lives.
On the Map is a title which we have loved since the hardback came out last year, selecting it as our Book of the Month for October 2012, and nominating it for our inaugural Book of the Year. From Egyptian philosophers and treasure islands, to Google Maps and Facebook – via crafty collectors and the Ordnance Survey – Garfield tells the story of the human endeavour to explore, record, and locate ourselves, creating a fascinating history of an ever-changing world and the individuals who have mapped it. Each chapter explores a different story in the history of cartography, interspersed with “pocket maps” on subjects such as London Underground maps and a death map of Soho, with map reproductions, photographs and illustrations throughout. We think this is a brilliant addition to this Book Club selection, offering a thoroughly entertaining and accessible non-fiction choice of near universal appeal.