The Best Books to Look Out For in June 2018
From the corridors of the Kremlin, the dark, prickling heat of an Italian summer and the hushed whispers of Buckingham Palace, welcome to the best of June’s new reading.
Appropriately for a summer selection, there’s plenty of heat to our fiction picks this month, beginning with Crudo, a searing debut novel from writer and critic Olivia Laing. Like her recent bestseller The Lonely City, it’s an acerbic and wise novel of lives swept up in the turmoil of the summer of 2017 that is everything admirers of her non-fiction work could hope for and more. Then, from Brexit Britain to Trump’s USA, we present two very different – equally compelling - depictions of modern America: in Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion (a recent pick for Radio 4’s Book of the Week) power, influence and consent are put under the microscope, with electric results, whilst Gabriel Tallent’s thrillingly charged debut, My Absolute Darling, appears this month in paperback, offering a raw and truly unforgettable portrait of survival and dangerous paternal obsession.
It’s all a far cry from the continuing travails of legend-in-the making Dolly Wilde. The erstwhile heroine of Caitlin Moran’s brilliantly funny How to Build a Girl, Dolly finds that fame is a fickle mistress in Moran’s whip-sharp follow-up, How to Be Famous. The big time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for the magical, mind-bending Amazing Telemachus Family either, the subject of Daryl Gregory’s Spoonbenders. Following three generations of dysfunctional eccentrics with a special talent up their sleeve – imagine a cross between The Royal Tennenbaums and Misfits – it’s a hugely enjoyable ride. There are laughs aplenty too in Lissa Evans new novel Old Baggage, which imagines Britain’s suffragettes in the late 1920’s as they head into middle age with a rallying cry, not a whimper. As in her recently adapted novel, Their Finest, Old Baggage showcases Evans’ impeccable ear for fast, witty dialogue, as well as an eye for sympathetically drawn characters that bring the past to life.
And we round-off with a taste of Italian bohemianism, as Elizabeth Strout introduces a new edition of an Italian classic: Cesare Pavese’s sumptuous coming-of-age story The Beautiful Summer. Set against a backdrop of a blistering 1930’s Italian heatwave, it’s a languorously sinister delight that’s simply perfect holiday reading.
Crime & Thrillers
June’s thrillers are heralded by the arrival of one of the year’s most anticipated page-turners: The President is Missing. The product of an unprecedented collaboration between former US president Bill Clinton and crime fiction heavyweight James Patterson, it combines slick-paced plotting with extraordinary insights into the workings of the White House. Then, in a move away from his Jackson Lamb series, Mick Herron serves up a modern espionage thriller to rival Le Carré’s finest with This is What Happened. Moving between three interlacing narratives, This is What Happens offers an all-too believable picture of how ordinary lives might be drawn into a dangerous undercover world. There’s a welcome return too, from Ruth Ware - author of bestselling novel The Lying Game – with The Death of Mrs Westaway. Centring on one woman’s audacious con to steal a false inheritance, it’s a novel that expertly ratchets up the tension to dizzying heights. From con to courtroom, and an original twist on the classic legal thriller set-up is Steve Cavanagh’s Thirteen,which rather brilliantly puts a serial killer on the jury. Grishamesque in its double-bluffs and blind alleys and expertly plotted, Thirteen more than lives up to the promise of its initial hook.
Appropriately for a moment when the papers are awash with real-life undercover plots to rival Ian Fleming’s finest, we begin our non-fiction selection with a revelatory new history of Stalinist espionage. Based on previously undisclosed archive material, The Spy Who Changed History is Cambridge historian Svetlana Lokhova’s engrossing account of a Soviet intelligence operation to infiltrate American universities. Focusing particularly on one agent who single-handedly transformed Russia’s military capabilities, it’s an astonishing examination of how an individual’s actions can have momentous, even global, consequence.
From super spies to royal I-spy, with Craig Brown’s acclaimed (and eye-opening) Ma’am Darling, a pin-sharp, engrossing account of the life of Princess Margaret. From her sniping court to admirers ranging from Picasso to Jeremy Thorpe, as the Times says, ‘the anecdotes come thick and fast and the detail is sometimes jaw-dropping’. Gossipy, salacious and utterly compelling, it makes for a refreshing take on biography. Another lost and changing past world fills the pages of Damien Le Bas’ book, The Stopping Places, albeit one far less frequently documented. An Oxford-educated filmmaker and journalist, Le Bas is a native Romany speaker from a large Gypsy family and his beautifully written book - part history, part memoir - explores that heritage and how and why it has irrevocably changed.
To conclude, we’ve a selection of books that confront and explore the precarious landscape of our present. Coming to paperback, Robert Peston’s WTF? and Douglas Murray’s The Strange Death of Europe both search for clarity in the fog of post-Brexit politics, offering differing (though no less challenging) prognoses for what the future might hold. Meanwhile Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson – authors of the global bestseller The Spirit Level – return with The Inner Level, a book about the wide-ranging impact of social inequality, partcularly on our individual wellbeing. Described as a book that ‘should be on the reading list of every politician’ by the Guardian, it offers transformative ideas about how inequality affects everything, from stress to self-confidence, across all parts of society. There’s an equally urgent plea for change in Alice Robert’s Tamed, which looks at ten domesticated species and how they have transformed our world and us alongside. Described as ‘a masterpiece of evocative scientific storytelling’ by Brian Cox, Tamed combines pioneering technology with captivating observation, drawing readers into a new way of seeing our interconnected natural world.
We conclude with a collection of stories dedicated to and inspired by the survivors of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire. Edited by Kathy Burke, 24 Stories brings together tales from established names such as Irvine Welsh and Meera Syal, alongside previously unpublished writers, to support those affected by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Written on themes of community, survival and hope for the future, it’s a reminder of the need for long-term support for those affected by tragedy, and a memorial to those who lost their lives in the disaster.
Would you like to proceed to the App store to download the Waterstones App?
For shops outside of these areas: reserve online, pay on collection.
Or, add to basket, pay online, collect in as little as 2 hours, subject to availability.