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The Best Books to Look Out For in June 2018

Posted on 4th June 2018 by Waterstones

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.

Fiction

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.

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A BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, The Female Persuasion is an electric novel of influence, awakened potential and fatal flaws. Expansive and wise, compassionate and witty, it is about the spark we all believe is flickering inside us and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.
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It's the height of summer in 1930s Italy and sixteen-year-old Ginia is desperate for adventure. So begins a fateful friendship with Amelia, a stylish and sophisticated artist's model who envelops her in a dazzling new world of bohemian artists and intoxicating freedom. The Beautiful Summer is a gorgeous coming-of-age tale of lost innocence and first love, by one of Italy's greatest writers.
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They were the Amazing Telemachus Family, who in the mid-1970s achieved widespread fame for their magic and mind reading act. That is, until the magic decided to disappear one night, live on national television. Spoonbenders is the legacy and legend of a dysfunctional, normal, entirely unique family across three generations, each cursed with the potential of being something special.
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Mattie is a woman with a thrilling past and a chafingly uneventful present. Now in middle age, she is still looking for a fresh mould into which to pour her energies but what starts as a brilliantly idealistic plan is derailed by a connection which begins to threaten every principle that she stands for. A funny and bittersweet portrait of a woman who has never, never given up the fight.
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Known for her incisive, insightful non-fiction Olivia Laing’s rewires the novel in a brilliant, funny and emphatically raw account of love in the apocalypse. Crudo charts in real time what it was like to live and love in the horrifying summer of 2017, from the perspective of a commitment-phobic peripatetic artist who may or may not be the experimental artist, poet and novelist Kathy Acker.
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Growing up in Mendocino, in the wilderness of the northern California coast, 14-year-old Turtle Alveston and her father live a life honed by survival, brutality and sadistic love. As Turtle’s reaches out to a life beyond, their fragile existence is blown apart. My Absolute Darling is is a tour-de-force debut that leaves echoes indelibly imprinted on the imagination.
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The hilarious, big-hearted, no-holds-barred sequel to Cailtin Moran’s bestselling debut novel How to Build a Girl. Johanna Morrigan (AKA Dolly Wilde) is well on her way to the bigtime. Then she encounters Jerry Sharp and a one-night-stand comes back to haunt her. He needs to be stopped. But how can one woman stop a bad, famous, powerful man?
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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.

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Amid an international crisis, the impossible has happened. A sitting U.S. President has disappeared. What follows is the most dramatic three days any president has ever faced - and maybe the most dramatic three days in American history. And it could all really happen.
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Maggie is just the kind of person who could vanish from the face of the earth without anyone taking notice… or just the kind of person MI5 needs to thwart an international plot that puts all of Britain at risk. Mick Herron sets aside his superlative Jackson Lamb series for an unnerving, standalone take on contemporary espionage.
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The serial killer isn't on trial. He's on the jury. Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He's done it before. But this is the big one. This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house. But there's someone on his tail, ex-conman turned trial attorney Eddie Flynn and he alone suspects that the killer isn't the man in the dock.
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The brand new psychological thriller from the Sunday Times and New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in Cabin 10. When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she's inherited a substantial bequest, it seems like the answer to her prayers. Except the letter isn't meant for her and once she embarks on this dangerous deception, there is no going back.
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Non-Fiction

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.

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Through winter frosts and summer dawns, from horse fairs to Gypsy churches, neon-lit lay-bys to fern-covered banks, Damian lives on the road, somewhere between the romanticised Gypsies of old, and their much-maligned descendants of today. In this powerful and soulful debut, Damian Le Bas brings the places, characters and stories of his to bold and vigorous life.
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Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's The Spirit Level has been one of the most influential non-fiction books published in the last decade. The Inner Level now shows the impact inequality has on individuals. Like its predecessor, The Inner Level will transform ideas of how we should organise the way we live together.
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In Tamed, Alice Roberts uncovers the deep history of ten familiar species with incredible wild pasts. Tamed encompasses thousands of years of history and archaeology alongside cutting-edge genetics and anthropology. Yet it is also a deeply personal journey that changes how we see ourselves and the species on which we have left our mark.
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On the trail of Soviet infiltrator Agent Bleriot, Svetlana Lokhova takes the reader on a thrilling journey through Stalin's most audacious intelligence operation. She pieces together every aspect of Shumovsky's life and character using information derived from American and Russian archives, exposing how even Shirley Temple and Franklin D. Roosevelt unwittingly advanced his schemes.
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The Strange Death of Europe is a highly personal account of a continent and culture caught in the act of suicide. This book is not only an analysis of demographic and political realities, but also an eyewitness account of a continent in self-destruct mode. ‘Brilliant, important and profoundly depressing.’ - The Sunday Times
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On the night of 14 June 2017, a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower, killing at least 72 people and injuring many more. With profits going to help those suffering with PTSD, 24 Stories is an anthology of short stories, written on themes of community and hope, by a mix of the UK's best established writers and previously unpublished authors, chosen by Kathy Burke from over 250 entries.
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She made John Lennon blush and Marlon Brando clam up. She cold-shouldered Princess Diana and humiliated Elizabeth Taylor. Combining interviews, parodies, dreams, parallel lives, diaries, announcements, lists, catalogues and essays, Ma'am Darling is a kaleidoscopic experiment in biography, and a witty meditation on fame and art, snobbery and deference, bohemia and high society.
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In WTF Robert Peston gives us his highly personal account of what those who have ruled us for years got so badly wrong, and what we need to do to mend the terrible fractures in our society. Taking on the challenges of our age, he asks what and who can we believe when it is almost impossible to know whether posts on Facebook and Twitter are hard news or the fabrication of a Russian agent?
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