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The Waterstones Round Up: February's Best Books

Posted on 4th February 2020 by Mark Skinner
As we bid the post-Christmas chill of January a firm farewell and embrace love and pancakes this February, it is time to stock up on some more great books. From the adult fiction debuts of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kiran Millwood Hargarve to the history of seduction and a vegetarian cookbook from a culinary national treasure, February's literary bounty is positively irresistible.

Fiction

£16.99 £13.99
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Coates’ blazing political and cultural writing is amongst the most intelligent and powerful work of the twenty-first century and here he delivers a debut novel of poetic intensity and righteous anger. Compellingly recounting the clandestine work of abolitionist cells buried in the 19th-century Deep South, The Water Dancer is a fearless and profound slice of crusading historical fiction.
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£14.99
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Millwood Hargrave’s adult debut weaves an atmospheric tale of self-sufficient womanhood and sexual suspicion in a tight-knit island community during the seventeenth century. Drawing deft comparisons between historic misogyny and its more insidious modern-day variant, The Mercies is a tender love story and pulsating period thriller rolled into one.
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A compelling and poignant tale of motherhood, deception and loss in eighteenth-century London, The Foundling is suffused with the squalor and inequality of the Georgian metropolis. Boasting Halls’s keen eye for evocative historical detail and exquisitely structured narrative, this is another mesmerising novel from a hugely exciting talent.
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There are few writers as capable of skewering the contradictions, frustrations and frictions of family life with as much humour and piercing accuracy as Marian Keyes and her latest sees her on sparkling form. When one woman's concussion leads to an outpouring of long-contained gripes and secrets, it calls into question just how civilised and 'grown-up' any of us actually are.
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Perfect reading for fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Morrey’s luminous debut presents one of the year’s most memorable central characters in a story of heartache, pathos and ultimate redemption. Brimming with compassion and generosity of spirit, Saving Missy is a gentle, tender dissection of love, loneliness and the power of turning your life around.
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A landmark publication in Nam-Joo’s native country where it kick-started a nascent MeToo movement, Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 throws a grenade under the appalling misogyny and paternalism of South Korean society. Detailing the daily injustices and long-term sacrifices that the eponymous central character is expected to accept unquestioningly, this is a must read book for 2020.
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Perfectly capturing the faded glamour of late 1950s Brighton, Here We Are is a wryly comic character study of a trio of end-of-the-pier entertainers. Richly evocative and empathetic, Swift’s masterful novel frames a classic love triangle in the language of old school Vaudeville and the vexed joys of the British seaside.
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A beautifully realised novel of mother-daughter relationships and the dark underbelly of fame and adulation, Actress deftly unpacks the secrets and lies of a renowned theatre performer and the effects of her notoriety on the child who idolised her. With a sharp eye for female interaction and familial subtext, Actress finds the former Booker Prize-winner on superlative form.
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A Girl is a Half-formed Thing swept all before it six years ago and now Strange Hotel looks set to cause a literary similar sensation with its delicately poised narrative of a woman caught between multiple hotel rooms and the rich, emotive memories that they provoke. Written with singular lyrical power, this is a gorgeous, elegant novella about the anonymous spaces that come to define us.
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Beautifully handled and profoundly moving, Dear Edward traces the path through life of the sole survivor of a tragic plane crash. Addressing issues of guilt, grief, identity and friendship, Napolitano’s inspired UK debut weaves a heartwarming and ultimately uplifting story about the choices we make and the obligations we have to those we have left behind.
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A wry, quietly powerful novel whose understated insight and keen intelligence illuminates aspects of everyday life in Trump’s America, Weather is told in short snippets of crystalline prose. Eagerly anticipated by readers dazzled by her previous works, this perfectly poised novel is a model of concision and wit.
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An apeirogon is a shape with a countably infinite number of sides, and McCann’s intensely powerful and compassionate novel is undoubtedly a multi-faceted and endlessly rewarding beast. Exploring the relationship between two bereaved men amidst the physical and emotional carnage of the West Bank, Apeirogon is a masterpiece of characterisation and subtle political commentary.
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Crime & Thrillers 

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Fresh from the bestselling success of the former Waterstones Thriller of the Month, The Hunting Party, Foley treats us to another closed community page-turner, set this time at a glamorous wedding on a remote island. Lean, pacy and terrifically twisty, The Guest List is a good, old-fashioned whodunit in distinctly twenty-first century trappings.
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The Memory Wood tells the tale of two adolescents and the unbearably tense game of cat and mouse that develops between the two of them when one discovers the other, who has been abducted. Wrong-footing readers on every page, Lloyd’s tour de force is constructed like the chess games so beloved of the novel’s central protagonist. Unmissable.
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Ruth Galloway is pulled back into a notorious murder case in this chilling crime thriller from the ever-reliable Elly Griffiths. Channelling sinister local lore into a psychological duel between the experienced detective and a vicious mass killer, The Lantern Men finds Griffiths at the top of her game.
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£20.00 £14.99
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The fiftieth book in the In Death series finds the unstoppable Robb in electric form, as Eve Dallas faces a race against time to catch a mercurial serial killer loose on the streets of New York. Packed with the kind of fast paced incident and expertly constructed twists that Robb has made her trademark, Golden in Death marks such an impressive anniversary in breathtaking style.
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Science Fiction & Fantasy

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The new Peter Grant mystery finds the erstwhile wizarding copper immersed in the nefarious goings-on of a shady tech company. Throbbing with Aaronovitch’s trademark blend of comic fantasy and compelling crime, False Value is a bravura addition to the Rivers of London sequence.
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A post-apocalyptic thriller with real urgency and credibility, this electrifying debut from ‘QI elf’ Murray elucidates an immobile future Earth, with each side locked in permanent day and night. Deploying subtle allegory and high concepts to shine a piercing light on contemporary society and politics, The Last Day is an intelligent, mature science fiction thriller for the ages.
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Biography



£16.99 £12.99
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Both a colourful and entertaining memoir and a powerful denunciation of a prison system under intolerable strain, Atkins’s eye-opening account of his five year jail term in HMP Wandsworth is a riveting window into a bizarre, frequently terrifying world. Laced with mordant humour and indignant polemic, A Bit of a Stretch is an unvarnished view of life behind bars.
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A beautiful, reflective account of all aspects of motherhood from a parent of five children aged one to seventeen. Stroud has plenty of wisdom and insight to offer women at all stages of their journey through parenting and the refreshing honesty with which she details her own experiences changes the terms of debate around what has become an increasingly divisive topic.
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In this collection of heart-warming letters to her three young sons, Giovanna Fletcher lays bare the manifold wonders and unavoidable struggles of modern parenting. From touching and amusing anecdote to the difficult decisions around being a working mum and dealing with feelings of guilt, Letters on Motherhood is a tender and compassionate guide to living with little ones.
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Home & Lifestyle

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Tried, tested and heartily enjoyed by the Leith family table, the recipes in The Vegetarian Kitchen are as enticing as you would expect from a cook of Prue Leith’s formidable standing. With easily adaptable vegan alternatives for over forty of the dishes featured, this comprehensive cookbook will be a mainstay of kitchen shelves for years to come.
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Truly sumptuous and exquisitely designed, The Irish Cookbook is another typically beautiful recipe guide from Phaidon. Combining an authoritative account of the country’s finest cuisine with mouth-watering images of food and locations, this is both an invaluable tool for the kitchen and a work of art for the bookshelf.
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History, Politics & Popular Science

£25.00 £21.00
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A blazingly original history of the art, philosophy and practice of seduction, Strange Antics ranges broadly and nimbly across the centuries to take in the likes of Casanova, Jack Johnson and even vampiric lovers. Masterfully marshalling a wealth of fascinating information, Knox achieves a dazzling synthesis of scholarship and juicy anecdote.
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£20.00 £16.99
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The Allied bombing of Dresden remains one of the most contentious and divisive operations of World War II and, in this admirably balanced and exhaustively researched account, Sinclair McKay artfully disentangles the fact from the emotive fiction of this pivotal event. Dresden is a masterful narrative history from a military historian of immense stature.
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The former New Statesman scribe presents a rollicking history of feminism, neatly structured into eleven overarching themes. Highlighting numerous fighters for female freedom, Difficult Women is a refreshingly unvarnished and unsanitised account of women prepared to do almost anything to secure rights, equality and a voice. Gripping, enlightening reading.
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Tracing the path of two great lakes integral to her family history, Kassabova, shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Border, conjures a transformative account of the diversity and richness of the Balkans. Examining a series of unique cultures all within a very narrow radius, To the Lake is a deeply enlightening narrative essential for a clear understanding of the Balkan region.
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A clear-headed and intelligent denunciation of racist stereotypes and pernicious eugenics, Rutherford’s masterly account of genetics and its dangerous misuse through history contains all you ever need to refute hateful claims about racial superiority. Wide-ranging and rooted in empirical fact, How to Argue With a Racist is a vitally important work of scholarship.
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Adopting five different identities, Ebner infiltrated a dozen extremist groups and Going Dark is her eye-opening and alarming expose of radical ideology and what it means for the rest of us. Combining dramatic reportage with personal testimony and stringent analysis, this is urgent, provocative journalism at its finest.
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Challenging widely held assumptions about the diminishing abilities of an ageing brain, leading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin argues that we should view getting older as a beneficial experience rather than a form of cognitive entropy. Persuasively argued and consistently surprising, The Changing Mind will alter your perception of the relationship between age and intellect.
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The writer capable of making intricate mathematical theory accessible to all returns with an epic account of the ‘magicians’ who pioneered complex calculation and scientific discovery. Kaleidoscopic and entertaining, Chown’s biographical history opens the world of maths up for everybody to understand and enjoy.
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