Our JULY Books of the month

From a book written by a pilot about the majesty of flight to the very best thriller to read on board whilst you are flying, we’re proud to present our finest Book of the Month choices for July. 

The Past by Tessa Hadley

Our Fiction selection for July is Tessa Hadley’s The Past, a ‘hugely enjoyable and keenly intelligent novel’ as the Telegraph had it. In her sixth book (there have also been two short-story collections), Hadley marshals a complex, intertwined cast to examine the fallout from a single, three-week family reunion. A Chekhovian trio of sisters and their seemingly worldly brother gather, with fragments of extended family in tow, at Kington, a tumbledown Devon rectory that has served as the Crane family’s bolt-hole for several generations. Now beyond repair, the bittersweet sense of endings forces a series of familial revelations that tangibly drags the past into the present. ‘She writes brilliantly about families and their capacity for splintering,’ wrote Anthony Quinn for The Guardian. ‘She is a remarkable and sensuous noticer of the natural world. She handles the passing of time with a magician’s finesse… To cap it all, she is dryly, deftly humorous.’

Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker

Mark Vanhoenacker’s Skyfaring is our July Non-Fiction Book of the Month, a timely tome for those brave enough to endure the perils of the pound and perhaps several hours of dubious in-flight entertainment and slightly undefinable food. Since its appearance last year in Hardback, Skyfaring has managed to avoid the usual fate of aviation books which tend to be aimed squarely at the control-tower-radio-toting enthusiast. ‘[An] ode to the wonder of flight in the tradition of the great pioneer pilot-author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,’ said Charles Bremmer in The Times. ‘A riveting practitioner’s account of a human achievement that has been rendered humdrum by its own success.’ Bridging the gap between hard (but utterly absorbing) fact and a genuinely fine ear for language, airline pilot Vanhoenacker eloquently presents what is ultimately a meditation on a rather extraordinary but invisible pursuit.

Voyage to Magical North - The Accidental Pirates by Claire Fayers

Our Children’s Book of the Month for July is Claire Fayers’ wildly adventurous Accidental Pirates. Utter adoration from one of our booksellers in Oxford got the ball rolling on this one (in her words ‘the best pre-teenage book I have read in a long time’) and we’ve all been blown away by this intelligently-spun tale that neatly sidesteps the usual clichés.  Author Fayers told us that ‘Cassie O’Pia, captain of the pirate ship Onion, is most definitely the kind of person who attracts stories.  The stories around the Onion are a mixture of truth, half-truth, exaggeration and the things people would like to be true.  Cassie O’Pia herself is Odysseus, she is Sinbad, she is every girl who has ever wanted to go adventuring.’ Just brilliant.

Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

The ideal novel to read when you finally step off just such an airliner has to be our Thriller of the Month Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll’s searingly confident debut. Meet ‘TifAni FaNelli’; successful, driven, a Manhattanite living a seemingly pitch-perfect existence. Consent to a documentary however unpicks the seams of her challenging past, laying bare a world of almost absolute deception. In the words of our crime buyer Joseph Knobbs, Luckiest Girl Alive combines ‘the New York socialite aspiration of a Devil Wears Prada with the page turning twists of a Disclaimer or a Gone Girl – this is something both familiar and original… the perfect setting for a thriller that takes what we think we know, and then twists it.’

The Graduate by Charles Webb

The ever-popular Rediscovered Classic slot this month is occupied by one of those novels (like A Clockwork Orange or arguably One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) that seems forever destined to lie in the shadow of the film (and ultimately song) it spawned.  Charles Webb’s The Graduate deserves rather more, being the clear-eyed social document that it actually is; it’s worth underlining though that Webb’s classic coming of age drama was actually published during the twilight of the JFK era and was much more about the transition of the 50s through to the 60s, rather than Mike Nichols’ Nixon-tinged fantasy. Ultimately, many years later, a sequel surfaced (Home School), with the seemingly peripatetic Webb choosing to ultimately settle on the English south coast.

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Waterstones Loves returns this month with our final debut, Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. A young adult novel blessed with a firm sense of human understanding, from the off comparisons were made with Harper Lee’s magisterial To Kill a Mockingbird and critical reception has been glowing. A simple tale of small-town allegiances and betrayal mask a complex picture of moral uncertainty and the sliding nature of right and wrong. ‘Suspenseful, wise, beautifully written and emotionally engaging,’ wrote Nicolette Jones in The Sunday Times, awarding Wolf Hollow their Children’s Book of the Week. ‘It resonates way beyond its ending.’ On our website you will find an extraordinary series of photographs and accompanying text from Wolk, distilling the highly personal roots of the novel.

Our choices for next month are already well under way, so please remember to join us again in August for another selection of publishing's best.