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Hot off the press! Check out the books we think are the best of the best this month!
At times uncomfortable and chilling (as it should be) this is nonetheless absolutely fascinating, and a must read for anyone interested in law enforcement and the way minds work. Dr Kris Mohandie is a clinical police and forensic psychologist, in other words, a “detective of the brain”. He has worked on high profile cases and encountered some of the most dangerous people in the USA. Here he provides “an informed peek behind the curtain of criminality in a world that’s getting darker and more dangerous by the day” “providing insight into why these people do what they do and lessons we can learn as a society to help stop or at least reduce the bloodshed”. He highlights a number of cases he has worked on, from serial killers, to hostage takers, right through to mass casualty shooters. He looks at cases that are known throughout the world, such as Columbine, O.J Simpson, and Oklahoma City. Starting his career with LAPD, Dr Kris Mohandie was a consultant, working with units including SWAT. This is a man who has had to make incredibly difficult decisions, in horrendously difficult circumstances. He is honest, at times blunt, and says it as he sees it. He discusses the death penalty, the nature of evil, and mental illness. If you take a look at the press reviews on our LoveReading book page, you can see reports from people who have worked with him. Words such as “outstanding”, a “true subject matter expert”, “one of the best in the business” ring out. Born Killers? is a truly gripping read that I can wholeheartedly recommend.
Edited by trailblazing broadcaster, editor and critic Margaret Busby OBE - Britain’s first black woman publisher when she co-founded Allison and Busby in the 1960s - New Daughters of Africa is an extraordinary feat of publishing, presenting as it does the diverse work of 200+ women of African heritage across more than 900 pages. In 1992, Busby published Daughters of Africa, and this epically-proportioned - and realised - re-visitation duplicates none of the writers featured in the first incarnation. Busby hopes in her introduction, “may all who find their way to this anthology, regardless of gender, class or race, feast well on its banquet of words.” And I defy any reader not to do just that. This rich feast presents all kinds of writers – academics and activists; critics and curators; fiction writers and filmmakers; poets and politicians, to name but a few - from all parts of the world. There are wise words to chew on from familiar figures, among them Diane Abbott, Angela Levy, Bernardine Evaristo, Malorie Blackman, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Afua Hirsch. And there are individuals and pieces I was grateful to discover for the first time, such as Bermudian Angela Barry’s Without Prejudice story, and Yvette Edwards, a London writer of Montserratian origin. The collection’s historical entries are engrossing too, among them Sarah Parker Remond’s (1815-1894) “Why Slavery is Still Rampant” piece, and Meta Davis Cumberbatch’s (1900-1978) powerfully rousing poem, “A Child of Nature (Negro of the Caribbean)”. This is an exceptional anthology to savour - a uniquely nourishing banquet for mind and heart. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
An absolutely charming addition to a much loved series. There is something so uplifting about these novels, Alexander McCall Smith has the ability to embrace the intimate in order to open far-reaching views. Mma Ramotswe is troubled by a strange smell in her van, her new neighbour causes concern, and a distant cousin asks for help. Can you believe that we are now at book twenty-one in this evocative series which began with The No:1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in 1998? Do you have a favourite, I think this could well be mine…though as with all good series that create a world for you to inhabit, the latest usually becomes your most treasured! There is a graceful ease to the words of Alexander McCall Smith, he is so gently yet evocatively descriptive and as soon as I started to read a sense of ease enveloped me. The pace slows, the small things matter, and Mma Ramotswe is just glorious. How to Raise an Elephant really is the most delightful read, and it deserves to be included as a LoveReading Star Book. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
A cracking and class-act of a crime novel stuffed full of atmosphere and detail which skilfully sits alongside a truckload of tension. Journalist Martin Scarsden plans on a new start in Port Silver, Australia. On arrival he finds his childhood friend murdered, and his partner is number one suspect. While this could be read as a standalone novel, I recommend starting with Scrublands, Chris Hammer’s debut novel which won The Crime Writers’ Association John Creasy New Blood Award in 2019. The author has been a journalist for over 25 years and I feel his knowledge is anchored in this tale. This is a satisfyingly long read which sets a quite wonderful scene before the story really takes off. Australia sings and Port Silver becomes a known town, with a map planting the locations firmly in mind. I sank in and only came up for air a couple of times. I feel this a beautifully balanced novel, the storyline, setting, characters, and potential for the next book all smoothly combining into one effortlessly compelling read. Silver just has to be included as a LoveReading Star Book, it is a vibrant, sweeping, fabulous read.
“Forty-six days, thirteen states, 3000 miles”. Documenting the author’s solo coast-to-coast road-trip across America, David Reynolds’s Slow Road to San Francisco is an absolute joy. An entertaining blend of observation and commentary delivered with a luminous lightness of touch. Buckle up for read that’s radiant with the author’s wit, charm and keen eye for people and place - everything you’d want from an on-the-road companion. Beginning on the Atlantic Coast and winding up on San Francisco’s Pacific Coast - “because Europeans landed on the east coast of the landmass that they named America, and moved slowly west until they reached the other side” - the author’s journey across Route 50 documents edifying encounters that reveal as much about America and the world as they do about the individuals themselves. Though Route 50 is known as the loneliest road in America (and it’s one of the few remaining two-lane highways in the country), Reynolds is never short of people to talk to. Through conversations with bartenders, gas station attendants and motel staff, and the assorted personalities he meets in bars, cafés and museums along the route (among them war veterans, judges and friendly bikers), it truly feels like you’re on the road with him. Peeling back layers of Native American history, slave history and contemporary politics (everyone the author meets has something to say about Trump, and often Brexit too), usually with a glass of IPA to hand, this is life-affirming, enlightening stuff. Perhaps what stands out above all else is a generosity of spirit, both on the part of the people who freely share their time, opinions and tables with Reynolds, and on the part of the author himself. Like all the best road-trips, I didn’t want this ride to end.
An absolutely fascinating and beautifully intimate tale set in Greece, covering the Second World War, Greek Civil War and beyond, from 1930 through to 1999. Themis looks back on her life with two of her grandchildren, as she grows up in a family split with opposing political views. Her beliefs take her into the Communist army after the Second World War, where Greek fights fellow Greek. While this novel is set around a hugely complex event in history, Victoria Hislop opens it up with skill. By concentrating on one woman, we enter a family tale told with a matter-of-factly simplicity, so the impact of what comes, hits with huge power. This compelling novel, which brings a slice of history so vividly to life, is a stark warning of what could yet come in our future. It is also a reminder that we never truly know the life someone has lived, as what is presented on the outside, could be very different to what has been lived inside. Warm yet chilling and disturbing, uncomplicated yet involved and detailed, Those Who Are Loved is a tale full of emotional impact.
Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.
From the detailed domestic scenes dappled with loss, love, hardship and hanging on, to sweeping waves of war, the rare power of Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King creeps up on you, catches you unaware, becomes compulsive in the manner of complex classics of the ancient world. It’s 1935 in Ethiopia and newly-orphaned Hirut is employed as a maid by an officer in Emperor Hailie Selassie’s army. In her previous life, Hirut’s father taught her to use a gun: “This, he says, you do not touch unless you are prepared. Prepared for what, she asks. He slips the bullet back into his pocket. Prepared to be something you are not.” And this is what Hirut is prepared for when Ethiopia is invaded by Mussolini’s vengeful army. Not content to merely care for the wounded, she devises a plan and rouses women to rise up and fight. As they shift from being housewives, to nurses, to warriors, their stories are haunting, harrowing and stirring, and this novel confirms Mengiste’s status as a writer blessed with lyrical bravery and unique vision. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
This may be a small book in size, but it is mighty of heart and contains 226 pages of delight. I think it would make the most wonderful gift, if not for yourself, then perhaps for someone who would appreciate a smile or hug in book form. This wonderful little treasure contains a myriad of short stories, sitting in sections that range from kindness to poignancy, and from school life to meeting in lifts. There are also some decidedly witty amuse-bouche stories (in cartoon strip form with illustrations by Iain McIntosh) to be found between the pages. It is no secret that I adore Alexander McCall Smith’s writing. He has the ability in a few sentences, to make me stop and think, or splutter and chortle. Every word counts, and each joins to create the most wonderful journey as you travel the world and through time. You can either dip in and out, or binge read like I did as I snickered and smiled my way through the pages. Short and sharp, yet bountiful and considerate, Tiny Tales really is the most fabulous book. Explore our '80+ Books That Deliver a Hug' listicle for more feel-good or uplifting books.
Written with all the dynamism and fluidity of a total football team, Gavin Bell’s Because It’s Saturday is essential reading for anyone who’s fallen for the Beautiful Game. Witty, warm-hearted and propelled by passion, the book’s overarching aim is to “take readers on a season ticket to sparsely filled grounds where managers and fans are on first-name terms and players join them for a pint after the game.” Here the author gives voice to the unsung heroes of lower league clubs, with plenty of personal anecdotes alongside interviews with devoted fans, players and staff, from local Roy of the Rovers type players, to the backroom heroes who freely give their time and skills to keep struggling clubs afloat. The contrast between Premier League clubs and the teams Bell surveys (among them Accrington, Blackpool, Grimsby and Plymouth) reveals the extent to which modern football is a game of two halves: “If the stadia of glamour clubs are like gladiatorial arenas, those in the lower leagues are more like community playing fields where matches are social occasions for friends to catch up on local news and gossip over a pie and a pint.” At the same time, teams in the lower leagues “provide fields of dreams for the stars of tomorrow to hone their skills and attract big-club scouts. It is they who conjure the romance of cup ties in homespun grounds against giants of the Premiership, and fairy tales when they win.” What’s more, these teams provide fans with so much more than on-pitch entertainment. They’re the lifeblood of communities who “support their clubs and in return the clubs support their communities with extensive social welfare programmes.” It’s a beautiful, inspirational symbiotic relationship, much like this book is a beautiful, inspirational testament to the enduring enriching role played by the clubs it covers.
Our August 2020 Book Club Recommendation. Click here to see our Reading Group Questions. Glorious! A novel of such startling sincerity, clarity and eloquence it feels as though the narrator herself is stamped onto every page. A Room Made of Leaves is inspired by letters and documents on entrepreneur and pioneer John Macarthur and his wife Elizabeth. They left England in 1788 for New South Wales in Australia when he was posted as Lieutenant to the penal colony of Sydney Town. This is Kate Grenville’s first novel in a decade, she is the author of the 2006 Man Booker shortlisted novel The Secret River. Elizabeth narrates, headstrong and wilful she nonetheless finds she is folding herself smaller and smaller in order to not be observed. Each chapter may be short but they are full of suppressed emotion, candour, and are as compelling as can be. The chapter headings, if all joined together, would create a story in themselves. As each word, as each sentence and chapter flowers, the inner being of Elizabeth opened to allow me to see, and also feel her emotions. The cover is gorgeous and the understanding of the title when it came, made the beauty resonate all the more. Australia is obviously much loved, and I in turn loved reading between the lines of history. Unique and spirited, A Room Made of Leaves truly is a beautiful novel, it also deservedly joins our LoveReading Star Books. Have a look at our Ambassador Book Buzz for A Room Made of Leaves. Visit our 'Women's Words - 60+ works of feminist-minded fiction' to explore our collection of feminist-minded fiction from around the world, and across centuries.
So beautifully written you can just slip into this gentle wander through Botswana alongside the kind and astute investigations of Mma Ramotswe. During a quiet patch at the agency, Precious has friends in need and Charlie is placed in a difficult position. If you haven’t read any of this much loved series, do start at the beginning with the aptly named The No:1 Ladies Detective Agency. We are now at the twentieth novel and the absolute charm of these books is in getting to know the characters (Mma Makutsi is a personal favourite). Alexander McCall Smith excels in creating a light yet warm atmosphere where he quietly looks at complex issues. Human nature in all its wonder is examined with mellow observations and compassionate wit sitting alongside the vivid heat of Botswana as it waits for rain. To The Land Of Long Lost Friends is a lovely, affectionate read and a fine addition to this celebrated series. Find out more about Alexander McCall Smith in our Book Chat blog post.
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