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Our Diversity genre celebrates a wide range of inclusive narratives. It's about empowering people by respecting and appreciating what makes them different, in terms of age, gender, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, education, and national origin. As a team, we read widely and make sure that we offer intersectional representation in our book recommendations.
Thirty-year-old Shalini has lived a privileged life, but one beset by uncertainty. She was her erratic mother’s “little beast” and is struggling to come to terms with her tragic death. Adrift from work and the wider world, Shalini journeys to find Bashir, a travelling salesman she and her mother befriended through her childhood, tentatively hoping this will provide some understanding of her mother’s death. As Shalini’s journey unfolds in the present, a second narrative reveals her past with raw poignancy. On the road, Shalini’s faltering need to belong somewhere is revealed through her romantic imaginings of being part of a stranger’s family. And then, in Bashir’s remote Himalayan village, she becomes caught in a complex political situation, with the tangled conflict between her heart and conscience made powerfully palpable. While she feels “I had chosen this place, these people, this life, with its secrets and its violence, it’s hardness and its beauty”, Shalini recognises that she’s thrown Bashir’s family “into disarray with my invasion and my probing questions”. The writing is so exquisitely magnetic that I struggled to draw myself away from it, especially as Shalini’s story rose to an unexpected, pulse-quickening climax. This is the rare kind of novel that lingers long in the heart and mind, like a dream one feels compelled to return to.
Everything changes for rural lad Emmett Farmer when a gloriously grouchy wise woman compels him to be her bookbinding apprentice. While this line of work is generally shrouded in superstitious fear, Emmett is shocked when his mentor explains that they “don’t make books to sell, boy. Selling books is wrong”. Rather, their gothically intriguing trade involves binding unwanted memories into books: ”Whatever people can’t bear to remember. Whatever they can’t live with. We take those memories and put them where they can’t do any more harm”. Most clients are wealthy; well-to-do gentlemen who have their servants and wives bound so they forget what wrongs their masters and husbands have done to them. No wonder then, that Emmett is horrified to discover a book bearing his own name, and so a tempestuous tangle of secrets unfurls. The novel is also fragrantly spiced with witty references to literary history and the novel as an art form: “It makes one wonder who would write them [novels]. People who enjoy imagining misery, I suppose. People who have no scruples about dishonesty”. Yet through the duplicity of her exquisitely crafted characters, and luminous storytelling, this novel’s author reveals truths of the human spirit in a most entertaining and absorbing fashion.
From childhood in Germany and England to young womanhood in Ghana, this enthralling novel follows a steadfastly thoughtful Ghanaian forging her own identity in the face of fractured family ties, tragedy and colonial imperialism. Though of illustrious heritage, Maya’s childhood as an émigré is complex, uncomfortable and evoked with lyrical precision. Her beautiful mother is self-absorbed, always scented with “powdery luxury” and critical of Maya. ”It’s a pity my child did not take my beauty”, she tells her reflection before counselling Maya to “always look more than perfect. Not just good enough, but perfect”. And Maya receives conflicting messages from her father too. “Boys will not like you if you are too clever”, he tells her, while also criticising an eight out of ten mark: “Why not ten out of ten? You must always do your best.” The arrival of cousin Kojo changes everything. His impassioned talk of Ghana fuels Maya’s understanding of her mother country, her parents, and her own identity. She observes that Kojo’s knowledge “gave him the power to upset the order of things,” leading her to wonder, “Could I learn these secrets and codes, even though I did not grow up in our country?” When she and Kojo are sent to schools in England, Maya experiences the racism of peers who “touched my hair and stroked my skin and passed me round on their laps like a doll”, and Kojo is bullied. No wonder then that he decides that, “this is nothing but a small shitty island that doesn’t work properly. It’s a cold wet Third World country, but they made us think they were all powerful.” Later back in Germany, Maya is maddened by the cultural imperialism of her education: “I could not think of much that was more frightening than fitting into this pinched-in sterile world.” Maya’s story is at once arresting and nuanced, and suffused in an elegant sense of triumph when she returns to Ghana, where Kojo has been struggling to set-up a museum, and in time finds her voice and purpose through navigating a tangle of personal misfortune and cultural complexities.
International in scope and sweeping in history, Yvette Cooper’s She Speaks compendium gives voice to a dazzlingly diversity of powerful speeches selected on the basis of them being delivered by “women who believe in using words to build a better world, and persuading others to join them as they do so.” The introduction is both inspirational and edifying, with Cooper surveying the hostile landscape women have traversed - and still traverse - while making their voices heard, integrated with personal insights from her career as a Labour MP, Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State.Throughout it’s a joy to the savour the words and wisdom of dozens of seminal female figures, from Boudica’s stirring two thousand year-old polemic against violations of women, to Diane Abbott’s powerful 2019 House of Commons speech on the brutally unjust Windrush scandal. Other British women with political pedigree include the fabulously fierce Barbara Castle (her speech here is an exquisite example of sharp, scathing, socialist-minded oratory), Jo Cox, with her poignant maiden speech as an MP, Yvette Cooper herself, and former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. While it might seem out of place for Cooper to re-amplify the Iron Lady’s inflammatory “ideological assault on the public sector” by including her “the lady’s not for turning” speech, she frames the decision by referring to Thatcher’s mould-breaking persona and indestructible self-belief. Thatcher’s inclusion is also testament to the gracious spirit that runs through the anthology. Indeed, Theresa May’s speech on modernising the Conservative party is also included.Beyond Britain we hear from Audre Lorde, Benazir Bhutto and Michelle Obama; from razor-witted US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nigerian novelist and feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, and young education campaigner Malala Yousafzai. I was especially stirred by the 1851 speech of Sojourner Truth, a former slave turned activist whose work saw her campaign against slavery and champion women’s rights, and whose words sang for the oppressed. The last words are given to Greta Thunberg because “no one speaks about the future with more clarity or urgency than Greta Thunberg”.“She Speaks, I must listen”, Cooper writes in her introduction and this finely-curated anthology will certainly inspire readers of all ages to pay close attention to the women’s words it shares.
Beginning with an address to Anansi, the trickster story teller god of African folklore, (“Anansi, your four gifts raised to nyame granted you no power over the stories I tell”), Derek Owusu’s That Reminds Me is a one-of-a-kind reading experience. K’s story will break your heart, and heal it. And Owusu’s writing will leave you stunned - it’s that unique, that honest, that impactful. K is a working-class boy born to Ghanaian parents in Tottenham. Fostered as a child, he’s relocated to an unfamiliar rural environment, where there are woods and fields instead of flats and video shops. When he returns to London at the age of eleven, the city has become alien to him - and his birth parents have too. Once again K must re-find himself. Piece himself together, and perhaps find friendship and love along with his identity. Told through K’s fragmented memories, this is an exceptional coming-of-age story that lingers long in the soul. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
In their riveting and timely young adult debut, acclaimed novelist Akwaeke Emezi asks difficult questions about what choices a young person can make when the adults around them are in denial.
A simply fabulous conclusion to the unique and penetrating Reykjavik Noir Trilogy. You must start with Snare and Trap, and if you’ve already read them you will be drumming your fingers in eagerness, waiting for the arrival of Cage. Agla is in prison for financial misconduct, with no idea as to why Sonya abandoned her. Surrounded by drugs, smuggling, fraud, and violence, can they survive the maelstrom heading their way? Lilja Sigurdardottir pursues individual stories, setting up a chain of events that begin to slither together. The translation by Quentin Bates continues to shine. Crisp, punchy, tight writing ensured I devoured this read, from the first word through to an ending that completely and beautifully hit the spot. The cover of Cage, when sitting alongside the previous two novels is just divine and ensures the books stand out as much as they deserve to. With shocks and surprises in store, and that oh so satisfying end, Cage provoked, chilled, and thrilled me.
This endearing character-driven treasure from the award-winning author of Dear Martin is a race-against-time romance replete with real-life hardship, class conflict and hope. Rico is a high school senior who works at Gas ‘n’ Go after class to keep her family afloat and then races home to look after her little brother so her mom can pick up extra shifts. In the intensity and exhaustion of this hamster-stuck-in-a-ball situation Rico’s lost sight of what she wants for her future, but selling a jackpot-winning lottery ticket gives her new focus: to find the little old lady she believes won the ticket. Then maybe – just maybe – she’ll be rewarded with a life-changing cut of the multi-million-dollar winnings. To this end, Rico reluctantly enlists the help of handsome, rich “Zan-the-Man”, a tech whizz who “has no idea what it’s like to constantly be on the brink of not having what you need to survive.” But, as Rico discovers, while Zan’s set to take over the throne of his family’s toilet paper empire, his dad has made sure he knows the value of money. Their opposite-side-of-the-tracks narrative plays out with heated banter and feverish frisson, with class conflict rearing its head at every turn as Rico struggles to accept Zan’s generosity just like her mom refuses to apply for government support. Quirkiness comes courtesy of interludes told from the points of views of inanimate objects - the winning ticket, a taxi, a stash of $100 dollar bills, Zan’s fancy bed sheets, a salt shaker – and the novel’s conclusion is as thrilling and life-affirming as it is unexpected. Readers will be left rooting for Rico and Zan to forge the futures they deserve. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
By turns gripping, meditative and elemental, and always inspirational, this treasure trove of prose, poetry and art lays bare a richness of relationships between female adventurers and the great outdoors. Shunning conventional, simplistic narratives about mankind conquering the highest this, or the deepest that, each adventurer-contributor shares their unique experiences with enlightening, engaging subtlety. In the wise words of one writer, “People go outdoors to push themselves past what they thought they could do…I go outdoors for the struggle, not to beat it.” This eloquent anthology contains over seventy pieces of writing and art, among them an enlightening piece about the motivations of an Antarctic researcher, an intimate account of a mountaineer’s connection with her father through cross-country skiing, and an exquisite evocation of the sensuous life-forces of a Dartmoor brook. It’s a delight to dip into, and the perfect gift for nature-lovers and adventure-seekers.
“Big sisters look after little sisters,” declares the mother of the two sisters at the centre of this fiercely enthralling novel and that’s taken to the extreme when big sister Korede helps little sister Ayoola dispose the body of the boyfriend she’s murdered. And not for the first time either. Femi is the third boyfriend to be killed by beautiful, untouchable Ayoola, and Korede can’t not come to her aid. “I am the older sister – I am responsible for Ayoola. That’s how it has always been. Ayoola would break a glass, and I would receive the blame for giving her the drink”. The writing is razor sharp, courtesy of Korede’s wry narration. She’s a mistress of observation and insight, all-seeing, all-knowing and - so it seems – all-loyal to her self-serving little sister. Ablaze with dark humour and strident originality, this wickedly explosive debut heralds the arrival of a smart new voice in contemporary fiction. Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.
Offering a deep and abiding connection with nature and our landscape around us, this winter journal really is the most poignant yet uplifting, and emotionally observant read. Horatio Clare explains in his prologue that he is embracing winter, in order to raise a torch against depression. Declaring that “I will not lose touch with nature”, he says he wants to stop turning inwards, and start looking outwards. What follows is a journal that starts on the 16 October and travels through winter into early Spring. With a gift for seeing what others may have missed, for expressing and painting with words, Horatio Clare is able to take the reader by the hand and share the memory with us too. As he battles the darkness to be found in winter, he sends out a blazing light. I adored the snippets of new-found (for me) information, including that in Welsh lore dragons thrive as green woodpeckers. I have since seen a green woodpecker in their low, darting, rolling flight with completely new eyes! The Light in the Dark is so eloquently descriptive and beautiful, emotional goosebumps kept me company as I read, and oh, that ending! Highly recommended, this just had to feature as one of our Star Books.
With a sense of menace that fairly snaps at your heels, this is a truly fabulous read. You could step straight into Red Snow quite happily, but I recommend that you begin with the first in the series, Dark Pines. Here, reporter Tuva Moodyson tracks down a killer just as a blizzard hits the small Swedish town of Gavrik. Tuva is absolutely fabulous, she is a fast talking and thinking, no-nonsense lead, and her thoughts stride across the page. The town of Gavrik just has so much atmosphere, it scowls, simmers and plots in the background, actually, not so much in the background, it sits alongside Tuva as a main character. Will Dean writes so beautifully you can feel the black Grimberg liquorice scented energy of the place. In my mind, my thoughts, my feelings, I was there! The dark, twisty and somewhat quirky plot kept me on constant alert from start to finish. Red Snow is edgy, intricate, and right up there for me, this is Scandi-noir with brass knobs on! Read our 'Putting Authors in the Picture' Blog for Will Dean here!
Our mission is to share book love and encourage reading for pleasure by offering the tools, advice and information needed to help our members and browsers find their next favourite book. Part of that mission includes promoting diversity through the authors, characters and books that we feature on the website.
Much like our Debut category has a variety of books from first-time authors, our Diverse Voices genre will highlight a wide range of Inclusive narratives.