by Amy Bloom
This is an engaging and insightful fictionalised account of the passionate and enduring love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and the ambitious journalist known as “Hick”, risen from dirt-poor childhood. Told against the backdrop of a fascinating chapter in American politics, WW2 and an insight into FDR’s character himself.
The Secret Barrister: Stories of the Law and How It's Broken
by The Secret Barrister
I have been reading The Secret Barrister, a fascinating insight into the legal world by an anonymous counsel whose blog has become extremely popular in recent months. The book starts with a history of legal history in the United Kingdom – more interesting than it sounds – before using specific cases to examine the state of prosecution today. Written in clear, eloquent, and satirical language, it is both an affirming account of our legal system and a damning indictment of its current predicament. I would highly recommend it for an authoritative take on this vital institution.
The Dust That Falls From Dreams
by Louis de Bernieres
I feel that I have done Louis de Bernieres a disservice over the years. I read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, enjoyed it and promptly forgot about the author for nearly 25 years. On reading his new novel So Much Life Left Over which is out in July, I was very impressed and somersaulted back to the first novel in this series (trilogy?) The Dust That Falls From Dreams which is my Staff Pick. The story begins with the death of Queen Victoria and all that was implied therein for the families of Court Road Eltham and particularly for Daniel Pitt and the neighbouring McCosh girls, Rosie, Ottilie, Sophie and Christabel who take us through the Great War with both the acrobatics of a Royal Flying Corps Ace and the tenderness of a VAD nurse. Tenderness and adventure beautifully entwine to deliver a wonderful book with a sequel to follow soon.
Sing, Unburied, Sing
by Jesmyn Ward
This is a beautifully written and well-crafted story about three generations of a black family in southern America who are haunted by the past, and as a result struggling to live with each other in the present. Despite her regular absence and struggle with addiction, Leonie announces that she is going to take her children, Jojo and Kayla, on a roadtrip to pick up their white father from prison. Through Leonie’s narration, we discover how tragedy plagues her; while 13-year old Jojo’s point of view is an insightful and heart-breaking story of a boy trying to figure out what it means to be a man. I found the shifting narrative perspective a powerful way to show how racism and grief have affected each character. There is also a touch of magical realism, in a way that feels reminiscent of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which adds an extra layer of richness to this family’s story.
by Bernard MacLaverty
I’ve been a fan of MacLaverty ever since I first read Cal, many years ago. He describes a wintry weekend in Amsterdam undertaken by a couple in their 70s, one abstemious tending to ascetic and one an alcoholic. Moving, captivating, and ultimately uplifting.
by Leïla Slimani
Leïla Slimani won the 2016 Prix Goncourt with this page-turning thriller exploring race, class, parenting, appetite, poverty—opening with two shocking murders.
My Absolute Darling
by Gabriel Tallent
Powerful and breath-taking, this is an astonishing debut. Tackling difficult issues such as incest, rape, and brutality, it nevertheless stars and exceptional heroine, Turtle Alveston, whom you won’t forget.
by Jon McGregor
One event and how it affects the cast of characters in a rural community. Wonderful lyrical writing, evoking the constant rhythms of the natural world. Utterly beautiful.
The Wicked Cometh
by Laura Carlin
Set in 1831, young Hester White is struggling to rise above a life of poverty and despair. A chance encounter with an aristocratic woman changes her life, and her destiny. Together they discover a wicked underworld. A debut novel to enjoy!
by Michael Chabon
At the end of his life, a normally taciturn man tells his grandson about the adventures, love and sorrow of his life during the heart of the 20th century. It is funny, moving, and expertly crafted.
by Yrsa Daley-Ward
Ranging from two lines to ten pages long, Yrsa Daley-Ward’s sharply crafted poems have the raw vulnerability reminiscent of the confessional poet Anne Sexton. These poems acutely capture the physical ache of desire and experience.
How to Stop Time
by Matt Haig
Matt Haig takes readers on a fun jaunt through history, while also thoughtfully addressing the age-old question: what makes a life worth living? He weaves light and depth together so skilfully—it is a real joy to read!
by Mick Herron
Five times Jackson Lamb spells numerous obscene explosions in the dingy top-floor office of Slough House. It also spells the fifth Jackson Lamb novel and more magic from the inimitable Mick Herron, with wit, suspense, intrigue, and twists and turns of a bunch of seriously challenged “spies”.
Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile
by Adelle Stripe
The heart-wrenching true story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar—(in)famous for writing the controversial play and film, Rita, Sue and Bob Too. Hard hitting and highly recommended!
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock
by Imogen Hermes Gower
The engaging thing about Imogen Hermes Gower’s first novel is its feeling of authenticity. However bizarre the tale, the atmosphere and the characters glow with an 18th century light which casts many a foreboding shadow!
South of the Border, West of the Sun
by Haruki Murakami
Murakami writes on jazz and love in prose as smooth as coffee. It will make you want to quit your job and open a bar in downtown Tokyo.
Rather Be the Devil
by Ian Rankin
Rankin does it again! Rebus comes out of retirement for one last case…Great holiday reading and a must for crime aficionados.
Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl
by Carrie Brownstein
A hilarious and illuminating account of Sleater Kinney’s rise during the ‘Riot Grrrl’ feminist punk movement of the early 1990s. Touch, but bursting with attitude.
A Tale For the Time Being
by Ruth Ozeki
Ruth Ozeki came to Dulwich Books four years ago and weaved her spell in a fine event – this novel is one of the few that an be given the accolade: more than a novel! Magical, moving, complete.
I Love Dick
by Chris Kraus
If mix epistolary prose, art theory, playful erotic stalking, history, and gender politics, you could get the extraordinary ‘I Love Dick,’ Chris Kraus’s first novel and a feminist classic!
The Return, Hisham Matar
by Hisham Matar
A moving, stunning, visceral account of one man’s search for the truth about his father’s disappearance whilst leading a rebellious opposition to the Gaddafi regime. Powerful and tragic.
Here I Am
by Jonathan Safran Foer
Safran Foer takes us into the heart of a failing marriage, intimacy, parenthood, youth, midde and old age, and from there expands the canvas to the attempted destruction of Israil through earthquake, flood, cholera, and invasion. Funny, tender, poignant, and wise – a masterpiece.
H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
H is for Hawk is an unflinchingly honest account of Macdonald's struggle with grief during the difficult process of a hawk's taming and her own untaming.
It was on Obama’s reading list for the summer of 2016 and we can see why – the winner of the Samuel Johnson prize in 2014 and the Costa Book of the Year 2015, an instant classic.
Sleeping on Jupiter
by Anuradha Roy
A stark and unflinching novel by a spellbinding storyteller, about religion, love and violence in the modern world.
In a town of temples by the sea, the anxieties and emotions of young and old, male and female, are challenged through the persona of Nomi searching out hypocrisy and history.
Everyone is Watching
by Megan Bradbury
Everyone is Watching is a novel about the men and women who have defined New York. Through the lives and perspectives of these great creators, artists and thinkers, and through other iconic works of art that capture its essence, New York itself solidifies.
Walt Whitman, Edmund White, Robert Mapplethorpe in a début collage of notes, diaries, letters, transcripts – a polyphonic and subtle novel.
by Francis Spufford
New York, a small town on the tip of Manhattan Island, 1746. One rainy evening, a charming and handsome young stranger fresh off the boat from England pitches up to a counting house on Golden Hill Street, with a suspicious yet compelling proposition -- he has an order for a thousand pounds in his pocket that he wishes to cash. But can he be trusted?
Francis Spufford’s much maligned and misunderstood hero takes us on an eighteenth-century journey into language and parochial New York society both of which sparkle and surprise as does the plot!
The Savage Detectives
by Robert Bolaño
New Year’s Eve 1975, Mexico City. Two hunted men leave town in a hurry, on the desert-bound trail of a vanished poet. Spanning two decades and crossing continents, theirs is a remarkable quest through a darkening universe – our own. It is a journey told and shared by a generation of lovers, rebels and readers, whose testimonies are woven together into one of the most dazzling Latin American novels of the twentieth century.
Reading the Savage Detectives led to my reading nearly all of Bolaño. This is searingly surreal and at the same time movingly poetic and tragically real…
The Running Hare: The Secret Life of Farmland
by John Lewis-Stempel
Traditional ploughland is disappearing. Seven cornfield flowers have become extinct in the last twenty years. Once abundant, the corn bunting and the lapwing are on the Red List. The corncrake is all but extinct in England. And the hare is running for its life.
By the end of The Running Hare you will care as much as the author does about the sanitisation of the countryside, and the story of his attempt to attract hares to his cornfield reads like fiction – you’ll be rooting for him. Memorable and thought-provoking.
by Patti Smith
Just Kids is Patti Smith’s account of life in Manhattan between 1967 and 1975. The book centres on Smith’s relationship with the late Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s a love story, a manifesto for young creatives, a catalogue of Smith’s many influences, and a remarkable portrait of New York counter-culture. A genuinely inspiring read.
Trans: A Memoir
by Juliet Jacques
Trans tells the story of Juliet Jacques’ gender reassignment. It’s a moving story of someone’s attempt to find an identity – and a body – that they can live with. But it’s also a fascinating history of how thinkers have theorised the experience of trans and non-binary people. It challenged many of my ideas about gender.
by Han Kang
This is a brilliant, incantatory, hallucinatory tour de force of feminist writing. It balances control and appetite, desire and anhedonia, maintaining a high wire tension for three breathtaking acts.
A young wife’s decision to become a vegetarian is the starting metaphor, but the book is about much more than this. Focusing a forensic gaze on women’s roles as mother, wife, sister, daughter, Kang exposes the brutality and the beauty of self-determination and physical sovereignty.
The blossoming of creative talents outside conventional relationships and the subsequent punishments imposed by society & self are ruthlessly skewered. Tender, violent, shocking, sensual – a must-read.
by Laura Beatty
As the trees nearby were pollarded the length of a very long street, I was gripped by their stark beauty. When I started reading Pollard I was gripped again by a linguistic beauty which suggested that the writer not only knew the forest where her main character escapes to, but had enlisted and indeed credited a chorus of trees to help her become one with nature. In so doing Laura Beatty addressed the complexity and beauty of nature whilst at the same time dealing with the harsh reality and difficult lives of her characters. It is still my Top Recommendation.