The recently established Folio Prize published their first shortlist last week. The £40,000 prize which aims to ‘to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible’ is the first book prize to be open to all English language fiction from around the world. The Folio Prize was set up on the back of the dismal 2011 Booker Prize which was deemed too low-brow by the literary community.
Stephen Grosz’s The Examined Life: How We Lose and Find Ourselves, a collection of vignettes based on his 25 years as a psychoanalyst, is an unlikely bestseller. Even so, it has been steadily climbing bestseller lists, both in the U.K. and in America, since its publication. Remarkable for a short, non-fiction book on such a narrow topic. Why such a bestseller? There is something completely unpretentious, yet caring and sympathetic about Grosz, his patients and their conversations.
Do you prefer to bring ‘light’ reading on your holiday or are you one of those who sees it as a chance to dig into some more heavy going titles? I oscillate between the two, so I’ll suggest a bit of both.
In a not so distant future, Mae Holland secures the dream job with technology giant The Circle, a hybrid between Google, Apple and Facebook. The Circle has revolutionised the world and taken connectivity to a whole new absurd level with endless streams of emails, Facebook posts, like requests, invitations, surveys and tweets. Eggers’ highly readable and very amusing book The Circle paints an utterly nightmarish vision of the future, one that feels eerily near in time.
Many of you will remember a highly controversial article on parenting style in The Wall Street Journal a couple of years ago written by Chinese American Amy Chua. You know, the one whose children have never been allowed a playdate, a sleepover or to get any grade less than an A; who practise their instruments three hours a day and are perfect on all quantifiable dimensions.
A well-deserved Costa Book of the Year winner! The Shock of the Fall is a heart-warming, funny, wise and convincing portrayal of a young boy’s descent into mental illness, from an author who’s seen it all in his job as a mental health nurse. ‘I should say that I am not a nice person. Sometimes I try to be, but often I’m not.’ The opening line of The Shock of the Fall, sets the stage for the sad tale of Matthew, a nineteen year-old, pot smoking school drop-out with severe psychological problems, looking back at his childhood. A sort of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time for mental illness, with a slightly more adult tone.
Another long forgotten but fabulous novel is Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner from 1987. We meet two couples, Larry and Sally Morgan and Sid and Charity Lang, life-long loyal friends, soul mates, occasional competitors and mutual supporters. If you’re in the mood for a contemplative, tightly and exquisitely written novel, reach for Crossing to Safety.
…David Mitchell’s new book, The Bone Clocks, coming out in September. His last book, The Thousands Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, was one of my all time favourites, recommended ad nauseam to all my friends and family. Better, and certainly more accessible, than his previous multi-layered Cloud Atlas made into a film last year. Will keep you posted!