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You Are Here by David Nicholls

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You Are Here

Having just finished watching the lovable Netflix series One Day, I went straight for newly published You Are Here by David Nicholls. It’s not that Nicholls’ plots are that different from other romcom novels. Where he stands out is in his incredible skill at making it all so very relatable. It’s impossible to read his books without nodding, smiling, even shedding a tear with recognition. You Are Here, is the story of not-so-young-anymore Michael and Marnie finding love (no spoiler, it’s in the blurb) and it’s the way there that makes this such a special read. The perfect funny and uplifting summer novel.

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Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck

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Kairos

Fatal Attraction

A coincidental meeting on an East Berlin bus changes the life of 19 year-old Katharina forever. Across the steamy bus, she catches the eye of Hans, a married author and journalist 34 years her senior. They start an intense clandestine affair, but as passion turns to obsession, the relationship descends into something dark and unescapable. In Karios by Jenny Erpenbeck, one of Germany’s literary superstars, their psychological drama is played out in parallel with the political drama of the fall of the Berlin wall.

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Being Mortal

Surprisingly reassuring on a grim subject

I’m not sure how I’m going to convince you to read this book. Most of you will, understandably, want to look the other way. There are details about dying in Being Mortal by Atul Gawande that will make you shudder and stories about elderly people’s lives that will make you want to cry. But, for me, this book was an eye-opener and surprisingly reassuring, despite it’s grim subject matter. Gawande is an Indian/American surgeon, health-care researcher, a Harvard professor, author, journalist, in short: a brilliant man whose books on health care issues regularly climb to the top of non-fiction bestseller lists.

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Western Lane by Chetna Maroo

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Western Lane

A debut novelist of brilliant promise

Longlisted for The Women’s Prize for Fiction 2024, and appearing on last year’s Booker shortlist, Western Lane by Chetna Maroo is a spare, tender novel of grief and loss, told from the viewpoint of bereaved 11-year-old Gopi in her unique search for resilience through the game of squash. Following the untimely death of her mother, Gopi’s struggling father has launched his three daughters into an intense regime at Western Lane sports centre. Here, on the squash court, Gopi will find space to breathe and contemplate a world of adult silences and the challenges of adolescence in a cross-cultural family.

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The Long-Winded Lady by Maeve Brennan

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The Long-Winded Lady

A captivating and stylish peek at bygone New York

An unearthed gem for lovers of the Big Apple, The Long-Winded Lady by Maeve Brennan is a gloriously evocative collection of vignettes of New York life between 1954 and 1981. Originally written for The New Yorker as a series of observational pieces, Brennan captures the city in a state of  flux, reporting from street scenes, hotel lobbies, and more often than not, the window table of an elegant bar. From here, as a wry and solitary observer and unashamed eavesdropper, Brennan gives us the lowdown on a city where it’s never too early to order a martini.

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Ice by Anna Kavan

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Ice

A hallucinatory journey into eternal winter

A nameless man of military persuasion is in pursuit of a silvery-haired girl; tracking her across an unearthly white snowscape, he is intent on possessing her in more ways than one. We will never learn his name, the girl’s name, or even their location. In the 1967 dystopian classic, Ice by Anna Kavan, we’re taken to a frigid, blanched world that is being engulfed by avalanches of ice and snow, the cause of which appears to be unknown. As society breaks down under the weight of misinformation, fuel and food shortages and the inexorable advance of icy doom, the girl keeps running and the man keeps pursuing.

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The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

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The Bee Sting

What a shame

I rarely write about books I don’t enjoy but in the case of The Bee Sting by Paul Murray I feel I should as I spent the better part of my Christmas break reading the 656 pages book and I’m not sure you would want to do the same. The Bee Sting was Booker Prize short-listed and recommended by loads of people and does indeed start off in a very promising way.

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Orbital by Samantha Harvey

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Orbital

A profound meditation on our lonely planet

It’s a Tuesday morning in October, and hundred of kilometres above Earth, six astronauts snooze weightlessly in their sleeping bags. The uncleared paraphernalia of last night’s dinner sits in the galley, while beyond the spacecraft’s titanium shell, ‘the universe unfolds in simple eternities.’ In the beautiful Orbital by Samantha Harvey, we spend one day and sixteen orbits of the Earth in the astronauts’ company, as they reconcile their scientific objectives with existential contemplation and the insistent human buzz emanating from our lonely planet.

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Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq

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Split Tooth

Mesmerising indigenous Arctic tale

A bildungsroman unlike any other, Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq takes us to the Canadian Arctic and a landscape of boundless terrain and immense skies. It’s the 1970’s and a young Inuk girl tells of her childhood in this extraordinary environment, where deprivation and discrimination sit uneasily beside a magical northern world of nature and mythology. When puberty arrives, it will bestow a shamanic gift upon the girl and prompt her, incredibly, to seek communion with the Northern Lights.

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Enter the Water by Jack Wiltshire

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Enter the Water

A brilliantly idiosyncratic call to courage

Early on in Enter the Water by Jack Wiltshire, we’re casually told that there’s no hero story to be found here, but by the end of this exhilarating verse novel, you may well disagree. It tells the story of a vulnerable Cambridge student, evicted from his flat and sleeping on a park bench. Setting out on an odyssey to the coast, accompanied by pigeons, a blackbird and the forces of Nature itself, his story is a clarion call for appreciating the natural world and cultivating stoicism in our infinitely troubled times.

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