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The Woman Upstairs

Mesmerising about obsession, betrayal and fury

Wow, what a novel! Rarely have I read such an emotionally charged, foreboding book. A truly gripping tale, seething with rage. The Woman Upstairs is the story of single, 42 year-old Nora Eldridge, ‘the quiet woman at the end of the third-floor hallway’, a kind, dutiful primary school teacher who has put aside her artistic ambitions to care for her sick elderly parents. A woman who, in her own words, obediently eats all the greens while the ice cream for dessert slowly melts away. Enter the Lebanese-Italian Shahid family. The family of Nora’s dreams: Reza the beautiful, charming child, Skandar the handsome, intelligent husband and Sirena the glamorous, successful artist wife…

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The Examined Life: How we lose and find ourselves

Stories from the psychoanalyst's couch, captivating peek into the human mind

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.

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The Circle

Very entertaining satire on our obsession with the internet.

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.

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The Shock of the Fall

Warm, humourous and convincing portrayal of mental illness

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 with experience 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 tale of Matthew, a nineteen year-old, pot smoking school drop-out with severe psychological problems, looking back at his childhood.

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Mrs Bridge

Hilarious satire with a darker message

Over the past year or so I have stumbled upon two brilliant books, which, strangely enough, have a great deal in common. The first one, Mrs Bridge by Evan S. Connell, was featured on BBC Radio 4’s excellent programme Open Book. I read it in one gulp and it immediately joined my favourite-books list.

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Canada

Beautiful and disturbing

You need a bit of patience to get into this book, Ford’s slow paced writing takes some getting used to, but do persist, it is a brilliant read. Canada is a profoundly moving and disturbing story about growing-up, deceit and survival, written by one of the giants of American contemporary literature, the Pulitzer Prize winning Richard Ford. Read full Review

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Sum: Tales from the Afterlives

Mind-blowing and very funny, a must-read.

Ever wondered what afterlife might be like? Sum: Tales from the Afterlives by neuroscientist and writer David Eagleman offers forty different mind-blowing hypotheses, some of them nightmarish, some of them appealing, most of them hilarious and all of them thought provoking. Read full Review

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Americanah

Another gem from Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Orange Prize winning book Half of A Yellow Sun was a magnificent read, a beautiful love story against the backdrop of the Biafran war, a terrible conflict I vividly remember from my childhood as totally incomprehensible…until I read this book. A truly amazing novel. Adichie casts the net wider in Americanah which spans three continents: America, Africa and Europe. Our heroine Ifemelu grows up in Nigeria’s capital Lagos with a mother lost to religion and an unhappy, underachieving father.

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How to get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia

Refreshingly different, funny and heart-breaking

Once in a while you come across a refreshingly unusual book, a book so utterly different that it inspires you to see novels in a new light. With its gaudy dust jacket and brazen title, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is such a book, and it is an excellent one at that. I was a big fan of Moshin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist and this book is, in my opinion, equally good. Read full Review

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The Yellow Birds

Timely and tough, but beautifully written

Machine gunner and poet? Two absurdly contradictory roles. Kevin Powers is both, as well as an extremely talented author. A Michener Fellow of Poetry from the University of Texas at Austin, Powers served as a machine gunner in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Tal Afar in 2004 and 2005. His novel The Yellow Birds, inspired by his own experiences of war, is a superb book, heart wrenching, moving and beautifully written. Read full Review