New Books December 2017

Fiction

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
Jojo is thirteen years old and trying to understand what it means to be a man. His mother, Leonie, is in constant conflict with herself and those around her. She is black and her children’s father is white. Embattled in ways that reflect the brutal reality of her circumstances, she wants to be a better mother, but can’t put her children above her own needs, especially her drug use. When the children’s father is released from prison, Leonie packs her kids and a friend into her car and drives north to the heart of Mississippi and Parchman Farm, the State Penitentiary. At Parchman, there is another boy, the ghost of a dead inmate who carries all of the ugly history of the South with him in his wandering. He too has something to teach Jojo about fathers and sons, about legacies, about violence, about love.

American War by Omar El Akkad
Sarat Chestnut, born in Louisiana, is only six when the Second American Civil War breaks out in 2074. But even she knows that oil is outlawed, that Louisiana is half underwater, that unmanned drones fill the sky. And when her father is killed and her family is forced into Camp Patience for displaced persons, she quickly begins to be shaped by her particular time and place until, finally, through the influence of a mysterious functionary, she is turned into a deadly instrument of war. Telling her story is her nephew, Benjamin Chestnut, born during war – part of the Miraculous Generation – now an old man confronting the dark secret of his past, his family’s role in the conflict and, in particular, that of his aunt, a woman who saved his life while destroying untold others.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principal is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan
Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to the house of a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. Anna observes the uniformed servants, the lavishing of toys on the children, and some secret pact between her father and Dexter Styles. Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that had always belonged to men. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. She is the sole provider for her mother, a farm girl who had a brief and glamorous career as a Ziegfield folly, and her lovely, severely disabled sister. At a night club, she chances to meet Styles, the man she visited with her father before he vanished, and she begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have been murdered.

Winter by Ali Smith
In Ali Smith’s Winter, lifeforce matches up to the toughest of the seasons. In this second novel in her acclaimed Seasonal cycle, the follow-up to her sensational Autumn, Smith’s shape-shifting quartet of novels casts a merry eye over a bleak post-truth era with a story rooted in history, memory and warmth, its taproot deep in the evergreens: art, love, laughter. It’s the season that teaches us survival.

 

Mystery / Thriller

Dinner at the Centre of the Earth by Nathan Englander
Prisoner Z, held at a black site in the Negev desert for a dozen years has only his guard for company. How does a nice American Jewish boy from Long Island wind up an Israeli spy working for Mossad, and later, a traitor to his adopted country? What does it mean to be loyal, what does it mean to be a traitor, when the ideals you cherish are betrayed by the country you love? From Israel and Gaza to Paris, Italy, and America, the story shifts back in time, providing a kaleidoscopic glimpse of Prisoner Z’s improbable journey to his desert cell.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
Southern fables usually go the other way around. A white woman is killed or harmed in some way, real or imagined, and then, like the moon follows the sun, a black man ends up dead.  But when it comes to law and order, East Texas plays by its own rules – a fact that Darren Mathews, a black Texas Ranger working the backwoods towns of Highway 59, knows all too well. Deeply ambivalent about his home state, he was the first in his family to get as far away from Texas as he could. Until duty called him home. When allegiance to his roots puts his job in jeopardy, he is drawn to a case in the small town of Lark, where two dead bodies washed up in the bayou. First a black lawyer from Chicago and then, three days later, a local white woman, and it’s stirred up a hornet’s nest of resentment. Darren must solve the crimes – and save himself in the process – before Lark’s long-simmering racial fault lines erupt.

Origin by Dan Brown
Robert Langdon, Harvard professor of symbology and religious iconology, arrives at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao to attend the unveiling of a discovery that “will change the face of science forever”. The evening’s host is his friend and former student, Edmond Kirsch, a forty-year-old tech magnate whose dazzling inventions and audacious predictions have made him a controversial figure around the world. This evening is to be no exception: he claims he will reveal an astonishing scientific breakthrough to challenge the fundamentals of human existence. But Langdon and several hundred other guests are left reeling when the meticulously orchestrated evening is blown apart before Kirsch’s precious discovery can be revealed. With his life under threat, Langdon is forced into a desperate bid to escape, along with the museum’s director, Ambra Vidal. Together they flee to Barcelona on a perilous quest to locate a cryptic password that will unlock Kirsch’s secret. In order to evade a tormented enemy who is one step ahead of them at every turn, Langdon and Vidal must navigate labyrinthine passageways of hidden history and ancient religion. On a trail marked only by enigmatic symbols and elusive modern art, Langdon and Vidal uncover the clues that will bring them face-to-face with a world-shaking truth that has remained buried – until now.

Munich by Robert Harris
September 1938. Hitler is determined to start a war and Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in Munich, a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own. Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again. When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Nine Lessons by Nicola Upson
Josephine Tey is in Cambridge, a town gripped by fear and suspicion as a serial rapist stalks the streets, and in the shadow of King’s College Chapel, Detective Chief Inspector Archie Penrose faces some of the most horrific and audacious murders of his career.

The Accident on the A35 by Graeme Macrae Burnet
There does not appear to be anything remarkable about the fatal car crash on the A35. But one question dogs Inspector Georges Gorski: where has the victim, an outwardly austere lawyer, been on the night of his death? The troubled Gorski finds himself drawn into a mystery that takes him behind the respectable veneer of the sleepy French backwater of Saint-Louis.

 

Non-Fiction

Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly
The veteran of four space flights and the American record holder for most consecutive days spent in space, Scott Kelly has experienced things very few of us ever have and very few of us ever will. Kelly’s humanity, compassion, humour, and passion shine as he describes navigating the extreme challenge of long-term spaceflight, both existential and banal. He touches on what’s happened to his body, the sadness of being isolated from everyone he loves; the pressures of constant close cohabitation; the catastrophic risks of colliding with space junk, and the still more haunting threat of being absent should tragedy strike at home.

Struggle for Catalonia : Rebel Politics in Spain by Raphael Minder
In 2012 on Catalonia’s National Day, the Diada, an enormous crowd calling for Catalan independence took over the heart of Barcelona. On the back of this show of force, Catalonia’s governing politicians turned secessionist claims into a new headache for a Madrid government only just recovering from the near-meltdown of Spain’s financial system. Five years on, the separatist challenge has neither come to fruition, nor faded away. The Struggle for Catalonia looks at how and why Catalan separatism reached the top of Spain’s political agenda, as well as its connection to the broader European malaise generated by flawed political responses to financial and other crises. Through extensive travel and reporting, as well as dozens of interviews with leading Catalan personalities, Raphael Minder gives a cultural history of the region, showing how the reshaping of Catalan identity is being played out everywhere, from football clubs to the world of haute cuisine.

Myanmar’s Enemy Within : Buddhist Violence and the Making of a Muslim ‘Other’ by Francis Wade
For decades Myanmar has been portrayed as a case of good citizen versus bad regime – men in jackboots maintaining a suffocating rule over a majority Buddhist population beholden to the ideals of non-violence and tolerance. But in recent years this narrative has been upended. In June 2012, violence between Buddhists and Muslims erupted in western Myanmar, pointing to a growing divide between religious communities that before had received little attention from the outside world. Attacks on Muslims soon spread across the country, leaving hundreds dead, entire neighbourhoods turned to rubble, and tens of thousands of Muslims confined to internment camps. This violence, breaking out amid the passage to democracy, was spurred on by monks, pro-democracy activists and even politicians. Francis Wade explores how the manipulation of identities by an anxious ruling elite has laid the foundations for mass violence, and how, in Myanmar’s case, some of the most respected and articulate voices for democracy have turned on the Muslim population at a time when the majority of citizens are beginning to experience freedoms unseen for half a century.

River of Life, River of Death : The Ganges and India’s Future by Victor Mallet
India is killing the Ganges, and the Ganges in turn is killing India. The waterway that has nourished more people than any on earth for three millennia is now so polluted with sewage and toxic waste that it has become a menace to human and animal health. Victor Mallet traces the holy river from source to mouth, and from ancient times to the present day, to find that the battle to rescue what is arguably the world’s most important river is far from lost. As one Hindu sage told the author in Rishikesh on the banks of the upper Ganges (known to Hindus as the goddess Ganga) – ‘If Ganga dies, India dies. If Ganga thrives, India thrives. The lives of 500 million people is no small thing.’  Mallet delves into the religious, historical, and biological mysteries of the Ganges, and explains how Hindus can simultaneously revere and abuse their national river. Starting at the Himalayan glacier where the Ganges emerges pure and cold from an icy cave known as the Cow’s Mouth and ending in the tiger-infested mangrove swamps of the Bay of Bengal, Mallet encounters everyone from the naked holy men who worship the river, to the engineers who divert its waters for irrigation, the scientists who study its bacteria, and Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist prime minister, who says he wants to save India’s mother-river for posterity. Can they succeed in saving the river from catastrophe ― or is it too late?

Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively
Penelope Lively has always been a keen gardener. This book is partly a memoir of her own life in gardens: the large garden at home in Cairo where she spent most of her childhood, her grandmother’s garden in a sloping Somerset field, then two successive Oxfordshire gardens of her own and the smaller urban garden in the North London home she lives in today. It is also a wise, engaging and far-ranging exploration of gardens in literature, from Paradise Lost to Alice in Wonderland, and of writers and their gardens, from Virginia Woolf to Philip Larkin.

Tamed : Ten Species that Changed our World by Alice Roberts
Alice Roberts uncovers the deep history of ten familiar species with incredible wild pasts: dogs, apples and wheat; cattle, potatoes and chickens; rice, maize and horses – and, finally, humans. She reveals how becoming part of our world changed these animals and plants, and shows how they became our allies, essential to the survival and success of our own species. Enlightening, wide-ranging and endlessly fascinating, Tamed encompasses thousands of years of history and archaeology alongside cutting-edge genetics and anthropology. Yet it is also a deeply personal journey that changes how we see ourselves and the species on which we have left our mark.

Dare Not Linger : The Presidential Years by Nelson Mandela
Dare Not Linger is the story of Nelson Mandela’s presidential years, drawing heavily on the memoir he began to write as he prepared to finish his term of office, but was unable to finish. Now, the acclaimed South African writer, Mandla Langa, has completed the task using Mandela’s unfinished draft, detailed notes that Mandela made as events were unfolding and a wealth of previously unseen archival material. With a prologue by Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, the result is a vivid and inspirational account of Mandela’s presidency, a country in flux and the creation of a new democracy. It tells the extraordinary story of the transition from decades of apartheid rule and the challenges Mandela overcome to make a reality of his cherished vision for a liberated South Africa.

The Future is History : How Totalitarianism Reclaimed Russia by Masha Gessen
Masha Gessen follows the lives of four Russians, born as the Soviet Union crumbled, at what promised to be the dawn of democracy. Each came of age with unprecedented expectations, some as the children or grandchildren of the very architects of the new Russia, each with newfound aspirations of their own – as entrepreneurs, activists, thinkers and writers, sexual and social beings. Gessen charts their paths not only against the machinations of the regime that would seek to crush them all (censorship, intimidation, violence) but also against the war it waged on understanding itself, ensuring the unobstructed emergence of the old Soviet order in the form of today’s terrifying and seemingly unstoppable mafia state.

A History of Ayutthaya : Siam in the Early Modern World by Chris Baker
Early European visitors placed Ayutthaya alongside China and India as the great powers of Asia. Yet in 1767 the city was destroyed and its history has been neglected. This book is the first study of Ayutthaya from its emergence in the thirteenth century until its fall. It offers a wide-ranging view of social, political, and cultural history with focus on commerce, kingship, Buddhism, and war. By drawing on a wide range of sources including chronicles, accounts by Europeans, Chinese, Persians, and Japanese, law, literature, art, landscape, and language, the book presents early Siam as a ‘commercial’ society, not the peasant society usually assumed. Baker and Phongpaichit attribute the fall of the city not to internal conflict or dynastic decline but failure to manage the social and political consequences of prosperity.

 

Children’s Book

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex
An entertaining and browsable reference, Nothing Rhymes with Orange is to rhyme what Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge is to mnenomic devices. Revised and updated, this edition includes a phonetic spelling guide, a key to rhyming sounds that are spelled differently, fun sidebars, and a list of poetic terms. Now anyone can quickly and easily find rhyming words that end in:

act (abstract, attract, bract, cataract, compact, detract)
ipsy (gipsy, tipsy)
isp (crisp, lisp, will-o’-the-wisp)

and countless others!

On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna
All I want to do on a rainy day like today is play my game,
but my mum says it’s a waste of time.
The game drives my mum mad.
She takes it away.
I take it back.
I wish Dad had come with us on this rainy, grey weekend.
Without my game, nothing is fun.
On the other hand, maybe I’m wrong about that…

Greatest Animal Stories by Michael Morpurgo
Michael Morpurgo has collected his greatest animal stories from all around the world and put them into this beautiful book. From brave mice to hungry wolves, and mischievous spiders to ingenious cats, this is a timeless collection to treasure forever. Beautifully illustrated throughout, a menagerie will come to life before your eyes. There are lots of stories to choose from, including Puss in Boots, The Ugly Duckling, and Peter and the Wolf, so whether you’re looking for a quick read or a longer story to lose yourself in, something to read alone or a tale to share, there’s a great animal story within for everyone to find.

Snow Bunny’s Christmas Wish by Nosy Crow
The only present Snow Bunny truly wants for Christmas is a friend. Snow Bunny lives all by herself deep in the wintry forest. When she is too late to mail her letter to Santa, she decides to take it to the North Pole herself. Along the way, she meets other animals who need her help. It’s only when Santa brings her home in his sleigh that Snow Bunny realizes she has made her wish come true all on her own!

Mog’s Christmas by Judith Kerr
The house is full of strange bustling, there are new noises and new smells, and where is that tree going? Disconcerted by all the unusual activities, Mog escapes to the roof, and there she stays…until, unexpectedly, she returns with a bump!

Jingle Bells by Susan Jeffers
Ride along with a girl, a boy, their pony, and a mischievous dog as they travel to Grandma’s house. With playful animals in their path, their journey gets a bit sidetracked. But soon enough they arrive at Grandma’s—where an unexpected visitor fills them with holiday cheer!

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Susan Jeffers
Oh no! Emma is in trouble! In this new version of the classic song, Santa comes to the rescue. Susan Jeffers’s artwork sparkles with the excitement of a magical journey, revels in the fun of the twelve preposterous gifts, and brings us home in time for a joyful Christmas morning.

I Went to See Santa by Paul Howard
When a brother and sister go to see Santa, they compete to see who can be given the most bizarre and brilliant things. As they try to remember all the Christmas gifts, everything escalates until it’s Christmas! A new take on an old favourite, children will love this laugh-out-loud, test-your-memory story, with reindeer, penguins, a gingerbread tree and much, much more!

Merry Christmas, Hugless Douglas by David Melling
Hugless Douglas knows what Christmas is all about – snowing sheep, finding a tree, sledging and and making new friends like Rudi the Reindeer! And one more thing of course… Christmas hugs!

Tiny Tantrum by Caroline Crowe
When Tiny has a TANTRUM you can hear it for miles! Windows rattle, jelly quakes and birds fall out of trees. Can anyone persuade Tiny to eat her vegetables, share her toys and brush her teeth? How about a band of hairy monsters?

I Want to Go First! by Richard Byrne
Elphie is lining up with the other elephants to start the long march to the watering hole at the back of the book. As the littlest elephant, he has to go last. But Elphie reallly wants to go first and he enlists the help of the reader to help him move up the queue. He almost manages it until the biggest elephant shuffles everyone back to their proper positions just as they arrive at the watering hole. But the watering hole is already occupied by a very, very big and very, very selfish elephant. Elphie’s resourcefulness saves the day.

Franklin’s Flying Bookshop by Jen Cambell
Franklin the dragon loves stories and loves reading stories to people too, but everyone is too scared to even look at him. One day he meets a girl named Luna who, far from being scared, is fascinated to meet Franklin, having recently read all about dragons in one of her books. They instantly become friends and talk non-stop about what they’ve read: books about roller skating, King Arthur, spiders and how to do kung fu. Together, they hatch a plan to share their love of books with others by opening a bookshop – a flying bookshop, that is – right on Franklin’s back!

 

Children’s Fiction

Toto : The Dog-Gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo
When a twister descends on their Kansas farm, Toto and his owner Dorothy hide in the house – only to be plucked into the air and whisked away! Coming down with a crash in the mysterious land of Oz, the pair meet a series of extraordinary characters: a scarecrow who believes he has no brains, a tin man without a heart, and a cowardly lion who may not be as cowardly as he thinks he is. But Toto and Dorothy are desperate to return home – after all, home is home, and home is best! So they set off with their new friends on a journey down the yellow brick road to find the only person who might be able to help them: the Wonderful Wizard of Oz. But what they find might surprise them. And on the way, all of them will learn that what they think they are missing might have been there, all along…

The Wonderling by Mira Bartok
Welcome to the Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures, an institution run by evil Miss Carbunkle, a cunning villainess who believes her terrified young charges exist only to serve and suffer. Part animal and part human, the groundlings toil in classroom and factory, forbidden to enjoy anything regular children have, most particularly singing and music. For the Wonderling, an innocent-hearted, one-eared, fox-like eleven-year-old with only a number rather than a proper name ― a 13 etched on a medallion around his neck ― it is the only home he has ever known. But unexpected courage leads him to acquire the loyalty of a young bird groundling named Trinket, who gives the Home’s loneliest inhabitant two incredible gifts: a real name ― Arthur, like the good king in the old stories ― and a best friend. Using Trinket’s ingenious invention, the pair escape over the wall and embark on an adventure that will take them out into the wider world and ultimately down the path of sweet Arthur’s true destiny.

Skeleton Tree by Kim Ventrella
When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer’s Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton – a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren. As time wears on, Miren’s condition worsens, and the only time she is truly at peace is when she is playing with the skeleton. But Stanley is wary of him, especially when he finally manages to get a picture, and spots a scythe at the skeleton’s feet.

Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony by Chris Riddell
Lord Goth is throwing a music festival at Ghastly-Gorm Hall, with performances from the finest composers in the land. Ada can’t wait, but it’s quite distracting when her grandmother is trying to find her father a fashionable new wife, there’s a faun living in her wardrobe and Maltravers is up to his old tricks. Ada must make sure everything goes to plan, and luckily help is at hand from a very interesting house guest.

 

Young Adult

We See Everything by William Sutcliffe
Lex lives on The Strip – the overcrowded, closed-off, bombed-out shell of London. He’s used to the watchful enemy drones that buzz in the air above him. Alan’s talent as a gamer has landed him the job of his dreams. At a military base in a secret location, he is about to start work as a drone pilot. These two young men will never meet, but their lives are destined to collide. Because Alan has just been assigned a high-profile target. Alan knows him only as #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.

La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One by Philip Pullman
Eleven-year-old Malcolm Polstead and his dæmon, Asta, live with his parents at the Trout Inn near Oxford. Across the River Thames (which Malcolm navigates often using his beloved canoe, a boat by the name of La Belle Sauvage) is the Godstow Priory where the nuns live. Malcolm learns they have a guest with them; a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua.

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe
Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasure. It seems she is the sole survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Her people. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But, from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them.