New Books November 2016

Fiction

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, and is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him entry into a much larger world of emotional discovery.

The Knives by Richard T. Kelly
As Home Secretary in Her Majesty’s Government, David Blaylock’s daily work involves the control of Britain’s borders, the oversight of her police force, and the struggle against domestic terror threats. Some say the job is impossible; Blaylock insists he is tough enough. But around Westminster the gossip-mongers say his fiery temper is a liability. An ex-soldier from a modest background, Blaylock has a life-story that the public respects. Privately, though, he carries pain and remorse – over some grievous things he saw in the army, and his estrangement from an ex-wife and three children for whom he still cares.  Blaylock is never sure whom he can trust or whether his decisions are the right ones. Constantly in his mind is the danger of an attack on Britain’s streets. But over the course of one fraught autumn Blaylock finds that danger moving menacingly closer to his own person.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families.  Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.  When, in her twenties, Franny begins an affair with the legendary author Leon Posen and tells him about her family, the story of her siblings is no longer hers to control. Their childhood becomes the basis for his wildly successful book, ultimately forcing them to come to terms with their losses, their guilt, and the deeply loyal connection they feel for one another.

Dirt Road by James Kelman
Murdo, a teenager obsessed with music, dreams of a life beyond his Scottish island home. His dad Tom has recently lost his wife and stumbles towards the future, terrified of losing control of what remains of his family life  Both are in search of something as they set out on an expedition into the American South.  As they travel they encounter a new world and we discover whether the hopes of youth can conquer the fears of age.

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.  One day he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.  In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery.  It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the work-life juggle, and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers.

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Winner of the Man Booker Prize 2016
A biting satire about a young man’s isolated upbringing and the race trial that sends him to the Supreme Court.  Born in Dickens on the southern outskirts of Los Angeles, the narrator of The Sellout spent his childhood as the subject in his father’s racially charged psychological studies. He is told that his father’s work will lead to a memoir that will solve their financial woes. But when his father is killed in a drive-by shooting, he discovers there never was a memoir. All that’s left is a bill for a drive-through funeral.  What’s more, Dickens has literally been wiped off the map to save California from further embarrassment. Fuelled by despair, the narrator sets out to right this wrong with the most outrageous action conceivable: reinstating slavery and segregating the local high school, which lands him in the Supreme Court.

Golden Hill 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? This is New York in its infancy, a place where a young man with a fast tongue can invent himself afresh, fall in love, and find a world of trouble.

 

Mystery/ Thriller

Why Did You Lie? by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
A journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide.  An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing.  Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea.  They have one thing in common: they all lied.  And someone is determined to punish them…

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet
The year is 1869. A brutal triple murder in a remote community in the Scottish Highlands leads to the arrest of a young man by the name of Roderick Macrae. A memoir written by the accused makes it clear that he is guilty, but it falls to the country s finest legal and psychiatric minds to uncover what drove him to commit such merciless acts of violence. Was he mad? Only the persuasive powers of his advocate stand between Macrae and the gallows.

Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent
Lydia Fitzsimons lives in the perfect house with her adoring husband and beloved son. There is just one thing Lydia yearns for to make her perfect life complete, though the last thing she expects is that pursuing it will lead to murder, because nothing can stop this mother from getting what she wants.

Breaking Cover by Stella Rimmington
Back in London after a gruelling operation in Paris, Liz Carlyle has been posted to MI5’s counter-espionage desk. Her bosses hope the new position will give her some breathing space, but they haven’t counted on the fallout from Putin’s incursions into the Ukraine. Discovering that an elusive Russian spy has entered the UK, Liz needs to track him down before he completes his fatal mission – and plunges Britain back into the fraught days of the Cold War.  Meanwhile, following the revelations of whistle-blower Edward Snowden, the intelligence services are in the spotlight. In response to the debate raging around privacy and security, they hire Jasminder Kapoor, a young and controversial civil rights lawyer, to explain the issues to the public. But in this new world of shadowy motives and secret identities, Jasminder must be extra-careful about whom she can trust .

 

Non-Fiction

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger
Tribe is a look at post-traumatic stress disorder and the challenges veterans face returning to society. Junger argues that the problem lies not with vets or with the trauma they’ve suffered, but with the society to which they are trying to return. One of the most puzzling things about veterans who experience PTSD is that the majority never even saw combat―and yet they feel deeply alienated and out of place back home. The reason may lie in our natural inclination, as a species, to live in groups of thirty to fifty people who are entirely reliant on one another for safety, comfort and a sense of meaning: in short, the life of a soldier.  It is one of the ironies of the modern age that as affluence rises in a society, so do rates of suicide, depression and of course PTSD. In a wealthy society people don’t need to cooperate with one another, so they often lead much lonelier lives that lead to psychological distress. There is a way for modern society to reverse this trend, however, and studying how veterans react to coming home may provide a clue to how to do it. But it won’t be easy.

Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Set amid the civil rights movement, the never-before-told true story of NASA’s African-American female mathematicians who played a crucial role in America’s space program.  Before Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of professionals worked as ‘Human Computers’, calculating the flight paths that would enable these historic achievements. Among these were a coterie of bright, talented African-American women. Segregated from their white counterparts, these ‘colored computers’ used pencil and paper to write the equations that would launch rockets, and astronauts, into space.  Moving from World War II through NASA’s golden age, touching on the civil rights era, the Space Race, the Cold War, and the women’s rights movement, ‘Hidden Figures’ interweaves a rich history of mankind’s greatest adventure with the intimate stories of four courageous women whose work forever changed the world.

The Pigeon Tunnel: Stories from My Life by John Le Carre
From his years serving in British Intelligence during the Cold War, to a career as a writer, John le Carré has always written from the heart of modern times. In this, his first memoir, le Carré is as funny as he is incisive – reading into the events he witnesses the same moral ambiguity with which he imbues his novels. Whether he’s writing about the parrot at a Beirut hotel that could perfectly mimic machine gun fire, or interviewing a German terrorist in her desert prison in the Negev, or watching Alec Guinness preparing for his role as George Smiley, or describing the female aid worker who inspired the main character in his The Constant Gardener, le Carré endows each happening with vividness and humour, inviting us to think anew about events and people we believed we understood.  He gives us a glimpse of a writer’s journey over more than six decades, and his own hunt for the human spark that has given so much life and heart to his fictional characters.

Turkey: The Insane and the Melancholy by Ece Temelkuran
Starting with the basic question ‘what is this place?’, award-winning journalist and novelist Ece Temelkuran guides us through her ‘beloved country’. In challenging the authoritarian AKP government – for which she lost her job as a journalist – Temelkuran draws strength and wisdom from people, places and artistic expression. The result is a beautifully rendered account of the struggles, hopes and tragedies which make Turkey what it is today. Lamenting the commercialisation and authoritarianism which increasingly characterises Turkish society, Temelkuran sees hope in the Gezi Park protests of 2013, the electoral breakthrough of the progressive HDP party in 2015 and in the simple kindness of ordinary people. Much more than either straightforward history or memoir, it is like sitting with a friendly stranger who, over raki or coffee, reveals the secrets of this rich and complex country – the historic ‘bridge’ between east and west.

The Gardener and the Carpenter: What the New Science of Child Development Tells Us About the Relationship Between Parents and Children by Alison Gopnik
Caring deeply about our children is part of what makes us human. Yet the thing we call “parenting” is a surprisingly new invention. In the past thirty years, the concept of parenting and the multibillion dollar industry surrounding it have transformed child care into obsessive, controlling, and goal-oriented labor intended to create a particular kind of child and therefore a particular kind of adult. In The Gardener and the Carpenter, Gopnik argues that the familiar twenty-first-century picture of parents and children is profoundly wrong–it’s not just based on bad science, it’s bad for kids and parents, too.  Drawing on the study of human evolution and her own cutting-edge scientific research into how children learn, Gopnik shows that although caring for children is profoundly important, it is not a matter of shaping them to turn out a particular way. Children are designed to be messy and unpredictable, playful and imaginative, and to be very different both from their parents and from each other. The variability and flexibility of childhood lets them innovate, create, and survive in an unpredictable world. “Parenting” won’t make children learn―but caring parents let children learn by creating a secure, loving environment.

 

Young Adult 

The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey – (Book 2 in The 5th Wave Trilogy)
How do you rid the Earth of seven billion humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.  Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.  Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate.

The Last Star by Rick Yancey – (Book 3 in The 5th Wave Trilogy)
The enemy is Other. The enemy is us. They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.  But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.  In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves . . . or saving what makes us human.

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
No one ever said life was easy but Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out.  He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop.  And he knows that he can count on his friends—true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit.  And when it comes to the Socs—a vicious gang of rich kids who enjoy beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends—he knows that he can count on them for trouble.  But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down…

 

Children’s Fiction

Timmy Failure: We Meet Again by Stephan Pastis
His name is Failure, Timmy Failure.  His detective agency is on the verge of global domination, global riches and global fame.  And yet the gods keep throwing him curveballs: for starters, academic probation.  The coveted Miracle Report is the key to everything, including a good grade.  It’s dirty business.  It’s best you know nothing.  But one thing is for sure: Timmy Failure will be triumphant again!

Booked by Kwame Alexander
In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover,  soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read.  This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match!

 

Children’s Picture Books

Max the Brave by Ed Vere
Max is a fearless kitten. Max is a brave kitten. Max is a kitten who chases mice. There’s only one problem-Max doesn’t know what a mouse looks like! With a little bit of bad advice, Max finds himself facing a much bigger challenge. Maybe Max doesn’t have to be Max the Brave all the time…

The Wrong Side of the Bed by Lisa Bakos
When you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, there’s just no getting around it.  The porcupine under the covers will insist on snuggling (oww); penguins will make bubbles in your bath (eww); and a crocodile will probably need to borrow your toothbrush (no, thanks). It’s just going to be that sort of day. Unless, that is, you decide to do something about it.

Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson
Bear is sick and tired of being a bear. Who wants to sleep all winter? His fur feels so hot in the summer. And the bees . . . there are just too many angry bees! Bear is done being a bear. But when he sees a line of happy yellow ducklings, he has a thought. What if he could be a duck? With a few duck lessons from Duck, Bear learns that being a duck is fun; but as it turns out, Bear realizes he makes a really good bear . . . and he makes a really good friend along the way.

The Wednesday Surprise by Eve Bunting
Anna and Grandma are planning a surprise for Dad’s birthday. Dad thinks he has received all his presents, but Grandma stands up and gives him the best one of all: she reads aloud the stories that Anna has taught her.

 

Children’s Non-Fiction

Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France by Mara Rockliffe
The day Ben Franklin first set foot in Paris, France, he found the city all abuzz. Everyone was talking about something new—remarkable, thrilling, and strange. Something called . . . Science!  But soon the straightforward American inventor Benjamin Franklin is upstaged by a compelling and enigmatic figure: Dr. Mesmer. In elaborately staged shows, Mesmer, wearing a fancy coat of purple silk and carrying an iron wand, convinces the people of Paris that he controls a magic force that can make water taste like a hundred different things, cure illness, and control thoughts! But Ben Franklin is not convinced. Will his practical approach of observing, hypothesizing, and testing get to the bottom of the mysterious Mesmer’s tricks? A rip-roaring, lavishly illustrated peek into a fascinating moment in history shows the development and practice of the scientific method—and reveals the amazing power of the human mind.