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19 best new books to read in 2024, from historical fiction to romance novels

Discover debut novelists and immersive page-turners from acclaimed authors this season, article bookmarked.

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You won’t want to put down these tomes


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While we eagerly await stretching out on a sun lounger with a book in the summer, the colder months offer ample opportunity to cosy up and power through your reading pile.

Whether you have a penchant for a crime caper or love reading a romantic romp, darker evenings and lazy weekends are made better with a good book (or two).

From immersive historical epics to novels that transport you to warmer climes, the main criteria for a good winter book is simple: you won’t want t o put it down. Luckily, last year’s titles and this year’s early releases leave you spoiled for choice. From romance novels to Booker Prize-nominated tomes and laugh-out-loud stories, the mix is as eclectic as ever.

This year’s reading pile sees plenty of acclaimed debuts from the likes of Yomi Adegoke, Madeleine Grey, Maud Ventura and Alice Winn, as well as eagerly anticipated titles from acclaimed authors such as Kiley Reid, Paul Murray, Dolly Alderton, Zadie Smith , Colson Whitehead and Jen Beagin.

The varied authorship is reflected in the diverse themes addressed, ranging from an Irish family in turmoil and love in the trenches of the First World War to slavery in the Caribbean, and dating across the political spectrum and dark domestic dramas.

Related stories

How we tested the best new books.

Some of our favourite new releases

To narrow down our list of the best books to read this winter, we looked for original page-turners with superb quality prose and a captivating story that stayed with us after we’d reached the end. From books for history lovers to romance novels, witty romantic comedies and acclaimed prize-winners, there’s something for every type of reader.

The best new books to read in 2024 are:

  • Best new release – The Bee Sting by Paul Murray, published by Hamish Hamilton: £15.69,
  • Best literary thriller – Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang, published by The Borough Press: £11.60,
  • Best war novel – In Memoriam by Alice Winn, published by Viking: £13.19, 
  • Best buzzy book – The List by Yomi Adegoke, published by Fourth Estate: £8,
  • Best subversive romance novel – Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess: £11.99,

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‘The Bee Sting’ by Paul Murray, published by Hamish Hamilton

bee sting .jpg

  • Best : Overall new release
  • Genre : Comedy drama
  • Release date : 8 June 2023

Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting is a tour de force of fiction. The Barnes, a once-well-off Irish family, are in the midst of emotional and financial strain. Set during turbulent months in their claustrophobic town (think floods, droughts and the aftermath of recession), Murray expertly gives us each family member’s perspective of the same events – with flashbacks unravelling an intricate story of betrayal, crime and lust.

Profound on the human condition, utterly gripping and peppered with comedy, Murray’s novel is a must-read this year.

  • Apple Books: £9.99,
  • Kindle: £9.99,
  • Audible: £14.87,

‘Good Material’ by Dolly Alderton, published by Fig Tree

good material .jpg

  • Best : Comedy novel
  • Genre : Comedy
  • Release date : 9 November 2023

Some writers suffer from second-novel syndrome, but not Dolly Alderton. The author and columinist’s second book Good Material is a cliché-avoiding break-up novel, in the vein of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity .

Told through the eyes of recently dumped Andy, we follow him as he grapples with single life after his girlfriend realised she wanted to be alone. This in itself is a powerful narrative, with Alderton making a case for the happy and single 30-something woman.

Genuinely laugh-out-loud funny – with characters straight out of a Richard Curtis film (the elderly lodger who’s prepping for doomsday is a highlight) – whipsmart dialogue and relatable millennial themes (Alderton’s forte) mean there’s never a dull moment. Despite it being a pleasingly easy read (we tore through it in a single day), Good Material still manages to be thought-provoking and wise.

  • Audible: £11.37,

‘Yellowface’ by Rebecca F Kuang, published by The Borough Press

yellowface .jpg

  • Best : Literary thriller
  • Genre : Thriller
  • Release date : 25 May 2023

A satire of the publishing industry and brazen exploration of cancel culture, Rebecca F Kuang’s literary heist Yellowface is one the most gripping books of the year. It begins with the freak accident death of young, famed writer Athena Liu (she chokes on pancake mixture, setting the preposterous tone for the rest of the book), witnessed by her sometimes-friend and aspiring (currently failing) novelist June Hayward.

After June steals Athena’s unfinished manuscript and publishes it under her own name to acclaim, she is thrown into the fame, money and relevance she’s always desired. But when her secret threatens to become known, June must decide how far she will go to maintain her reputation. Addictive and uncomfortable, with plenty of savagely funny moments, Kuang’s novel is a must-read.

  • Apple Books: £4.99,
  • Kindle: £7.99,
  • Audible: £11.38,

‘Green Dot’ by Madeleine Grey, published by W&N

green dot.jpg

  • Best : Affair novel
  • Genre : Romance
  • Release date : 1 February 2024

There’s nothing new about an affair novel – but, testament to Madeleine Grey’s writing, Green Dot is fresh and modern. Hera, a 24-year-old, has just started an admin job at a newspaper, where she meets Arthur. Older, more senior and attractive, Hera distracts herself from the boredom of her day-to-day life by crashing headfirst into a workplace romance.

When she discovers he’s married, the illicit affair consumes her life. Part Bridget Jones , part Fleabag , Green Dot is funny, fast-paced and witty, with plenty of relatable millennial and Gen Z references (and not to mention a painfully relatable lockdown passage). We tore through it.

  • Audible: £7.99,

‘Come and Get It’ by Kiley Reid, published by Bloomsbury publishing

kiley reid .jpg

  • Best : Society satire
  • Release date : 30 January 2024

Kiley Reid’s debut Such a Fun Age was a runaway success in 2020. Now she’s back with Come and Get It , a page-turning take on money and power dynamics. Desperate to get on the property ladder, graduate and land a good job, Millie is working as a student advisor and living in dorms. Meanwhile, visiting professor and writer Agatha is doing research for a new book and wants to interview some of the students in Millie’s dorm.

Jumping at the chance to increase her income, Millie agrees, and the two women become embroiled in a world of student angst, pranks, and theatrics. Despite the story rarely leaving campus grounds, the novel has a gripping wide scope that explores society’s obsession with money, desire, and consumption.

  • Apple Books: £10.99,
  • Kindle: £7.97,

‘In Memoriam’ by Alice Winn, published by Viking

in memoriam .jpg

  • Best : War novel
  • Genre : Historical fiction
  • Release date : 9 March 2023

Beginning in a private boarding school for boys, before taking us to the horror of the trenches during World War One, Alice Winn’s blistering debut is an unforgettable read. We’re first introduced to the book’s central figures – Gaunt and Ellwood – in 1914, when both schoolboys are secretly in love with each other. When half-German Gaunt is pressured by his mother to enlist in the British army, he is relieved to run away from his forbidden feelings for his best friend. But when the true terror of the war is revealed to him, he is soon devastated when Ellwood and other classmates follow him to the Western Front.

A love story set against the tragedies of war, Winn’s rousing writing transports you to the trenches, where an entire generation of lost men are brought to vivid life – the characters will stick with you, long after the final page.

  • Apple Books: £7.99,

‘The Fraud’ by Zadie Smith, published by Hamish Hamilton

the fraud .jpg

  • Best : Novel about real people
  • Genre : Historical
  • Release date : 7 September 2023

Zadie Smith’s first foray into historical fiction, The Fraud is based on true events and juxtaposes a portrait of Victorian life and slavery in the Caribbean. The titular fraud in question is the Tichborne Claimant – a butcher who claimed to be an aristocratic heir in an 1873 trial that gripped the country. Real-life cousin and housekeeper to the largely forgotten novelist William Ainsworth, Smith reimagines Eliza Touchet’s mostly unknown life and her fascination with the case and its prime witness, an ageing Black man named Andrew Bogle.

The author’s version of Bogle’s backstory provides most of the second half of the book, beginning with his father’s abduction in the 1770s to the Hope Plantation in Jamaica. Affecting and devastating, it’s in stark contrast to the humdrum domestic middle-class Victorian life also explored. In typical Zadie style, the narrative structure and decade leaping require you to pay attention – but you’re heavily rewarded with the sheer breadth of the novel and its vividly painted characters.

‘The List’ by Yomi Adegoke, published by Fourth Estate

the list .jpg

  • Best : Buzzy summer book
  • Genre : Relationships, social media
  • Release date : 20 July 2023

The book that everyone was talking about last year, Slay In Your Lane writerYomi Adegoke’s debut novel is so buzzy that an HBO TV adaptation is already in the works. Podcaster Michael and journalist Ola are a young couple on the cusp of marriage when their world is blown apart by allegations of abuse made against Michael online in “The List”.

Having made a career of exposing such men, Ola is torn between believing Michael’s innocence or supporting the women who anonymously submitted their stories to the list. Thought-provoking and topical in its exploration of life both online and offline, and the fallout of cancel culture, it’s written with sharp insight and is impossible to put down. The hype is real.

  • Kindle: £4.99,
  • Apple Books: £11.99,

‘Big Swiss’ by Jen Beagin

big swiss .jpg

  • Best : Sex comedy
  • Genre : Dark comedy
  • Release date : 18 May 2023

A sex comedy with darkness at its centre, Jen Beagin’s latest novel is narrated by Greta, a 45-year-old who lives in a decrepit Dutch farmhouse and transcribes for a sex therapist. Knowing everyone’s secrets in the small town of Hudson is no problem when you’re a relative recluse – that is until she bumps into Flavia, aka Big Swiss, her nickname for the 28-year-old married Swiss woman who suffered a terrible beating that she regularly transcribes (and is infatuated with).

Their dog park meeting leads to a passionate relationship with both women trying to escape their own traumas. Greta’s mother committed suicide when she was 13 years old while Flavia’s attacker has just been released from prison. An off-kilter romance with lashings of psychological thriller, darker moments are balanced with Beagin’s witty writing, idiosyncratic characters and laugh-out-loud passages. Naturally, there’s already an HBO adaptation starring Jodie Comer in the works.

  • Apple Books: £8.99,

‘Everything’s Fine’ by Cecilia Rabess, published by Simon & Schuster

everythings fine .jpg

  • Best : Subversive romance novel

A subversive love story set against the political polarisation of America, Cecilia Rabess’s Everything’s Fine is a funny and punchy debut. Jess – Black and liberal – immediately dislikes her Ivy League college classmate Josh – white and conservative – but when they find themselves working in the same company after graduating, a cantankerous friendship turns into a passionate relationship.

Set against the backdrop of Trump’s presidential campaign, the novel explores if ideological opposites can be together – with its most heated moments taking place over arguments about Maga hats, wealth inequality and wokeism. Commenting perceptively on politics and economics, Rabess’s writing is just as enthralling on lust and sex. Concluding on the eve of the 2016 election, the novel questions whether love really can conquer all. We tore through it in two sittings.

  • Apple Books: £0.99,

‘Crook Manifesto’ by Colson Whitehead, published by Fleet

colson whitehead .jpg

  • Best : Best crime novel
  • Genre : Crime, historical
  • Release date : 18 July 2023

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Colson Whitehead is back with the second instalment to his New York crime trilogy. First introduced in 2021’s Harlem Shuffle , furniture salesman and ex-fence Ray Carney returns to the criminal underbelly of the city in Crook Manifesto , in a bid to secure Jackson 5 tickets (which were like gold dust in 1971) for his daughter.

Jumping through the years up to 1976, Whitehead casts a satirical eye on New York during the tumultuous decade, touching on everything from police corruption and the Black Liberation Army to Blaxploitation. Blending family drama with history and culture, the sequel has the feel of a Quentin Tarantino movie and we were hooked.

‘Romantic Comedy' by Curtis Sittenfeld, published by Doubleday

romantic comedy .jpg

  • Best : Rom-com
  • Genre : Romantic comedy
  • Release date : 6 April 2023

Having previously given voice to President’s wives in the acclaimed American Wife and Rodham , Curtis Sittenfeld has set her sights on the comedy world in her latest novel – aptly named Romantic Comedy . Protagonist Sally is a successful writer at a Saturday Night Live -inspired sketch show, and has, thus far, been unlucky in love. When she meets pop idol Noah Brewster on the show in 2018, she develops a school-girl crush that challenges her cynicism about love.

Picking up the story two years later, in 2020, during the pandemic, the two reconnect over email (this section is stellar) and meet up in LA.

Sittenfeld explores the world of celebrity, modern dating, lockdown and Covid-19 with wit, humour and often profundity. A light-hearted page-turner that’s funny, romantic and heartwarming.

  • Kindle: £8.99,
  • Apple Books:  £7.99,
  • Audible:  £11,37,

‘Ordinary Human Failings’ by Megan Nolan, published by Vintage

ordinary human failings.jpg

  • Best : Best family drama
  • Genre : Crime
  • Release date : 13 July 2023

Megan Nolan’s Acts of Desperation was one of our favourite reads last year and we loved the writer’s second novel just as much. A unique take on the crime genre, Ordinary Human Failings marks a dramatic departure from the tone and plot in Nolan’s debut. Set in the 1990s in London, tabloid journalist Tom Hargreaves believes he’s stumbled upon a career-making scoop when a child is murdered on a housing estate.

As fingers start pointing towards a family of Irish immigrants, the Greens family, Tom hunkers down with them to drive into their history. At the centre of the family is Carmel, a beautiful yet mysterious young mother, who is forced to reckon with how her 10-year-old daughter is implicated in a murder investigation. Tom’s probing soon reveals the regrets, secrets and silences that have trapped the Greens for decades. Intriguing and vast in scope, it’s an old-fashioned page-turner.

‘The Happy Couple’ by Naoise Dolan, published by Orion Publishing

happy couple .jpg

  • Best : Anti-romance novel
  • Genre : Comedy/satire

Naoise Dolan’s follow-up to 2020’s Exciting Times, this book is infused with the same biting social commentary and humour. A satirical spin on the marriage genre, it follows late-20-somethings Luke and Celine – both of whom think the other is out of love with them – on the cusp of their wedding day. Whether they’ll make it to the end of the aisle or not forms the tension of the novel.

Switching perspectives between their nearest and dearest, from best man Archie (Luke’s ex and sometimes-lover) to Celine’s sister (suspicious of Luke’s frequent disappearances), Dolan explores the anxieties of modern love. A wedding novel permeated by emotional turmoil rather than romance, its self-aware characters and comedic-timing cement Dolan as one of the sharpest writers around.

‘Penance’ by Eliza Clark, published by Faber & Faber

penance .jpg

  • Best : Fictional non-fiction book
  • Release date : 6 July 2023

A fictional story told in the manner of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, Eliza Clark’s Penance delves into the grisly torture and murder of 16-year-old Joan Wilson on the eve of the Brexit referendum in the seaside town of Crow. Three years after the murder, obsession with true crime is at an all-time high and an American podcast draws awareness to the case.

Ex-tabloid hack Alec Z Carelli sets out to write the “definitive account” of the murder – which was committed by three school girls – through eyewitness accounts, interviews and correspondence. Living in the town, exploring its history and its people, Carelli recounts the lives of the teenage murderers and the sinister world of online true-crime fandoms. As well as questioning Carelli’s morality in exploiting a horrific murder for his own career, Clark questions society’s preoccupation with gruesome true crime. Unnerving, superbly written and engrossing, the ending is pitch perfect.

  • Apple Books: £12.99,

‘The Only One Left’ by Riley Sager, published by Hodder & Stoughton

The Only One Left by Riley Sager best new books 2023

  • Best : Gothic thriller
  • Genre : Crime, mystery
  • Release date : 4 July 2023

In 1929, three members of the Hope family were murdered in their clifftop mansion. Decades later, the book’s protagonist Kit McDeere takes on a job caring for Lenora Hope who has been in the house ever since and is the only remaining member of the Hope family. She also happens to be the one accused of carrying out the murders.

This book is breathtakingly twisty and while the mystery unravels, the claustrophobia becomes almost unbearable as the Hope’s End mansion itself begins succumbing to the sea and crumbling like the cliffs. We found ourselves literally gasping out loud as secrets were revealed. The Only One Left is a Gothic thriller, with horror elements and is perfect for cosying up with as autumn turns to winter.

  • Apple Books:  £4.99,
  • Kindle:  £4.99,
  • Apple Books:  £9.99,
  • Audible:  £11.37,

‘My Husband’ by Maud Ventura, published by Hutchinson Heinemann

My Husband by Maud Ventura best new books 2023

  • Best : Domestic thriller
  • Genre : Domestic noir, thriller
  • Release date : 27 July 2023

Obsessed with her husband, the main character of this dark domestic drama spends her days over-analysing her husband’s words, agonising over perceived slights and fantasising about imagined scenarios that send her swirling into flights of jealousy and passion. Her deep obsession eclipses everything else in her life including her relationship with her children, her work and her friendships.

Her roller-coaster of emotions and unhinged antics are fascinating to follow and we found ourselves devouring this darkly humorous work in less than two days. This fresh and easy-to-read book is translated from French by Emma Ramadan.

‘Kala’ by Colin Walsh, published by Atlantic Books

  • Best : Coming of age thriller
  • Genre : Drama, crime

A group of six friends living in a small Irish seaside town are inseparable until one day, Kala goes missing. Fifteen years later, three of the friends are back in Kinlough and human remains are found in the woods nearby, bringing the past screaming back.

Jumping between the time when the group was in secondary school and the present day, the mystery slowly unravels as we explore the heavy family traumas and broken friendships from the past. A complicated small-town community is the claustrophobic backdrop to the story which creates a refreshing mixture of family drama and crime thriller.

The story is told from the point of view of three of Kala’s friends who come back together and delve into the past to try and make sense of Kala’s death. There’s the loyal Mush who has always been in Kinlough, working in his mother’s cafe, hiding his mysterious facial scars from the world. Helen is the hard-headed former best friend of Kala who is now a journalist and is in town for her father’s impending wedding. And Joe, who is now a world-famous musician, has a hometown residency in a local bar, and is trying to reconnect to his old friends.

The use of three distinct narrative voices is well executed with clues cleverly revealed via the three protagonists and concludes with a major twist that you won’t see coming.

  • Apple Books: £5.99,
  • Kindle: £4.68,
  • Audible: £15.74,

‘The Guest’ by Emma Cline, published by Vintage Publishing

emma cline .jpg

  • Best : Stylish novel
  • Release date : 18 May 2013

A follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Girls , Emma Cline’s The Guest follows 22-year-old escort Alex as she drifts from pool to beach during a chaotic week in sun-drenched Long Island. Cast out by the older man she was staying with, instead of returning to the city, she stays on the island and adapts to survive – believing they can be romantically reunited five days later at his Labor Day party.

In each encounter with individuals, groups at parties or old acquaintances, she leaves disaster in her wake. Though the story is a simple premise, each page is loaded with tension and risk, thanks to Cline’s stylistic writing. The poetic form and metaphorical use of water (swimming is survival) adds to the novel’s hazy feel. The Guest is also a deft exploration of social mobility, as Alex navigates the class system of Long Island.

The verdict: Best novels to read 2024

Paul Murray’s The Bee Sting is storytelling at its best. Moving, witty and funny, the fast-paced tome will keep you gripped until the very last page. Zeitgeist-y and engrossing, Rebecca K Kuang’s Yellowface is the perfect literary thriller for cosying up with this autumn, while the topical and thought-provoking The List by Yomi Adegoke deserves the hype.

For a funny yet wise novel, pick up Dolly Alderton’s Good Material , while historical tome In Memoriam by Alice Winn will linger long in your mind, thanks to its emotional heft.

Discover more great authors and books you’ll love in our fiction review section

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21 best new books, according to gurus who've read hundreds

By Chaya Colman and Sophie Ezra

21 Best New Books February 2024 Top New Books Releases

February may be the year's shortest month, but that doesn't stop it from being jam-packed with a plethora of fabulous new books. With countless genres catering to diverse tastes – from thought provoking, empowering and essential non-fiction to fantasy, romance and thrillers – February's newest literary releases are set to captivate you. The exact distraction we need to see us through 'til Spring.

We’ve got brilliant and informative non-fiction that will genuinely educate and inspire you in the form of How Not to Fit In , a guide to navigating AdHD and autism, as well as the compelling and beautiful Maurice and Maralyn , which you simply won’t believe is a true story. We challenge you not to fall in complete and total love with this pair who sell all their earthly possessions as they embark on the journey of a lifetime.

When it comes to fiction, we aren’t exaggerating when we say this month is full of must-reads. There’s Butter , a novel with murder at its centre but combined with — yes — gourmet cuisine. And we’ve also got Green Dot which everybody is talking about and with good reason. Modern day romance with a spikiness that you’ll find yourself laughing so hard to in moments, we reckon you’ll shed proper tears. Oh — and we have to mention The List of Suspicious Things , a stellar debut centring on Yorkshire in the 1970s when the Yorkshire Ripper was running rife; the novel’s characters are crafted beautifully in this truly special story.

For evocative and transportive books to take you to truly take you away, we know you’ll be thrilled to hear that Kristin Hannah is back with her new novel, The Women . Unsurprisingly, it’s beautifully written – but it’s so thought-provoking, we know you’ll want to recommend it widely. There really is something for everyone in the below list, so get ordering from the links and escape through the pages.

After more reading inspo? We've got sleep books , cookbooks , poetry books , romance novels , true crime books , autobiographies , vegetarian cookbooks , mental health books and adult colouring books . We've also got coffee table books , summer books , vegan cookbooks and books by black authors . Don't say we don't treat you. For more from Chaya Colman and Sophie Ezra, follow @thebibliofilles on Instagram.

In paperback, hardback and on Kindle, here are the best new books of February 2024 according to expert recommendations.

Image may contain Book Publication Advertisement and Poster

Best new books February 2024

The Book of Love, £20.24, Amazon

Kelly Link is a Pulitzer prize finalist, and her first novel is set to be a publishing event. The Book of Love is a magical, transportive book that we predict is going to be an international bestseller. The premise centres around the mysterious disappearance of three teenagers, Laura, Daniel, and Mo, now presumed dead. They are revived by their old high school music teacher and return to the small Massachusetts town with magical gifts utilised to solve the circumstances of their death. Reading this felt like entering a vivid fever dream, through the story themes of grief, love, family and identity are explored in a tender and beautiful way.

Image may contain Advertisement Poster Adult Person Publication Accessories Jewelry Ring Clothing and Glove

What Will Survive Us, £16.97, Amazon

For a glorious love story this month, you need to pick up this one — the latest novel by Booker prize winning author, Howard Jacobson. Lily is a documentary-maker. Sam is a playwright. Both have successful careers, and both are in relationships that, quite frankly, that haven’t worked out. When they’re brought together professionally, they find themselves drawn to each other irresistibly, with new possibilities opening up before them. They simply can’t resist. But this is a love story with a difference; it happens in mid-life and as they grow older, they will face challenges and questions that will strike at the heart of their very cores — and perhaps yours, too.

Image may contain Book Publication Comics Adult Person Plant Face Head Electronics Mobile Phone and Phone

Green Dot, £15.49, Amazon

This novel out at the start of February is one of this year’s most hotly anticipated — and with good reason. It centres on Hera, a twenty-something who hasn’t quite managed to carve out the life she wants just yet. That is, until she meets Arthur. An older colleague, he is also married and soon enough, Hera finds herself embroiled in a workplace romance that will consume her life. Intimate, witty and edgy, Green Dot is deeply insightful and darkly hilarious. You’ll devour it in no time, we’re certain, and you’ll want to chat about it long after you’ve finished it.

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The List of Suspicious Things, £12.99, Amazon

It’s1979. Margaret Thatcher is Prime Minister, and a spate of murders are rippling through Yorkshire, where eleven-year-old best friends, Miv and Sharon live. Young women are the victims, viciously killed by the murderer, known as the Yorkshire Ripper. But he hasn’t been caught and every woman in the region is terrified. When a nineteen year old is next, it hits Miv hard as she’s much closer in age — but Miv doesn’t want to leave Yorkshire, or Sharon, so when her family begin to talk about moving down south, she hatches a plan. If she just makes a list of the suspicious things going on around her, she could catch the killer and stay put. Moving, original and a truly special story, this is a powerful debut about friendship, community and family that will grab your attention and capture your heart.

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A Love Song for Ricki Wild

A Love Song for Ricki Wilde: the epic new romance from the author of Seven Days in June : Williams, Tia: Books

Tia Williams is an author to watch out for, you may have already fallen head over heels for her sensuous last novel, Seven Days in June. A Love Song for Ricki Wilde is an epic romance that is perfect for fans of succession and empire. Ricki is the free spirited daughter of a powerful family dynasty based in Atlanta, starkly different from her glamorous socialite siblings. She takes a risk, leaving the privileged life to live in a Harlem apartment block where she can start again, anonymous, and independent. A handsome stranger threatens to upend her plans, bringing the passion and dizzying emotions she has been missing.

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Maurice and Maralyn, £15.49, Amazon

For a really special work of non-fiction this month, look no further than Maurice and Maralyn. An unlikely pair — Maurice is cautious and awkward whilst Maralyn exudes confidence and curiosity — Maralyn decides she’s bored with 1970s suburbia and the generally depressive feeling in the air. It’s time for a change. It’s time to shake things up a bit. How? By selling all of their possessions and leaving England forever. To New Zealand they will go. But, when their boat is struck by a whale en route and they are cast adrift in the ocean, their relationship — and their love — is put to the ultimate test. Poignant and beautifully written, this is a genuinely remarkable story.

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Paper Cage, £17.49, Amazon

Set in the small town of Masterton, New Zealand, Lorraine Henry is our main protagonist. A records clerk in the town’s police station, she gets on with her work, usually with her head down. However, when children from Masterton start to go missing, she can’t help but pay attention to what’s going on around her — especially as she has her young nephew, Bradley, to worry about. And it doesn’t seem like her colleagues at the police station are even putting sufficient effort into locating the missing. Though solving cases isn’t part of Lorraine’s job remit, when Bradley is the next to vanish, she puts herself to the test. A propulsive thriller set against a tension-ridden small town; this one will have you gripped from beginning to end.

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Frank and Red, £15.49, Amazon

If this cold month all you want is a book that tugs on all the heartstrings and is both uplifting and poignant. This is deeply reminiscent of the opening scenes in the film Up, intricately, and intimately written. Frank is isolated, deep in grief and clinging to the ghost of his beloved late wife, to the detriment of life going on outside. Red is a precocious six year old boy going through his own challenges, from his parents separation to a school bully that makes everything so much worse. When Red moves next door, bringing all the noise of a young child, an unlikely friendship develops that no one could have anticipated. This is brimming with empathy, with laugh out loud moments aplenty. A hug in a book.

By Talia Abbas

By Anna Bader

By Fiona Embleton

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How I Won A Noble Prize, £13.49, Amazon

Political, satirical, darkly funny and holding up a mirror to our times, How I Won A Noble Prize is a novel that is going to cause many a sardonic laugh in readers. Helen is a genius, a graduate student on a mission to save the world. Her research has the ability to achieve this, however she finds herself in a moral quandary that may have untold implications. Her advisor has been cancelled following a sex scandal, and he is escaping to an island research institute that provides safe harbour for a colourful array of characters who have faced social opprobrium. On the island she falls for an older novelist caught up in a violent protest movement. There are so many themes and questions provoked by this story, this would be an excellent book club pick as you will want to discuss this for hours.

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The Fury, £9.49, Amazon

From the internationally acclaimed author of The Silent Patient comes another twisting thriller that will keep you awake for hours at the edge of your seat, reading breathlessly. The setting – a private Greek island, the cast a former movie star and her exclusive group. Narrated by a character that draws you in from the very first page, this was such a well executed (sorry) story that goes beyond the formula of a murder mystery, with intricate detail and a complexity of plotting, you will find yourself gasping with suspense. Michaelides is back.

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The Women, £13.49, Amazon

Kristin Hannah is back this month with a book that we’re certain you’re going to love. Set in the mid-1960s, it’s the story of nursing student, Frankie. In her twenties, the world is changing before her very eyes and the role of women in it is taking a new and much stronger shape. Might her future be something she never dared to imagine? When her brother heads to serve in Vietnam, she joins the military’s nursing corps and finds herself living a life that was never on the cards. Battle, chaos, death and destruction fill her days but ironically, it is Frankie’s return home to a divided America that poses arguably greater challenges. A beautiful story about the ties of friendship, the bonds to our homes and the moments that shape us. Epic and intimate, you better add it to your TBR pile immediately.

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Smoke and Ashes, £18.99, Amazon

Smoke and Ashes is a unique blend of memoir, travel diary and sweeping historical account of one of the most precious and devastating commodities: opium. Amitav Ghosh spent years in research mode when he was preparing to write the bestselling and booker nominated Ibis Trilogy. During this time, he made some astonishing discoveries about his own family and identity that he could never have anticipated. There is so much in this non fiction book, it reads like a page turning thriller at points. Taking Opium as the central strand, covering Britain, India and China, themes of power, politics, large corporations and familial dynasties, the impact of colonialism and the catastrophe of the global drug trade.

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To Cage A God, £16.99, Amazon

Did you like us binge the Shadow and Bone Netflix show (why oh why was this cancelled?!?) and then dive straight into the books? Welcome to your new obsession, the first book in a duology that you will read in one sitting. Galina and Sera harbour a secret, their mother, using ancient secrets, grafted gods into their bones. The result is that these sisters have been bred to be weapons of destruction, and with war brewing they are the only option left to overthrow the royal family who have wrought devastation on the land. Romantasy fans, fourth wing lovers, this is the book to buy in February.

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Hardy Women, £19.98, Amazon

Thomas Hardy wrote some of literature’s most memorable female characters. However, his own relationships with women throughout his lifetime were perpetually troubled. Indeed, his own wife even said that ‘he understands only the women he invents — the others not at all.’ In this fascinating book, celebrated biographer Paula Byrne explores the life of Hardy through the women who knew him — mother, sisters, wives, muses — painting an original and compelling portrait of one of literature’s greats and conveying how, the magnificent females he created in his fiction, simply would not have existed without them.

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Butter, £13.79, Amazon

Out at the end of this month we’ve got Butter, the cult Japanese bestseller which is being talked about everywhere. In a murder case that has captured the attention of the entire country, gourmet cook, Manako Kajii has been accused of seducing and then murdering businessmen with her exemplary food. She won’t speak to the press, she won’t accept any visitors but, when a journalist contacts her for her beef stew recipe, she can’t stop herself from responding. Soon, the pair form a strange sort of relationship, focusing on food rather than the case everybody wants to know more about. Inspired by a true story, this is gripping and unsettling and will leave you hungry for more.

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Bride, £5, Amazon

Ali Hazelwood has sold millions of copies of her romance novels, you have without doubt seen The Love Hypothesis on a plane, train, or beach, held by an avid reader. She turns her mind to fantasy with a story of a Vampyre bride and an Alpha werewolf. Miserly Lark is an outcast, dragged back from her anonymous human life. She finds herself in a marriage of convenience with an unthinkable partner. This one has all the ingredients of a hit, tension, a fast paced plot, characters you are invested in and all the magic of a great fantasy romance. Twilight fans – run to get this one.

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Fourteen Days, £15.68, Amazon

To say we’re excited about this one is quite the understatement. Why? Because this is a novel quite unlike anything we’ve come across before. Oh, and it’s edited been edited by Margaret Atwood and Douglas Preston! Described as a collaborative novel, Fourteen Days is set in a run-down Lower East Side tenement during the beginnings of Covid-19 — but each of this block’s cast of characters has been written by a different author, including Atwood and Preston but also Celeste Ng, Neil Gaiman, Tommy Orange, and Nora Roberts, to mention just a few. Spanning a fourteen day period, they are all held together by their neighbourhood and New York City herself. And the cover, by the way, is just superb.

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The Book of Doors, £14.97, Amazon

If you’re looking for a touch of magic and mystery this month, look no further than this superb novel. It’s the story of introverted NYC bookseller, Cassie Andrews who is given a gift — a book — by one of her favourite customers. But it’s no ordinary book and soon enough, Cassie discovers that it’s the Book of Doors, which bestows incredible powers on whoever possesses it. Indeed, when that person visualises a place and opens a door, they are transported right there. A gift, it seems, giving Cassie the opportunity to travel around the world. But, of course, things prove far from straightforward — because if the Book of Doors falls into the wrong hands, who knows exactly how its power could be taken advantage of. Enthralling and enchanting, this astonishingly immersive novel is one you’ll read and recommend.

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Empire of the Damned, £17.29, Amazon

Empire of the Vampire was a phenomenally received title in 2021 and the sequel has been long awaited. This is fantasy on an epic scale, both in terms of length and scope. The inherent religious mythology that underpins this story elevates this to a story with so much depth and intricacy. In a world suffering under an endless night, with warrior priests and dangerous monarchies, Gabriel de León has now saved the Holy Grail from death, but at what cost. He has left behind his silver saint brothers and faces a bloody and long battle to protect the future. This is gothic brilliance.

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Sunbringer, £14.09, Amazon

Fantasy readers have been counting down the days for this release and the 15 th of February is the moment this sequel hits bookshelves all over the UK. Godkiller was a number 1 bestseller, that transported readers to a kingdom we have longed to return to. Kissen can destroy that which stands above and beyond mortals, and she does so to save her friends. This story has it all, layered characters, adventure, twists, and a fast paced plot with an inherent mythology that elevates this as a story.

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How Not to Fit in, £14.93, Amazon

Starting off this month, we’ve got a brilliant piece of non-fiction that you’re going to want to read and talk about. Written by Jess Joy and Charlotte Mia, two late-diagnosed neurodivergent women, it emerges from the online community that they’ve built (@iampayingattention), this one has been described as a handbook-meets-rallying-cry and rightly so. Whilst exploring their own personal journeys, the authors explain not only the issues surrounding a diagnosis but also why so many are being diagnosed with ADHD and autism today — and how starting to really understand your own brain can make the world of difference. Hugely relevant, excellently written and genuinely informative, we suggest you get your hands on it ASAP.

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Best books of 2023: The Marie Claire reading list of the must-reads and page-turners

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Kindles at the ready, Readers, when it comes to books –our round-up of new releases and recommended favourites for 2023 is designed to give you a TBR— to be read —list to treasure this year. 

The best books to read in December

Yes, it’s that time of year. We know – you must be exhausted. Time to step away from the tinsel and curl up with a good book and some brandy butter-soaked mince pies for some literary me-time – and we have a sprinkling of festive-themed gems (old and new) in with this month’s featured new releases to assist with precisely that.

With fewer new releases in December, we’ve taken the opportunity to use the latter part of this month’s round-up to include a handful of 2023 titles we missed first time round that have since gone on to pick up some starry accolades (Booker and Goldsmiths Prize-winners among them). Enjoy – and see you next year!

Rio and Gibraltar are brilliant young academics who leave Boston in search of a better life for their unborn daughter. When a misdiagnosed illness leads to tragedy, they move again – this time to an underground mountain hideaway, set up and paid for by an eccentric billionaire benefactor who’s heard about their plan to found an equal, honest and harmonious community away from 21st-century pressures – and decides to take a punt on it. And so the New Naturals are born. 

As news of this hidden utopia grows, we meet other characters drawn together by disenchantment and disenfranchisement. They, in turn, slowly yet inevitably move towards the promise of a new future, even as life underground begins to sour. Bump’s writing jumps off the page, full of wit and a clear love for his characters. Despite its weighty themes, The New Naturals is a joyous – and ultimately hopeful – read.  

We’re in post-war Britain and family matriarch Rachel has gathered her unsettled brood together at her seaside cottage for Christmas. Over four days, past slights and historic resentments build with increasing acrimony to a giddy climax. If you think your family struggles through the so-called ‘most wonderful day of the year’, then this reissue from long-lost literary gem Farrell will have you feeling positively content with your lot. 

McDermott’s literary craftsmanship is on full display in this meticulously wrought tale of American wives in 1960s Saigon set against the backdrop of the Vietnam war. Naive young newlywed Patricia meets the complex, charismatic Charlene at one of the many cocktail parties and soirees around which expat life spins. Patricia agrees to help Charlene fundraise by selling ‘Saigon Barbies’ (everyone’s favourite doll dressed in a traditional Vietnamese ao dai ), and as Patricia is pulled deeper into Charlene’s orbit so she is taken further out of her own comfort zone. 

The awakening Patricia goes on to experience is only fully reckoned with decades later, after Charlene’s daughter Rainey – who Patricia first met as a child in those Saigon days – reconnects with her. As the pair correspond, everything Patricia experienced – from the social dynamics of the time to Charlene’s fierce ‘white saviour’ behaviour and her own desperate longing to be a mother – is refracted and reframed through the long lens of memory and history. Just superb.

Having stayed away from her Midwestern home town since leaving for college and heading on to New York eight years ago, Chinese-American Audrey bows to pressure and agrees to return for the holidays to introduce fiance Ben (a freelance photographer from a wealthy, picture-perfect WASP family) to her parents. 

In the time-honoured way of such narratives, Audrey’s perceptions of her reinvented self are quickly challenged as she reconnects with lost friends – including the object of her unrequited teenage affection – and things very quickly begin to go wrong. Cai elevates her plot with an incisive and sympathetic look at the complications and cultural dissonances – both inside and outside the family home – of growing up in a Chinese household in small-town America. For all Audrey’s navel-gazing self-involvement, you’ll be rooting for her by the end.

Another dig into the back catalogue brings us this mid-century festive-themed thriller from the writer who has been coined the ‘British Patricia Highsmith’. Newly widowed Imogen is woken by a phone call in the middle of the night and accused of murdering her husband, Ivor. 

Thrown into a tailspin, she pulls herself together but the cracks in what she claims to have been her perfect marriage begin to show. With Christmas just days away and assorted friends and relatives descending, Imogen’s paranoia grows as the phone calls – and a host of other intrusions – continue. Can she really trust those who are with her in the house? Is Ivor even really dead? A witty mystery of manners.

Mira has set herself a task of writing a play to submit to a prestigious competition, but the one she’s currently working on is going nowhere. When an overheard fight between her married sister and her husband gives Mira the germ of an idea she can’t shake, she has to decide whether it’s ever okay to draw from real-life in pursuit of her craft and if so, how much and how far? 

In between Mira’s creative dilemma is a carefully drawn portrait of two sisters at a personal and familial crossroads, both of them struggling with historic grief following the death of their mother 11 years ago as they grapple with the trappings, responsibilities and challenges of relationships and careers. 

Our money may have been on one of the other Pauls on this year’s Booker shortlist (as in Murray, author of The Bee Sting ), but Lynch’s speculative novel is a timely, tightly-written political novel that easily earns its crown. Set in a dystopian Ireland that is descending into a totalitarian state, scientist and mother of four Eilish opens the door of her Dublin house one night to find two secret police officers asking questions about her trade-unionist husband, Larry, in what is merely the first hint of the trouble to follow. With Larry disappeared and his whereabouts – and future – unknown, it’s up to Eilish to do whatever she has to do to protect her family.

Myers’ playful, form- and genre-bending tale about St Cuthbert of Lindisfarne (the Cuddy of the title, who lived out the last of his life on the tiny island off the coast of Northumbria) tells the story of the medieval religious hermit in four parts and across centuries. The author is known for his grasp of language and elegiac take on history and the natural world – all of which are put to excellent use in a novel that spans poetry, prose, historical accounts and more. A worthy winner of this year’s Goldsmiths Prize, which rewards ‘fiction at its most novel’. 

Long-listed for the Booker Prize and now named Blackwell’s Book of the Year, MacInnes’ third novel takes us deep, deep, deep underwater as marine biologist Leigh joins the exploration team to a newly discovered opening on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean thought to be three times deeper than the Mariana Trench within which they hope to learn answers to the very origin of life itself. Meanwhile, a breakthrough in space exploration could see humans travel to the edge of the solar system for the first time. For all the speculation in its set-up, In Ascension is a deeply emotive, human story of belonging and home. Quietly stunning.

Winn scooped Waterstones’ Debut Fiction Prize and Novel of the Year awards for this affecting tale of two friends and lovers whose lives and fates are forever changed by the Great War. Elwood and Gaunt first meet as seniors at elite English boarding school Preshute College, where the notion of going off to fight for one’s country is presented as the most thrilling of adventures. The reality, as the pair enlist separately and meet again in the trenches of the WWI, proves to be very different. A moving portrait of the tolls of war.

The best books to read in November

If the drawing in of November nights has your world feeling a little smaller, this month’s selection of new releases does the opposite, leading your imagination to destinations as far flung and unknown as the International Space Station and into worlds past, present and future, with a sprinkling of funny-sad romance and high gothic in between.

In the year since ChapGTP sent the world into a tailspin, all sorts of claims and counterclaims have been made about what the future of AI might mean for the future of all of us. So this novel about Marian Ffarmer, a septuagenarian poet – inspired by real-life American poet Marianne Moore – who is invited to collaborate on ‘an historic partnership between human and machine’, could not be more timely. Even more so because it was partly assisted by AI, including a poetry generation model custom designed for this task. (It is worth noting, however, that all machine-generated text featured in the work – shaded in grey throughout – was edited by the author). 

Such gimmickry, while intriguing, is in many ways the least interesting thing about the novel as a whole, which – as Marian is forced to confront and analyse what she has lost in the pursuit of her lifelong belief that to create her art she has had to close herself off to everything and everyone – questions the value of all artistic collaboration, human or otherwise. An absorbing and fascinating read.

This month marks the 25-year anniversary of the launch of the International Space Station and Harvey’s new novel is a fitting addendum to debates around a vessel that has been both hailed as playing a crucial part of the humans-in-space programme and criticised as a waste of the £120b it has so far cost to build and maintain. We follow six fictional astronauts and cosmonauts across 24 hours – and 16 full orbits of Earth – as they go about their day, bearing witness to the account of the wonder, strangeness and downright tedium of life aboard the ISS: the endless tasks that keep them safe from the death that is just ‘four inches of titanium’ away. But in between all the busyness of life inside, the real story lies in what’s outside. Harvey does a wonderful job in capturing the fragile, wondrous beauty of our blue planet as seen through the eyes of this handful of men and women as so very few of us will ever – in this lifetime – likely do. Ironically for a work so founded in technology, it is one of the most compelling pieces of nature writing you’re likely to read this year. Part celebration, part rallying cry and part mourning rite, it should be compulsory reading for us all.

Alderton needs no introduction and as such it would have been easy for the Everything I Know About Love author to follow up her bestselling fiction debut, Ghosts , with another tale of a woman in search of romance. Instead, she switches narrative perspective entirely to focus on the male half of a couple (stand-up comedian Andy) in the wake of the breakdown of his four-year relationship with Jen. Alderton’s prose is relatable, funny and sad as Andy struggles through – and with – his feelings across wallowing days and drunken nights, ably assisted a warm cast of supporting characters, not the least of whom is Jen, who has a version of their story to tell of her own. Together they help lead Andy along his rocky road to emotional enlightenment. Lovely.

This looping, time-jumping narrative opens with an injured soldier lying on a WWI battlefield and pushes forward to that soldier’s return to England and his wife, Helena. As the pair try to bridge the gap of his post-war trauma, John reopens his photography business and is stunned to discover the faces of the dead swim up through the developing chemicals to appear beside his sitters. And so Michaels sets the tone for her carefully woven tale of love, loss and memory in a century-spanning tale that crosses landscapes and lives over four generations in which the ‘ghosts’ of the past are both ever-present and evanescent. For all the sparsity of its prose, Held it is filled with big ideas – Marie Curie’s Nobel Prize-winning discoveries; Darwin’s theory of evolution – lightly told and traced with a poet’s eye for language and detail. A mesmerisingly powerful tale of love, hope and the ties that bind.

Alderman follows up The Power – her award-winning speculative novel about what happens when women are suddenly able to deliver electric shocks with a single touch – with another sweepingly ambitious speculative tale that is bound to deliver similar success. With the world perilously close to destruction, we follow a handful of tech billionaires (who are both amusingly and terrifyingly recognisable as archetypes of some of the leading tech bros of our day) as they plan to sit out the apocalypse in their various doomsday bunkers. Enter a handful of rogue players who envision another path, the leading players of which, in narrative terms, are former cult member-turned-tech powerhouse Martha Einkorn and her erstwhile lover, survivalist Lia Zhen. Pacey, thrilling and with a superb twist, Alderman chooses not – as so many novels of this type do – dwell in the dystopia, but offers a genuine vision of a new, Earth-positive future. Fun.

2023 has proved itself to be a bumper year for novellas and short-form fiction and this latest translation from the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize for literature is a worthy jewel in that crown. Riffing on Dante’s Divine Comedy , Fosse’s tale of a man lost in dark and snowy forest who comes across a shining presence and two mysterious figures there to guide him ‘home’ –deftly translated by Damien Searle (who learnt Norwegian specifically to translate Fosse’s work) – is delivered in shimmering prose that touches on existentialism, destiny and the great beyond over 48 meticulous pages. ‘It’s beautiful,’ our unnamed narrator says of the canopy of stars and honeyed moon above him. ‘There’s no better word for it, no, not that I can think of anyway.’ We’ll second that.

A 25-year career spent working for New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art inspired Coulson’s newest novel, which tells the story of one Kitty Walker across her century-spanning life almost entirely through the medium of the kind of descriptive labels that adorn art gallery walls. The author has fun with building a deliberate link between a woman of Kitty’s social position in the 20th-century milieu she inhabits and the value, possession and display of art (‘Post-war Kitty maintains her neoclassical form through a regimen of cigarettes, coffee, and grapefruit,’ reads the plaque for her as ‘Widow, Aged 39, 1946’). While that means the narrative can’t help being a little sketchily outlined by its nature, the writing is clever, witty and deftly – and at times poignantly – executed, and that more than earns One Woman Show its coveted red dot (aka sales sticker) from us. 

There is a lot going on in this slim, elliptical novel. It opens as newly released prisoner Nealon answers the phone to an unknown caller at the exact moment he returns to his home in the Irish countryside to find his wife and child missing, and culminates in a meeting with said caller in a distant city hotel as a nationwide terrorist incident unfolds on TV screens around them. In between we learn some of Nealon’s backstory (all unpicked and retold with new light shed at the meeting that later takes place) and his (unconfirmed) involvement in a worldwide insurance scam that delivered good deeds on a near-biblical scale. As fascinating as it remains mysterious – settle back and just enjoy the ride.

Mary Shelley and her husband Percy (the romantic poet) are holed up in a villa near Lake Geneva with Lord Byron and various other companions over a weather-blighted summer. Across a series of laudanum-laced nights, the friends take it upon themselves to first tell – then compose their own – ghost stories. As the title suggests, Dutch author Eekhout’s novel creates an origin story not only for Mary Shelley’s famous literary creation but for the writer herself, drawing on Shelley’s history and more than a soupcon of poetic license to bring both stories to life. Suitably gothic and atmospheric in tale and tone.

The best books to read in October

In the month that celebrates both Black History and the annual fright-fest that is Halloween, our offering of new literary releases serves up plenty of both – sometimes (as in Jordan Peele’s anthology of new Black horror writing) in one book. Jump scares not your preferred form of entertainment? Never fear – there is plenty to entertain and enlighten you too, including a surreal hike into the Mojave Desert, a handful of brilliant new short story collections, and a delicately drawn tale in which a young woman with no memory of her past journeys deep into her own secret history.

Fans of Washington’s debut novel, Memorial , will immediately recognise the author’s familiar touchpoints of love, grief, friendship, estrangement (both cultural and familial) and food – lots and lots of food. Cam has returned to Houston from LA following the death of his boyfriend Kai. Grief-stricken, Cam’s days are a blur of casual encounters and self-sabotaging behaviour that is exacerbated by his ghostly ‘visions’ of Kai. When old friend TJ turns up at the bar where Cam works, Cam is resistant to reconnecting. In time, he returns to the bakery – run by TJ’s grandmother – where he spent his teenage years. As they settle into the familiar, familial rhythms and routines of the business, the estranged friends take a long slow circle back through their shared history until, step by step, meal by meal, Cam is finally able to begin the painful process of confronting his loss. Food as a metaphor is rarely so expertly wielded. A treat.

We meet Michel Adanson at the end of his life in Paris, in 1806. The French botanist is a man with a secret, one that he leaves clues for his daughter, Aglaé, to find. When she does, it reveals a father she never knew, during the years in which he travelled to French-colonial Senegal, when the trans-Atlantic slave trade was at its height. Adanson immerses himself in this new world, learning the local language and winning the trust, he believes, of its people. 

When he hears of a young woman, Maram, who is rumoured to have somehow escaped the route into slavery following her abduction, he is determined to find her and hear her story, only for it to shed a horrifying new light on the cruelties and vanities of men on both sides. Diop – who picked up the International Booker Prize for his previous novel, At Night All Blood is Black – does a masterful job of showing up the racist brutalities of the slave trade and its associated cruelties and hypocrisies, something Adanson, however well-intentioned he might consider himself to be, cannot entirely avoid, and wraps it all up in a gripping, galloping narrative that challenges perceptions to the very last page. 

The Oscar-winning horror director introduces this anthology with a foreword that reveals an early inspiration for the Sunken Place in his debut feature, Get Out . What he created, he writes, was the psychological equivalent of the medieval torture dungeons known as oubliettes – a place where you are ‘stripped of all agency and left alone with your struggle’. It’s a compelling driver for horror – and there is some pretty compelling horror within these pages. Featuring 19 new stories by a roster of highly-acclaimed Black writers working in and around the genre, NK Jemisin’s opening story, ‘Reckless Eyeballing’, kicks things off with a tale of a bent cop that sets the pace and tone (suitably creepy, should you need to ask) for the roster of all things horror – from witches and demons to the monsters that lie within – that follows. 

At just over 130 pages, this delicate, precisely drawn novella packs a lot into its slender spine. The story opens as 19-year-old Yayoi arrives to stay with her mysterious young aunt, whose chaotic lifestyle and surroundings are at odds with her natural self-containment. Yayoi has previously left home for periods of several days when she needs space to work unspecified things out, yet: ‘There’s no coming back to what I have, not this time’, she understands, even as she prepares to leave. Sure enough, the nagging doubt that has begun to form at the centre of the mystery of her forgotten childhood is revealed – and with it, everything Yayoi thought she knew becomes forever changed. Exquisite.

There are (to paraphrase the classic American TV series) four million stories in the Eternal City, and Lahiri’s latest collection takes a peek into the fictional lives of a cross-section of some of them: the girl who looks after the holiday cottage in her mother’s absence, allowing us to gradually see the differences and crossovers in each family’s lives; the refugee whose family’s delighted at being granted a permanent residence in a suburb ‘with sky to spare’ only to run up against their neighbours’ bigotry and racism, forcing them out. In Part II, a set of stairs serves as the backdrop to snapshots of five very different individuals, an anxious ‘ex-pat’s wife’, two grieving brothers and a screenwriter among them. Lahiri knows of what she writes – the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and translator splits her time between Rome and New York – and her insider’s outsider view on the city permeates every page. Masterful.

Do we really need a ‘retelling’ of Orwell’s classic novel? Its themes are so pervasive, most people who haven’t read the original are surely aware of them – the notion that ‘Big Brother is watching you’ famously inspired the ‘big daddy’ of TV reality games of the same name. In Newman’s hands, however, the answer is yes. She turns the spotlight away from Winston Smith to focus on his lover, Julia, and in doing so pulls out the story, Handmaid’s Tale -style, to bring attention to the impact of the regime on women’s bodily autonomy, among other things. While in these ‘fake news’ times, those clear parallels with how misinformation and hate speak can bend and contort any so-called truth ensures 1984 ’s core message remains chillingly timely.  

As first witnessed in her fairy tale-inflected debut, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit , Winterson has long been fascinated with other realms and spaces; this new collection is an opportunity for her to explore all of them. The stories feature ghosts both classic (the kind that haunt people and old buildings) and modern (those inside machines), and range from the humorous – the AI ‘upgraded’ husband who proves to be as much of a cad in the metaverse as he was IRL – to the genuinely chilling. Most moving of all are the ‘ghosts’ of grief, beautifully encapsulated in companion tales ‘No Ghost Ghost Story’ and ‘The Undiscovered Country’, which explore bereavement from both sides. In between, Winterson intersperses her own experiences of things going bump in the night, including at her home in London’s Spitalfields. A warm, wise and surprisingly thought-provoking addition to the spooky-season canon.

The Milk Fed and The Pisces author is back with a surreal autofiction-style novel in which an unnamed protagonist searches for both escape and the meaning of (her) life while hiding out at a Best Western on the edge of the Mojave Desert. Ostensibly there to finish writing her new novel, our ‘cosmically needy’ writer is in part escaping the pain of her dying father and the realities of life with her chronically unwell husband back home. Unable to settle down to her task, she heads into the desert and encounters a magical cactus. Things go very wrong, however, when she goes back for an impromptu, underprepared hike and gets lost. Is what follows just a sun- and dehydration-induced hallucination or a true hands-and-heart meeting with the divine? A cerebral, darkly funny take on grief, self-expression and the mystical, healing power of nature. 

Set in and around Soweto and covering the period from the establishment of apartheid through its dissolution and into the present day, Makhene’s quietly furious debut – a collection of interlinked short stories – is both challenging and enlightening about the daily struggles and cruel realities imposed by that deeply divisive political movement on the lives, traditions and culture of the township’s inhabitants. Which is not to say it isn’t also at times exquisitely tender. Makhene’s sentences shimmer and turn, bringing insight and delicacy to even the most visceral subjects. A searing debut.

The celebrated South African-Australian author is back, and the eponymous novella that leads this publication is its star. The tale of a 72-year-old Polish concert pianist, Witold, and the fortysomething woman (Beatriz) tasked with guiding him through an invitation to play in Barcelona, we are quickly in familiar territory with regard to male-female sexual dynamics. Yet Coetzee handles Witold’s sexual pestering with Beatriz’s response to it, subverting an otherwise clear-cut tale. Intriguing.

The best books to read in September

Just as you’re likely to be hitting the refresh button on your wardrobe, September is the perfect month to bring some new-season energy to your reading list. From sensual near-future dystopias and the Manhattan Project physicist who predicted the distinct existential threat posed by AI, to genre-defying historical releases and a darkly funny gothic feminist fairy tale – consider it the ultimate ‘ capsule wardrobe ’ for your autumn bookshelf. 

Zhang’s follow-up to her award-winning 2020 debut, How Much Of These Hills Is Gold , is a deeply sensuous ode to pleasure, appetite and desire. Set in an all too plausible near-future in which an unidentifiable smog has strangulated food production, biodiversity and is slowly but steadily rendering the world inhabitable, a young chef accepts a job on a remote Italian mountain top where a father and daughter run an ‘elite research community’ funded entirely by private investors – the 1% of the 1%. Tasked with creating lavish meals for its residents as a way to encourage them to invest more fully in the project, she willingly sacrifices her autonomy for the abundance of Miele’s larder. But as she grows closer to the brilliant, beautiful, wilful Aida, the stakes – and the costs – grow ever higher. A brilliant exploration of greed, loss and power. 

Novelist, essayist, playwright: Smith’s versatility has never been in any doubt. What she claims she had never particularly wanted to do, however, was write a historical novel. And yet here we are, with exactly that – one that sits firmly in the sprawling, Victorian traditions of the likes of Dickens and Thackery, but which retains Smith’s modern literary fingerprint. The narrative is built around real events and focuses on the famous Tichborne Trials, in which a poor Australian immigrant claimed to be the missing heir to the wealthy Tichborne family’s estate. Into this, Smith weaves ideas around sexual freedom, literary stardom, populism and colonialism, courtesy of a sharp, insightful look into the slave trade from the trial’s star witness, an ex-slave who was raised on a sugar plantation in Jamacia.

Astutely told and beautifully written, the award-winning author of The Gathering and The Green Road is back with another sharp-eyed look at family dynamics and generational misunderstanding. Here, mother and daughter Carmel and Nell navigate the semi-dysfunctional intensity of their relationship against the emotional and literary legacy of Carmel’s father, a long-deceased Irish poet whose mistreatment of his wife and daughters was brushed aside in the name of his ‘art’. While Carmel has long since vowed to commit herself to no one but her daughter, Nell is repeating the patterns of the past with an abusive first relationship of her own. As Nell goes out into the world, both women have the time and space to consider the legacies of their pasts and how to redraw them for the betterment of their futures. 

If you liked Awad’s campus novel-skewering Bunny , you’ll love this. Described by her publishers as a ‘horror-tinted gothic fairy tale’, it leans heavily and knowingly into its tropes, from who’s-the-fairest haunted mirrors and autonomous red shoes to a wry spin on the handsome ‘prince’. The story opens as skincare obsessive Belle flies in from Canada to attend her mother’s funeral in sunny California, where every mirror is cracked and a mysterious woman in red sets Belle on the path to an equally mysterious elite spa where, as a Perfect Candidate for their programme, she is fast-racked through its treatments. But at what cost? Darkly funny and incisive, Awad holds a mirror up to so-called feminine ideals and the infinitely complex mother-daughter relationship. Lots and lots of fun.

Keegan is almost as well known for the slenderness of her longform fiction as she is for the quality of her prose (at just 116 pages, 2021’s Small Things Like These is the shortest novel to ever feature on the Booker shortlist). That novel’s success has led to the publication of this beautifully presented standalone short story, which compresses what many a novelist would be happy to be able to portray in a work four or more times its size into just 60 pages. Set over a single day it captures the year-long relationship between Cathal and Sabine from the former’s perspective, building a complex and fully-formed portrait of love found and lost, contemporary Irish masculinity (and misogyny), female independence and much more. Stunning.

We’re in 18th-century France, and while King Louis XVI frolics in his golden palace at Versailles, the nation at large is close to starving. Our focus, however, is on a village outside Lyon where Tarare is born to an unwed mother and grows up poor, humble and kind until a violent incident triggers a vast, insatiable hunger that brings him infamy and worse. (‘Perhaps he is empty metaphor. Perhaps,’ notes Blakemore of Tarare’s dubious ‘skills’.) Fast-forward to the last days of his life and Tarare the Terrible, as he is now known, lies shackled to a bed having been suspected of an unspeakable act where he reveals his life story to the nun tasked with watching over him. Blakemore’s debut novel, The Manningtree Tree Witches , won the Desmond Eliot prize in 2021. This arrestingly visceral follow-up is surely set to bring her similar acclaim.

In this twisty thriller, a young woman puts herself out as bait for the serial killer she believes holds the secret to her sister’s disappearance more than a year before. Told from multiple points of view – including that of the man who claims to be the killer and a trainee police officer brought in to help on the case – Ryan Howard ratchets up the tension in a clever game of who’s who that will keep you guessing to the very last pages.

Sophie’s life is a mess. Her sister is marrying her ex, her relationship with her mother is troubled and her current boyfriend, Ian, is definitely not The One. When Chris – her long-time crush from their days together ‘on the buses’ – wanders into the Essex pub Sophie now works in, it’s her chance to set everything right. As funny-sad as it is funny-funny, comedian Sarah Pascoe does an excellent job of revealing Sophie’s past mistakes and vulnerabilities, imbuing her character with the same singular voice and impeccable comic timing of her stand-up.

Groff stays firmly in the past in this follow-up to her acclaimed 2021 historical novel, Matrix , which follows a young servant girl in 17th-century America as she tries to survive in the wild having fled the colony in which she has lived and worked her whole life. As her mind and body are pushed to the limit, Groff doesn’t let up, with lucid prose in a fable-like search for autonomy and freedom that doesn’t shy away from the visceral horrors of the girl’s present or her past.

In the wake of Christopher Nolan’s cold-war nuclear biopic, Oppenheimer , Labatut’s novel shines a light on another key player in the infamous Manhattan Project: Hungarian physicist and mathematician Johnny von Neumann. Opening with the murder-suicide by Austrian physicist Paul Ehrenfest (who killed his son before turning the gun on himself), Labatut takes us through the rise and fall of von Neumann’s life and career, and the impact of his developments and predictions in physics, computing – including his contribution to the ground-breaking early computer, MANIAC 1 – and artificial intelligence. The novel closes with the story of Lee Sedol, whose defeat by an AI programme in the notoriously challenging board game, Go, in 2016 came as such a blow to the Korean master that he retired from the game. Weaving fact and fiction, Labatut draws thrilling – and chilling – connections between the quest for knowledge that drives the geniuses behind scientific and technological progress. A gripping read.

The best books to read in August

August is the month of escape. And you don’t have to board a plane or a train or even climb into an automobile to head off into frontiers unknown. All you need to transport you to lands from Casablanca to Malaysia to Down Under and – in one of our picks, whole new universes – is to arm yourself with this month’s round-up of new releases and must-reads. Lucky you!

Erin has returned home to Belfast following the sudden death of her best friend in London. Paralysed by her grief, she is confronted by the ghosts of her past in a city struggling to come to terms with its own. Complicated relationships with her mother and old flame Mikey, are compounded by entangling herself in a new one with a visiting American lecturer and aspiring novelist who appears to be running from something in his own past. Connolly does a wonderful job of showing us the universality of Erin’s pain and that of those she encounters – not least Mikey’s troubled younger brother, Matt. ‘Anger takes so much energy,’ she notes at one point, ‘and when it’s gone there is only sadness.’ She isn’t afraid to sit in that sadness, but she doesn’t allow her characters to wallow. This soul-searching – and at times delightfully spiky – debut is a clear-eyed, non-judgemental guide through the sad stasis of grief and what’s both lost and gained in taking those vital steps closer to moving on.

Unnamed narrator Girl travels from Australia to an artist’s retreat in the UK to work on the ‘post-colonial novel’ that is part of her PhD research into Sylvia Plath. There, she comes up against the privilege of her peers while being forced to confront her own. The scenes that reveal the history of the previous two generations of Girl’s Malaysian family – and her empathy for spiky grandmother, Ah Ma, in particular – serve as moving counterfoils to the fish-out-of-water set pieces, as do Yu’s flashes of humour (a table in which she lines up Plath Groupies versus Plath Scholars is a case in point). An intelligent, affecting coming of age story.

It’s 2020 and the height of the pandemic. Not that you’d know it from the setting: a beautiful orchard in Michigan where Lara and Joe’s daughters have joined them to try and save that year’s cherry harvest. At her daughters’ behest, Lara begins to recount the story of her summer-long affair with a then unknown actor who would go on to become a world-famous star. Rather like the play Our Town , which frames the narrative throughout, what on the surface appears to be a gentle tale of family, choices and lives well lived is revealed as something more nuanced. As the story flips between the farm and the titular Tom Lake, climate change, race, the US migrant crisis – even a subtle rebuke to the overturning of Roe v Wade taking away a woman’s right to choose – all find their way into this complex, richly drawn tale. ‘Good marriages are never as interesting as bad affairs’, Lara muses at one point. Patchett disproves that statement in spades. 

Short and pointed, this French bestseller ostensibly tells the tale of an obsessive wife’s despair at the pain that comes from loving her husband too much. No prizes for guessing there’s a sting lurking in this particular tale. Told in day-long chapters that recount the events of the week leading up to a Sunday morning that has been interrupted by her husband urgently telling her they have to ‘talk’, the plot thickens throughout. 

As a French girl in Casablanca – even a poor one – Sarah receives privileges her neighbours can’t dream of, including access to the city’s elite international school. But Sarah’s plans don’t involve pulling herself up by getting herself a good education. She wants to be rich, yes, but she plans to marry into it. And when she’s told that awkward Driss’s father is as rich as the king himself, she’s sure she’s found the way to do it. In this richly evoked story set in a city of two very distinct halves, Assor draws a rich and rather damning portrait of life between haves and have-nots in contemporary Morocco, striking a balance between desire and delusion.

Reading this wonderfully oblique historical tale is a little like looking at the way light refracts through a prism: its meanings and impressions disperse along its journey to reveal what the author herself has termed ‘the slippery overlap between history, fiction and memory’. 

Set on an unnamed Mediterranean island that goes from gloriously habitable to abandoned in less than a generation, it is presented in three distinct sections by three different narrators, with 10-year-old Guilia and her older sister, Giovanna serving as respective bookends front and back, and gentleman adventurer, the Archduke, in the middle. But while the facts each report are broadly the same (the arrival of prisoners to their verdant island is believed to trigger a crop failure that renders its once-rich soil useless until they are forced to flee), each part shifts the emphasis of what has come before, redrawing the shape of the novel entirely as it goes. Fascinating.

Lilach and her family are Israeli immigrants to the US. Her husband works in highly sensitive and secretive world of security software development in Silicon Valley and the family has the rarefied, privileged lifestyle to match. However, their security is shattered when a local synagogue is fatally attacked. In response, they sign their shy, awkward son, Adam, up to self-defence, led by a charismatic fellow Israeli, Uri, who is rumoured to be an ex-Mossad agent. All this backfires when a Black student dies at a party one night and Adam becomes a suspect in what is later decreed to be a killing. Gundar-Goshen does an excellent job in setting up the privilege and paranoia in her character’s lives as their lives slowly unravel.

Heather has always known she might have to run. She has planned it meticulously – including her route out from where she works as a member of ‘the service’ in Birmingham to her point of escape from the UK off the coast of remote northern Scotland. She once she’s on the run, she still hasn’t quite worked out why, and that – along with her backstory, revealing the many personal loses great and small of a life lived undercover – is what drives the motor of this gripping spy narrative from the best-selling author of Apple Tree Yard .

The prize-winning Irish novelist’s latest release is a fictionalised account of Anne ‘Gentleman Jack’ Lister (yes, the same one as the BBC series) and her teenage love affair with fellow pupil, Eliza Raine, as revealed in Lister’s own secret journal. It’s arresting opening chapter – a letter written years later from a clearly distressed Raine reveals shades of Rebecca (‘Last night I went to the Manor again’) – sets up a mystery that keeps tension high and serves as a counterpoint to the rich, unveiling of the girls’ passion that follows. 

The first romcom release from Merky books is a sparky tale of friends-to-lovers-to-wtf, after newsroom researcher Tia’s romantic dreams of connecting with on-off love interest best friend, Aaron, are thwarted when he returns from extended work placement abroad with a previously unmentioned girlfriend. Tia hits the apps to try to cure her broken heart and seems to strike it lucky when she matches with photographer, Nate, but when they fail to have The Talk, things get complicated. 

With a family described on the book jacket as ‘unconventional’, but revealed as dysfunctional at best, this bittersweet work of autofiction charts Verika’s journey through her neurotic childhood (after the Chernobyl disaster she and her siblings spent three years eating only tinned food dated prior to the nuclear event) to womanhood and her attempts – literal and metaphorical – to escape her family and their influence. Smart, funny – at times annoying – it is a sharply tender portrait of a young woman’s becoming. 

Overlong but nonetheless mind-bendingly absorbing work of speculative sci-fi about a mysterious substance designed to weaponise nostalgia and the only two people in the world that might be able to stop it – US Marine officer, Adam, and his unwieldy British-Indian charge ‘human lie detector’ Rao. A brilliantly convoluted ride.

Dalcher is known for her mastery of the ‘what if?’ narrative – her 2019 release Vox , which questioned a world in which women are forced into silence – was an international bestseller and the twist on the death sentence in this legal thriller is similarly provocative. Here, the rules around capital punishment have changed: if someone who has been sentenced to death is proved to be not guilty of the charge, the prosecutor who sent them down has to take their place. When new evidence surfaces in a trial the one and only time in which Justine Boucher did just that, in the race to find new evidence, the clock is ticking. 

The best books to read in July

Whatever your summer holiday plans, this month’s selection of transportive fiction will carry you away.

Our July picks take us from 19th-century USA to contemporary New Zealand via Orkney and Ireland in a line-up that features genre-bending takes on supernatural and dystopian fiction, alongside a brace of hotly-anticipated releases from some of the most exciting young authors writing today.

Recently widowed Luda and her two teenage children, Darcy and Min, get on the wrong side of the local community within days of arriving on a remote Scottish island from their farm in Australia after Luda – a photographer who has been hired to record the effects of the climate change around Orkney – sends images of a fatal accident to a local newspaper. As the family begin to settle into their new home, however, it quickly becomes clear that they are fleeing grief and secrets of their own. What follows is an astonishingly rich and intricate exploration of loss, love, ambition and redemption set against a backdrop of local myth and ancient island history – not least the long shadow cast by the island’s notorious witch trials three centuries previously. As the island’s supernatural past bleeds ever more into its present, it builds to a furious and fitting climax. A thrilling read.

Cathy is one of the lucky ones. She has a job she loves, a happy marriage and strong relationships with her mother and close friends – that is, until a pregnancy scare causes her to question her long-standing decision not to have children. When husband Noah makes it very clear his stance has not changed, the couple’s eight-year marriage comes under threat. Cathy excavates her feelings around this dilemma with the same care and attention to detail she brings to the 17th-century Dutch painting she’s working on in her role as an art conservator – a project that provides a fascinating throughline across the novel’s wider themes, including historic grief, ageing parents and the shifting sands of friendship. A beautifully nuance portrait of a woman at a crossroads. Hard recommend.

It’s weeks before golden couple Ola and Michael’s wedding and life is looking good. That is until Michael’s name appears on an anonymous list of men working in the media who have been accused of sexual harassment begins to circulate online. Can the couple survive the allegation? This much-hyped debut has ‘zeitgeist’ written all over it – no surprise that it’s already being adapted for TV.

Waidner’s follow-up to Goldsmiths Prize-winning Sterling Karot Gold is a bitingly sharp social satire about… a struggling writer who has won an esteemed literary prize. All Corey Fah has to do now is claim their trophy – a mysterious UFO with a ‘neon beige’ glow – and both the prize-money (and wealth of social capital that comes with it) will be sealed. Corey’s failure to carry out even that simple task, however, leads to an increasingly dramatic series of changes to the space-time continuum via wormholes, time loops and a cast of brilliantly surreal characters, including eight-legged, four-eyed Bambi Pavok.

Nolan’s follow up to her much-lauded debut, Acts of Desperation , is a decades-spanning dive into the many small decisions and ‘ordinary failings’ that have led to a young girl being accused of murder. It’s the early 1990s and tabloid journalism – and the various tricks it plays to land a story – is at its peak. So when 10-year-old Lucy (daughter of Carmel, who is herself only 26), is taken into custody for her possible involvement in the death of a child on their London housing estate, the paper employed by ambitious young journalist Tom swings into action. With the family holed up together at a hotel courtesy of his paper, Tom begins a series of interviews with each family member, tracing through their individual histories to recreate the story of what brought them their home in Waterford, Ireland, to London a decade before, searching for salacious details that – he hopes – can be spun into a powerful portrait of the making of a child killer to give him the front-page splash he yearns for. What follows instead is a piercingly compassionate tale of the kind of tragic missteps and wrong decisions that could easily befall any of us. Devastatingly good.

When a group of teenage girls is arrested for torturing and killing one of their schoolmates in the northern seaside town on the night of the Brexit election, the story gets lost in the news cycle. Years later, however, it begins to gain traction on true-crime boards and podcasts, attracting the attention of disgraced journalist Alec Z Carelli. The novel is presented in the form of a republished version of Carelli’s book about the crime after it was pulled from the shelves following complaints about some of the methods he used to gain information and interviews. A meticulous piece of meta-fiction from Clark, who plays a similarly sly trick in making the reader feel complicit in Carelli’s voyeuristic endeavour – and that of the increasingly salacious true-crime ‘industry’ generally – much as she did in her breakout debut, Boy Parts.

Hadley is a remarkable writer, not least for her ability to infuse what can at first seem to be straightforward scenarios with complex dynamics and unspoken resonances between her characters; something this collection – her first since the publication of her brilliant 1960s-set novel Free Love last year – amply demonstrates.

When a single mother wakes to the taste of blood in her mouth and a severed toe on her doorstep, she fears her worst side has been unleashed (again); something that seems to be horrifyingly confirmed when a boy her child’s school is reported missing. This short, taut, elliptical debut questions what makes – or indeed constitutes – a monster.

Midlife crisis meets midlife magic in this slippery tale of shifting power, set in Perkins’ native New Zealand. We meet Therese at the point her gilded, pampered life comes under threat after her husband is accused of corruption, forcing her to revaluate her past and consider a new future. Enter eccentric downstairs neighbour Claire, who is busy throwing away society’s rulebook for how a wife and mother should behave. Therese is immediately charmed – but is she really ready to give everything she’s worked so hard for away?

Fans of brutal dystopian fiction, step right up! In a not-so-distant alt-future, prison inmates ‘star’ in a reality show that culminates in weekly gladiator-style duels to the death, to the delight of baying arena crowds. Adjei-Brenyah’s piercing satirical takedown on the current state of the US penal system is grimly funny, epically violent and – at times – surprisingly tender. Quite the ride.

A sensation when it was published in Norway, My Men paints an extraordinary portrait of the inner turmoil and ecstasy of the woman widely regarded to be America’s first female serial killer, Belle Gunness. We first meet her in Norway where Brynhild, as she was then, is subjected to brutal violence at the hands of her first lover at the tender age of just 17 before setting off for a new life in the wide-open spaces and promised lands of the US.

We’re back on New York’s 125th Street as ‘only slight bent’ furniture dealer Ray Carney finds himself trying – and failing – to be an upstanding member of his community in this companion novel to Whitehead’s Harlem Shuffle . It’s now 1971. The NYPD and Black Liberation Front are at war and Ray would do just about anything to get his daughter tickets to see The Jackson 5 perform. What could go wrong?

The best books to read in June

It doesn’t have to be Pride Month for us to want to champion a full spectrum of narrative experiences, but whether by accident or design this month’s releases are, happily, full of them.

From a tale of erotic obsession set in an uptight English boarding school to a satirical caper about a slacker werewolf trying to find some direction in life via a tenderly emotional tale of transition, we have plenty of picks to keep you reading all the way through to the summer solstice – and beyond.

An unnamed private boarding school serves as the setting for this highly charged tale of desire and obsession set across one stifling hot English summer. Like ‘The Girls’ she is there to attend to, the unnamed narrator – a young Australian granted a one-year placement at the school, for which she is promised: ‘a visa, a true English experience, a dead author’ – is captivated by the cool elegance of the headmaster’s wife, Mrs S. As the pair become closer, they embark on a passionate affair that mirrors the fervour of The Girls’ own burgeoning sexual and emotional awakenings. Hugely atmospheric and tightly written, this is an impressively assured debut from one of Granta ’s list of Best of Young British Novelists for 2023.

Taylor’s follow-up to his Booker Prize-shortlisted debut, Real Life , loosely follows a group of mostly male poets, dancers and musicians living, working and studying in and around Iowa City. Taylor does a superb job of realising the delicate balance between the students’ lives with those of the town’s inhabitants – not all of whom are enamoured with the its elite creative cohort – as they grapple with the value and meaning of their creative practices as graduation, and with it, the ‘real world’, looms. However, it is his mastery of the intricacies of human relationships and their attendant frailties that builds what might in lesser hands have been a fragmentary patchwork of stories into a powerfully cohesive whole. 

Well, this is fun! The bored gay werewolf in question being Brian, a college dropout-turned-waiter who is struggling with his monthly change when he meets alpha-werewolf Tyler, who promises him there is another way. Under Tyler’s guidance, Brian channels his inner Goop to keep his canine instincts under control as his mentor works to establish a new social network aimed exclusively at werewolves. Like a hairier, full moon-only Buffy The Vampire Slayer , this big-hearted novel is about finding your ‘pack’ in unexpected places. Lovely.

Jess and Josh’s not-so meet cute takes place in college on the night of Obama’s historic presidential victory, setting out their respective stalls early (Her: liberal / working-class / Black; Him: conservative / privileged / white). Rabess picks up those tensions and runs with them, skewering all in her wake, but never at the expense of her characters, who for all their flaws and foibles remain fully convincing throughout. A funny, painful, poignant dissection of modern love, society and politics that delivers right through to its final lines.

In what may well be one of the oddest narrative set-ups you’ll read all year, Finn is called from his dying brother’s hospital bed to transport his recently deceased ex-partner, Lily, to her preferred place of rest (‘Did you bring any weed?’ asked Lily. ‘It hurts a little, the deadness coming back to life’). Finn and Lily embark on a road trip like no other across an ‘alternative’ American Midwest in which the living and the dead are able to coexist, parsing the slings and arrows of their troubled yet loving relationship along the way.  Everything’s sort of bullshit reads the slogan on the coffee mugs given away as ‘reception favours’ at Finn’s brother’s funeral. By the end of this wise, tender novel, we can only conclude that everything is pretty damn wonderful, too. 

We first meet Tom and Ming on the night they meet at university drag night. The boys share a deep connection from the beginning that continues through to graduation and into the world beyond. But when Ming announces her plan to transition, can their relationship survive? A tender, emotional exploration of gender and sexual identity.

Nothing is quite as it appears to be in this darkly funny tale following the fortunes – and misfortunes – of a small-town Irish family who have run into trouble in the aftermath of the global financial crash. Narrated chapter by chapter from each of the four members of the Barnes family, it is littered with ghosts – literal and metaphorical. A deeply sensitive portrait of the gaps between our inner and outer lives, the agonies of paths not taken, and the moments that make (and break) a life. 

Rosalind Bone ran away when she was just a teenager, yet her absence still weighs heavy on the residents of the small Welsh village where she grew up. When a series of arson attacks lead to an accusation of attempted murder, the long-hidden secrets – past and present – of this insular community come to a head. Quietly provocative.

The second instalment of Slimani’s Moroccan-set historical saga brings the next generation into the spotlight. While the tone and style may very different to earlier novels – most famously social thriller, Lullaby – Slimani’s narratives have always been driven by class, society and politics and this slow-burn look at Morocco’s social and political turmoil through the changing lens of one extended family is its own quiet tour de force.

Three sisters fear for their safety – and sanity – when the titular uncle is released from prison 15 years after being arrested for the murder of his first wife. The question, as things begin to go bump in the night, is whether he’s seeking revenge or they’re being paranoid. This knowingly repackaged re-release of a 1959 title by the so-called ‘grandmother of domestic noir’ aka ‘Britain’s Patricia Highsmith’ (strapline: ‘ Welcome to the nightmare summer holiday ) is a vintage delight.

The best books to read in May

This month’s reading picks come hot on the heels of the announcement of the Women’s Prize shortlist and the – shock, horror – news that with one exception all the authors on it are over fifty. (The ‘exception’ is the tender age of 49). 

It’s been heralded as one more kick to the persistent myth that, in publishing, youth equals sales. But whatever it says about the shift to a more inclusive reading landscape – to which we can only say hear, hear – there is always more to be done. 

The best way to do it as booklovers? Read widely and read well. Starting right here with our selection for the month of May – 12 new titles full that invite you do just that.

In Ancient Greek a word or phrase can have multiple – often divergent – meanings. The same, Kang seems to be suggesting, is true of how our actions and decisions are interpreted as we move through life. A meditation on the intense loneliness that stalks her characters and the power of human connection, Greek Lessons focuses on a woman who has lost her ability to speak for the second time and the near-blind professor who teaches the evening class she hopes will reignite her powers of speech. While we are a long way from the surreal imagery of Kang’s 2016 International Booker-winner, The Vegetarian , this quiet, careful novel, shares the same poetic language and density of ideas. 

Following the huge success of her debut, The Girls , Cline has become synonymous with tales about rootless, disaffected young women. The latest of these – 22-year-old working girl Alex – is running out of time and money when Simon invites her to spend the summer at his Long Island second home. Believing she’s finally onto a good thing, Alex relaxes – until her self-sabotage kicks in and she is unceremoniously dumped. Desperate to avoid returning to the city where the ex she stole drugs and money from is closing in, she grifts her way from one bad decision to the next, convinced that if she can stay on the island for long enough to attend Simon’s big end-of-summer party all will be forgiven. Like watching a stylish, slow-motion car crash.

This coolly furious dissection of sexual assault and its aftermath is as carefully constructed as anything served up in the Michelin-starred restaurant run by the chef whose alleged behaviour sets the novel in motion. In a mirroring of the hierarchy noted in Hollywood’s MeToo scandals, Gilmartin utilises the superbly toxic environment of professional kitchen – star chef at the helm, his (largely male) soldiers behind him, high-earning front-of-house expected to put up and shut up with the treatment they receive from their superiorly talented counterparts and customers alike – to portray how such a dynamic can allow what plays out. Narrated by three voices – the chef, his wife and a former waitress with a dark secret of her own – Gilmartin’s skill lies in allowing the relevant parties to reveal their true selves to readers (if not always to themselves) in a manner as horribly compelling as it is all too plausible.

It is a truth pretty much universally acknowledged that Naoise Dolan is one of the sharpest, funniest novelists writing today. In this, the follow-up to her debut, Exciting Times , Dolan’s Austen-esque dissection of why two not-so-conventional people have decided to make such a conventional choice focuses on Celine and Luke – the happy couple in question – in the period between their engagement party and subsequent Big Day. There are varying degrees of meddlesome exes, and skeletons in cupboards galore, along with a superbly drawn cast of supporting characters. It all adds up to a very funny – and poignant – look at modern love, desire and expectation.

Open Water , Azumah Nelson’s Costa prize-winning debut, was a word-of-mouth hit, marking the south London writer and photographer as one to watch. While this follow-up treads similar physical and emotional ground, it spreads its net beyond the intimacy of the two-person love story that lay at the heart of his first novel to take in the ‘small worlds’ and connections between friends and family, travelling beyond its London setting to Ghana as son and father do their best to understand each other’s ways. Yet it remains as deeply intimate and poetic as its predecessor. 

When literary star Athena Lui dies on the night she’s celebrating a major Netflix deal with professional frenemy June Hayward, Athena’s last unseen manuscript just happens to find its way into June’s bag. She reworks it and publishes it – to huge acclaim – as her own, using the culturally ambiguous pen name Juniper Song as advised by her publishers. As her star rises, the lengths to which June will go to retain her new-found success increase along with it – but what goes up, surely must come down. Kuang has huge fun skewering the sensibilities and sensitivities on all sides in this laugh-out-loud satire of the publishing industry and social media stardom. Deeply, darkly hilarious.

Set across a single English summer day, middle-aged mother Mary brings her fractured – and fractious – family together for her wedding. While on the surface, a more conventional narrative than her striking debut, The Stranding , (in which an Adam and Eve-like couple survived an apocalyptic event by seeking refuge inside a dead blue whale), this follow-up is just as ambitious in its own way, as Sawyer unpicks the incidents and emotions that have led the family here. A tender, thoughtful meditation on the complexities of the ties that bind.

Thirteen-year-old Pirbhai is tricked into leaving his Indian home and put to work building a railway in Kenya where, faced with a shattering and life-altering choice, he picks his survival over that of others. And so this ambitious, decades-spanning, multi-generational, Pachinko -style narrative begins to unfold. A move to Kampala brings success to Pirbhai, his wife Sonal and their family, until Idi Amin’s brutal regime sees the family split apart, losing everything as they’re forced to flee Uganda to start again – in 1970s Canada and the UK. An astute, emotionally complex examination of racism, cultural estrangement, generational challenges and what ‘home’ and family – in all their forms – mean. 

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein gets an update in this historical debut set in Victorian England around the time of the Great Exhibition. When bereaved mother Mary – great-niece to Victor Frankenstein and reluctant second to her hapless husband’s scientific work – stumbles across her uncle’s writings, she hatches a plan to build a creature that will showcase her scientific ability and gain her access to the men-only societies and forums she longs to be part of. What could possibly go wrong? 

Three novels in and Kay has established herself as one of the bright lights of queer romcom. Here, Eleanor’s unrequited crush on best friend Ray encourages her to step out of her comfort zone and have a ‘wild’ year. When the opportunity arises for their four-strong friendship group to buy a rundown house in the country, they decamp from London and take the village – and Instagram – by storm. One for the summer TBR pile.

When Lily receives word of a mysterious inheritance, it raises long-buried secrets and unanswered questions surrounding her mother’s death thirty years ago. Against her sister’s advice she leaves her London home to investigate in this compelling dual-timeline narrative set across London and Hong Kong.

Onda’s novel has sold over a million-and-a-half copies since its release in Japan. Centred around three contestants in a classical piano competition taking place outside Tokyo it conjures up all the passion and tensions such a set-up inspires.

The best books to read this April

April proves to be anything but the cruellest month with a bumper crop of new releases that takes us from 1980s Gothenburg to post-Brexit London with a stop-off in a hit New York TV show’s writer’s room along the way.

Whether you’re in the mood for an epic love story, some time-travelling neo-noir, prize-winning literary fiction or a crime-solving anti-hero in the form of an anarchic smoking nun, it’s all here. Enjoy!

Fans of Evans’ Women’s Prize-shortlisted novel, Ordinary People are in for a treat. Eight years have passed since we last met these characters and while the cast is wider, then married couple Melissa – whose father, Cornelius, dies in a smaller fire the same night that Grenfell Tower is engulfed in flames – and Michael (now divorced) remain firmly at the centre of it. 

When Melissa’s mother, Alice, makes the decision to return home to Benin, Nigeria, in the wake of her estranged husband’s death, the tenuous threads that tie the family together begin to fray. As ever, Evans touches on big topics – Grenfell, of course, but also Brexit, the ongoing fallout from the Windrush scandal and more – but as ever it is her characters and their search for meaningful connection and understanding that drives the heart of her story. 

Opening in the New York offices of a Saturday Night Live -style sketch show, comedy writer and thirtysomething divorcee Sally’s love life is a mess. Enter that week’s star guest, multi-award-winning pop star Noah who threatens to upend every theory Sally has about the rules of attraction. Is Noah really flirting with her? Will she self-sabotage either way? Like all the best romantic comedies, the tension lies in the will-they-won’t-they back and forth of the story arc and true to all the best examples of the genre, readers will be rooting for Sally to have her much-deserved happy-ever-after. 

This quietly stunning second novel from the Betty Trask Prize-winning writer opens as Sonia – a late-thirties, Dutch-Palestinian actor from London who is fresh from an affair with a married director and at sea in both her personal and professional life – visits her family’s homeland for the first time since spending summers there as a child. There, Sonia begrudgingly accepts a role in a Palestinian production of Hamlet , and is gradually drawn into the emotional and political complexity of this most divided of nations (Sonia’s surprise at discovering the Israeli soldier she confronts at a checkpoint is also English is just one of many excellent scenes showcasing the intricacy of the dynamics at play). 

As the title suggests, the ghosts that haunt the pages of this novel and its characters range much wider than that driving Shakespeare’s play. Yet for all that it addresses big themes –– grief, memory and motherhood among them – it remains, warmly, deeply intimate.

Lydia Sandgren’s debut – all 700-plus pages of it – was both critically praised and a huge commercial success on its release in her native Sweden. Three years and one excellent translation later we get to see what the fuss is about. We meet middle-aged Martin – a once-aspiring author who now runs a respected but financially precarious independent publishing house – as he looks back on his life. 

Framed by a series of ‘interviews’ with the writer Martin never became, we follow his journey and that of his friends from 1980s Gothenburg to the present day – namely his passionate teenage friendship with destined-to-become-great painter Gustav and love affair with wife Cecilia, who abandoned him and their young family years before – in a wide-ranging exploration of family and friends, art and ambition that more than lives up to the hype.

When 27-year-old Neffy enters a paid vaccine trial in a bid to pay off unspecified debts and suggestions of a deeply troubled recent past (she is a trained marine biologist reduced to picking up whatever casual labour she can), she thinks she understands the scale of risk involved. The world outside is in the grip of a pandemic that this medication has the potential to neutralise, but when a deadly new variant is unleashed, they are left stranded. While Neffy and the others wait out their isolation period, she tests a new device that allows users to vividly relive memories. As she becomes drawn deeper in, Neffy’s retreat into the past threatens the tenuous ties on which her future safety lies. A riveting exploration of agency, allegiance and choice.

It may never be the best idea to judge a book by its cover, but this one – it features a stained-glass portrait of a smoking nun – is a pretty strong marker for the rollicking ride set to let loose inside. We meet former wild child-turned nun Sister Holiday – tattooed, chain-smoking, queer – as her small order is plunged into chaos after an arson attack. 

The first book to be published (in the US) by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn’s new imprint, Douaihy brings the sights, sounds and smells of New Orleans alive, with twists and turns aplenty. Subtle it is not, but that is rather the point. 

Read brings the untamed beauty of her native Colorado to life in this richly told coming-of-age tale of forbidden love and its fallouts and redemptions. Opening in the late 1940s, the novel follows teenage Victoria from her first fateful meeting with true love Wil, through their doomed love affair and its repercussions in the decades that follow. 

For all its pain, it is a hopeful and redemptive read. A dream of a book.

This fast-paced, time-bending, neo-noir thriller follows three main characters – eight-year-old Bo, 28-year-old Brandon and 48-year-old Blue – across different timelines. As their lives begin to intersect, dangerous secrets begin to emerge from the mysterious organisation that connects their destinies. 

Beyond the snappy dialogue and genre-bending, Flux presents a moving exploration of sexuality, ethnicity, grief and trauma. 

The best books to read this March

9 knock-out new books written by women.

It is a persistently noted observation that men don’t read books written by women. If that seems like one of those outdated ‘facts’ ready to be filed along with ‘women aren’t funny’ and other cliches, the stats, sadly, bear this out: men make up less than 20% of the overall readership of the top 10 books written by women (versus 45% of equivalent reads by women of books written by men).

More fool them. As author Mary Ann Sieghart wrote on LitHub last year, when men do read books by women, they tend to actually prefer them (slightly) over those written by their own sex . Which doesn’t surprise us one bit. 

Just take a look at this month’s list of new releases – an international line-up of established and emerging names which spans genres, timelines and geography to take us from post-war Vietnam to the seedy glamour of 1960s New York to Down Under (twice) – all of which are written by women.

And yes, it’s March. And yes, that means this month’s round-up coincides with International Women’s Day. But if you’re thinking those two facts are related, think again. These are not our pick of the best books to be reading this month that are written by women. They’re our pick of the best books to be reading this month, period. 

This genre-bending debut opens in late 1978 as a family of eight share their final meal together before leaving their home – and their life together – in post-war southern Vietnam for what they hope will be a new start in the US. The family separate to travel but only one of the boats – carrying oldest child Ahn, and her two brothers, Thanh and Mihn – arrives at the refugee camp in Hong Kong that is their destination. The three siblings eventually make it to Thatcher’s Britain where they slowly build a new life – but at what cost? 

Combining fiction with historical fact, Pin approaches her story with clear-eyed, provocative prose that resembles the shock and sense of displacement of her characters, weaving between past and present to build a picture of the impact of generational trauma alongside the systemic failures of governments to deal with displaced people down through the decades. At its heart, however, is a powerful story of courage, love and the unwavering hope of the human spirit. 

In 2013, Eleanor Catton was – and remains – the youngest writer ever to be awarded the Booker for her debut novel, The Luminaries . Her follow-up, a full 10 years later – set once again in the author’s native New Zealand – is that rarest of things: a literary novel with the plotting and pace of what is generally considered to be more commercial fiction. This twisty eco-thriller follows the community behind Birnham Wood – a series of vacant plots outside Christchurch – whose world is threatened when an American billionaire offers to invest in their dream of a self-sufficient future. But is he really who he appears to be?

Catton has great fun setting up her opposing sides – virtuous, eco-minded millennials versus the nefarious exponents of ‘caring’ capitalism – and it is a credit to her skill as a writer that she does so without ever resorting to caricature. Rather, she paints a dark, multi-layered picture of the perils of late-capitalism and doomed idealism that refuses to settle into the kind of battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ you might expect of such well-worn tropes, but instead ratchets into a thrillingly unexpected finale. 

Six-year-old Denny is a short walk away from his family’s farm when dust storm sweeps over their corner of the Australia outback in 1883, leaving him unable to find his way home. When his disappearance is noticed several hours later it sparks a search that draws the many disparate parts of this intergenerational, multiracial community together putting a burr under the saddle of the thinly veiled rules of propriety that normally just about allows it to get along. McFarlane does a fine job of managing her large cast of characters and their various dreams, desires and wants, leaning heavily into the otherworldly landscape of its setting and Dreamtime mythology to create an eerie – at times bordering on the surreal – look at late 19th-century Australian life. 

There are many reasons why this debut is one of the most hotly-tipped releases this month – not least the seedy-glam allure of Warhol’s Factory in the heart of 1960s downtown New York as seen through the eyes of awkward schoolgirl Mae, who spends a summer typing up the tapes of conversations that chart the increasingly dissolute trajectory of the ‘stars’ in the artist’s orbit (Edie Sedgewick among them) at that time. 

Yet Flattery turns what could so easily have been an in-the-shadow-of tribute into a deft and painfully sharp coming-of-age tale into something far more interesting. In her hands, the tearing down of the old ways and desire for fame – to be marked as ‘special’ – is paralleled in the painfully narcissistic self-consciousness of those key teenage years that mark the transition into adulthood and its own desperate need to cast off the past and be ‘seen’. Flattery has an eye for the absurd and the coolly dispassionate writing style that marks her as one of the bright lights of Dublin’s current literary scene (no less than Sally Rooney is a fan), but while Nothing Special is often darkly – almost cruelly – funny, it is never less than deeply human. 

The fashion for reimagining the lives and stories of some of literature’s greatest stories and characters shows no letting up. Here, Schuler turns the spotlight on the most maligned of Shakespearean anti-heroines, Lady Macbeth, starting with Gruoch’s childhood in the Scottish borders and highlands. Born on her mother’s side as one in a long line of seers, in a nice nod to the play’s three witches she is told early that she will be queen. Convinced this can only mean glory, our single-minded protagonist sets out to make it so – with all the tragedy that eventually entails.

The seed for Mackintosh’s third novel is drawn from a relatively little-known mass poisoning of a village in France shortly after WWII, the cause of which – while linked to the flour in locally-baked bread – remains unclear. Macintosh uses this ambiguity to turn what might, in other hands, have been a relatively straightforward take on that incident into something far darker and far more peculiar. 

A richly atmospheric tale of greed, desire and vainglorious ambition, the plot centres around Elodie, wife of the village baker, who projects the wants and desires from her own unfulfilling marriage onto the arrival of two glamorous newcomers to the village: Violet and her husband, known only as ‘the ambassador’. Shimmering with an almost hallucinatory quality throughout, closing its pages at The End feels like waking up from a fever dream. Fascinating.

The two-times Booker prize-winning author brings her narrative prowess to a new collection of short stories. While there is plenty here to dazzle and delight – an alien telling a fairy tale to quarantined humans, anyone? – it is Atwood’s steady, even-handed view through the long lens of love and friendship, most notably that of married couple Nell and Tig, whose stories bookend the collection, that gives it its heart and soul. 

Nineteen years after first meeting as teenagers, Sam races home to find his wife, Efe, gone. Set between London and Ghana, this skilfully told debut traces the path through the years from there to here, One Day -style, shining a light on their relationship to build out a complex history of what has brought the once best friends-turned-lovers into warring spouses, and the impact of the wider dynamic of family relationships and expectations on their own. 

‘They don’t know how easily an unplanned life can surface and settle, like waking up in a snow-covered world where everything recognisable is buried,’ Appiah writes. She, on the other hand, has no such difficulty, revealing the wants, fears and desires that lie beneath each of her characters with clear, emotionally intelligent detail and deeply humane warmth. 

Turning the ‘women’s romantic fiction’ genre on its head, Hunter’s heartfelt debut centres around best friends Scarlett and Evie. Their story opens as would-be fashion designer Scarlett makes a split-second decision that cuts her life fatally short. But she has not entirely left this world, watching on as best friend Evie struggles to come to terms with her loss – and deal with her conflicting feelings over Nate, the man who accidentally contributed to Scarlett’s death. Yes, there is a strong romantic element in the will-they-won’t-they push and pull of Nate and Evie’s burgeoning connection, but it is the enduring power of platonic love in the form of the two women’s friendship that serves as the true love story here. Wonderful.

The best books to read this February

February may be the ‘official’ month of romance, thanks to St Valentine™, but as this month’s crop of new releases reveals, there’s a lot more to human relationships than those served by cupid’s arrow.

Take our fiction picks: from flights of fancy in ancient India to cultural and socio-economic divides in Nigeria and the US with a sprinkling of generational magic for good measure – at the centre of all of them are questions around friendship, identity, family and loyalty.

And not a red rose or chocolate in sight.

Twenty-five-year-old Maddie – the Maame of the title, which means ‘woman’ in Twi – is living between two worlds. A life spent in service to other people’s needs means she has long been forced to play the ‘grown-up’, left to care for her incapacitated father while her mother spends year-long stretches in Ghana; an experience that has simultaneously left her struggling to speak up for herself, at home, work and even to her friends. A run of rapid life changes sees Maddie in a new job, new flat and (terrible) new relationship. 

When all that culminates in the biggest life change of them all, it brings the carefully constructed façade she’s been presenting to the world for so long tumbling down. Warm and heartfelt, this tender coming-of-age novel will have you rooting for her through it all.

Novels crafted from a series of interlinked stories are a tricky proposition. Get them wrong and it’s a glorified collection of tenuously threaded tales. Get it right, however, and they add up to vastly more than the sum of their parts. Escoffery gets it right, laying out his cultural stall early on as lead narrator Trelawney – the US-born son of Jamaican immigrant parents – squares up against constant queries of ‘What are you?’ from childhood. 

It’s a question Trelawney is effectively asking himself, too – one that plays out not only across the cultural dynamics of American class and culture, but within his own family. Hurricane Andrew, which battered Florida in 1992, is the incident that fractures the family early on. Ultimately, however, family is at the eye of this narrative storm – in particular, the fractious relationship Trelawney shares with his father, Topper. If they can survive that, they can survive anything. Question is: can they?

Adébáyọ̀’s widely-praised first novel Stay With Me heralded a writer to watch. In this, her follow-up, she bypasses difficult-second-novel syndrome with a complex, multi-layered look at modern Nigeria, based around the fortunes of a son and daughter from two very different families: Eniola, whose dreams of a good education slowly but surely fall apart after his family is forced into poverty, and Wuraola – a well-do-do junior doctor whose intellectual successes mean little without the social status a ‘good’ marriage will bring. When political corruption forces their paths to cross, their fates become inextricably and fatally enmeshed. 

‘We watch, like we have always watched.’ So begins Dizz Tate’s debut novel, which explores a very different side to growing up in Florida. Narrated in large part Virgin Suicides -style as a polyphonic ‘we’, it follows a group of teenage girls – and one boy – in the wake of the disappearance of one of their classmates: preacher’s daughter, Sammy Lui-Lou. 

As a coming-of-age tale, Brutes is less about solving the disappearance that propels the opening as exposing the ruthlessly compulsive growing pains of its young protagonists. It explores those short, sharp years of searching expectation when the desire to break from the group is countered only by the iron will remain a part of it with cool prose and a glitteringly dark heart.

A new release from the heavily garlanded author is always a literary event – in the wake of the brutal attack he suffered on stage in New York last year, it feels mighty. Fans will be delighted by the author’s modern ‘retelling’ of a fictional manuscript that brings an ancient city to life in this sprawling magical realist epic.

This triple-timeline debut follows three very different generations of women, starting with Kate, who flees her abusive relationship to hide out at her great aunt’s former Cumbrian home. There, her destiny – and the stories of Altha and Violet; the Weyward women who came before her – awaits.  

The best books to read this January

In the first of what is our rolling list of monthly recommended titles throughout 2023, we’re leaving the royal free-for-all surrounding the publication of Harry’s memoir, Spare , firmly out of it. 

Instead, we suggest you kick off this year’s reading list with some standout debuts – which take us from contemporary Toronto to queer Victorian London via medieval Norwich – alongside new works by up-and-coming and established names. 

Interestingly, a full four of the titles listed below are not just ‘drawn from’ or ‘inspired by’ real-life historical or contemporary figures, but set out to deliberately redraw the lines of what ‘fiction’ is. Could we be looking at the literary trend for 2023?

This stunningly original debut tells the stories of two very different real-life medieval women – Julien of Norwich, who spent over two decades living in solitude in service to her faith, and mother-of-14, Margaret Kempe – both of whom saw divine visions they believed to come directly from God. Mackenzie’s source material is the surviving manuscripts from both, which are respectively the first surviving book to have ever been written by a woman in English and the first ever English-language autobiography (by man or woman) full-stop. 

Her skill is in creating a story that goes much deeper than its slender spine and spare prose might suggest to not only shine a light on the lives and experiences of two ‘ordinary’ women, but to draw clear contemporary echoes and parallels – around mental health, grief, motherhood and more – that resonate long after reading.

The Schitt’s Creek screenwriter’s fiction debut follows the fallout from the breakdown of 28-year-old Maggie’s marriage to her college sweetheart. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – you’ll probably join Maggie’s friends in wanting to give her a good shake – but Heisey’s warm, witty voice (not to mention clear affection for her hometown, Toronto) will have you rooting for her to the very last page. 

Best friends Ash and Edi are forced to face the worst possible future when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Not the cheeriest of set-ups, you might think; in Newman’s hands, however, this tale of love and friendship is tender, funny, life-affirming joy.

In 2021, Patel scooped Stormzy-founded imprint Merky Books’ New Writer’s Prize with the opening pages of what has become, two years later, her debut novel. A multigenerational exploration of family secrets, cultural identity and grief in modern Britain and beyond.

Kick the Latch is a work of fiction (or ‘fact-tion’?) crafted from real-life interviews with a Midwestern horse trainer called Sonia, to whom the novel is dedicated. Scanlan is a master of minimalism, able to conjure up an entire personality, situation or community in just a line or two. Which is not to say that she skimps on the details: over a series of tight, spare vignettes that rarely run to little more than a page in length, Scanlan reveals the full arc of Sonia-not-Sonia’s life, from birth – when it was announced she would never be able to walk (‘My mom said, Oh no. There’s got to be something’) – through the near-death accident that ended her career as a jockey and far beyond. 

There is heartache, hardship and some truly shocking violence (none of which is told with either salaciousness or self-pity), with heart and humour by the bucketload. 

A very special read. 

The American Psycho author is back and this time he’s in high school. This semi-autographical blend of fact and fiction draws heavily on Ellis’s own experiences of the same as a teenager in 1980s LA (grisly serial killings excepting, of course). Most definitely NSFW.

More blurring of life and art as first-time novelist Tom Crewe reimagines the lives and loves of two Victorian men – John Addington Symonds and Henry Havelock Ellis – in this finely drawn and deeply passionate debut. The pair worked together on a study called Sexual Inversion that served as an early call to arms for gay rights in 1890s London at a time when there was no such thing; indeed, Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment for gross indecency serves as a backdrop here. 

Crewe spins his narrative from known historical facts of each man’s life (and that of those close to them, including their wives) to create a multifaceted exploration of the tensions between the public and private selves of each man and his desires.

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Catherine is a freelance writer, editor and copywriter. As a freelance journalist, she wrote for titles including The Times , The Guardian and The Observer before spending eight years as commercial editor for Elle , Harper’s Bazaar , Esquire and Elle Decoration .

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The best books of 2023, according to readers

We asked for your must-read books of the year, and you responded. Here are 2023’s finest, in your words – and ours.

best new books uk

What are the best books of 2023? Critics will tell us their views shortly, in the customary lists and roundups that come around November and December, but this year, we wanted to hear from you, the readers, first.

On social media, you told us about the novels you couldn’t put down, from “heartfelt” series finales to feel-good Japanese fiction, stone-cold classics to brand new bestsellers. Whether it came out in 2023 or not, these are the books you loved this year.

The Last Devil to Die by Richard Osman

We said: The latest entry in Osman’s beloved Thursday Murder Club series is his most touching, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less wry or captivating than its predecessors.

You said: I love the characters he’s created in the Thursday Murder Club series. And this latest one definitely got me teary. Feel like I’m visiting with old friends every time I read his books. They’re more than a cosy mystery … they’re funny, heartfelt and very relatable.

- @annmariesellars

What You Are Looking For Is in the Library by Michiko Aoyama

We said: A whimsical, feel-good Japanese novel about a librarian with a sixth sense for just the right book recommendation at just the right time, this is a wonderful book lover’s book.

You said: It’s such a wholesome book. It also helped me reflect on my current relationship to work and books. Loved it 🥰

- @pamlectora

Sula by Toni Morrison

We said: It wasn’t released this year, but Toni Morrison’s bona fide classic about two once-inseparable girlfriends who grow apart when one leaves their community for the big city – and whose friendship is torn apart by betrayal – is a must-read, even 50 years later.

You said: Wonderful writing and incredible storytelling.

- @mechanicalnoor

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

We said: This perspective-shattering novel, narrated by Death itself and set in Nazi Germany, follows nine-year-old book thief Liesel, whose family have been taken to a concentration camp. It might just restore your faith in humanity.

You said: I enjoyed the fresh narrative, matter of factness and how much emotion was invoked in a few simple sentences. Regularly.

- @lucy.tyrl

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin

We said: Ostensibly a story about two friends who love video games, Zevin’s breakthrough novel is a deeply moving, life-affirming meditation on love, creativity, art, romance, friendship, fame and more – which explains its extraordinary word-of-mouth success.

You said: I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did but once I got into it the book just sucked me in and kept me intrigued until the very last page

- @bookedbliss

In Memoriam by Alice Winn

We said: It’s 1914. Henry and his best friend Sidney are in love, but neither can express it, so neither knows – that is, until both are enlisted to fight in the trenches, where, against the horrific spectre of death and wartime, a forbidden romance blooms.

You said: ❤️ Henry and Sidney will stay with me forever - just a heart-wrenching and breathtaking story

- @library_of_lauren

Bad Dreams and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley

We said: Sometimes, the most compelling stories are the ones that ring truest to real life – and English author Tessa Hadley is the master of realistic, domestic storytelling. These are some of her best short stories.

You said: A lovely collection of short stories about life and its nuances. No major drama, no love story, just life. Loved every second of it 💛✨

- @taraupadhyay

The Whalebone Theatre by Joanna Quinn

We said: A whale carcass, washed ashore, changes the lives of three imaginative children forced to raise themselves – but its their journey into adulthood that this whimsical, epic yarn of a book tracks so elegantly.

You said: I read some fabulous books this year but I think the one that tops them all is this.

- @theyarnrescuer

Girl, Goddess, Queen by Bea Fitzgerald

We said: A retelling of the Persephone myth that puts the titular character firmly in the driver’s seat – and has shaken TikTok to its core. This is one of the year’s biggest books, for good reason.

You said: I'm a massive fan of the story of Persephone and love this retelling, the portrayal of relationships was one of my favourite things, and I loved the characters 🥰

- @heathers.armchair.adventure

Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver

We said: Politically sharp and beautifully written, Kingsolver’s latest novel was nominated for a handful of prizes – and took home this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, too.

You said: The story of a boy with everything against him with just his talent and character to get him through (and a bit of luck). Unforgettable characters amid a story of the opioid crisis in the US. Just brilliant.

- @bar_barac

Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

We said: An imaginative, captivating, and irresistibly addictive book about family, love, war, school – and learning to bond with dragons, this is the first in a feverishly beloved new series from Yarros.

You said: ❤️ I am always fascinated with dragons and enemies to lovers story❤️

- @anjlijpk

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

We said: A gripping novel about representing someone else’s work as one’s own, and the lengths one woman will go to protect what she thinks she deserves.

You said: An amazing insight into writing and author lives and so eerie and thrilling!

- @lottiesaahko

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The 10 best novels to read in 2024

From political science fiction to gothic mystery, these are the books we recommend adding to your shelves this year


Every year brings with it exciting predictions for the sell-out stories of the next 12 months: which tome will be toted most often on the tube, and which will pick up the most prizes? It can be difficult to sort the genuinely good books from the overhyped (these days, everything is 'sensational' and a 'must-read'), but there are several new releases that deserve their spot on any pre-order list.

And if that's not enough to whet your appetite, whether you're looking to add to your list of favourites with a time-honoured classic , thumb through a thriller or sink into a romance , we've got you covered.

The best fiction books of 2024

Vanessa chan, 'the storm we made'.

Vanessa Chan, 'The Storm We Made'

Chan's first book follows the adventures of a Malaysian mother whose life is upended when she becomes a spy for the Japanese forces during World War II. This is a resonating tale that perfectly captures the anger of a woman who feels utterly powerless; in it, Chan skilfully weaves together different perspectives for a rich and multi-layered narrative built on shifting sands. A thoroughly thought-provoking debut.

Kiley Reid, 'Come and Get It'

Kiley Reid, 'Come and Get It'

After Kiley Reid's witty and incisive debut, Such A Fun Age , her second novel has been hotly anticipated. Thankfully, she doesn't disappoint with Come And Get It , a cleverly drawn campus fiction that centres on Millie, and her messy entanglement with a professor and three students. At once highly readable and an important comment on the lose-lose decisions millennials face in a bleak economy, this is a book you'll devour in days.

Cathy Sweeney, 'Breakdown'

Cathy Sweeney, 'Breakdown'

Sweeney presents a startling premise many may find thrillingly relatable in Breakdown . What if, instead of going to work, you began to drive in the opposite direction – and never came back? A can't-put-it-down story from one of Ireland's most admired writers, this is highly recommended for anyone who's experienced a sense of ennui with day-to-day life.

Andrew O'Hagan, 'Caledonian Road'

Andrew O'Hagan, 'Caledonian Road'

A hefty doorstop of a book from the author of Mayflies , this state-of-the-nation novel is set to be one of the most talked-about reads of the year. Campbell Flynn – art historian and celebrity intellectual – is a middle-aged aesthete with a taste for finer things and witticisms. Milo Mangasha, his beguiling student, has a devious plan, and over the course of an incendiary year, a web of crimes, secrets and scandals is uncovered. Will Flynn be able to protect himself from everything that the tearing down of his privilege involves?

Ela Lee, 'Jaded'

Ela Lee, 'Jaded'

Successful lawyer, dutiful daughter, beloved girlfriend, loyal friend: Jade seemingly has a perfect life. But when a work party goes horribly wrong and her carefully constructed world begins to crumble around her, she's forced to reassess all her blithe assumptions. Razor-sharp and darkly funny, this exploration of identity, consent and love will leave you asking yourself: what would you have done in Jade’s situation?

Roxy Dunn, 'As Young as This'

Roxy Dunn, 'As Young as This'

Anyone who's ever experienced the slog of modern dating will love As Young As This , an achingly relatable novel that focuses on the dreams we have for our lives, and what happens when we open ourselves up to letting them go. Unusually told in the second person, As Young As This charts Margot’s quest to work out what to do when she finds herself 34 years old, single, childless – and about to make the biggest decision of her life.

David Nicholls, 'You Are Here'

David Nicholls, 'You Are Here'

After the roaring successes of Nicholls' previous novels, including Us , Sweet Sorrow and One Day – the latter now a major Netflix series – everyone is waiting with baited breath for the latest, You Are Here . The story is classic Nicholls: Marie feels as if life is passing her by, while Michael is still reeling from his wife's departure. When a persistent mutual friend and some very English weather conspire to bring them together, the pair suddenly find themselves alone on the most epic of walks and on the precipice of a new friendship.

Rachel Kushner, 'Creation Lake'

Rachel Kushner, 'Creation Lake'

A wild and extremely cleverly plotted piece of science fiction, Creation Lake tells the story of secret agent Sadie Smith, who is sent to infiltrate and disrupt a group of "anti-civvers" – eco-terrorists – in a France of the near-future, where industrial agriculture and sinister corporations dominate the landscape. Beneath this parodic spy novel with plenty of Killing Eve -style capers is a woman caught in the crossfire between the past and the future of our planet. Meaningful, yet effortlessly readable.

Fiona Williams, 'The House of Broken Bricks'

Fiona Williams, 'The House of Broken Bricks'

A Black London family relocates to a small farming village in Somerset in this poetic tale of love, belonging and rural landscapes, inspired by the author's own experience. It's a meaningful take on on broken relationships, overlapping perspectives and a life lived in the cracks – as Williams writes, "ain't nothing wrong with being broken. Nothing at all. You're like these houses, not a whole brick in em and look how strong they are."

Hester Musson, 'The Beholders'

Hester Musson, 'The Beholders'

A story of maids and mistresses set in a grand Victorian house, this period tale has everything you'd ask for from a gothic thriller: murder, a relatable heroine and plenty of dark detail. Set to be the beach read of the summer, this well-researched and convincing page-turner is the ideal choice for fans of Mary Shelley and Emily Brontë's classic novels.

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23 Brilliant New Books For 2023 To Get Your Reading List Started

Freelance writer

best new books uk

Just so you know, HuffPost UK may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them.

Building your new year to-be-read (TBR) list is an exciting but sometimes overwhelming task. Having established when your stint as a new or returning reader begins, it’s time to figure out where to start.

Too often, a new year’s resolution to “read more” is easily lost in the flurry of deciding what to tackle first or next, but with so many exciting releases this coming year, I don’t want anyone to fall at this opening hurdle.

I always advocate a balanced TBR list of contemporary and classic fiction across the genres, and some great non-fiction, too – but my biggest advice to all those hoping to read more and consistently throughout 2023 is to tuck into some of the brilliant new books set to be released this coming year

So, in a bid to help readers discover some amazing authors and stories, I’ve curated a list of 23 releases for 2023 and they all come highly recommended.

Books for 2023: Jyoti Patel, Monica Heisey, Jonathan Escoffery

The Things That We Lost by Jyoti Patel

A multigenerational saga from Stormzy’s Merky imprint that tells the life of Nik as he uncovers the truth about a father he has never met. Before the death of his beloved grandfather, Nik is sent on a journey through the backstory to his existence via his uncle, Chand, and reluctant mother, Avani. ( January 12 )

Really Good, Actually by Monica Heisey

This is contemporary fiction written to make you laugh out loud. Beginning with the breakdown of Maggie’s marriage only 608 days after it began, this novel explores what it means to start over as a young divorcee, while simultaneously navigating the maze that is your 20s. ( January 17 )

If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

A collection of interweaving short stories that trace a Jamaican family struggling to establish their new lives in Miami. Exploring intergenerational relationships, loss and change, If I Survive You is the the tale of a family falling apart despite fighting to do everything they can to stay together. ( February 2 )

Books for 2023: Jessica George, Munroe Bergdorf, Kevin Jared Hosein

Maame by Jessica George

A funny coming-of-age novel. When Maddie Wright is presented with the opportunity to leave her traditional Ghanaian home to become the type of woman she has always dreamt of being, she leaps into her new life. However, tragedy then strikes, leaving Maddie forced to consider what she’s sacrificing. ( February 14 )

Transitional: In One Way or Another, We All Transition by Munroe Bergdorf

A compelling non-fiction title from the model and activist that discusses fluidity of identity, sexuality and gender through the experience of transition every human faces at some point in their life. Intended to aid our shared consciousness, this is a guide to how we can use our differences to build a better world. ( February 16 )

Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein

An atmospheric and immersive historical novel for readers who appreciate Hilary Mantel-esque prose. Set in 1940s colonial Trinidad, Hungry Ghosts centres around the disappearance of the rich and mysterious Dalton Changoor and offers multifaceted narrative of religion, violence, class and family. ( February 16 )

Books for 2023: Rosanna Amaka, Nicole Flattery, Cecile Pin

Rose and the Burma Sky by Rosanna Amaka

A powerful and poignant does of historical fiction that tells the story of Black soldiers in the Second World War. Tracing the life of Obi, a young man from Nigeria who enlists in the war to impress Rose, his childhood crush, Rose and the Burma Sky is a heartbreaking novel about untold truths. ( February 23 )

Nothing Special by Nicole Flattery

A witty and profound contemporary novel that follows the life of a teenage girl called Mae coming of age in late 1960s New York, set against the backdrop of Andy Warhol’s Factory. The opportunity to work with the great artist offers Mae an escape from her dysfunctional upbringing into a new and exciting life. ( March 2 )

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin

A heartbreaking but inspiring debut about three orphan Vietnamese siblings seeking refuge in the UK after the fall of Saigon. As grief, displacement and disappointment follow them into their new lives, this is about what it feels like to look for a home that’s already lost. ( March 2 )

Books for 2023: Cole Kazdin, To My Sisters, Krystle Zara Appiah

What’s Eating Us: Women, Food, and the Epidemic of Body Anxiety by Cole Kazdin

Merging investigative journalism with her own personal narrative, Kazdin probes the issue of eating disorders and the experience of body anxiety so common to many. In assessing the diet industry as well as all those who capitalise on our insecurities, What’s Eating Us searches for what could free women from body dysmorphia and the aspiration to be perfect. ( March 7)

To My Sisters by Renee Kapuku and Courtney Daniella Boateng

This is a book about friendship and platonic love that has emerged from the podcast of the same name. With a focus on the importance of sisterly love and relationships, To My Sisters guides you through the process of building and nourishing these healthy connections. ( March 9 )

Rootless by Krystle Zara Appiah

A highly relatable novel about motherhood, societal pressures, relationships and family. When Efe falls unexpectedly pregnant, she enters a rough patch in her marriage with husband, Sam. Three years later and in a better place, Sam returns one day only to find Efe missing. Your heart will miss many a beat. ( March 16 )

Books for 2023: Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Im Seong-Sun, Liv Little

Chain-Gang All-Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

From the award-winning writer of Friday Black comes this masterful dose of dystopian fiction that explores the depraved justice system in the US. Set in a world where inmates can fight for their freedom instead of serving a full sentence, the novel is an insidious take on what life would look like if the prison system were fully privatised within the wider capitalist structure. ( April 4 )

The Consultant by Im Seong-Sun, translated by An Seon Jae

A spicy and pacey Korean crime novel in translation. When an unnamed protagonist is presented with the opportunity to murder without getting his hands dirty, the reader is brought along on a thrilling journey that probes the cracks in capitalism by exploring what people would really do for money. ( April 13 )

Rosewater by Liv Little

A queer novel set in south London from the founder of Gal-Dem, Rosewater follows Elise through the awkwardness and turbulence of adulting. Evicted after falling behind on rent, she moves in with childhood best friend, Juliet. Now housemates, the novel uncovers the brewing love that has always existed between these two women against the backdrop of daily struggles. ( April 20 )

Books of 2023: Caleb Azumah Nelson, Samantha Irby, R.F. Kuang

Small Worlds by Caleb Azumah Nelson

Following the success of his bestselling debut, Open Water , winner of the Costa First Novel award, this is Caleb Azumah Nelson’s literary fiction follow up. Set against the landscape of London and Ghana over three summers, Small Worlds follows protagonist Stephen as he ventures outside his passions and comfort zones. ( May 11 )

Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby

A fresh collection from the New York Times best-selling essayist that will have you in pieces. Despite exploring tough topics around her upbringing, family, and life struggles, Irby approaches each essay with humour and honesty enough for anyone needing a light-hearted perspective on relatable issues. ( May 16 )

Yellowface by R.F. Kuang

A thrilling piece of literary fiction that is sure to keep you engaged and wanting more. When Athena dies in a freak accident, Juniper steals her unpublished manuscript and disguises it as her own. However, as Athena’s death is investigated, Juniper’s unearned success is at risk of being exposed. ( May 25 )

Books of 2023: Harriet Gibsone, Cecila Rabess,Taylor-Dior Rumble

Is This OK? by Harriet Gibsone

A raw and funny memoir exploring mental health, illness and motherhood against the backdrop of obsessive internet and social media activity. When Gibsone is diagnosed with early onset menopause in her late twenties, consuming the lives of exes, potential partners (and their exes) becomes a trivial matter when compared to the illness she will spend the rest of her life nursing. (May 25)

Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess

A contemporary romance novel that delves into what happens when two polar opposites fall in love. When Jess, a pro-Black graduate who has fought discrimination all her life, falls in love with Josh, a white preppy type accustomed to privilege, we learn what qualifies as complicated love. ( June 8 )

The List by Yomi Adegoke

An entertaining and page-turning debut from the co-author of Slay in Your Lane. Ola Olajide, a high-profile journalist, is set to marry the love of her life, Michael. However, when his name pops up on an anonymous online list of sexual abusers, this perfect love story takes a bitter and biting turn. ( July 6 )

Nightbloom by Peace Adzo Medie

Following the success of her debut His Only Wife , Peace Adzo Medie returns with a powerful novel about the power of female friendships. Selasi and Akorfa are inseparable growing up, but when Selasi starts to withdraw, their bond also fades. Years later, tragedy brings the two back together and the truth about Selasi’s story is uncovered. ( July 6 )

The Situationship by Taylor Dior Rumble

A witty romcom that examines the landscape of 21 st century dating. When Tia connects with Nate, a handsome photographer who ticks all her boxes, instead of enjoying a blossoming romance, Tia is perplexed by the anxiety-inducing question we’ve all asked ourselves at some point: w hat are we? ( August 17 )

If any of these titles get you excited, click the links to pre-order – these valuable sales make all the difference to authors. And finally, happy reading!

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The best books to read right now

The best books to read right now

From Booker Prize winners to drunken poets and smash debuts, these are the books to read now and enjoy forever

Plunging into the pages of a novel or memoir is a way to hit the standby button on reality, with books offering a welcome escape when the real-world is failing to live up to expectations. Hate your boss? Ghosted by a potential date? Going through family drama? No fear, books will transport you to an alternate reality instantly. In them we find flawed characters, villains who can't ruin our lives, happy endings and self-contained challenges. The stakes are as high as you want them to be. You get to end the story exactly when you want.

From novels about love, friendship and masculinity, to non-fiction and essays that explore how we live now, we've put together a list of must-reads that promise to a well-rounded reading experience and hours of entertainment.

Cocaine gay sex and the high noon of Margaret Thatchers rule  this novel is not shy and retiring. It is however an...

The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst

Cocaine, gay sex and the high noon of Margaret Thatcher’s rule – this novel is not shy and retiring. It is, however, an engrossing, frequently stunning read which won the Booker Prize in 2004. It’s 1983, and middle-class Oxford graduate Nick Guest moves in to the Notting Hill home of his posh friend (and secret crush) Toby Fedden, whose father is a Tory MP. So far, so Saltburn – but the book’s twin themes, gay life and the go-go world of affluent 1980s Britain, are explored with subtlety and razor-sharp social observation. Look out for a jaw-dropping cameo from the Iron Lady herself.

Bruce Chatwin was one of the great travel writers. His trips to the mountains of Patagonia and the Australian Outback...

What Am I Doing Here by Bruce Chatwin

Bruce Chatwin was one of the great travel writers. His trips to the mountains of Patagonia and the Australian Outback were written up in the acclaimed books In Patagonia and The Songlines – but he was also the master of the magazine feature. What Am I Doing Here is a collection of dispatches and interviews which span the whole world and include innumerable colourful characters: yeti-hunting in Nepal, sailing down the Volga river in Russia, working on a film with Werner Herzog in Ghana. Even the stories in less grand settings sing. A vignette from a dinner with fashion editor Diana Vreeland is barely half a page long, but all the more vivid for it.

If you want to know what all the guys in gilets and shiny shoes on the Tube get up to at work read this book. Oliver...

Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough

If you want to know what all the guys in gilets and shiny shoes on the Tube get up to at work, read this book. Oliver Bullough sets out the new business model Britain cooked up when it lost its empire: looking after the money of the world’s richest (and dodgiest) people. Lawyers, bankers and politicians all make a pretty penny from laundering the cash and reputations of shady oligarchs, and Bullough’s skill for financial investigation dredges up the grubby detail without the narrative getting too dry.

The murky morally compromised world of John le Carrs spy fiction is the polar opposite of the romance and derringdo of...

A Perfect Spy by John le Carré

The murky, morally compromised world of John le Carré’s spy fiction is the polar opposite of the romance and derring-do of James Bond. A Perfect Spy is le Carré’s most autobiographical novel – he used to be a spook himself before writing about his former profession – and is widely regarded as his best. It follows Magus Pym, seemingly the perfect intelligence agent, who vanishes after the funeral of his conman father. As gripping as any moody boxset.

The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński covered by his count a total of 27 coups and revolutions during his time as...

Shah of Shahs by Ryszard Kapuściński

The Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuściński covered, by his count, a total of 27 coups and revolutions during his time as foreign correspondent for the then communist country’s state news agency. In his books, he turns reportage into an art form – and no more so than in Shah of Shahs , his account of Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution. The country’s history is woven through his first-hand experience of a nation turned upside down.

Certain books contain stories that youll remember forever  and Olivia LaingsnbspThe Lonely City is packed full of them....

The Lonely City by Olivia Laing

Certain books contain stories that you’ll remember forever – and Olivia Laing’s  The Lonely City is packed full of them. Navigating her life as a new inhabitant of New York, Laing ruminates on the experience of loneliness via art and the stories of the city’s most compelling artists. From Edward Hopper and his perpetually alone subjects, to David Wojnarowicz and his Aids activism, Laing offers a dazzling portrait of what it means to be alone. £10.99 at  Waterstones .

Theres no better place to get lost than in the thorny dramas ofnbspThe Daily News which play out under the scorching...

The Rum Diary by Hunter S Thompson

There’s no better place to get lost than in the thorny dramas of  The Daily News , which play out under the scorching Puerto Rican sun. The newspaper is at the heart of Hunter S Thompson’s  The Rum Diary , which delves into the jealous, violent, and drunken spectacles of its wayward staff. As the story twists and turns, you’ll be immersed deeper and deeper into its hedonistic savagery, before being spat back out into the real world, reeling but wishing you could go back.

Instrumental music is much more than background listening. These 10 albums will reward the attention you give them

By Josiah Gogarty

Cillian Murphy's pinstripe suit might just blow up the whole world

By Eileen Cartter

Cillian Murphy's Saint Laurent suit probably deserves its own award

By Adam Cheung

Just like theres a soundtrack for every era of your life Nick HornbysnbspHigh Fidelity is a timeless and cathartic...

High Fidelity by Nick Hornby

Just like there’s a soundtrack for every era of your life, Nick Hornby’s  High Fidelity is a timeless and cathartic must-read for men in the midst of their mid-30s existential crisis. Protagonist Rob Fleming has just endured another break-up, and is ruminating on the purposelessness of his life – spent mostly at the record shop he owns with his pretentious employees – and re-examining what he keeps doing wrong in his romantic relationships. It’s a witty, compelling, and astute exploration of the mundane, frustrating, and often perplexing intricacies of love, life, and the people in it.

Derek Owusus second novelnbspLosing the Plot sees the author step into his mothers shoes to imagine her life before he...

Losing the Plot by Derek Owusu

Derek Owusu ’s second novel,  Losing the Plot , sees the author step into his mother’s shoes to imagine her life before he was born – in the absence of her giving him the details herself. Told from both of their perspectives, Owusu follows his mother’s journey as she moves from Ghana to the UK, and tracks her life working multiple jobs and grappling with the isolation of motherhood in an unfamiliar environment. It’s a tender and candid exploration of the experience of immigration, and its influence on generations to come.

Bret Easton Ellis first novel in 13 yearsnbspThe Shards is a fictionalised memoir that sees the author travel back in...

The Shards by Bret Easton Ellis

Bret Easton Ellis’ first novel in 13 years,  The Shards , is a fictionalised memoir that sees the author travel back in time to 1981 Los Angeles, to his final year in high school. The story traces Ellis’ burgeoning parallel obsessions with new student, Robert Mallory, and a local serial killer dubbed The Trawler, whose arrivals suspiciously coincide. There’s macabre murders, hedonistic sex, and exhilarating suspense on offer here.

Hanya Yanagihara's highlyanticipated third novel follows her bestselling Booker Prizeshortlisted 2015 breakthrough A...

To Paradise by Hanya Yanagihara

Hanya Yanagihara's highly-anticipated third novel follows her bestselling, Booker Prize-shortlisted 2015 breakthrough, A Little Life. The ambitious new release spans three centuries and three different versions of the US, through 1890s New York, Hawaii and a dystopian, late-21st Century. Don't pick this up expecting a light read, but know this is a novel like no other.

The expressive style in Caleb Azumah Nelson's debut imbues the novel with its own rhythm which shines on the page....

Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson

The expressive style in Caleb Azumah Nelson's debut imbues the novel with its own rhythm which shines on the page. Merging the troubled romantic arc of his unnamed narrator, a young black photographer, and a female dancer, with reflections on blackness and black masculinity, Nelson highlights the deep psychological impacts of systematic racism and how radical black love is in the face of these traumas. £7.99.

Douglas Stuart the Booker Prizewinning author of Shuggie Bain returns for his second novel with a book which feels like...

Young Mungo by Douglas Stuart

Douglas Stuart, the Booker Prize-winning author of Shuggie Bain , returns for his second novel with a book which feels like a sibling story two his last. Young Mungo is a heartbreaking queer love tale between Protestant Mungo and Catholic James set in Glasgow’s hyper-masculine housing estates in the post-Thatcher era.

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi redefines the love story in this novel...

You Made a Fool of Death With Your Beauty by Akwaeke Emezi

New York Times bestselling author and National Book Award finalist Akwaeke Emezi redefines the love story in this novel about a young woman navigating life after loss. Come for the lush descriptions of art and food, and much like Emezi's other works, Freshwater and The Death of Vivek Oji, stay for the thought-provoking themes that go beyond your expectations.

My Mess is a Bit of a Life by Georgia Pritchett

My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life by Georgia Pritchett

Georgia Pritchett has written for the crème de la crème of comedy TV – The Thick Of It , Veep , Succession and Smack The Pony , to name but a few. In My Mess Is A Bit Of A Life , Pritchett charts the ups and downs of living with anxiety, through wonderfully funny and occasionally heartbreaking vignettes that stay with you well after reading. A beautiful, endearing book that feels very relatable for anyone living with anxiety.

The ThreeBody Problem

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

This is the first title in a trilogy written by award-winning Chinese author Cixin Liu, which focuses on the events that occur after successful contact has been made with an alien civilisation. The resulting events across the trilogy span centuries, painting an incredibly realistic, science-driven picture of how the human race would react in face of potential threats and opportunities created by alien contact. A fascinating, haunting look at humanity’s best (and worst) traits.

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor

From the Booker-nominated author of Real Life , this collection of short stories is linked by one young man’s tentative attempts to engage with the world around him. We open with Lionel who, having just been discharged from hospital, meets the absorbing Charles and Sophie at a party and quickly becomes involved in their fraught open relationship. Like its predecessor, Filthy Animals is a sexually charged slow burn that primarily concerns itself with the lives of twentysomethings in the American Midwest.

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami

The latest release from bestselling author Haruki Murakami, First Person Singula r is made up of eight short stories, all written from the perspective of a lonely old man. In some stories ("Cream", “On Stone Pillow”) the narrator reflects on his youth, while others ("Charlie Parker Plays Bossa Nova", “Carnaval”) are set in adulthood. Including meditations on music, baseball, love affairs, friendship and monkeys, at one point the narrator is explicitly referred to as Murakami and the result is a collection that blurs the line between memoir and fiction to mind-bending ends.

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Promised Land by Barack Obama

Barack Obama’s memoir is a deep dive into his first term in office and, at a mega 701 pages, comprises only the first instalment of what is set to be a two-book series. The former potus spends huge chunks of the text celebrating his achievements and markedly less on, say, increased drone strikes in Pakistan or the huge surge in deportations under his watch. Plus, the book can stray into dense political jargon at times. But Obama is a gifted writer and Promised Land provides singular insight into a history-making political moment.

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

Klara And The Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro

In his eighth novel, the Nobel Prize-winning author Kazuo Ishiguro constructs a new dystopia in which elite workers have been “substituted” by AI robots and privileged children are “lifted” – or optimised for success. The book is narrated by an “artificial friend” called Klara, who is tasked with keeping a sick, lonely 14-year-old called Josie company. Klara observes Josie’s world and interactions, learning what it means to be human and seemingly developing something close to empathy herself. As in his 2005 book, Never Let Me Go , Ishiguro leaves a breadcrumb trail of hints throughout the book that slowly reveal the unsettling realities of the near-future society his characters are occupying.

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

A novel about life when life is extremely online. The nameless protagonist in Patricia Lockwood ’s debut novel is internet famous – although here the internet is ominously called “the portal” – because she once tweeted “Can a dog be twins?” Now, she spends her life scrolling and speaking about scrolling at events around the world. The first half, like a social media feed, is concise and quippy. Eventually though, real life catches up with her and she finds that the ceaselessly ironic language of the portal is inadequate when it comes to digesting and expressing actual real-life problems.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Real Life by Brandon Taylor

Wallace is a gay black postgraduate student who was raised in the Deep South. Set over a long summer weekend in his Midwestern university town, he finds himself embroiled in a violent sexual affair with the purportedly straight Miller – a member of his entirely white friendship group around whom he has never quite felt at ease. Wallace holds everyone – colleagues, friends and family alike – at a safe distance. As his relationship with Miller unfolds and past traumas come to the fore, we begin to see why. Like any campus novel worth its salt, Real Life is rife with tension, angst and self-involved protagonists. But in cleverly exposing the subtle indignities faced by marginalised groups in academic settings, it brings something new to the genre.

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Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton

Gabrielle Hamilton is one of New York’s most celebrated chefs, but she is also a gifted writer. If you read her New York Times column about navigating restaurant ownership in a pandemic, you’ll know how good she is at capturing the absurdity of reality and the disgusting details of owning even a beautiful restaurant like Prune. But what her memoir does particularly well is document the odd years of her life in which she married an Italian man, who later became the father to her children, and yet left her at a distance while she spent summers with his mother in the Italian countryside. The way she talks about food and other women is hypnotic to read.

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The Glamour Boys by Chris Bryant

In this brilliant piece of non-fiction, Labour MP for Rhondda Chris Bryant documents the queer MPs in the inter-war years who, having spent so much time partying in Berlin, saw the rise of the third Reich and pushed Neville Chamberlain to go to war with Hitler. A study of Bright Young Things-era London, 20th-century British masculinity and homosexuality in Europe during its most turbulent years, The Glamour Boys is an illuminating slice of our nation’s political history.

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale by Koushun Takami

Battle Royale is not the first book about a dystopian sports event, but it is perhaps the genre’s finest: long before The Hunger Games turned the idea into an international phenomenon, Koushun Takami presented a near-future Japan where school classes, selected by lottery, are sedated on buses to “school trips” and end up awakening on a remote island, where they are given randomised weapons and told to hunt each other until only one remains. What Battle Royale does better than any of its predecessors or descendants is that, while it has lead characters, it devotes a chapter to nearly every one of the 40 students brought to the island: the ones who commit suicide, the ones who choose pacifism, the ones who discover their bloodthirst. It is an impossibly bleak study of what happens when murder is presented as your only path to freedom.

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How To Avoid A Climate Disaster by Bill Gates

Battling climate change can often feel like an impossible task, but Bill Gates’ latest book, How To Avoid A Climate Disaster , sets out to prove that it isn’t. Mapping a thorough and detailed plan on how to solve the ongoing climate dilemma, this book is packed full of calculations and spreadsheets to reaffirm Gates’ points, which means it probably won’t be your first choice for a bedtime read. It is, however, practical, accessible and necessary, combating society’s defeatist apathy towards the crisis though science and cold, hard facts.

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Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters

Proposed as a contender for the title of “the first great trans realist novel” by the Guardian , Torrey Peters’ debut novel Destransition, Baby tells the tale of two hopeful parents: Ames, who recently detransitioned from “Amy”, and Reese, a trans woman. The pair were a couple, until Armes’ detransition tore their relationship apart and Detransition, Baby follows them as they attempt to put the pieces back together, baby broodiness and all. A witty and incredibly insightful take on trans identity and parenthood, this refreshingly original novel will have you gripped from start to finish.

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Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

Taking home the 2020 Booker Prize, Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain transports us to 1980s Glasgow, where poverty is rife in a mining town that’s degenerated under Thatcherism. When Agnes Bain’s husband leaves her with three children to care for, alcohol becomes her refuge, but at the expense of their children’s lives. After years of trying to save their mother from addiction, while his siblings eventually break free to forge their own futures, Agnes’ son, Shuggie, remains. Accused of being abnormal by most for his inability to conform to the codes of working-class masculinity, Shuggie’s love for his mother is unrelenting – even when he has to undress her and wipe up vomit after she comes home drunk. Offering insight into a world rarely spotlighted by mainstream media, Shuggie Bain is a gritty and often uncomfortable study of addiction, class and the limits of love.

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Uncanny Valley: A Memoir by Anna Wiener

Why should you care about Anna Wiener and her memoir? Well, after moving from San Francisco to New York to chase dreams of working in tech, Wiener got an insider's view of Silicon Valley and, what’s more, had the foresight to jot her observations down in emails to her friends and self. Naturally, those notes came in quite useful when it came to writing Uncanny Valley and (surprise!) the picture she paints isn’t pretty. A behind-the-scenes look at day-to-day operations in the industry, this is yet another reminder of tech’s dark side.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo

A harrowing but necessary read, it’s no surprise that this book broke the internet on its release last year. The product of eight years of research and oral history, Lisa Taddeo , through the stories of three women and their real experiences, explores the concepts of female sexuality and desire in the midst of the stark reality of sexual politics. Thanks to the narrative style, it’s non-fiction in a page-turning format that you literally will not be able to put down. An instant classic.

Natives Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Natives: Race & Class in The Ruins Of Empire by Akala 

Through a combination of his own personal experiences and wider social and political analysis, Mobo- and Bafta-winning musician Akala takes a deep and vital dive into the wider social, economic and political factors that have left us with a society that favours the few and leaves the many behind. Natives is a book everyone needs to read, looking directly at how the legacy of the British Empire has led to serious structural racism and class divides in our current economy, while confronting those who are unwilling to acknowledge Britain’s long history with racism and how it still exists with devastating impact today. It is both personal and political and absolutely necessary reading.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Whatever you thought of Netflix's recent adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's iconic novel, we'd recommend you put aside and read for yourself. And if you haven't seen the film yet, even better. The novel tells the story of a young woman who falls suddenly in love with widower Maxim de Winter while on a trip in the South of France. The couple marry and return to his estate in Cornwall, where she becomes haunted by the memory of his first wife, Rebecca. Dark and twisted, it is a timeless classic that everyone should read.

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

The Course of Love by Alain de Botton

Exploring the intricacies, challenges and complex nature of modern love, Alain de Botton's novel is a love story that goes beyond the happy ending, looking at the true realities of marriage and love. Following a romance from dating to marriage, kids and affairs, through deep pain and heartbreak to the happiest moments, it takes an honest look at the underlying emotions behind relationships. This is a fascinating read that truly debunks what it means to be in a ‘successful' relationship, and how as a society we might need to start evaluating our perceptions of them.

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez

A hugely significant book, Invisible Women explores how gender bias has infiltrated almost every aspect of society, from government policy and medical research, to technology, workplaces and the media. Through detailed case studies and research from across the globe, this book highlights how the world has been created to favour half of the population and how it impacts the everyday lives of women, in ways you might never have thought of before. Whether it's how seat belts have been designed for the male body, or how phones have been made to fit into a male-sized hand, this will change the way you perceive the role of gender bias and its impact.

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's debut novel Purple Hibiscus is one not to be missed. Adichie explores life in Nigeria through the eyes of a 15-year-old girl who has only ever known an existence dictated by her father's rules, beliefs and deep flaws. We follow Kambili and how her life and views change as Nigeria goes through a military coup, while she tackles the pain of moving from child to adult and starts to face the secrets this transition brings to light. A powerful and emotional novel.

These Truths A History of the United States by Jill Lepore

These Truths: A History Of The United States by Jill Lepore

What’s past is prologue, so to understand the land of the free’s current “complexities” you have to go back to its formation just under 250 years ago and work your way forwards. It’s an intimidating task, but Jill Lepore’s 960-page, widely acclaimed compendium is worthy of the challenge. From the evisceration of the Native American population by settlers to the civil rights movement and women’s emancipation, it’s an unsparing and often inspiring look at the US – one that puts its present-day politics and social unrest in fascinating context.

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe

Non-fiction aficionados should have Patrick Radden Keefe's Say Nothing on their radar, presenting a view of The Troubles in Northern Ireland through the lens of true crime. Focusing on two women on opposite ends of the spectrum – an IRA member who was part of a unit that killed those they believed to be traitors and a mother that the unit killed – this astonishing book reads like a thriller, but is very much based on real life, providing a thorough and nuanced look at a difficult period in Northern Ireland's history.

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

Jesse McCarthy grapples to come to terms with his identity in Rainbow Milk. A 19-year-old sex worker in 1980s London, he is both fetishised and loathed by a society that others him on two accounts: his blackness and his sexuality. Descended from Jehovah's Witness parents who moved to the country as part of the Windrush generation, Paul Mendez deftly tackles multiple facets of what it means to be black and British in this debut novel, frankly opening up conversations against an 1980s backdrop that are still just as urgent today.

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Trick Mirror by Jia Tolentino

Jia Tolentino, now a staff writer at the New Yorker , is something of a specialist in sharp writing about millennial self-identity in the age of the internet, having begun her career at snark-blogs The Hairpin and Jezebel . And in Trick Mirror: Reflections On Self-Delusion , her first collection of essays, she sticks to what she knows best. Tolentino’s writing is almost painfully self-aware (she goes to almost comical lengths to apologise to her readers for not providing concrete answers to the many apt questions she asks) and grapples with the daily minor existential questions that life without massive hardship poses to a college-educated New Yorker. It’s this fact that makes Trick Mirror  truly relatable: Tolentino focuses on things such as whether she should get married even though she doesn’t want to, how the internet is warping her friendships and whether she still believes in God after being raised a Christian (she doesn’t). All of our problems are relatively minor, Tolentino admits, but to us, they’re huge; there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want a book equal parts empathy and self-doubt, read this.

Q by Luther Blissett

Q by Luther Blissett

On the face of it, Q is a standard-issue historical thriller, best read at a frenzied pace on a Mediterranean sunlounger. The novel follows an unnamed protagonist who traverses Renaissance Europe during the Reformation, flitting from peasant rebellion to civic uprising to millenarian cult alike and stirring up violent opposition to the Catholic church wherever he goes. A career radical, he carries out a decades-long duel of wits that spans Germany, the Low Countries and Italy with a Catholic agent known only as “Q”, as historical characters such as Martin Luther and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rise and fall around them. But Q is also so much more than that. Eagle-eyed readers will note that “Luther Blissett” is actually the name of an English footballer who spent a brief period with AC Milan in the Eighties. Blissett is not the man who wrote this book. Rather, a leftist artistic collective of five Italian men collaborated on Q using his name as a pseudonym, and their radical politics can be detected every time the novel’s protagonist robs a duplicitous banker or rich merchant or plants a musket ball between the eyes of a papal soldier. Q ’s antihero is an Anabaptist – an extreme sect for whom even private property was unacceptable – and his story can be read as an anti-capitalist allegory, or enjoyed for what it is: a gripping spy story.

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

Bluets by Maggie Nelson

What does the colour blue signify? Sadness? Depth? Wisdom? Whatever enters your mind, it’s likely you’ll find an exploration of it in Maggie Nelson’s Bluets . She’s an American poet, critic and nonfiction writer who rightfully won the MacArthur “Genius” grant in 2016, and this book alone proves why. Nelson deeply associates herself with blue, and throughout this arrangement of 240 prose poems she explores all of its associations, from depression and grief to hope and beauty. Most importantly, she delves into its links to solitude, referencing artists such as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell as part of her personal sense of the colour. Despite its intangible theme, Nelson’s writing is assured and electrifying throughout.

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

Perfume by Patrick Suskind

You'd think it would be impossible to obtain such a keen idea of a scent without actually using your nose, but Süskind's novel shows that in the right hands you can. His historical fantasy, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer , delves into the world of fragrance through a man who has a keen affinity for it. Growing up as an orphan in Paris, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has no desire to follow a conventional path in life. Rather, he is infatuated by his exceptional sense of smell, and makes it his mission to become the greatest perfumer in history. His obsession with finding the most unsurpassed scent leads to some callous actions (namely murder), but Süskind relays his journey in a way that keeps you deeply entranced by both his character and his work. Long-lasting perfumes are wonderful, but this book is guaranteed to linger on the mind for much longer than anything ever could on the skin.

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood

Christoper Isherwood produced many literary masterpieces during his lifetime, but for us A Single Man secures the top spot. Sure, he thrived in the late Thirties with his Berlin fiction (wonderful, for the record), but as the Sixties commenced, he shifted his attention to Los Angeles: both literally and fictionally. The reason for A Simple Man 's brilliance is this: throughout, Isherwood grapples with identity, bereavement and an understanding of self-development while also being a pioneer of gay fiction in America. The book focuses on George Falconer, an English professor living in California who is struggling to find his place in society following the death of his partner, Jim. If you recognise the title, it's likely because you've seen the film adaptation, directed by Tom Ford and starring Colin Firth. But the brilliance of the film stems from the brilliance of the book: Isherwood delves into the depths of the human soul, producing a prose that both captivates you and offers vital insight.

Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon

Girl In A Band by Kim Gordon

If you've ever seen Sonic Youth concert film Daydream Nation , you can't help but feel compelled by their pure experimentation with rock music. They took it to a whole new level and that was largely down to Kim Gordon: the no wave band's only female member who played bass, guitar and topped tracks with her tongue-in-cheek vocals. Gordon's life story is a brilliant one, which you can discover for yourself through her memoir Girl In A Band . Detailing her experiences in New York's music and art scene in the Eighties, which coincided with her growth from a normal girl to a rock icon, her outlook is a must-read for anyone curious about the evolution of women in music. Just make sure you blast Sonic Youth's “Kool Thing” after finishing.

What we talk about when we talk about love by Raymond Carver

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver

The moment we clock the passing of time can often be a wake-up call to live more fearlessly. Or, it can go in the total opposite direction, with a real appreciation of the simple things in life. It's the latter that inspired Raymond Carver’s series of short stories, entitled What We Talk About When We Talk About Love . Detailing the occasions that most of us wouldn’t bat an eye at – bingo, fishing, drinking and yelling behind closed doors – Carver’s colloquial writing style adds a strange sort of power to these mundane days: a powerful look at the odd beauty of basic communication.

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh

It’s likely you’ve heard of (or seen) Danny Boyle’s 1996 film, but how about Irvine Welsh’s masterpiece of a novel that the film was inspired by? Trainspotting was the first novel from the Scottish author, following a group of friends who engage in addictive activities. Granted, the subject matter is extremely harrowing, but Welsh has a knack for writing in a way that compels you throughout, all the while remaining accurate and insightful. Wondering why the movie is so epic? Read the novel and you’ll find out why. Faye Fearon

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Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr

Last Exit To Brooklyn by Hubert Selby Jr. 

Last Exit To Brooklyn injects the most excessive forms of human nature at the turn of every page. It actually became the subject of an obscenity trial in the UK due to its delve into taboo subjects – violence, rape and drug use, to name a few. Don’t let that put you off, though; this narrative is as smart as it is strange. That’s largely because the characters don’t feel fictionalised; Selby masters an everyman prose throughout, relaying a series of troubled lives from a perspective that frequently transitions from raw to tender. For a delve into the old-school underbelly of America’s booming city, this must be read.

The Bonfire Of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe

The Bonfire Of The Vanities by Tom Wolfe

Tom Wolfe just gets satire. His first venture into fiction was The Bonfire Of The Vanities , a text that perfectly captures the electric energy of New York in the Eighties. The excessive state of the city goes hand in hand with Wolfe’s sharp prose, tracking the lives of Manhattan’s three big shots: WASP bond trader Sherman McCoy, Jewish assistant district attorney Larry Kramer and British expatriate journalist Peter Fallow. Grappling with informed insight into politics, ambition, greed and class, the narrative birthed a renowned reputation for Wolfe and 30 years on it’s an equally riveting read.

The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen

The Favourite Game by Leonard Cohen

What's a good novel without some autobiographical context? Enter Leonard Cohen's first published text: The Favourite Game . Though the man may be renowned for his extensive discography, his impressive writing reached narrative forms too. This 1963 publication traces the development of Lawrence Breavman, son of a Jewish Montreal family who seeks love and pleasure (though not necessarily in that order). He parades through the streets of Montreal, embarking on a series of misadventures and slowly transitioning into adulthood in the process. If you know Cohen's lyrics, it's not hard to guess how much beauty lies in these sentences. Oh, and if you're a diehard fan of JD Salinger's work, this is very similar and therefore a must.

Why Im No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni EddoLodge

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

It’s an incendiary title and for good reason: Reni Eddo-Lodge is exhausted of having to be the lecturer of white people into why racial politics is an issue.

The problem for those trying to initiate themselves into the writing of racial problems in the Western world is two-fold: it’s often American-centric and it can often feel like the early tutorial stages are missing. Eddo-Lodge’s book solves both of these problems by being both British in its focus and a useful bridge between complete ignorance and a scholar of James Baldwin et al.

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Author Junot Díaz’s semiautobiographical short story A Cheater’s Guide To Love was published in The New Yorker in 2012 and focused on a serial cheater named Yunior and the breakup of his relationship. Yunior’s first outing, though, was as the chief narrator of Díaz’s Pulitzer-winning debut in 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao . Oscar is a morbidly overweight, second-generation Dominican immigrant who grows up in the Eighties and Nineties obsessed with pursuing beautiful girls (who continually rebuff him) and boasting a masterful knowledge of nerd culture, from Star Trek and Dungeons & Dragons to Stephen King. Peppered with Dominican slang and whole exchanges unapologetically rendered in street Spanish, the novel flirts with a family-saga format, arcing back into past traumas experienced by Oscar’s mother, sister and grandmother in the Dominican Republic, but at the heart of it is Oscar, the black sheep of the family and the living, tragic riposte to the machismo so often expected of Dominican men.

Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs

Naked Lunch by William S Burroughs

Burroughs is a writer that needs to be on every reader's list, because, regardless of his status as a member of the Beat Generation, his words feel as interesting and influential 50 years later. The reason: they are pure insanity. And so I recommend his psychotic classic, Naked Lunch . I’ve read this book twice and, honestly, I still feel like I need it translating. You’ll never read another narrative like this in your life; like his fellow peers, it may follow the same threads of drugs and sex, but the format and language are totally foreign. It’s structured through vignettes (which Burroughs claimed could be read in any order) and has an awkwardly scattered focus on William Lee, a junkie. The disjointed format and constant madness may trigger a sense of discomfort, but it’s a truthful portrayal of drug addiction. Thought On The Road by Kerouac was wild? Give Naked Lunch a try – your brain will be on the floor.

For Esm  With Love And Squalor by JD Salinger

For Esmé – With Love And Squalor by JD Salinger

You’ve probably read The Catcher In The Rye (if you haven’t, my God why?), but if you’d always wanted to read more Salinger, give For Esmé – With Love And Squalor a try. It’s a short story that was published by the New Yorker in 1950 prior to his widely read novel. Frankly, it’s a mini masterpiece. Centred around an American sergeant and a young British girl during the Second World War, it infuses compassion with neglect, peace with war, vulnerability with power. It’s a glorious tribute to those who struggle with the trauma of combat. Salinger was a pretty private author during his time, but the events of his own life map this narrative almost perfectly. It’s certainly worth a read, whether you want to know more about war or the author himself.

At The Strangers Gate by Adam Gopnik

At The Strangers’ Gate by Adam Gopnik

An elegy for a lost city – Eighties New York – that still seems strangely prevalent. New Yorker scribe Gopnik’s recollections of a happy marriage and an unhappy relationship with vermin delivers not the Manhattan of scenes, to which he shows little interest in belonging, but of connections, of which he makes many, some profound: Richard Avedon, Robert Hughes, Jeff Koons . Rather than juicy anecdote, The Strangers’ Gate gives up sage advice on metropolitan living – not least the need for sound pest control.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Since 2000, Moth Smoke and The Reluctant Fundamentalist (on both the page and the screen) have given Mohsin Hamid a global audience, from the US, where he was educated, to Britain, where he was born, via Lahore, where his family come from. Exit West (Penguin, £14.99), his fourth novel, is a major fictional reckoning with the migrant crisis, taking full advantage of his own fractured perspective, and told through the love story of a young Muslim couple, Saeed and Nadia, whose ordinary life and plans are stolen from them. In a departure from his first three novels, Hamid uses magical realism to describe how displaced people move around the globe (refugees seek passage through secret "doors" opening in their dangerous home cities to safer locations, whether it's the beaches of Mykonos or the refugee camps of mainland Europe). It's a bold narrative move but one which allows him to focus the reader's attention on his real subject: a textured examination of what it's like for ordinary people to live through a city moving from liberalism to extremism, and a subtle and moving examination of how human relationships endure and falter under unimaginable pressures. Some will balk at the magical realism, some will maintain it's an instant classic. GQ's with the latter.

Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles

Malice Aforethought by Francis Iles

Iles is the pseudonym of Anthony Berkeley Cox, one of the greatest writers during this country’s so-called Golden Age Of Crime. Having recently read his ingenious five-solution masterpiece, The Poisoned Chocolates Case, I am looking forward to reading this, the novel he is most famous for – it has been televised twice, most recently with Ben Miller in the leading role. Not a mystery as such as the murderer is identified on page one, it is claimed to be one of the most fresh and original examples of its genre.

The Correspondence by JD Daniels

The Correspondence by JD Daniels

When it comes to essays, John Jeremiah Sullivan is, in the opinion of GQ, the greatest living master. Here’s what he had to say about J.D. Daniels’ The Correspondence, a brilliant collection of non-fiction “letters” written during dark nights of the soul: “It gives off the unmistakable crackle of an original writer who has found a new form. It’s hard to say who or what is meant to be on the receiving end of these ‘letters’, but if you care about modern life you need to read them.” On that basis, we did. And Sullivan was, as ever, absolutely correct.

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Best new books of 2023, 16 of the best new books to look forward to in 2023.

best new books uk

With the start of each new year comes a cohort of exciting new books. Whether reading more is on your list of new year's resolutions or you want to make time for some well-deserved self-care this coming year, there is no escapism quite like getting lost in the pages of a story.

The past 12 months offered some great reads for us to get stuck into. From Dolly Alderton's collection of heartfelt and relatable columns in " Dear Dolly " to V.E Schwab's atmospheric and gothic " Gallant ", not forgetting the success of Colleen Hoover as fans were eager to get their hands on " It Starts With Us ", 2022 certainly proved to be full of new releases.

So if you're looking for inspiration for what to add to your bookshelf or Kindle library this year, or readying yourself to start the POPSUGAR 2023 Reading Challenge , we've handpicked 15 of the most highly-anticipated books of 2023.Whether you can't get enough of a steamy romance, love to get consumed in a crime thriller, on the lookout for a fresh piece of contemporary fiction, or have no idea where to begin, it's time to both catch up with established favourites and discover the latest batch of debut authors, including Prince Harry.

Read on to discover the best new books for 2023 and mark your calendar for their release. Happy reading!

Spare by Prince Harry

Spare by Prince Harry

Fresh from his Netflix docuseries , Prince Harry is set to release his memoir in January, offering readers an earnest look into his life as part of the monarchy in "Spare." The death of his mother, Princess Diana, was a devastating world event, but it was a moment of immense loss for Harry. Opening up about that vulnerable period in his life and its long-lasting effects on him and his family, Prince Harry gives readers a look into the life of a royal, including navigating overwhelming media presence, immense grief under the limelight, and learning to love after loss. In a rare and intimate peek behind the curtain, Prince Harry highlights his extraordinary upbringing and how it shaped his character today.

Spare by Prince Harry is out on 10 Jan. (£14)

Now She Is Witch by Kirsty Logan

Now She Is Witch by Kirsty Logan

Start 2023 off strong, with a witchy story unlike any you've previously read. Scottish novelist Kirsty Logan is known for her bewitching and often chilling tales, such as 2019's "Things We Say in the Dark" collection of stories and 2018's "The Gloaming". In her latest release, "Now She Is Witch", we follow the dual perspectives of Lux and Else, two women who have experienced great loss, yet are united in their aim to seek revenge against a man who has wronged them. Set in the shadowy and snowy winter woods, this is a world in which women have to grasp at power through any means necessary via witchcraft, a dash of poison, and their own sexuality. Let's just say, neither of these females should be underestimated.

Now See is Witch by Kirsty Logan is out on 12 Jan. (£13.15)

Just My Type by Fallon Ballard

Just My Type by Fallon Ballard

For those looking for a romantic read in time for Valentine's Day, Fallon Ballard returns with her second rom-com, "Just My Type". When a dating and relationship columnist, who bounces from one long-term relationship to another, finds herself single, she ends up being tasked with a new assignment to see who will run the column going forward. It just so happens that the person she's competing against is a fellow journalist — and her high school ex. And as you might be able to imagine, it won't just be their jobs on the line, but their hearts too.

If you love a good second chance or rivals-t- lovers romance, or movies like "How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days", we have a feeling that this will be, if you pardon the pun, just your type.

Just My Type by Fallon Ballard is out on 7 Feb. (£8.79)

Maame by Jessica George

Maame by Jessica George

"Maame", which is pronounced ma-meh, has many meanings in its native Twi. But in this case, it means woman. And that meaning is particularly fitting given the nature of this coming-of-age story. Exploring everything from familial duty and racism, to female pleasure and the pursuit of love, as well as what it feels like to be torn between two different and often opposing cultures and homes, this debut is already getting a lot of buzz from some of our favourite authors, such as Bonnie Garmus and Celeste Ng.

All her life, Maddie has been told who she is but when she eventually gets the chance to leave home, she knows this is the moment when she can truly forge who she wants and is meant to be. "Maame" will have you laughing, crying, and rooting for the protagonist the whole way through.

Maame by Jessica George is out on 14 Feb. (£14.99)

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent

If you are looking for a book that will grip you from the very first page, look no further than Liz Nugent's latest release, "Strange Sally Diamond". Finding herself at the centre of attention after doing exactly what her father told her to do and putting him out with the rubbish when he died, we follow the reclusive titular character as she steps out into the world for the very first time, while she just so happens to be the centre of attention in the media and her community.

Everything from the book cover to the quirky and socially awkward Sally gives us some serious Wednesday Addams vibes. So if you've just binged the Netflix show "Wednesday", this could be right up your street. Even though this is a dark and often disturbing story, it still has plenty of heart and warmth, too.

Strange Sally Diamond by Liz Nugent is out on 2 March (£13.99)

What They Don't Teach You About Money by Claer Barrett

What They Don't Teach You About Money by Claer Barrett

Financial expert Claer Barrett, who many may know from her Money Clinic podcast or her work at the Financial Times, brings practical and easy to digest tips on all things money-related in "What They Don't Teach You About Money". Particularly crucial as many of us start to look at our finances in the new year, as well as how we spend and save, during the current cost of living crisis . Unlike traditional personal finance books, it's not patronising and doesn't feel as though it will induce a headache.. Get your notepad or notes app ready to jot down just some of the top tips and prepare to look at your finances in a different way in 2023.

What They Don't Teach You About Money by Claer Barrett is out on 16 March (£9.67)

The Half Burnt House by Alex North

The Half Burnt House by Alex North

Fans of Alex North's previous bestsellers, "The Whisper Man" and "The Shadow Friend" will be pleased to see the release of his hotly anticipated third book at the end of March, "The Half Burnt House".

When an affluent university professor is found brutally murdered in his sweeping mansion, which remains half-ruined following a fire decades before, there's only one suspect; the man who has been caught on the home's CCTV system. So when Katie gets a call from a detective about her estranged younger brother, she knows she has to make up for abandoning him all those years ago. However, even she can't possibly comprehend just how much danger he is in.

With more questions than answers, this gripping thriller has you asking, why would someone as wealthy as the professor not repair his home after a fire ravaged half of it? Did he seem to know that his death was imminent, yet do nothing to stop it? And most importantly, why was he obsessed with a legendary local serial killer? We can't wait to find out the answers to all that and more.

The Half Burnt House by Alex North is out on 30 March (£13.79)

Happy Place by Emily Henry

Happy Place by Emily Henry

BookTok favourite Emily Henry, who brought us both the 2021 and 2022 Goodreads Choice Awards Winners for Best Romance, for "You and Me on Vacation" and "Book Lovers" returns with what will surely be another bestseller. And when we say that we can't wait to get stuck into this book, we are literally counting down the days until its April release date.

"Happy Place" sees Harriet and Wyn, a couple who broke up months ago, pretend to still be together in order to keep the peace during a week-long holiday that they take with their best friends every year. How difficult can it be to fake it for one week, after years of being in love, they wonder. But doing so in front of those who know them best, may be an entirely different matter.

Happy Place by Emily Henry is out on 27 April (£13.19)

Death Of A Bookseller by Alice Slater

Death Of A Bookseller by Alice Slater

We love a book set in a bookshop and "Death Of A Bookseller" sees everything change when a new employee joins the store. Roach isn't interested in making friends, all she needs for company are her beloved murder podcasts and serial killer books. But when Laura, "with her cute literary tote bags and beautiful poetry" joins, she quickly becomes everyone's favourite bookseller. Yet, Roach sees some of the same darkness that she feels herself in Laura and this curiosity soon turns into a morbid infatuation.

A tale of obsession, this debut marries our cultural obsession with true crime and toxic female relationships in a truly unsettling way. And with author Alice Slater actually working as a bookseller in Waterstones for six years, this has piqued our interest even more.

Death Of A Bookseller by Alice Slater is out on 27 April (£13.19)

The Maiden by Kate Foster

The Maiden by Kate Foster

Inspired by a real-life case that shocked and awed the public at the time, Kate Foster's "The Maiden" vividly takes us back in time to Edinburgh in October 1679, when Lady Christian Nimmo is tried for the murder of her lover, James Forrester, a man who seemingly had many women in his life and others who would wish him ill. But what led a lady with such social standing risk everything for an affair? And does that really make her capable of his murder? This debut and winner of Bloody Scotland's 2020 Pitch Perfect Award, gives a voice to the women that were otherwise silenced by the passing of time. If you enjoy your historical fiction with a feminist twist and a building sense of dread, be sure to pick this book up when it comes out at the end of April.

The Maiden by Kate Foster is out on 27 April (£14.99)

Call Time by Steve Jones

Call Time by Steve Jones

Brought to you by Steve Jones (yes, the Steve Jones who currently presents the Formula 1 coverage and who was also one of our T4 crushes back in the day), this debut novel gives us "Sliding Doors" meets "Back To The Future" vibes in the very best way.

"Bob Bloomfield is, in the words of his best friend's wife, a 'selfish, arrogant a*sehole', who hasn't spent a great deal of time making friends in his 49 years on earth." But what if Bob could go back in time to 1986 and the one event that turned him into the man that he is today – the death of his younger brother, Tom? What would he do differently that day? In saving Tom, could he in turn, save himself? Prepare to be intrigued and transported.

Call Time by Steve Jones is out on 11 May (£16.99)

Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton

Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton

Set in two distinct time periods, "Ghost Girl, Banana" chronicles the lives of Sook-Yin, who is exiled from Kowloon to London in 1966, in what were the last years of the Chinese Windrush, and Lily (Sook-Yin's daughter) who in 1997's China can barely remember the mother that she lost when she was little.

In the late nineties timeline, Lily finds herself unexpectedly named the benefactor of a mysterious inheritance, one she ends up travelling across the world to claim. But in doing so, she begins to discover more about her identity and secrets that were buried decades earlier.

With a title that combines two typically stereotypical slurs against the two main characters, Wiz Wharton is certainly a new writer to watch.

Ghost Girl, Banana by Wiz Wharton is out on 18 May (£14.99)

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan

Following up the success of her debut novel, "Exciting Times", Naoise Dolan returns with a book that perfectly encapsulates what it is like to be young, in love, and questioning society's expectations of what we should and shouldn't be doing at that age.

Charting the lives of five characters, the soon-to-be-married couple Luke and Celine, who are in mutually unrequited love with one another; the best man Archie, who is trying to quash his love for Luke; the bridesmaid Phoebe, Celine's sister who is suspicious of Luke's repeated and unexplained disappearances; as well as the guest Vivian, who is watching from afar, as they intersect at a wedding, "The Happy Couple" has all the charm and wit of Dolan's first novel. A great ensemble piece, this will surely be one of the must-read books of summer.

The Happy Couple by Naoise Dolan is out on 25 May (£16.99)

Seven Exes by Lucy Vine

Seven Exes by Lucy Vine

Esther finds herself moaning about her love life (or lack thereof) with her two friends, when she finds a noughties women's mag. She immediately turns to the dating advice section where an article claims that there are only seven people a woman will date before finding 'The One': the first love, the work mistake, the friend with benefits, the overlap, the missed chance, the bastard, and the serious one.

Soon Esther begins to realise that each of her exes fit these rather specific roles to a tee. Should she really be looking at her past or will she find that the one that got away was actually sitting in her reject pile all along? We've loved some of Lucy Vine's previous books such as "Bad Choices" and "Hot Mess" and can't wait to read this one later this year.

Seven Exes by Lucy Vine is out on 25 May (£8.99)

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang

For many, R F Kuang's "Babel" was one of their favourites books of 2022, with it being named Blackwell's Book of the Year for Fiction. And the author follows up the success with "Yellowface".

Yet again, Kuang expertly plays with satire and nuance. And her latest release examines and investigates what happens when greed, ambition, and white privilege combine and combust in the publishing industry. "Yellowface" asksnwhat would you steal for success? Someone's face, their name, or what about their skin? When Athena Liu, a literary darling and critical success dies, June Hayward, who didn't even get a paperback release of her first novel, takes Athena's just-finished manuscript and passes it off as her own. The only issue is that the novel is about "the unsung contributions of Chinese labourers to the British and French war efforts during World War I", and June is most definitely not Asian-American. Just how far will June go to protect her secret.

Yellowface by Rebecca F Kuang is out on 25 May (£13.19)

The Situationship by Taylor-Dior Rumble

The Situationship by Taylor-Dior Rumble

The first rom-com from Stormzy and Penguin Random House's publishing partnership, Merky Books, Taylor-Dior Rumble's introduction to the industry is a stellar one. "The Situationship" follows twenty-something, Tia. In an era of dating apps and the low expectations that go alongside them, as well as situationships (an undefined or more casual relationship) she decides that it's time to put herself out there. She's surprised when she connects with Nate, a handsome photographer who is seemingly on the same page as her.

If you're looking for a relatable romance, particularly if you're currently single and navigating all that that entails in terms of what feels like endless dating and attempting to keep your sanity, this is a rom-com that feels incredibly genuine and is difficult to put down.

The Situationship by Taylor-Dior Rumble is out 17 August (£8.99)

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best new books uk

The i

The best new books to read in February 2024

Fiction pick, the list of suspicious things, by jennie godfrey.

I t’s 1979 and the Yokshire Ripper serial killer has yet to be captured, leaving locals across the county terrified to walk down their own streets. So much so that 12-year-old Miv’s father is considering moving the family ‘Down South’ , which would mean leaving her best friend Sharon behind – and this simply won’t do. The pair devise a plan to solve the case of the murders themselves, and they start by listing all the suspicious people and things they come across in their neighbourhood. In the process, they stumble upon more secrets in their town and families than they could have imagined, including why Miv’s mother suddenly fell silent all those months ago. A mystery wrapped up in a story of community and family, The List of Suspicious Things is a gorgeous, page-turning book.

(Hutchinson Heinemann, £14.99)

Nonfiction pick

How the world made the west, by josephine quinn.

(Bloomsbury, £30)

An astounding 500-page read, How the World Made the West calls for a major reassessment of everything we thought we knew about how western ‘civilisations’ were created. From the Bronze Age through to the Age of Exploration, Quinn charts more than 4,000 years of history in order to reveal a new and much wider picture – one that illustrates how much more interconnected cultures were than was traditionally thought, and underlines the enormous roles that migration and trade played in shaping the world we know today. Both erudite and witty, sweeping and granular, this book is revisionist history at its best.

Memoir pick

A bookshop of one’s own, by jane cholmeley.

In Thatcher-era Britain, three women set up a feminist bookshop in Charing Cross, London, and Jane Cholmeley was one of them. Now, in this brilliantly-named memoir, she recalls what it was like to co-found the legendary Silver Moon bookshop, which went on to become Europe’s biggest women’s bookshop and host everyone from Maya Angelou to Margaret Atwood . But this memoir also serves as a slice of social history contemplating the world which Silver Moon found itself in, where it was not only important to champion the works of female writers but also provide a safe space in an atmosphere marred by misogyny and homophobia. Whether you remember the famous bookshop or not, this is a wonderful, rallying read.

(Mudlark, £16.99)

Thriller pick

The fury, by alex michaelides.

Alex Michaelides’ debut novel The Silent Patient was a record-breaking, international bestseller of multi-million copies, so it is little surprise a major film adaptation is in the works. While we wait, the author has returned with another breathtakingly twisty thriller. The Fury centres on a group of seven people who are trapped on a small, private Greek island . Their host is a former movie star, Lana, and one of them is a murderer. On the island, nothing is as it seems – and the same can be said for the novel itself, which takes the classic murder mystery format and twists it into something devious and enthralling and consistently surprising.

(Michael Joseph, £18.99)

Best of the rest

Parasol against the axe, by helen oyeyemi.

This surreal, whimsical novel is narrated from the perspective of the city of Prague , where a hen do has descended and where one of the group has a book whose text changes every time it is opened. Playful, original fun.

(Faber, £16.99)

Pity, by Andrew McMillan

As their lives fall apart in very different ways, three generations of a South Yorkshire mining family contemplate authenticity, resilience and our capacity to change. The poet’s fiction debut is as lyrical and evocative as you would expect.

(Canongate, £14.99)

Anna O, by Mathew Blake

It has been four years since Anna O was found in a deep sleep next to the bodies of her two best friends, bloodied and holding a knife. Suspected of double murder, she hasn’t opened her eyes since and Benedict Prince is the forensic psychologist tasked with waking her up.

(HarperCollins, £16.99)

Burma Sahib, by Paul Theroux

George Orwell once stated that ‘here is a short period in everyone’s life when his character is fixed forever’. For the 1984 author himself, this was his years spent as a police trainee in Burma, a time that Theroux has re-imagined with storytelling prowess.

(Hamish Hamilton, £20)

Green Dot, by Madeleine Gray

In Sydney, 20-something Hera’s first job as a comment moderator for a news outlet is exceptionally boring – until she meets and falls in love with Arthur: the older, married journalist who works there. This buzzy debut about growing up and making mistakes also happens to be rip-roaringly funny.

(W&N, £16.99)

The Fox Wife, by Yangsze Choo

Following her acclaimed bestselling novel The Night Tiger, Choo has penned an enchanting, mythological novel which revolves around the mystery of a woman found frozen in the snow – and the foxes that are rumoured to have the powers to take people’s life force.

(Quercus, £20)

Newborn, by Kerry Hudson

In Kerry Hudson ’s terrific 2019 memoir Lowborn , she explored how poverty shaped her childhood. In Newborn , she reveals the next chapter of her story, which involves finding love, giving birth to a son, and building a family without a blueprint to work from.

(Chatto & Windus £18.99)

Jaded, by Ela Lee

One night after a work event, Jade’s perfectly constructed life comes crumbling down. As the victim of sexual assault , she is caught between people who don’t understand and those who expect her to remain silent. A raw, compulsive and nuanced novel about identity, race and consent.

(Harvill Secker, £16.99)

The Happiest Ever After, by Milly Johnson

After her life falls apart, Polly finds solace in her writing, where she creates a fictionalised version of herself who gets a better ending. Soon, she finds herself living out that exact storyline. You can always rely on Milly Johnson to make you feel good.

(Simon & Schuster, £16.99)

Mad Woman, by Bryony Gordon

A decade on since Mad Girl , Gordon’s bestselling memoir about her experiences with mental illness, she has penned a follow-up on everything she has learned since, be it on sobriety, burnout , binge eating, perimenopause or what she got wrong about mental health in the first place.

(Headline, £20)

The Book of Doors, by Gareth Brown

Cassie Andrews is a bookseller in New York whose life feels directionless until a customer hands her a book filled with mysterious drawings. It transpires to be a book with magic powers, and the adventure that unfurls from there is mesmerising to read.

(Bantam, £16.99)

Fourteen Days, edited by Margaret Atwood and Douglas Preston

It is lockdown in a Manhattan apartment and tenants are gathering every night on the roof to share stories. But this isn’t your typical novel. Fourteen Days is a collaborative project where each character has been written by a different author, from Margaret Atwood to John Grisham, Emma Donoghue to Celeste Ng.

(Chatto & Windus, £20)

Nuclear Family, by Kate Davies

Davies’s 2019 debut In at the Deep End was one of the funniest novels of that year. This follow up, about what happens when a DNA testing kit ends up blowing a family apart, is just as good a comedy of manners.

(Borough Press, £16.99)

Frank and Red, by Matt Coyne

Frank is a grumpy widower who is estranged from his only son; Red is the six-year-old who moves in next door and has an annoyingly noisy trampoline. Still, the pair form an unlikely friendship in this heartwarming novel.

(Wildfire, £18.99)

The Story Collector, by Iris Costello

From pre First World War Germany through to present day Cornwall, the lives of three women are inextricably linked by a long-buried secret. When Edie renovates her cottage and comes across a mysterious box that had been hidden in the walls, it finally comes to light.

(Penguin, £8.99)

This Love, by Lotte Jeffs

Mae and Ari first meet outside a gay club in Leeds , where they are both in their final year of university. Over the decade that follows, the pair become one another’s anchors in this beautiful platonic love story about friendship, queerness, found family and connection.

(Dialogue, £22)

Private Equity, by Carrie Sun

A memoir so gripping and propulsive that it reads like a thriller, Private Equity is Sun’s account of working on Wall Street in one of the most prestigious hedge funds in the world, and a searing indictment of work culture, extreme wealth and power.

(Bloomsbury, £20)

Happiness Falls, by Angie Kim

When Mia’s father goes missing, the only witness is her younger brother Eugene – whose rare genetic condition means he cannot speak. Happiness Falls is by turns a riveting mystery and an astute family drama.

The Fetishist, by Katherine Min

This posthumously published book follows a daughter taking revenge on the man she believes drove her mother to her death. Quite the testament to the talent of its author, The Fetishist is a wild, darkly funny ride.

(Fleet, £16.99)

A Sign of Her Own, by Sarah Marsh

A novel that tells the story of a young deaf woman named Ellen Lark and her role in the invention of the telephone, A Sign of Her Own is an enrapturing read about betrayal, community, speaking out, and being heard.

(Tinder, £18.99)

Data Grab by, Ulises A. Mejias and Nick Couldry

How many times have you unthinkingly clicked ‘accept’ on Terms and Conditions? In today’s world, data is the new oil and Big Tech is exploiting it – or so argue the two global researchers behind this insightful book.

(WH Allen, £22)

Alphabetical Diaries, by Sheila Heti

Author Sheila Heti is known for pushing the boundaries in her work, and never more so than her new memoir, which takes 10 years’ worth of her diaries and re-organises every sentence alphabetically. The result of this experiment is surprisingly compelling.

(Fitzcarraldo Editions, £10.99)

What Will Survive of Us, by Howard Jacobson

Lily, a filmmaker, and Sam, a writer, are brought together by work and despite being married to other people, are kept together by romance. What begins as a tale of a midlife affair turns into a profound study of love, desire and ageing from the Booker Prize winning author of The Finkler Question.

(Jonathan Cape, £20)

The Ladder, by Cathy Newman

The presenter’s compendium of life lessons from inspiring women who have scaled their fair share of ladders includes wisdom from activists, scientists, politicians and leaders. An empowering read.

(William Collins, £18.99)

Blessings, by Chukwuebuka Ibeh

When Obiefuna is caught with another boy by his father, he is banished to a strict Christian boarding school. This Nigeria-set debut is both a brutal and tender coming of age story, marking Ibeh as a major new literary voice.

(Viking, £14.99)

The Painter’s Daughters, by Emily Howes

Before she passed away, Hilary Mantel described this debut as ‘beautifully written…I raced through it’. It tells the story of painter Thomas Gainsborough’s two daughters, and is a rich evocation of secrets, art, sisterhood and class in 18th century Britain.

(Phoenix, £20)

Butter, by Asako Yuzuki

This Japanese novel, which has become quite the cult phenomenon, is nothing short of ingenious. Inspired by a real case, it tells the story of a female cook who murders lonely businessmen – and of the journalist desperate to crack the case.

(Fourth Estate, £14.99)

‘Everything can change in an instant’

Every smile you fake, by dorothy koomson.

Since she published her debut novel The Cupid Effect , Dorothy Koomson has gone on to sell 2.5 million copies of her books in the UK alone, been translated into 30 languages, and in the process, become the biggest-selling Black female writer of adult fiction in the country.

From The Ice Cream Girls to The Brighton Mermaid, My Other Husband to All My Lies Are True , she might be known (and loved) for being “the queen of the big reveal”, but her success lies in the fact that Koomson’s books are more than just your average thriller. They are thought-provoking – even powerful – reads, in which moral dilemmas and complex relationships are consistently explored.

“I find humans intriguing and I find the things we do when we’re put in challenging situations even more fascinating,” she explains. “I love to drop my characters into a difficult spot and then work out how they’re going to navigate it. I put them through hell and they’re not always – actually very rarely – guaranteed the kind of happy ending we’ve come to expect.”

Koomson’s latest, Every Smile You Fake , follows Kez Lanyon, a profiler and therapist, who finds a baby on the backseat of her car one night with an unsigned note. She suspects the mother is popular social media star Brandee, who (if the online rumours are true) is in danger. The novel explores the sinister impact of social media, and asks, in an age of AI and deep fakes, whether we can trust what we see online.

“I started with the premise of: ‘What if you came back to your car and found a baby on the back seat?’ and went from there,” she says. “As I tried to work out who would be forced to leave their child in such a way, the idea of uncovering the real world secrets of a social media influencer came up. And with that, the idea of the disconnect between our reality and the fakery of our online lives blossomed and kept blossoming.”

In her 20 years of being an author, Koomson has learned a lot. “It is virtually impossible to boil it down to one lesson , but if I was pushed, I think I’d say my biggest lesson is accepting the fact that anything and everything can change in an instant; nothing stays the same,” she muses. “If you can initiate that change before it’s forced on you, all the better. With this change, you have to try to stay true to who you are and what you do.”

This, she thinks, is part of the reason why her books are constantly evolving. “I’m always striving to keep my writing and storytelling fresh; I always challenge myself to make sure the next book is better than the last.”

(Headline Review, £16.99)

The month's best new releases

The 20 Most Anticipated Books of 2024, According to 'Marie Claire' Editors

From long-awaited follow-ups by award-winning authors to engrossing debut thrillers and memoirs.

composite of the most anticipated book releases of 2024

Reading enthusiasts know there's nothing like finally getting your hands on (or receiving a Libby notification for) a book you've been waiting months (or years) to read and then diving in head-first. Lucky for us lit-obsessed editors at Marie Claire , 2024's publishing slate is stacked with buzzy releases, from the returns of several beloved female authors to glossy new tell-alls. For the impatient, many of our picks for our year's best reads have already hit the shelves (including a debut novel by a member of the MC team!). From chilling thrillers and steamy romances , to engrossing memoirs and self-help inspiration , read on for our most anticipated books of 2024.

"I'm such a sucker for twisty thrillers with complex female protagonists—as you'll learn later down this list, when I ran out of new books in the genre, I wrote one myself—and Stacy Willingham is among the very best of them. This book has it all: a college campus rocked by a sudden tragedy; female friendship tested to the brink; and twists you won't see coming. Willingham gets better with each book, and this is my favorite yet." - Jenny Hollander, Digital Director

"This new release from Kaveh Akbar is about many things—addiction, family, the immigrant experience, and sobriety—but above all, it’s a beautiful meditation on how one man finds meaning. Guided by the spectres of his ancestors, newly sober Iranian-American Cyrus Shams spends the novel exploring his family’s past in order to make sense of his own life." - Gabrielle Ulubay, Beauty Writer

"I’m a die-hard Sarah J. Maas fan and have been counting down the days till this release since that cliff hanger in the last book. I’m not the only one either— BookTok can’t stop talking about this series and it absolutely deserves all of the hype. While I don’t want to spoil the magic that is this series, I will say that is has everything you could want in a fantasy romance book: complex characters, heart-pounding romance, lavish world building, and so many twists and turns. I’m expecting all of this and more in the latest installment." - Brooke Knappenberger, Associate Commerce Editor

"Chung's 2022 short story collection Cursed Bunny shook me to my core with its exploration of female autonomy among societal expectations, told through fantastical and horrifying metaphors, often involving bodily functions. (I wasn't the only one awed by the collection, judging by its inclusion among the 2023 National Book Award finalists for Translated Literature.) The South Korean author publishes her follow-up set of stories this year, also translated by Anton Hur, which promises to include "a variety of possible fates for humanity" that will definitely keep me up at night. - Quinci LeGardye, Contributing Culture Editor

"Is it weird to call your own book a "most anticipated"? Sure, but I'm really proud of this one, so bear with me. This thriller—my first novel!—follows Charlotte "Charlie" Colbert, a magazine editor who witnessed a massacre at her elite graduate school a decade earlier. When one of Charlie's former classmates decides to make a film about what really happened that night, Charlie is forced to confront the "black holes" in her memory and decide, once and for all, how far she'll go to hide the truth. Called "an undeniable page-turner" by Booklist and "a twisty, thrilling story" by Town and Country, I'm hoping this one keeps you up late." - JH

"I'm admittedly a bit picky when it comes to romance, but Tia Williams is a go-to author for epic love stories that give me all the feels, from Jenna and Eic's forbidden love in The Perfect Find , to Eva and Shane's fateful second chance in Seven Days in June . Her next novel takes tells a tale of magical realism in Harlem, NYC, where Ricki Wilde flees to escape her famous Atlanta family and start her own flower shop. Soon, she meets a handsome stranger named Ezra “Breeze” Walker, and their instant connection leads her down an extraordinary path. - QL

"If a female journalist is writing a book, I'm adding to cart and pre-ordering. Savannah Guthrie anchors The Today Show on NBC as one-half of its first female co-anchor team, and this book takes us inside her mind on the day she was named co-anchor (and, if you'll remember, not Ann Curry) in July 2012 alongside Matt Lauer; he later left amidst controversy in 2017. She writes about the times life didn't work out the way she wished it would (and how that's okay) and how her faith has sustained her through the highs and lows of life." - Rachel Burchfield, Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

"This book is dedicated to 'the 80 percent of women who don't believe they're enough, the 75 percent of female executives who deal with imposter syndrome, and the 91 percent of girls and women who don't love their bodies.' Those statistics are staggering—and sad. After laying it all out there in her memoir, Believe IT , the cofounder of IT Cosmetics and the first ever female CEO of a L'Oréal brand, is back in her second book to talk about all of us and our worthiness journeys, while sprinkling in some of her story as well. At the crux of the book is how to stop doubting yourself out of your own destiny and how to use self-worth as a tool to success in every way: internally, externally, emotionally, socially, relationally, and financially." - RB

"When Xochitl Gonzalez published her New York Times bestselling novel Olga Dies Dreaming, she charmed millions of readers and took the literary world by storm. Now, she’s written a new novel called Anita De Monte Laughs Last, which is told through the perspectives of two distinctive, unforgettable characters. The first, Anita de Monte, is a rising star in the New York City art world in 1985, but she is found dead before she can achieve lasting success. The second, Raquel, discovers Anita’s tale while in college, and finds that the deceased artist’s story is eerily, uncannily similar to her own." - GU

"Morgan Parker got her start in publishing poetry, including the gorgeous collections Magical Negro and There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé, but I've been eagerly awaiting more prose from the author since her debut YA novel Who Put This Song On? made me feel so seen as a former lonely Black girl growing up in white suburbia. Her first nonfiction book, a memoir-in-essays, examines her own lifelong loneliness due to America's cultural treatment of Black people throughout history. If you know me IRL, expect every conversation to start with 'You should check out this book' for the rest of the year." - QL

"As the Prince and Princess of Wales debate on where to send their eldest, Prince George, to school ( boarding school or not? That's the question du jour), Princess Diana's only brother, Earl Charles Spencer, is releasing a memoir about his traumatic boarding school experience. Sent away at age eight, he writes about the 'culture of cruelty' at the school he attended in his youth and provides 'important insights into an antiquated boarding system.' He also reportedly speaks to his schoolboy contemporaries as well as references his own letters and diaries from the time period to reflect on 'the hopelessness and abandonment he felt.' Through this book he reclaims his childhood, and we all get to bear witness to the journey." - RB

"This book appears to be a memoir, with a twist. Part personal journey, part exploration into mental health, it cites psychologists, psychiatrists, scientists, and thought leaders on how to understand why we think and feel the way we do, and why this may be holding us back. I have long been compelled by the First Lady of Canada, and I'm interested to see how she navigates talking about her divorce from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which is still ongoing, in the book's pages. (They separated last year after 18 years of marriage.)" - RB

"Seven years after her moving debut Goodbye, Vitamin , Khong returns with a multigenerational saga about a Chinese American family, as its members try to define their own lives against the forces of fate and history. In 1999, broke media intern Lily Chen meets and falls in love with Matthew, her boss's wealthy nephew. Later, in 2011, 15-year-old Nick Chen (raised by Lily as a single mother in Washington state) sets out to find his biological father. The Washington Post compared the novel to Gabrielle Zevin's Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow  , so I'm expecting an immersive story I won't be able to put down." - QL

"As someone who spends entirely too much time on X/Twitter, I can't wait to get my hands on Russell's history of Black visual culture, from early 1900s photographs to today's memes. In her latest book, the author of Glitch Feminism argues that Black images have always been central to shaping American culture, from the photographs of Emmett Till, to the televised broadcasts of civil rights protests, to pop culture moments like Michael Jackson's 'Thriller,' to citizen-recorded images of police brutality." - QL

"For their latest release, Emezi, the genre-spanning author of works including You Made A Fool Of Death With Your Beauty  and  The Death of Vivek Oji , takes on the thriller genre as a group of people are sucked into the underbelly of a Nigerian city. When Kalu attends an exclusive sex party hosted by his best friend—fresh off a break-up from his long-time girlfriend—he makes a decision that plunges their lives into chaos, as they desperately try to escape a looming threat." - QL

"I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of this mystery thriller, and now I'm recommending it to every Bachelor fan I know. The novel follows Julia Walden, an advanced synthetic robot designed to compete on the latest season of The Proposal and win the heart of lead Josh LaSala. It flashes back and forth between her time on the reality show and 15 months later, when Julia and Josh are married and raising a newborn among a hostile community in small-town Indiana. When Josh goes missing, and Julia becomes the prime suspect, the Synth takes the investigation into her own hands." - QL

"Emily Giffin's books come out in a cadence of about once every two years, and I have this (annoying) habit of buying the new book the day it comes out, tearing through it at lightning speed, and then having to wait 730 days for my next hit. I've loved Giffin's work for decades, from her debut Something Borrowed , which was later made into a film starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson, to her last book, Meant to Be , which (spoiler alert) is a fictionalization of JFK Jr. and Carolyn Bessette's love story. Next up is The Summer Pact , which centers around "a group of friends [who, in the wake of a tragedy] make a pact that will cause them to reunite a decade later and embark upon a life-changing adventure together." If Giffin is writing it, I'm going to be reading it." - RB

"I'm a sucker for literary novels about women being young and messy in NYC, and this already-acclaimed novel gives major Luster vibes. (Raven Lelani even blurbed it.) The unnamed narrator is a wealthy Palestinian woman struggling to reconcile her ideal life with her lived reality; her inheritance and her homeland are both unreachable, as she makes a living teaching middle school and participating in a pyramid scheme reselling Birkin bags. As she slowly becomes obsessed with purity and cleanliness in an attempt to regain control, the woman "spectacularly" unravels." - QL

"I loved Obuobi's debut On Rotation (a #ReadWithMC pick !), and I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of her sophomore novel, Between Friends and Lovers . I devoured this book, which stars the surefooted Dr. Josephine Boateng—known to her countless Instagram followers as Dr. Jojo—and Mal, an overnight sensation thanks to his first novel (he isn't exactly sure how to deal with that yet). Mal might just be the person who can finally break down Jo's walls...but to do that, she'll need to let go of her longtime best friend and long-hidden crush, Ezra. If you delight in complex, charming love stories, this one's for you." - JH

" Rip Tide is many things: a deep-dive into the perils of trying to escape your past; a poignant depiction of sisterhood and the ways it evolves; and the tantalizing idea of coming home again. When a body washes ashore in the beach town of their childhood, sisters Kimmy and Erin, both of whom recently returned to Rocky Cape, must wrestle with the ghosts they believed they'd left behind at the shore: both the ones they're eager to revisit, and the ones they can't face." - JH

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best new books uk


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editors’ choice

9 New Books We Recommend This Week

Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.

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Our recommended books this week run the gamut from a behind-the-scenes look at the classic film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to a portrait of suburbia in decline to a collection of presidential love letters with the amazing title “Are You Prepared for the Storm of Love Making?” (That question comes from a mash note written by Woodrow Wilson.) In fiction, we recommend debuts from DéLana R.A. Dameron, Alexander Sammartino and Rebecca K Reilly, alongside new novels by Cormac James, Ashley Elston and Kristin Hannah. Happy reading. — Gregory Cowles

COCKTAILS WITH GEORGE AND MARTHA: Movies, Marriage and the Making of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Philip Gefter

Rarely seen diary entries from the screenwriter who adapted Edward Albee’s Broadway hit are a highlight of this unapologetically obsessive behind-the-scenes look at the classic film starring the super-couple Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

best new books uk

“Showed how the ‘cartoon versions of marriage’ long served up by American popular culture ... always came with a secret side of bitters.”

From Alexandra Jacobs’s review

Bloomsbury | $32

TRONDHEIM Cormac James

James’s new novel is a deep dive into a family navigating a crisis. It follows two mothers waiting in the I.C.U. to see if their son will wake up from a coma, and through that framework, explores their lives, their relationship, their beliefs and much more.

best new books uk

“Hospital time has a particular and peculiar quality, and ‘Trondheim’ is dedicated to capturing the way it unfolds.”

From Katie Kitamura’s review

Bellevue Literary Press | Paperback, $17.99


This richly textured and deeply moving debut novel begins with an innocuous question: “What am I made of?” From there, a young Black girl in South Carolina begins to grapple with — and attempt to make sense of — a complicated family history and her place in it.

best new books uk

“Dameron is a prizewinning poet and it shows: She does a beautiful job weaving in local vernacular and casting a fresh gaze on an engaging, though flawed, cast of characters.”

From Charmaine Wilkerson’s review

Dial Press | $28

LAST ACTS Alexander Sammartino

In this hilarious debut, a young man moves in with his father after a near-fatal overdose and decides to help save the family business, a Phoenix gun shop facing foreclosure. Their idea is to pledge a cut of every sale to fighting drug addiction, but they soon find themselves mired in controversy.

best new books uk

“Sammartino is extraordinarily good at balancing the farcical nature of contemporary America with the complex humanity of his characters. He’s also a magnificent sentence writer.”

From Dan Chaon’s review

Scribner | $27

DISILLUSIONED: Five Families and the Unraveling of America’s Suburbs Benjamin Herold

Once defined by big homes, great schools and low taxes, the country’s suburbs, Herold shows in this dispiriting but insightful account, were poorly planned and are now saddled with poverty, struggling schools, dilapidated infrastructure and piles of debt.

best new books uk

“An important, cleareyed account of suburban boom and bust, and the challenges facing the country today.”

From Ben Austen’s review

Penguin Press | $32

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE STORM OF LOVE MAKING? Letters of Love and Lust From the White House Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler

This charming collection features presidents from Washington to Obama writing about courtship, marriage, war, diplomacy, love, lust and loss, in winningly besotted tones.

best new books uk

“Answers the question ‘What does a president in love sound like?’ with a refreshing ‘Just as dopey as anybody else.’ ... It is a lovely book, stuffed with romantic details.”

From W.M. Akers’s review

Simon & Schuster | $28.99

GRETA & VALDIN Rebecca K Reilly

Reilly’s generous, tender debut novel follows the exploits of two queer New Zealand 20-something siblings from a hodgepodge, multicultural family as they navigate the chaos of young adulthood, and as they come closer to understanding themselves and their desires.

best new books uk

“If this novel shows us anything, it’s that love — of family, of romantic partners, of community — is most joyful when it’s without limits.”

From Eleanor Dunn’s review

Avid Reader Press | $28

THE WOMEN Kristin Hannah

In her latest historical novel, Hannah shows the Vietnam War through the eyes of a combat nurse. But what the former debutante witnesses and experiences when she comes home from the war is the true gut punch of this timely story.

best new books uk

“The familiar beats snare you from the outset. ... Hannah’s real superpower is her ability to hook you along from catastrophe to catastrophe, sometimes peering between your fingers, because you simply cannot give up on her characters.”

From Beatriz Williams’s review

St. Martin’s | $27

FIRST LIE WINS Ashley Elston

In Elston’s edgy, smart thriller, Evie Porter has just moved in with her boyfriend, a hunky Louisiana businessman. Sadly for him, their relationship is likely to be short-lived, because she’s a criminal and he’s her latest mark.

best new books uk

“Evie makes for a winning, nimble character. Elston raises the stakes with unexpected developments.”

From Sarah Lyall’s thrillers column

Pamela Dorman Books | $28

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Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

In her new memoir, “Splinters,” the essayist Leslie Jamison  recounts the birth of her child  and the end of her marriage.

The Oscar-nominated film “Poor Things” is based on a 1992 book by Alasdair Gray. Beloved by writers, it was never widely read  but is now ripe for reconsideration.

Even in countries where homophobia is pervasive and same-sex relationships are illegal, queer African writers are pushing boundaries , finding an audience and winning awards.

In Lucy Sante’s new memoir, “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition  in her late 60s.

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .

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Brick Lane Bookshop, London

The shortlist for Independent Bookshop of the Year 2024 has been revealed

Here’s where to find your next favourite novel

Amy Houghton

Fancy yourself a bit of a bookworm? A literary nerd? A bibliomaniac? You’ll likely have a list of your favourite indie bookshops to breathe in the smell of fresh pages and while away the weekends looking for your next read. 

We’ve a huge selection of gorgeous indie bookshops in the UK and picking out the best of the best is no easy task. But every year The British Book Awards takes on the challenge with its award for Independent Bookshop of the Year. 

A record number of 77 bookstores across the UK and Ireland have secured their place as finalists this year, celebrated for being at the heart of their local communities.  The regional winners will be revealed on Tuesday, March 12 before the overall Independent Bookshop of the Year is crowned at a ceremony in London on March 13.

Here’s the full list of stores up for for honour: 

East England

  • The Book Hive – Norwich
  • Niche Comics Bookshop – Huntingdon
  • Bookbugs and Dragon Tales – Norwich
  • Kett’s Books – Wymondham
  • Maldon Books Limited – Maldon
  • The Holt Bookshop – Holt
  • David’s Bookshop – Letchworth
  • Next Page Books – Hitchin
  • Children’s Bookshop – Muswell Hill
  • Burley Fisher Books – Haggerston
  • The Common Press – Bethnal Green
  • Round Table Books CIC – Brixton
  • BookBar – Islington
  • Village Books – Dulwich
  • Backstory – Balham
  • Brick Lane Bookshop – Tower Hamlets
  • The Riverside Bookshop – London Bridge
  • Goldsboro Books Limited – Charing Cross
  • The Rabbit Hole – Brigg
  • The Childrens Bookshelf – Hereford
  • Burway Books – Church Stretton
  • Wonderland Bookshop – Retford
  • The Heath Bookshop – Birmingham
  • Five Leaves Bookshop – Nottingham
  • Rossiter Books – Malvern
  • Poetry Pharmacy – Bishop’s Castle

North England

  • Forum Books – Corbridge
  • Sam Read Bookseller – Grasmere
  • The West Kirby Bookshop – Wirral
  • House of Books & Friends – Manchester
  • Drake, The Bookshop – Stockton-On-Tees
  • Kemps General Store Ltd – Malton
  • Truman Books Ltd – Leeds
  • Pritchards Bookshop – Liverpool
  • Wave of Nostalgia – Haworth
  • Verey Books – Penrith
  • The Edinburgh Bookshop – Edinburgh
  • Typewronger Books – Edinburgh
  • Atkinson-Pryce Books – Biggar
  • Far From the Madding Crowd – Linlithgow
  • The Book Nook Stewarton Ltd – Kilmarnock
  • Highland Bookshop Ltd – Fort William
  • The Bookmark – Grantown on Spey
  • Ullapool Bookshop – Ullapool
  • Night Owl Books – East Linton
  • Heron & Willow – Jedburgh

South-east England

  • Coles Books – Bicester
  • Afrori Books – Brighton
  • Our Bookshop – Tring
  • Hungerford Bookshop – Hungerford
  • Mostly Books – Abingdon
  • Books on the Hill – St Albans
  • The Margate Bookshop – Margate
  • P & G Wells – Winchester
  • Pigeon Books – Southsea
  • Mrs Middleton’s Shop And The Rabbit Hole – Isle of Wight

South-west England

  • Gloucester Road Books – Bristol
  • The Borzoi Bookshop – Stow-on-the-Wold
  • Harbour Bookshop – Kingsbridge
  • Shrew Books – Fowey
  • Folde Dorset Ltd – Shaftesbury
  • Max Minerva’s – Bristol
  • Westbourne Bookshop – Bournemouth
  • Liznojan Books – Tiverton
  • Bookhaus – Bristol
  • Bert’s Books – Swindon
  • Gwisgo Ltd – Aberaeron
  • The Bookshop Mold – Mold
  • Book-ish – Crickhowell
  • The Bookshop by the Sea – Aberystwyth
  • Cover to Cover – Swansea

While the winners are being deliberated, check out Time Out’s lists of the  best bookshops in London , the finest indie stores in Manchester  and our favourite booksellers in Edinburgh . 

Did you see that   these British burgers triumphed at the National Burger Awards 2024 ?

Plus:   Two of the world’s best beaches are right here in the UK .

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HR editorial

View articles

Best of HR books: February 2024

best new books uk

We delve into new book releases to find out what HR has been reading.

Be the Unicorn

Author: William Vanderbloemen

Publisher: HarperCollins Focus

Subtitled ‘12 data-driven habits that separate the best leaders from the rest’, this book sets out how to stand out and become irreplaceable at work. In a time of uncertain jobs and the rise of AI , it is a pertinent question.

Our Least Important Asset

Author: Peter Cappelli

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Price: £22.99

Peter Cappelli argues that the use of financial drivers to improve the balance sheet is short-termist and ultimately self-defeating. He encourages business leaders to prioritise quality of hire over cost per hire, and regular employees over ‘leased’ workers.

Wiring the Winning Organization

Authors: Gene Kim and Steven J Spear

Publisher: IT Revolution Press

Gene Kim and Steven Spear set out their theory of organisational management, in which the most successful organisations slow down problems , simplify them, and then amplify the solution. Decades of research back up the authors’ arguments, with Kim and Spear focused on giving a practical guide rather than abstract theory.

Work-life Bloom

Author: Dan Pontefract

Publisher: Figure

Price: £17.95

In Work-life Bloom , Dan Pontefract contends that making a thriving workplace isn’t about engagement or employees bringing their ‘best selves’ into work. Instead, he argues, it’s a manager’s duty to help employees build that best self. For Pontefract, they achieve that through finding the right work/life balance for workers to flourish.

Feel-good Productivity

Author: Ali Abdaal

Publisher: Cornerstone Press

It’s hard not to think of productivity as hard work. Culturally, it tends to represent a daily grind. For Ali Abdaal, however, it’s a bizarre delusion: in Feel-good Productivity , he argues that enjoying your work is far more valuable than suffering long hours with little reward.

The Brave Leader

Author: David McQueen

Publisher: Practical Inspiration Publishing

Price: £26.99

You need to be brave to change the status quo. But when it comes to inclusion, argues David McQueen, leaders are terrified of doing the wrong thing – and so do nothing. In The Brave Leader , McQueen makes a case for a strategic, courageous approach to making your organisation inclusive.

This article was first published in our January/February 2024 print edition.  Subscribe today  to have all of our latest articles delivered right to your desk.

Further reading

best new books uk

Best of HR books: March 2023

Best of hr books: june 2023, best of hr books: january 2024, best of hr books: january 2023, best of hr books: may 2023, best of hr books: october 2023.

best new books uk

Best of HR books: October 2022

Best of hr books: june 2022.

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  • Australia edition
  • Europe edition

Detail from Strong Like Me, illustrated by Michaela Dias-Hayes.

Children’s and teens roundup – the best new picture books and novels

A show of inner strength; stone age family life; a brilliant guide to the brain; plus a whistlestop tour of queer history and more

Eviltato vs Superpea by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet , Simon & Schuster, £7.99 When everyone’s favourite potato goes bad, it’s up to the (temporarily) reformed Evil Pea to save the day before Supertato squirty-creams the entire supermarket. The latest in this riotously silly picture-book series continues to delight.

Strong Like Me by Kelechi Okafor and Michaela Dias-Hayes , Puffin, £7.99 After Kamara’s classmates accuse her of showing off, she struggles to take pride in her strength – but when her aunt tells her not to dim her light to please others, she discovers there are many ways to be strong. A warm, inspiring picture book, celebrating achievement and compassion.

Our Nipa Hut: A Story in the Philippines by Rachell Abalos (Author), Gabriela Larios (Illustrator)

Mo’s Best Friend – A Stone-Age Story by Bridget Marzo , Otter-Barry , £12.99 Inspired by the discovery of a child’s footprint alongside a dog’s in the Chauvet cave, this immersive, beautifully illustrated picture book tells a sweet tale of stone age family life – and a new four-footed addition.

Our Nipa Hut - A Story in the Philippines by Rachell Abalos and Gabriela Larios , Barefoot Books, £7.99 This colourful, fascinating 4+ picture book introduces readers to “nipa huts” – stilt houses made of bamboo and palm leaves – and how their human families mend and look after them, especially after storms.

Dr Roopa’s Body Books: The Brilliant Brain by Dr Roopa Farooki (Author), Viola Wang (Illustrator)

The Brilliant Brain by Dr Roopa Farooki and Viola Wang , Walker, £12.99 Both straightforward and intriguing, filled with bright, illustrations, this introduction to the brain details its structures, how it works, and how best to take care of it. It’s perfect for reading aloud to children of four and up, or for independent readers who’ll enjoy showing off vocabulary such as “occipital” and “cerebrum”.

Little Dinosaurs, Big Feelings by Swapna Haddow & Dr Diplo and Yiting Lee , Magic Cat, £14.99 In these engaging mini-stories, 10 little dinosaurs encounter emotions like fear, anger and excitement, learning to name and navigate their feelings with the help of Dr Diplo’s gentle mindfulness exercises. Soft colours, plentiful smiles and supportive warmth make this an invaluable collection for small readers of 5+.

What a Rock Can Reveal by Maya Wei-Haas, illustrated by Sonia Pulido, Phaidon, £16.95 Irrepressible excitement pervades this journey through the mysteries of geology, encouraging 6+ readers to engage with the stories even the simplest pebble might tell. Pulido’s sweetshop-coloured pictures perfectly complement Wei-Haas’s text, evoking enticing textures and blazing hidden depths.

Murray and Bun – Murray the Viking by Adam Stower, HarperCollins, £6.99 Staid, quiet Murray is a comfort-loving cat. Unfortunately, he belongs to the incompetent wizard Fumblethumb, who first turned Murray’s sticky bun into an excitable rabbit sidekick, and has now enchanted his catflap so it leads to unwanted adventures. When Murray and Bun find themselves on a mission to rescue a Viking called Eggrik from some trolls, chaos ensues in this daft, lively, lavishly illustrated adventure for readers of 7+.

The Time Travellers: Adventure Calling (The Time Travellers, 1) by Sufiya Ahmed (Author), Alessia Trunfio (Illustrator)

Time Travellers – Adventure Calling by Sufiya Ahmed , Little Tiger, £7.99 On a school trip to parliament, rebellious Suhana is surprised to find herself teaming up with “good kids” Mia and Ayaan – and the three new pals definitely don’t expect to be transported back to 1911, into the midst of a coronation and a march for women’s rights. Can they get back home safely – and do all three of them want to go home? Short, pacy and thought-provoking, this thrilling 8+ novel focuses on the suffrage movement, especially the women of colour often erased by history.

On Silver Tides by Sylvia Bishop, Andersen, £8.99 Kelda and her family are boat-dwelling silvermen who can breathe and swim like fish – but Kelda’s sister Isla is different. As their community turns against them, poisoned waterways and painful betrayals drive Kelda to attempt a terrifying journey. A shimmering, stark, original novel for 12+, richly characterised and unforgettably atmospheric.

Stitch by Pádraig Kenny

Stitch by Pádraig Kenny , Walker, £7.99 Brought to life by Professor Hardacre, Stitch has been awake for 585 days, although his creator has not been seen for months. When the professor’s nephew arrives, the castle is thrown into uproar, and Stitch and his friend Henry Oaf are forced to flee. But the world outside reacts with horror, calling them “monsters” … Written from Stitch’s innocent but clear-sighted perspective, Kenny’s revisiting of Frankenstein is a poignant, deeply rewarding Gothic story for 9+.

Reggie Houser Has the Power by Helen Rutter, Scholastic , £7.99 Although Reggie’s busy brain makes it hard for him to follow rules and make friends, he’s determined that secondary school will be different. When he learns some skills from a hypnotist, he’s sure this will be his passport to popularity. But hypnotising the headteacher gets Reggie into big trouble – and some of the kids want Reggie to use his powers for evil … A funny, sensitive story for 9+, featuring a hilariously likable protagonist and a sympathetic, well-informed portrayal of ADHD.

Cross My Heart and Never Lie by Nora Dåsnes , translated by Matt Bagguley , Farshore, £10.99 At the start of seventh grade Tuva’s friends are suddenly different, split down the middle between the ones who fall in love and the ones who can’t be bothered. Now they’re demanding Tuva choose a side – and why is she so fascinated with the new girl, Mariam? A comically adorable coming of age story for 12+, this Norwegian graphic novel astutely explores the awkwardness of preteen metamorphosis and the pitfalls of “maturity”.

Queerbook by Malcom MacKenzie , Red Shed, £8.99 This affirming whistlestop tour through queer history and culture features an A-Z of camp icons as well as protest timelines, changing terminology, iconic artists, music, film and more. Engaging, witty and thoughtful, it’s full of a supportive kindness that LGBTQ+ teens may find indispensable.

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin

The Bad Ones by Melissa Albert , Penguin, £8.99 One winter’s night Nora’s best friend Becca goes missing, along with three other people. Becca’s left coded messages, but they seem to point back into the past: to another disappearance 30 years ago, and to the sinister figure of a predatory goddess, a neighbourhood urban legend. Can Nora sift the town’s dark secrets and bring Becca safely home? An instantly addictive and well-crafted supernatural mystery for 14+, from the author of The Hazel Wood.

Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac by Gabrielle Zevin , Bloomsbury , both £8.99 First published in the mid-noughties, these YA reissues from the bestselling author of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow are showing their age a little. In Elsewhere, Liz awakens on a mysterious boat, gradually realising that she is now in the afterlife; in Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, Naomi awakens after a head injury to discover she has almost no memory of life before the accident. Zevin’s characterisation doesn’t quite deliver on either plot’s potential interest, but both pose intriguing questions about identity and connection.

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  • LGBTQ+ rights

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  21. The best new books to read in February 2024

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  22. Best fiction of 2021

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  23. The 20 Most Anticipated Books of 2024, as Chosen by 'Marie Claire

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  24. 9 New Books We Recommend This Week

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  25. Independent Bookshop of the Year 2024: Full Shortlist of Bookshops

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  26. This month's best paperbacks

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  27. HR Magazine

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  28. Meet the 10 best new novelists for 2023

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  29. the best new picture books and novels

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