Between Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the Ashes, finding time to read at the moment may prove difficult. Fortunately I always have a book ready for any break in play; I can at least get in a few pages while Djokovic dries some grass with his towel. As the roof creaks ominously over Centre Court, there is time for a Muriel Spark short story which one can then muse on over the course of a match. Unless, one is shouting at the television. Sorry, Andy.
And yet, I’m going to recommend an abundance of new titles (and the below is half the length it was going to be). It is possible we’ll have reason to skip tests four and five of the Ashes to get going on these instead.
Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth – the modern relationship novel meets B-movie horror in this darkly comic fable; when Abby’s troubled and troubling mother-in-law Laura dies, she thinks that might be the end of her malign presence in her marriage, but Abby and Ralph are still left with demons to exorcise, both real and metaphorical.
A Wreath for the Enemy by Pamela Frankau – this rediscovered classic, newly republished by Daunt Books, is the story of Penelope Wells, a rebellious teenager on the French riviera, simultaneously craving artistic freedom as a writer and middle-class stability and attempting to find both by eloping with a married acquaintance.
Study for Obedience by Sarah Bernstein – the eagerly awaited second novel from Anglo-Canadian Sarah Bernstein, who was named on the Granta Best of Young British Novelists earlier this year. It tells the story of a woman who returns to her ancestral home to look after her brother’s household but finds an increasingly hostile welcome.
The Late Americans by Brandon Taylor – Brandon Taylor’s first novel since the Booker-shortlisted Real Life in 2020 again takes as its subject university campus life in mid-America, but on a much grander scale, skimming across a whole cohort of characters and their loves, concerns and troubles. Skilfully tackling what art, fiction and learning mean in the modern age, Taylor is cementing his reputation as a master of realism.
Mild Vertigo by Mieko Kanai – a detailed account of the quotidian activities and conversations of a Tokyo housewife, blending fleetingly into her own stream of consciousness. Originally published in Japan in 1997, Kanai is startlingly insightful about the commodification of our personal lives that has continued apace with social media.
Tomorrow Someone Will Arrest You by Meena Kandasamy – Meena Kandasamy is a critic, activist, all-round icon and force of nature. She has written and protested about social issues in her native India and her poetry is filled with the urgency of her campaigning. This new volume is divided into sections on the poet, her comrade, her lovers, her friends and her country and all are defiant and troubling in equal measure.
Jan Edwards and Jon Hamp: come and enjoy live poetry in the shop on Saturday 15th July. Drinks served shortly before 5; poetry underway from 5pm.
An Immense World by Ed Yong – a fascinating journey through animal perception from award-winning science journalist Ed Yong. Yong does an astonishing job at queering our assumptions about how other animals experience the world with jaw-dropping facts and mind-bending questions on every page.
It’s Not Just You by Tori Tsui – Tori Tsui is a Bristol based climate activist who has spoken and campaigned about issues around the globe. It’s Not Just You, examines the intersection of climate activism, wider social injustice and personal motivation and mental health.
Late Light by Michael Malay – a wonderful new book on nature, history and belonging from another Bristol-based author, Michael Malay. Through four main examples of overlooked British species (eels, moths, crickets and mussels), Malay uncovers their influence on the inhabitants of these islands and reflects on his own relationship to the natural history of Britain as an Indonesian-Australian.
Goodbye Eastern Europe by Jacob Mikanowski – in traditional histories, Eastern Europe often appears as a place acted on, rather than as the protagonist in its own story; US-based journalist Jacob Mikanowski tries to right the balance with an account of and reflection on Eastern European history and its meaning in the modern age.
Fighting for Life by Isabel Hardman – on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the NHS, Isabel Hardman tells its history from foundation to covid-19, divided into twelve ‘battles’. Hardman, a Spectator journalist who has written compellingly about both mental health and the flaws of our political system, brings life to the debates, successes and scandals that have shaped the NHS with precision and passion.
I Want to Die but I Want to Eat Tteokbokki by Baek Sehee – the best-selling memoir about depression, burnout and therapy from South Korean author Baek Sehee makes its debut in paperback. Baek bares all and recounts her conversations with her therapist and the self-awareness that resulted, with humour and rice cakes.
Why am I Afraid? by Katie Daynes, illustrated by Christine Pym – a lovely lift-the-flaps book that explores fear and anxiety through the eyes of a frog. An excellent way in to talking to a young child about their feelings.
The Skull by Jon Klassen – one of the reasons to be afraid strangely omitted from our previous pick is Jon Klassen’s latest book. A girl runs away from home and befriends a skull being haunted by another skeleton. For those who like their fairy tales grim/Grimm.
The Earth Book by Hannah Alice – the book to answer every young child’s questions about our planet. With simple, fun explanations and diagrams, and in a durable board book format with acetate overlay pages, this is a great way to engage your child with the natural world at a young age.
Overwhelmed by choice? Pop into the shop and we’ll give you a personal recommendation.