Top Ten UK Books – October 2016
It seems as the nights draw in, books themselves reflect the time of year: either they embrace the darkness or yearn for the light. You’ll find both kinds in this month’s roundup of the best new titles – perfect for the end of another all-too-short summer.
Our top pick this month is the latest from one of the true stars of Young Adult fiction, Jennifer Niven – ideal if you’re looking for the next The Fault in Our Stars. Other favourites include the return of everyone’s new favourite spy writer Mick Herron with Real Lions, Maria Semple’s hilarious Today Will Be Different and The Power by Naomi Alderman – an original and astonishingly brilliant novel that marks her as the true heir to Margaret Atwood.
Book of the Month
Holding Up the Universe
The author of the bestselling All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven delivers another poignant, exhilarating love story about finding that person who sees you for who you are.
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed ‘America’s Fattest Teen’. But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. But what no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. But all that changes when he meets Libby.
This is YA at its transcendent best, and sure to become a favourite for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t quite belong.
Naomi Alderman is one of the finest British writers currently at work, her signature blend of fantasy and reality, of myth and truth, recalling such masters as Margaret Atwood and Angela Carter, but with a style all her own. The Power, her fourth novel, imagines a world in which girls discover that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. It’s an evolution that transforms the four lives at the heart of this superb and timely novel.
Today Will be Different
Eleanor Flood is going to clean up her act, only change into yoga clothes for yoga, and be a better version of herself. But then, as always, life happens. Her husband goes missing, her son is wearing makeup, and a graphic novel reveals long-buried and unwelcome secrets. With all the artistic madness, genius plotting and bold social observation that made Where’d You Go, Bernadette? a hit, Today Will Be Different is a hilarious and heart-filled day-in-the-life romp filtered through Maria Semple’s brilliant eye.
John Murray Press
Mick Herron is the new face of British spy thrillers, his novels a potent mix of convincing characterisation, effortless plotting and cunning twists. This latest instalment of the Jackson Lamb series is a classic example, bearing all of Herron’s hallmarks. When Catherine Standish – a recovering alcoholic and Intelligence Service operative – is taken hostage, she knows that there’s something bigger at stake than just her. Her only hope is that Jackson Lamb can work out what that is. Pure delight.
Hodder & Stoughton
There’s a vogue for comedians and actors trying their hand at fiction. The results have been, shall we say, mixed and you’d be forgiven for sighing at the thought of Graham Norton’s debut novel. But Holding is a wonderful novel: funny, sad, wise and offbeat, with a cast of characters that live right on the page. Set in the fictional Irish town of Duneen, Holding is a story of secrets and lies, small town lives and big moral questions. Leave any preconceptions behind and revel in this compelling debut.
Praised by Emma Healey, author of Elizabeth is Missing, as plot-twisting and gripping, Medea’s Curse is a crime novel of distinction. Forensic psychiatrist Natalie King works with victims and perpetrators of violent crime. She rides a Ducati a size too big and wears a tank top a size too small. Likes men but doesn’t want to keep one. But now she’s being stalked. Could it be a former patient? Natalie doesn’t know. And with another missing child case on her desk, the time for answers is running out.
Nell Zink has been lauded as one of the most original American writers for decades, and her inventive novels Mislaid and Wallcreeper have developed a huge cult following. Nicotine will delight fans old and new. When her father dies, Penny inherits his childhood home, but finds his property occupied by a group of squatters, united in defence of smokers’ rights – and herself unexpectedly besotted, particularly with Rob, the hot bicycle-and-tobacco activist.
This is a novel that will inevitably bear comparisons to a more grown-up version of Frozen – but its premise is so well executed and so compelling it really doesn’t matter. Seventeen-year-old Snow wakes one day in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. Snow soon discovers she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate …
Surely one of the most fascinating – and important books – we’ve read in a while, The Illumanti traces the story of secret societies down the ages: from the titular Illuminati to Wikileaks and Anonymous today. Such marginalized groups have always rebelled against the establishment; some by spreading progressive ideas through art and literature, others by driving revolution and exposing government secrets. Robert Howells creates a dizzying narrative that will change the way you think about the world.
Our Chemical Hearts
Hot Key Books
It’s something that people say often: why isn’t life like the movies? But Henry Page says this more than most. A film buff and a hopeless romantic, he’s waiting for that slo-mo, heart palpitating, can’t-eat-can’t-sleep kind of love you only see on the silver screen. And when it finally arrives, it’s with the least cinematic person on earth. Grace Town dresses in oversized men’s clothing, smells like she hasn’t washed in weeks and walks with a cane. Henry knows she’s the one for him; but can Grace ever leave the scars of the past behind? Exquisite.