Welcome back to The Booksellers' Book Club. Here you will find out what Avid staff members are currently reading, have just read, or plan to read next.
My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
This month I had the pleasure of reading My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Just as the title suggests, the novel opens with Korede scrubbing the blood from the floor of sister's (now ex) boyfriend's apartment. This makes boyfriend number 3 who happened to turn up dead, always in self defence, and always with Korede to clean up the mess. It doesn't help that Ayoola is just so stunningly beautiful, she is never lacking in suitors, gets whatever she wants, and can basically get away with murder. Up until now Korede has been the only person to truly know her sister, but family comes first and has settled into the role of the dutiful big sister. Of course when Ayoola shows interest in the doctor at the hospital Korede works at, whom Korede has had a crush on for years, she has to decide where her loyalties lie. My Sister, the Serial Killer is darkly funny, without shying away from deeper moments of their childhood together. It's a perfectly crafted read. (Out 28th November)
Foe by Iain Reid
The set up is very science fiction-y - in the near future, Junior and Henrietta live alone in their isolated farmhouse, where they live simply but peacefully until one night a man in a suit turns up at their door. He is from Outermore, the company working on getting human colonies into space, and Junior has been chosen for the first round of a lottery to spend 2 years in space for the initial testing. The rest of the book seems to be a lot less science fiction-y - exploring Junior's and Henrietta's relationship as they wait for news, uncertain of the future and their marriage, growing more tense and uneasy as time progresses. Foe is quite a subtle and quiet read, where the answers lie just outside of view, and in between what's being said.
The Tangled Tree by David Quammen
I have (I'm)patiently been awaiting the delayed release of the new book The Tangled Tree by David Quammen. This is a book which turns our traditional understanding of genetic inheritance on its head. We mostly believe that traits are inherited through slow Darwinian survival of the fittest over generations. This is what I was taught at least, but this book is about molecular phylogenetics, how much of our DNA was transferred sideways, across species via viruses which held little clips of DNA which were then transferred to other species instantly. Apparently, this happens much more often than originally suspected and now we have the technology to see how it is happening today. The publication of this book has been pushed back but as I wait I have started to read a previous book by Quammen, Spillover: Animal Infections and the next Human Pandemic. This book starts in our own backyard in Hendra and looks at the Hendra virus and the ability that viruses have to jump between animals and humans. Quammen is such a good writer that once you start this absorbing book it is so difficult to put down! I believe The Tangled Tree, when it finally arrives, will be the perfect follow on from Spillover.
Crudo by Olivia Laing
I have just finished Crudo by Olivia Laing which is her first novel and an exploration of one summer i the life of Kathy (who is both I (Olivia Laing) and Kathy Acker). It is a meditation on the 24 hour news cycle, on art, on love, marriage, queerness, wealth, female anger and identity. I loved this book so much that I intend to read everything Laing has ever written. Five stars from me and I can't wait to discuss it at our next Sex Bookclub on November 7th if you want to join me.
The Fragments by Toni Jordan
I have just started reading The Fragments by Toni Jordan. I love Toni's work. She writes comedy like no other writer working in Australia today. Her books are sharp, quick, funny and often remind me of the screwball comedies I loved watching starring Katherine Hepburn. This one is not a comedy but so far so good. Another book which begins in Brisbane and it is a joy to see locations like the state library, the art gallery, the city botanical gardens and a bookshop which may or may not be Avid Reader. The blurb alone is enough to make me read on: Inga Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book—and a literary mystery that has captivated generations of readers. Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman. The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine. Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.
I am looking forward to discussing this book with Toni at our event at Avid in December. Find out more here.
Melmoth by Sarah Perry
Melmoth is a retelling of the 1820 gothic tale Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin. In Sarah Perry's version, we follow Helen Franklin, an English woman who has exiled herself to Prague. She denies all forms of pleasure as a form of self-punishment for a terrible crime she has committed. By chance, Helen encounters the tale of Melmoth, a cursed woman who wanders the Earth "until she's weary and her feet are bleeding" looking for victims to join her and bearing witness to the crimes and violence of humanity. She begins to see the shadowed figure of Melmoth out of the corner of her eye, following her down the street, appearing at windows. She becomes haunted by this figure and her past. Throughout the book, we also hear about other historical encounters with Melmoth through the forms of diary entries, memoirs, and letters. This is a fantastic novel that is historically interesting, unsettling, and exceptionally well written.
Lenny's Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee
Karen Foxlee, the author of A Most Magical Girl, is back with another exceptional book - a kid's book that is definitely not just for kids. The story is told by Lenny, a young girl with an obsession with beetles. She tells the story of her brother, Davey, who just won't stop growing. Lenny and Davey live with their mother, a single woman who works two jobs and has a "dark heart feeling" about Davey's unnatural growth but can't afford to take him to a specialist. The siblings eagerly anticipate the arrival of the latest issue of Burrell's Build-It-at-Home Encyclopedia and experience the wonders of the world through it. They make plans to run away to Great Bear Lake, believing that Davey, and everything else, will be better there. But Davey's health starts deteriorates and the family are confronted with the sad truth of their future.
This is one of those books that I love too much to describe. It's just so full of love and pain and magic. I feel like anything I could possibly say about it would somehow make it less. You just have to read it for yourself. I can confidently say that this is one of my favourite books of 2018.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
I am reading Stephen Fry’s Mythos - a delightful retelling of Greek Myths.
The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi
Living with the Gods by Neil MacGregor
I’m also listening to the BBC Podcast Living with The Gods. It’s a fascinating look at religious artefacts and the way religion works as a uniting and dividing force. The book is out now.