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.
Insomnia by Marina Benjamin
Insomnia is a compact memoir in parts. Like the wandering thoughts of the unquiet mind, Marina Benjamin collects fragments of ideas together in this insightful and beautifully written book. Benjamin shifts from personal thoughts to meditations on history, philosophy, culture, and art - all revolving around sleep, or the lack of it. This book is a lovely and lyrical collection of thoughts that is perfect to keep on your bedside table for those restless nights.
The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
The Fifth Season is a sci-fi/ fantasy book that firmly sits in the growing category of cli-fi (climate change fiction). The book starts at the end of the world - a great rift has been torn through the Earth, creating ash darkened skies, failing crops, and low water supplies. In this world, a race of humans, called Orogenes, have the power to control elements of the Earth. They are feared by others but also enslaved for their gifts. Against this backdrop we follow Essun, an Orogene whose son has just been brutally murdered. This is an incredibly clever book and one that you don't realise just how clever it is until the very end. I'm hooked and can't wait to start reading The Obelisk Gate - the second book in the trilogy.
Black Leopard Red Wolf by Marlon James
I read this last month and it’s fantastic. A kind of high-concept sword and sorcery novel set in an imaginary Africa written by an incredible stylist. The plot is very simple, but the stories that cascade from it give this novel its real strength. It’s an incredibly violent work, up there with Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian so it isn’t for everyone. But if you want a book that will take you somewhere that you’ve never been, and if you want to see what the winner of the Booker Prize does when they turn their gaze to Fantasy, this challenging book is immensely rewarding.
Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner
Beautiful prose and a dark heart define this look at the roles of women in early 1920’s Britain. The book was a hit when it was published in 1926, and it deserves to be better known that it is. The story of Lolly Willowes, who is sick of being the loveable and dependable Spinster Aunt and decides to become a witch, is a delight from beginning to end.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Witches , wizards, and fire demons drive this enchanting novel about a young woman who must uncover the somewhat charming, mostly annoying, Wizard Howl’s secrets lest she remain cursed to a life of early old age by the cruel Witch of the Waste. I don’t know why I’ve taken so long to get around to reading Diana Wynne Jones. She’s utterly fabulous. And, not surprisingly, the book makes a hell of a lot more sense than the movie (which I adore). It’s gotten me onto a bit of Diana Wynne Jones reading binge.
I’m also reading the City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders. A book I’m enjoying so much that I’m going to make it an SF Book Club title later in the year. And I’m rereading Consider Phlebas by Iain M. Banks. It’s our book club book for March, and it’s as good as I remember it being: classic New Space Opera.
Also reading Michael Chabon’s Bookends - Collected Intros and Outros. The perfect book if you enjoy reading the introductions to books, and even more so if you enjoy the way Michael Chabon thinks about fiction. It’s a great book to dip into and out of.
Beverley by Nick Drnaso
Connected by a series of gossipy teens, the modern lost souls of Beverly struggle with sexual anxieties that are just barely repressed and social insecurities that undermine every word they speak. These short stories in graphic novel form are by the author of Booker long-listed Sabrina. Another dark little offering but still with the same sharp clear eye for the modern condition. I highly recommend both these books for anyone interested in the way our modern world shapes our personalities and our lives.
Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Teenage Silvie and her parents are living in a hut in Northumberland as an exercise in experimental archaeology. Her father is a difficult man, obsessed with imagining and enacting the harshness of Iron Age life. Haunting Silvie's narrative is the story of a bog girl, a young woman sacrificed by those closest to her, and the landscape both keeps and reveals the secrets of past violence and ritual as the summer builds to its harrowing climax. This book is a sharp little gem. Unsettling, smart and compassionate. It is a book that can be consumed in a weekend but it lingers in your subconscious for a long time.
Lanny by Max Porter
I was a massive fan of Grief is the Thing with Feathers, Porters first book, a poetic exploration of grief featuring a human-sized crow who moves in with a man who is grieving his wife. His second book, Lanny won't be out till April but it is even better. Lanny is an odd kid, artistic and fascinating, capable of solving a hedge maze in record time and possibly capable of hearing voices from history. His relationship to his parents, his artist friend and the town itself is challenged when Lanny goes missing. This is a story told through the voices of the people in town as well as Dead Papa Toothwort who is a boogey man used to scare the children in town.
This is my book of the year. It is an odd mix of fable, contemporary fiction, prose poetry and a chorus of voices and it is a book unlike any other out there. It is amazing. I hope this wins every award going.