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.
Cove by Cynan Jones
If you like your fiction taut and sparse then this is the book for you. A man on a kayak hits a dangerous storm at sea. When he wakes, broken and disoriented, he needs to piece his life back together, but more importantly he needs to survive. This is a fight for a life and it keeps you on the edge of your seat, battling the elements and experiencing the ocean in all its wonders along with this man battling for his life.
Such Small Hands by Andres Barba
A young girl survives a car crash that kills both her mother and her father. She arrives at an orphanage scarred and carrying a doll the psychologist gave her in the hospital. She is different to the other girls and they circle around her difference, fascinated, frightened. Something must happen and Barba meters out the tension compelling the reader through the horrors of children’s games through to games of a much darker nature. Fans of Margaret Atwood, Shirley Jackson and Joyce Carol Oats will be in familiar territory here.
The Middlepause by Marina Benjamin
Author of a staff favourite, Insomnia, Benjamin turns her attention to menopause and women turning fifty. This is a time our life that is belittled, becoming a running joke in the media, or overlooked, but Benjamin brings her own experience together with research to crack open the mysteries around this time of radical transformation. This is essential reading for people of any genders. It cracks open societal expectations and reveals biological truths that have been kept mysterious for far too long.
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane
I am reading Underland by Robert Macfarlane, which I think may be the best book I read this year. I love his work, and Underland is shaping to be the finest of them. Exploring our relationship with world beneath our feet, it’s a rich scientific, spiritual, and beautifully written work. We look to the stars, but it is the earth from which we’ve sprung that defines us. Robert writes movingly and elegantly of mines and caverns and burial spaces and does that truly transformative thing that great nature writers do: you won’t look at the world the same after you have read it.
Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake
I’m also rereading Titus Groan (book one in the Gormenghast Trilogy) for the Science Fiction and Fantasty Book Club. There’s no book like it. The castle of Gormenghast filled with its weird rituals and grotesque characters is as haunting and powerful as ever.
Beautiful Struggle: A Memoir by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates’ memoir is an articulate recount of his experience as a young black man growing up in Baltimore in the 1980s. It is a beautiful portrait of those in his life at the time, in particular of his father, Paul, who was a Vietnam veteran, Black Panther and publisher of radical black literature. This book gives us insight into the development of Coates’ Consciousness, as well as into the systematic oppression and murder of black men. If you live in a western or capitalist society, read this book.
The Fish Girl by Mirandi Riwoe
Winner of the 2017 Seizure Viva la Novella prize. Mina is sent from her home village to work as a servant in the house of a Dutch settler in Indonesia. It is here that she grapples with displacement, love, familial responsibility and longing. Here, Riwoe gives voice to the life and reality of the ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maughm’s story, The Four Dutchmen.
Call Me by Julian Davies (with illustrations by Phil Day)
Caddie lives in Canberra and has overbearing parents who like to have money and talk big. Pip, her guy, comes from a small town and has parents who treat people with respect. But this story is far from tired stereotypes of class. Rather, it is an articulate analysis on adolescence, choice and honesty. Both Caddie and Pip struggle in their own contexts with their own dilemmas, trying not to let these hurdles eclipse or compromise their budding values. Their maturity and clarity are refreshing, if unrealistically voiced by an astute and articulate novelist. The illustrations are a beautiful visual emphasis of the sentiments present in the prose. This is the Voices Off book for our July discussion.
Stay with Me by Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀
This is the most emotive book I’ve read this year, and that’s saying something. When Yejide is unable to conceive a child, Akin, her husband, decides to take a second wife under the recommendation of his mother. Distraught, Yejide takes it upon herself to become pregnant, as does Akin without her knowledge. You can feel Adébáyọ̀’s writing across your skin, which makes each of the many tribulations all the more real and engrossing. And that’s why I got so caught up in this book: I could imagine Yejide’s experiences so vividly, come to understand the weight of them, and so easily put them in dialogue with the experiences of people close to me. This book woke me up to things women and families go through everywhere.
Saltwater by Jessica Andrews
When her grandfather dies, Lucy - young, lost, and unhappy - leaves her life in London to move into his cottage in Ireland. There, she pieces together her history and the events in her life that have led her to this moment. This book is quite beautiful and understated. It's prosaic and written in a fragmentary style that jumps forwards and back in time until we are brought, finally, to the present moment as Lucy takes control of her life.
Exposure by Olivia Sudjic
This small book of memoir, by the author of Sympathy, affectedly me profoundly. It's one of those books where I felt like the author had been reading my mind or staring into my soul. Sudjic discusses anxiety in the digital age as well as writing, society, and art. Her thoughts are so striking and true that I had to put the book down on several occasions just to soak it all up. I loved it.
Spring by Ali Smith
As with all Ali Smith books, I have no idea how to describe them to anyone. All I can manage is 'it's beautiful, you should read it', which, admittedly, is not very helpful. Spring by Ali Smith is the third book in her Seasonal Quartet and follows two very different characters whose stories intersect in unexpected ways. Smith covers such a wide range of topics in her books and Spring is no different. Immigration, Brexit, and grief mingle with art, nature, and relationships. A stunning and thought provoking read.