Non-fiction pick: I’m torn between two books this year, so I shall include them both!
A little history of the world: “In ‘A Little History of the World’ Ernst Gombrich tells the story of man from the stone age to the atomic bomb. There emerges a colourful picture of wars and conquests, grand works of art, the spread and limitations of science and tribes evolving towards society. Written in 1935 when the author was only 26, this history of the world for younger readers makes intelligible the full span of human history.” Read more…
I contain multitudes: “Your body is teeming with tens of trillions of microbes. It’s an entire world, a colony full of life. In other words, you contain multitudes. These microscopic companions sculpt our organs, protect us from diseases, guide our behaviour, and bombard us with their genes. They also hold the key to understanding all life on earth. In a million tiny ways, I Contain Multitudes will radically change how you think about the natural world, and how you see yourself.” Reserve a copy.
Graphic Novel of the year:
Giant Days: Susan, Esther, and Daisy started at university three weeks ago and became fast friends. Now, away from home for the first time, all three want to reinvent themselves. But in the face of handwringing boys, “personal experimentation,” influenza, mystery mold, nuchauvinism, and the willful, unwanted intrusion of “academia,” they may be lucky just to make it to spring alive.” Read more…
My favourite Young Adult series this year:
Daughter of smoke and bone: “In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole. Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.” Reserve a copy.
And my top ten in general fiction:
The long way to a small angry planet: Shortlisted for so many prizes, this is a truly unusual book. Thoroughly modern sci-fi with an amazing heart. “The astonishing self-published debut novel that Guardian calls ‘a quietly profound, humane tour de force. When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past. But Rosemary gets more than she bargained for with the Wayfarer.” Reserve a copy
Grief is the thing with feathers: “In a London flat, two young boys face the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death. Their father, a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic, imagines a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness. In this moment of despair they are visited by Crow – antagonist, trickster, healer, babysitter. This sentimental bird is drawn to the grieving family and threatens to stay until they no longer need him. This extraordinary debut, full of unexpected humour and emotional truth, marks the arrival of a thrilling and significant new talent.” Find it on the library catalogue.
The country of Ice Cream Star: “In the ruins of a future America, fifteen-year-old Ice Cream Star and her people survive by scavenging in the detritus of an abandoned civilization. Theirs is a world of children – by the time they are twenty, each of them dies from a disease they call posies. When her brother sickens, Ice Cream sets out on the trail of a cure, led by a stranger whose intentions remain unclear. It’s a quest that will lead her to love and heartbreak, to captivity and to a nation’s throne, and ultimately into a war that threatens to doom everyone she loves.” Read more…
10:04: “In the past year, the narrator of ‘10:04‘ has enjoyed unexpected literary success, been diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition, and been asked by his best friend to help her conceive a child. Now, in a New York of increasingly frequent superstorms and political unrest, he must reckon with his biological mortality, the possibility of a literary afterlife, and the prospect of fatherhood in a city that might soon be under water.” Reserve a copy.
The Shore: “A collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean that has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it’s a place they’ve inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a brave girl’s determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.” Read more…
The Grapes of Wrath: “‘I’ve done my damndest to rip a reader’s nerves to rags, I don’t want him satisfied.’ Shocking and controversial when it was first published, The Grapes of Wrath is Steinbeck’s Pultizer Prize-winning epic of the Joad family, forced to travel west from Dust Bowl era Oklahoma in search of the promised land of California. Their story is one of false hopes, thwarted desires and powerlessness, yet out of their struggle Steinbeck created a drama that is both intensely human and majestic in its scale and moral vision. ” Reserve a copy.
Property: Manon Gaudet is unhappily married to the owner of a Louisiana sugar plantation. She misses her family and longs for the vibrant lifestyle of her native New Orleans, but most of all, she longs to be free of the suffocating domestic situation. The tension revolves around Sarah, a slave girl who may have been given to Manon as a wedding present from her aunt, whose young son Walter is living proof of where Manon’s husband’s inclinations lie. This private drama is being played out against a brooding atmosphere of slave unrest and bloody uprisings.” The author herself describes this book as “a tour of hell with a guide who works for the management.” Find a copy in the library.
The Glorious Heresies: “We all do stupid things when we’re kids. Ryan Cusack’s grown up faster than most – being the oldest of six with a dead mum and an alcoholic dad will do that for you. And nobody says Ryan’s stupid. Not even behind his back. It’s the people around him who are the problem. The gangland boss using his dad as a ‘cleaner’. The neighbour who says she’s trying to help but maybe wants something more than that. The prostitute searching for the man she never knew she’d miss until he disappeared without trace one night . . . The only one on Ryan’s side is his girlfriend Karine. If he blows that, he’s all alone. But the truth is, you don’t know your own strength till you need it. “ Borrow it here.
The Game: “New Year 1924. Mary Russell is drawn into a new intrigue when she and her husband, Sherlock Holmes, pay a visit to Holmes’ gravely ill brother, Mycroft. Mycroft has received a strange package that contains the papers of a missing English spy named Kimball O’Hara, the hero of Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, who is feared to have been taken hostage – or even killed. Mary and Sherlock embark on a search for the missing operative, which takes them on a perilous journey through sun-drenched India. But when a twist of fate forces the couple to part ways, Russell learns that in this faraway place it’s often impossible to tell friend from foe, and that some games must be played out until their deadly end.” Reserve a copy.
The wolf border: “For almost a decade Rachel Caine has turned her back on home, kept distant by family disputes and her work monitoring wolves on an Idaho reservation. But now, summoned by the eccentric Earl of Annerdale and his controversial scheme to reintroduce the Grey Wolf to the English countryside, she is back in the peat and wet light of the Lake District… The Wolf Border investigates the fundamental nature of wilderness and wildness, both animal and human. It seeks to understand the most obsessive aspects of humanity: sex, love, and conflict; the desire to find answers to the question of our existence.” Find it on the library catalogue.