Lifestyle

Five new books to read this week

Lockdown, revenge and feminism are just some of the themes explored in this fresh crop of books…

Fiction

1. The Selfless Act Of Breathing by JJ Bola is published in hardback by Dialogue Books, priced £14.99 (€17.80) (ebook £8.99). Available now

The Selfless Act Of Breathing is a heartfelt and searing exploration of depression, told through the eyes of a young, black, male teacher in London who is struggling. Michael Kabongo decides to fly to America with his life savings, and see where they take him. It’s a devastating and insightful story, exploring everything from sex and love, to loss and the inner angst that led Kabongo to explore this fraught new path. The book runs along two timelines, and the narrative jumps do sometimes prove jarring. While the ending leaves some questions unanswered, readers will be swept up in the sheer beauty of Bola’s writing.
8/10
(Review by Jessica Frank-Keyes)

2. The Fell by Sarah Moss is published in hardback by Picador, priced £12.99 (€15.44) (ebook £8.49). Available now

It may feel too soon to be reading a ‘lockdown’ book (didn’t we just live that?), but it’s funny how much you forget – the small things (like using up the last of the cheese, not knowing when you’ll be inside a supermarket again) and the big (remember inadvertently spying on your neighbours’ behaviour and trying to squash the desperate need to just go outside?) The Fell adeptly transports you back to that strange limbo – whether you want it to or not. It follows single mum Kate who is supposed be isolating, but takes a walk; Matt, her teenage son; their neighbour, comfortable, shielding Alice; and volunteer mountain rescuer Rob. Flitting between their perspectives, they each grapple with the familiar ethical conundrums, yearnings and anxieties the pandemic sprung on all of us. Sarah Moss is typically witty and meticulous at observing the neuroses of people, but for a short book, it is a bit of a slog. It’s possibly one to revisit, when Covid doesn’t still feel quite so present and consuming.
7/10
(Review by Ella Walker)

3. Lily: A Tale Of Revenge by Rose Tremain is published in hardback by Chatto & Windus, priced £16.99 (€20.19) (ebook £9.99). Available now

It’s hard not to shiver when reading Rose Tremain’s latest offering, set in bleak and dirty Victorian London. Lily’s life seems destined for misery: she’s abandoned to the Foundling Hospital as a baby and after a brief happy spell at a country farm, spends most of her childhood at the wicked hands of the nurses, later to lead a lonely existence as a wig maker. The main point of tension is Lily is a criminal,  but the narrative works strangely, meaning we find out the victim of her crime about halfway through the book without much suspense, and she spends the rest of the time agonising over her actions. Unfortunately, this takes away much of the drama, making for a slightly dull read. Tremain builds up a fearsome picture of Victorian London – it’s a shame she didn’t provide the plot to match.
6/10
(Review by Prudence Wade)

Non-fiction

4. My Body by Emily Ratajkowski is published in hardback by Quercus, priced £16.99 (€20.19) (ebook £9.99). Available now

Anyone who read Emily Ratajkowski’s viral essay ‘Buying Myself Back‘ from 2020 will know she’s a force to be reckoned with – she found fame for her looks, but she’s also a talented writer. My Body is a series of essays picking up on many of the themes in her original piece – ownership, assault, sexism and the role of a model. Through the essays, Ratajkowski tracks her life as the daughter of a professor and art teacher, becoming a model as a teen, trying to make money in an often dangerous industry, to becoming a mother today. While many stories are heartbreaking and highlight abuse experienced in the fashion industry, some are less empathetic. For instance, Ratajkowski talks about feeling empty inside while being paid to holiday on a luxury island with her husband – it might be her truth, but it doesn’t make for particularly pleasant reading. The writing is strong, but you can’t help but feel that Ratajkowski raises more questions about women’s bodies and feminism than she answers.
7/10
(Review by Prudence Wade)

Children’s book of the week

5. Little Bo Peep’s Library Book by Cressida Cowell is published in paperback by Hachette Children’s Group, priced £6.99 (€8.31) (no ebook). Available now

(Hachette Children’s Group/PA)

Like Little Bo Peep and her sheep, many of us would be lost without a good book to escape into. In her latest, Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell gently nudges younger readers towards the magic of the library. The shepherdess goes on an educational journey as she is led through a library by a collection of fellow nursery rhyme characters, picking up tips from Little Boy Blue, a rather helpful librarian named Mother Goose, the Big Bad Wolf and even the Queen of Hearts. Finally, with the help of just the right book, she manages to solve the mystery. But does she eventually find her sheep? Little Bo Peep’s Library Book is crammed full of lovely illustrations – it’s overall fun to read and easy to follow, but some of the storylines might not go down so well. After all, children prefer to think of sheep as soft, fluffy creatures, rather than being cooked and served for dinner.
8/10
(Review by Roddy Brooks)

BOOK CHARTS FOR THE WEEK ENDING NOVEMBER 13th

HARDBACK (FICTION)
1. Better Off Dead by Lee Child & Andrew Child
2. The Promise by Damon Galgut
3. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
4. Never by Ken Follett
5. Silverview by John le Carré
6. The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly
7. Walking On Sunshine by Giovanna Fletcher
8. The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa
9. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
10. The Honour Of Rome by Simon Scarrow
(Compiled by Waterstones)

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)
1. Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly
2. Guinness World Records 2022 by Guinness World Records
3. The Lyrics by Paul McCartney
4. Private Eye Annual: 2021 by Ian Hislop
5. This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes
6. A Funny Life by Michael McIntyre
7. And Away… by Bob Mortimer
8. Baggage by Alan Cumming
9. The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
10. Fry’s Ties by Stephen Fry
(Compiled by Waterstones)

AUDIOBOOKS (FICTION AND NON-FICTION)
1. Will by Will Smith & Mark Manson
2. Windswept & Interesting by Billy Connolly
3. This Much Is True by Miriam Margolyes
4. The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman
5. The Storyteller by Dave Grohl
6. The Pact by Sharon Bolton
7. Just Ignore Him by Alan Davies
8. And Away… by Bob Mortimer
9. Sorrow And Bliss by Meg Mason
10. Theroux The Keyhole by Louis Theroux
(Compiled by Audible)




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