What We're Reading - 13 December 2019

Opinion - Books Friday, 13 December 2019

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables

Lucy Nathan
I wholeheartedly recommend Marian Keyes's new novel, Grown Ups, which is out in February with Michael Joseph. She is a criminally underrated writer: she is sharp and funny, and her observations of human behaviour are always so accurate. Grown Ups is about a supremely dysfunctional yet entirely normal family who ring true at every turn. It is joyful and painful and bittersweet, as her books always are. There is probably nothing in the world as delicious as sitting down to a brand new Marian Keyes novel, but rereading my way through her old books will have to suffice until the next one comes out.

Nicholas Clee
Ten years ago, Duncan Hamilton beat me and four others to take his second William Hill Sports Book of the Year award, then worth £21,000. I couldn't feel resentful: he deserved it. He demonstrates his artistry again in the book which has won him the award for the third time: The Great Romantic: Cricket and the Golden Age of Neville Cardus (Hodder). Why might you want to read about a cricket writer? Because Cardus is the lens through which Hamilton enables us to view another era of sport, graced by a memorable cast of characters.

David Roche
Deep River (Atlantic) by Karl Marlantes is a daunting, 725-page brick of a novel set in the first half of the 20th century. Three Finnish siblings are banished into exile from the country and the relatives they love as a result of resisting their Russian imperial rulers. One by one they find their way to the west coast of America, and make their new lives working in the frontier logging camps in Washington State. This sweeping, family story describes the immigrant community, their lives and loves, and the struggles of the heroine, Aino, who initiates union action to defend the loggers in their highly dangerous workplace. As someone tied closely to Finnish culture, history, and harvesting the forests, I am engrossed. It is an epic tale, well told.

Jo Henry
The Son by Jo Nesbo (Vintage) is a standalone thriller rather than a book in the Harry Hole series. Fast-paced, and with an intriguing policeman/suspect dynamic, this story of revenge and redemption has you rooting for a very unlikely hero. And a shout-out for the translator, Charlotte Barslund. There was not one moment when I felt that I was reading something that hadn't originally been written in English.

Neill Denny
The combination of the terrible weather and the depressing politics has led me to return to an old favourite, and a book I suspect is secretly loved by many journalists, Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (Canongate). The first half, an account of a cynical, free-loading hack milking the Venice Biennale for all he's worth, is superb. The parties, the drinking, the sense of being inside a glittering bubble, the gossip and the humour, all very seductive. Geoff Dyer is such a stylist, it's impossible to read without a creeping sense of envy at his casual excellence. The second half of the book is altogether more grim and I may even skip it entirely. Desperate times call for desperate measures...

Julie Vuong
I've not quite finished it, but I will confidently say that Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt (Sceptre) will be one of my favourite books of the year. It's not what I imagined (a creepy, gothic, real-life crime story), as almost half the book is dedicated to the place and people of Savannah - and, thanks to Berendt's writing, it's completely absorbing. Then events take a sinister turn... I can see why it's sent coach-loads of tourists to Georgia!

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