What we're reading - 23 August 2019

Opinion - Books Friday, 23 August 2019

The BookBrunch team reveal what's on their bedside tables


Julie Vuong
It's refreshing to read about an East Asian protagonist, especially when race isn't at the heart of the narrative. Severance by Ling Ma is a post-apocalyptic novel that's about nostalgia rather than violence and gore. A thought-provoking read.

Lucy Nathan
No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter (Macmillan Children's) is a YA novel about Emily, who is intelligent, hilarious, and fat, and who likes herself and her body. If I could, I would give a copy of this novel to every teenager in the country - it's so fierce and sharp and funny. Rutter is an incredible force for good and I knew her debut novel would be excellent, but No Big Deal really surpassed my expectations.

Jo Henry
Shamefully, I've never read anything by Alan Hollinghurst, so I'm delighted that my book club has decided we are reading The Sparsholt Affair (Picador) for our next meeting. It's a multi-generational novel with a big cast; section one, set in a blacked-out Oxford in 1940, already bodes exceptionally well.

David Roche
The Offing (Bloomsbury) by Benjamin Myers is my book of the year so far. Ben's previous books have an edge and hardness that flash like flint. This is a new departure - a warmer, more serene novel about a growing and mutually beneficial relationship between a young man learning about life and an elderly lady who discovers more about hers from him. But it's so much more...

Neill Denny
I had the joy of meeting Raynor Winn when her book The Salt Path (Penguin) won the inaugural Bland Prize earlier in the summer, so when I came to read it I had the advantage over most readers - I could visualise her taking on the South West Coast Path. Small, tough, weather-beaten, happy - those were my impressions, that she was quite capable of taking on the formidable physical and mental challenge of walking over 600 miles, carrying everything on your back. Bankrupt and homeless, she and her terminally ill partner, the phlegmatic Moth, on a whim decided to walk the entire length of the thing. The trip, and her account of it, are equally inspiring. This book is a nailed-on modern classic.

Nicholas Clee
The Unauthorized Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James (Dead Ink), shortlisted for the Guardian's Not the Booker, has elements of Borges, Auster and Pynchon, with a helping of quantum physics. It is an assembly of biography, memoir, notes and transcripts relating to an uncompleted study, by one Daniel James, of a charismatic artist. Both Maas and James have disappeared. Who are they? It sounds tricksy, but is compelling. Dead Ink has taken a good deal of care over the formatting of the ebook.

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