Skint Estate by Cash Carraway

What's it about? Three pages into Skint Estate and Cash Carraway’s words are coursing through my veins. This is Carraway’s devastating memoir, an account of survival and despair – years and years of no-way-out, don’t-look-back despair. Cash is the voice of the underclass, the forgotten and the vulnerable. But, while bleak and terrifying, at the heart of this gutsy (and often darkly humorous) tale lies an unexpected love story; a beautiful, all-encompassing love story that is almost tangible. It’s the story of a mother and child: Cash and Biddie, a zero-hours, poverty-line single parent, who desperately wants nothing more than to be accepted as a ‘mum’. Skint Estate is blinding, a representation of modern-day austerity Britain and the tragic polarisation of our society, told through Cash’s rallying cry for change.

My favourite quote. 'Even the kebab shop paedophile who was advertising a mattress in exchange for sex rejected me.'

My three-word review. Stunning, furious, honest.

Donna, Website team
 

A Very Human Ending by Jesse Bering

What's it about? Psychologist and science writer Jesse Bering takes a personal and investigative look at the prickly subject of suicide. You'll read about parasites that hijack the brain of their rodent hosts, so to steer them into the direction of hungry cats, as well as fascinating evolutionary theories that make suicide seem aligned with Darwinian imperatives. Harrowing and unflinching case studies will help you better empathise with a suicidal mind. I was first drawn to the book due to a recent death in the family, and I walked away from it with a renewed view on mortality – the act of killing oneself could, in fact, be one of the most intriguing, perennial and transcendent matters of the human condition.

My favourite quote. 'These dark feelings are inherently social in nature. In the vast majority of cases, people kill themselves because of other people.'

My three-word review. Unflinching, accepting, illuminating.

Hannah, Audiences team
 

Novacene by James Lovelock

What’s it about? I’m a huge fan of science-fiction films. You name it, I’ve probably seen it. But I don’t think I have ever truly contemplated the reality of life on Earth in hundreds or thousands of years’ time. James Lovelock, environmental thinker and creator of the Gaia hypothesis – the theory that the Earth is a living organism – clearly has. And upon entering his 100th year, argues in his new book that the current age in which humans have been the dominant influence on the climate and environment is at an end. It’s time for us to welcome in the Novacene – an age in which robots (or ‘cyborgs’ as Lovelock prefers) will be the leading force. Terrifying, right? But unlike the machines in The Matrix, Lovelock believes these self-engineering cyborgs will work together with humans to ensure the Earth’s survival. Novacene is a compelling and remarkably optimistic read that you can easily digest in a weekend.

My favourite quote. 'One only has to think of one’s own life to see how absurd it is to think everything can be explained as a simple, linear process of cause and effect.'

My three-word review. Eye-opening, informative, accessible.

Imogen, Website team
 

The Vanishing Hours by Barney Norris

What’s it about? The Vanishing Hours is a labyrinth of stories, characters, and places, all told by a man and a woman who meet by chance in a hotel bar. Her story is one of heartbreak and broken dreams and his – an unending quest which sees him slip through various lives, across countries and through time. At just under 200 pages, it might be a quick read but my goodness does it pack a punch, with a powerful message of our ongoing search for meaning in an unsettling world. If you are a fan of the author David Mitchell, or shows such as Black Mirror, then this exhilarating read is for you.    

My favourite quote. 'All the best children’s books have a secret compartment. A way of getting into a different world, a little doorway out of the bedroom where you’re reading.'

My three-word review. Thrilling, shocking, reflective.

Sarah, Website team
 

The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch

What's it about? This year marks the centenary of Iris Murdoch’s birth, and these beautiful new editions are a fitting way to celebrate. The Sea, The Sea was published in 1978, but this Booker-winner still feels fresh and contemporary. This challenging and often absurd book is a portrait of blind arrogance, as appropriate to today’s age of celebrity as it was to Murdoch’s subject at the time, a self-regarding theatre director with an astonishing lack of introspection. Operatic coincidences, chapters that play out like sketch show skits, and a cast of broad characters juxtaposed against richly-drawn settings make this a heady read for our current age of extremes.

My favourite quote. 'Emotions really exist at the bottom of the personality or at the top. In the middle they are acted. This is why all the world is a stage.'

My three word review. Brave, beautiful, bathetic.

Zainab, Campaign team
 

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