1. Underland by Robert Macfarlane

What's it about? "The way into the underworld is through the riven trunk of an old ash tree" starts Macfarlane's extraordinary adventure into the worlds beneath our feet. From the invisible city underneath the pavements of Paris, to the laboratory half a mile below the Yorkshire Moors seeking the universe’s hidden secrets, there is so much to explore, celebrate and learn from each labyrinth. Rob Macfarlane's ability to capture the beauty and mystique of a place is interwoven with the human story of how we have interacted and been inspired by the underworld from day one; stories that are as jaw-dropping and surprising as any work of fiction. And although I still have no desire to physically descend into any of these hidden lands, I will be delving into this book for many years to come.

My favourite quote. "Into the underland we have long placed that which we fear and wish to lose, and that which we love and wish to save."

My three word review. Evocative, enlightening, alarming.

Sarah, Website team

2. Lowborn by Kerry Hudson

What's it about? Grappling with the guilt of moving on from poverty – and indeed with the idea that one can truly move on from childhood trauma – this memoir from novelist Kerry Hudson doesn’t just expose an uncomfortable and outrageous inequality that too many of us choose to look away from, but also beautifully articulates the painful process of excavating a buried past. Many a politician would do well to read this book and confront the exhaustion of living a life filled from the start with roadblocks.

My three word review. "It was time to turn around, face my past and fears, and simply accept that walking backwards might just cause some broken bones."

My three word review. Bruising, authentic, generous.

Zainab, Campaigns team 

3. Cari Mora by Thomas Harris

What's it about? I confess; I have not read Thomas Harris’ previous books (although I am a huge fan of the films). But you do not need any knowledge of the infamous Hannibal Lecter’s misdeeds to enjoy this book. After escaping her life as a child soldier of the FARC, Cari Mora is now living in Miami working odd jobs to survive. One being the housekeeper of Pablo Escobar’s former mansion which hides $25m of cartel gold, of which, human trafficker/organ harvester/body modifier Hans-Peter Schneider has his eye on… What I loved most about this standalone tale is the mixture of unsavoury and unscrupulous characters, all harbouring their own disturbing desires. Not sure what that says about me! But if you enjoy a dark and grisly story, you’ll struggle to put this down.

My favourite quote. "She had asked him to stop. She prayed repeatedly for God to make him stop. This was a regular item in her evening prayers. He did not stop."

My three word review. Unsettling, gory, suspenseful.

Imogen, Website team

4. Furious Hours by Casey Cep

What's it about? In Alabama, 1972, Reverend Willie Maxwell was accused of murdering five of his family members before he himself was shot dead. Years later, Harper Lee started work on a true crime novel about the case, but she never could finish it. Furious Hours is as much an assiduously crafted work of true crime, as it is about the slippery task of crime reporting and what that does to a writer who refuses to belie the facts. This book is perfect for those wanting to delve deeper into Lee's work, whose scrupulous investigation on what was to become Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, along with her fraught relationship with writing despite the huge success of To Kill A Mockingbird, can be found on these pages in satisfying detail.

My favourite quote. “Violence has a way of destroying everything but itself. A murdered person’s name always threatens to become synonymous with her murder; a murdered person’s death always threatens to eclipse her life.”

My three word review. Microscopic, macarbre, magnificent.

Grace, Audience team

5. The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

What's it about? Within the first few pages we are thrust into dramatic circumstances – a baby is the sole survivor of a horrific plane crash, saved from the womb of her dying and heavily pregnant mother. Growing up in affluent isolation with her overbearing father, the plot truly begins when a suitor visits and uncovers a menacing secret. Forced to run for his life, he boards The Porpoise ship with pursuers after him, kicking off a hazardous adventure. A modern retelling of ancient Greek statesman Pericles, Haddon’s novel grips you from the first chapter and is not shy in documenting human adversaries. Readers looking to be captivated by sharp turns, look no further.

My favourite quote. "They strike the side of a grain silo. They are travelling at seventy miles per hour."

My three word review.  Gripping, intrepid, deft.

Hannah, Website team

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