Image: Penguin

Image: Penguin

The first Thursday in October is always the busiest time of year in publishing – the day more books come out than on any other. But this year is extra special given the huge backlog of titles that were put on hold due to the coronavirus lockdown.

But now, with bookshops finally open again and Christmas fast approaching, a rush of new hardbacks, paperbacks and e-books is set to hit the shelves today – from David Attenborough's hotly awaited memoir to Jeanette Winterson's retelling of Hansel and Gretel for the climate crisis.

So here, without fear or favour, are 25 brilliant books Penguin is contributing to this autumn's publishing feast.

The New Hot by Meg Mathews

When Meg Mathews – once known as the party queen of Primrose Hill – was sucker-punched by bouts of depression and exhaustion, she assumed her body was simply paying the price for her old wild ways. Little did she know that the menopause was the real culprit. So, shocked at the lack of awareness around the issue, she wrote this brutally honest, funny and taboo-breaking expose of the menopause, laced with advice from medical and lifestyle experts, to give “you the knowledge of what to look out for and how to own it.”

The Wild Life of the Fox by John Lewis-Stempel

Few animals in Britain provoke a more viscerally Marmite response than foxes. To some they're the beautiful, private and proud epitome of wild predation. To others, they eat pet rabbits, destroy our bins and sound like wailing babies when they cavort at night. But for John Lewis-Stempel, the bestselling author and farmer, foxes are fantastic, and he has the argument to prove it in this powerful and enlightening ode to Britain's most divisive predator.

This is Me by Mrs Hinch

Unless you've been living in a wifi-vacuum of late, you know Sophie Hinchliffe, aka Mrs Hinch – the most famous “cleanfluencer” on the internet. Since 2018, she has dispensed cleaning advice to her millions of Instagram followers, with tips on everything from karate-chopping cushions to making your bed “bedgasm ready”. Now, the filters are off in this eye-opening memoir as she draws back the curtains on the “the wife, the mother and the person behind Mrs Hinch”. From her “biggest fears” to her “darkest challenges,” this is the real Mrs Hinch as you've never seen her.

A Life on Our Planet by David Attenborough

There are few people in this country who haven't imagined their life narrated by David Attenborough's reassuring purr, which has never failed to bring life and comfort to the most unlikely of stories. He is the crown jewel of British national treasures, and this this is his story – the story of a life as witness to the beauty of our planet, and its terrifying manmade decline. “[This] is my witness statement,” he writes, “and my vision for the future … the story of how we came to make this, our greatest mistake - and how, if we act now, we can yet put it right.”

Behind the Sequins by Shirley Ballas

Queen of Latin Ballroom, multi award-winning dance champion, coach, mentor and Strictly Come Dancing head judge, Shirley Ballas has, on the face of it, led a charmed life. But it wasn't all cha-chas and twirls. In this frank and revealing memoir, she takes readers on a journey from her tough, working-class upbringing on a Wirral estate to leaving home at 14 to becoming one of the most accomplished ballroom dancers in the world. How she got through the betrayals the bullying, the broken marriages and a singularly awful personal tragedy is nothing short of an inspiration.

Numbers Don't Lie by Vaclav Smil

Despite what you may hear from politicians and certain corners of the press, facts do matter. We need facts to understand the world and how to approach the problems we face. And we need them now more than ever. That's according to Prof. Vaclav Smil, one of the world's most influential thinkers on development history and statistical analysis. Here, he takes us on a “fact-finding adventure” asking questions from “is flying dangerous?” to “what, really, makes humans happy?”, in this fascinating, urgent and vital interrogation of truth, and what it means to the health of our planet.

Hansel and Greta by Jeanette Winterson

Award-winning novelist Jeanette Winterson turns her seemingly limitless imagination to fairytales in this retelling of Hansel and Gretel for the ecological age. Greta and her brother Hansel live in a forest on the brink of destruction. So they set out to replant trees in a bid to save their home. Trouble is, their aunt, GreedyGuts, cares nothing for nature, more interested in living the high life. And she'll stop at nothing to stop the meddling siblings from ruining her life of avarice in this groundbreaking parable for our troubled times.

The Hitler Conspiracies by Richard J. Evans

Did Adolf Hitler really blow his brains out in a stuffy Berlin bunker as the Soviet and Allied armies closed in? Or did he slip out from under the world's nose to travel the world siring a glut of children (one of them: Angela Merkel), and searching for lost treasure before ending his days in Antarctica where surviving Nazis had developed an anti-gravity flying machine? Heavyweight historian Richard J. Evans examines that, and the other Nazi conspiracy theories to see where fact and fiction collide in this incisive, often funny and timely book “for the age of 'post-truth' and 'alternative facts'.”

The Lost Spells by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris

Here is a book of poetry for our times – as the planet creaks under the weight of human avarice, we could all do with a call to the wild, to be reminded of the animals, flowers and trees with whom we share Mother Earth. Each poem conjures the spirit of one such creature – think Barn Owls, Red Foxes, Grey Seals, Silver Birches, Jays or Jackdaws – in a book that combines beautiful wordcraft with exquisite illustrations from the creative geniuses behind the bestselling, critically acclaimed literary phenomenon, The Lost Words.

Help Yourself by Curtis Sittenfeld

The New York Times bestselling author Curtis Sittenfeld's last novel, Rodham, imagined what Hillary Clinton's life would've been like if she never married Bill. Now she's back with a collection of short stories that burrow deep beneath the skin of the human experience. From a woman who gets cancelled after a racial encounter at a party to a group of writers at war over an annual bursary, these stories take on issues of class, race, envy, disappointment, celebrity and female self-worth with the clarity and heft of one of the most compelling storytellers in America right now.

Image: Penguin

Image: Penguin

And here are some great books published way back on the last Super Thursday, which took place in September. 

Written in Bone by Sue Black 

If our bones could speak, what would they say? According to the world-renowned forensic anthropologist Professor Dame Sue Black, every one in our body has a different story to tell. Because our bones are the silent witnesses to the lives we've lived. And here, through a heady mix of anatomical facts, eye-opening anecdotes and grisly war stories (she got her OBE for her work identifying the bodies of Slobodan Milosevic's victims in mass graves in the Balkans), the UK's most acclaimed “corpse whisperer” brings our blood and bones to life in this gripping story of the human skeleton. 

English Pastoral by James Rebanks

By the time James Rebanks inherited his family farm in the ancient hills of the Lake District, he had grown disillusioned with the state of modern agriculture. So he set out to inject new life into his farm through the old methods he'd learned from his grandfather, and incorporate a “new system that brings farming and ecology together” alongside “more kindness, compromise and balance”. This is the story of that transformation – an elegant, beautifully written hymn to an older way of life – a life before agribusiness, industrial farming and “perfectly shaped” fruit. 

The Bookseller's Tale by Martin Latham

Despite tumbling headlong through an electronic age, we are no less in love with books. It's not just the stories inside them. It's also their smell, their feel, their words, and the shushing sound they make at each turn of a page.

So long as we have ink, paper and the printing press, it's a love affair that will never end. And The Bookseller's Tale is the story of that affair. So curl up, put the kettle on, and let Martin Latham, a bookseller himself, take you on an odyssey through the history of our obsession with books, through the prism of his own. 

Black Spartacus: The Epic Life of Toussaint Louverture by Sudhir Hazareesingh

Not enough people know the name Toussaint Louverture. He was, as Sudhir Hazareesingh puts it in this stunning modern biography, ‘the first black superhero of the modern age’. Born into slavery, he grew into a fearless slave leader, a giant killer, a military genius and a revolutionary hero who in the 1790s became the commander of the modern world's first self-governing black political community, which in 1804 became the independent state of Haiti. Few leaders in history have had a more extraordinary life. And this is his incredible story, told like never before.

Unquiet by Linn Ullmann

Linn Ullmann is the daughter of the legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman and the actor Liv Ullmann. He had nine children, she had one: Linn. This heartbreaking and gorgeous novel-slash-memoir is the story of the author's relationship with her father, and of his relationship with her mother. Based on a series of recordings Ullmann made with Bergman as he approached death, it is an unflinching meditation on time, memory, growing up and getting old. It's also the story of a daughter's love for her father – not for her father the famous film director, but for her father the man and dad.

AZADI by Arundhati Roy

Azadi means “freedom” in Urdu. It's been the rallying cry for Kashmiris in their fight for independence from India, and also the slogan for millions in India in their fight against the government's Hindu nationalist project.

It's an irony that lies at the heart of Arundhati Roy's arresting collection of essays exploring how politics, language, fiction and collective imagination collide to control the way we see our world. That, and how the coronavirus pandemic, for all its devastation, has offered “an invitation to the human race, an opportunity, to imagine another world.”

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron may be creaking towards eighty in their sleepy retirement village... but their minds are as sharp as Poirot's moustache. So the incurably curious team of old timers meet every Thursday to investigate cold cases over tea and cake.

But when a real-death body is discovered right under their noses, they pick up the scent. What follows is a rib-tickling romp of comic crime fiction from the man best-known for co-presenting the TV quiz show Pointless. But this, Richard Osman's first book, is no celebrity novel. It is fast, larky and twisty and proves being funny is never a crime.

The Gift: 12 Lessons to Save Your Life by Edith Eger

“The prison is in your mind. The key is in your pocket.” That's Dr Edith Eger's philosophy when it comes to coping with the crushing weight of existence and the many visions of living-hell it can entail. 

But according to Eger, a venerated therapist and Holocaust survivor, how we cope with life's troubles is our choice, and ours alone. Weaving stories from her own experiences and those of her patients with the sort of life wisdom that make even the most profound Instagram sunset quotes sound like toddler's knock-knock jokes, she offers a way out of the “the imprisoning thoughts and destructive behaviours that may be holding us back”.

To Be a Gay Man by Will Young

Before Pop Idol made him the most famous 22-year-old in Britain, Will Young was a young man with a shameful secret. At least, as a teenager, he thought being gay was shameful. And that shame caused a scar that was exacerbated by fame and took many years to heal.

To Be A Gay Man is Young's response to the experiences that shaped him, in which he explores the long-lasting impact of hiding his sexuality, as well as his struggles to understand and accept his true self and, ultimately, be happy. It's searingly open, refreshingly honest and vulnerable to a degree few celebrity memoirs come close.

More Than a Woman by Caitlin Moran

In 2011, Caitlin Moran inspired millions of women up and down Britain to embrace their better – and worse – selves in her mega-selling How To Be a Woman. But she's more than that now, so she's written another book to pick up where she left off. It's raucous, rude, sexy, gross, honest, awkward, self-effacing, self-celebrating and, for all that and more, heroically unapologetic. It is a guide – perhaps more a manifesto – to growing older, gracefully or not. It's also a crow's-feet-inducingly funny slice of feminism for the 2020s.

Sh**ged. Married. Annoyed. by Chris and Rosie Ramsey

It's a funny old business, marriage. Well, it's funny when Chris and Rosie Ramsey talk about theirs, at least. And read their book and you might even find yours funny, too, if you don't already. This is the book accompaniment the couple's hit podcast of the same name. You know: the one where they bicker and laugh and tell jokes about love and babies, sex and iPhones and all the other things that both come between them and bring them closer together.

Metropolis by Ben Wilson

According to the United Nations, 55% of human beings live in cities across the world – a figure the organisation predicts will jump to 68% by the year 2050. But what, really, is a city? And where do they come from? In this time-trotting biography of the urban dwelling, Ben Wilson charts the history of the modern city, from its earliest incarnations 7,000 years ago to the megalopolises of today. History, of course, tells us where cities come from, but where are they going, and how will they cope with growing populations tomorrow? It's all here in this fascinating study of mankind's greatest invention.

Nadiya Bakes by Nadiya Hussain

Since winning the Great British Bake Off in 2015, Nadiya Hussain has written three children's books and a novel, produced a homeware range, won an OBE, hosted several series of hit TV shows and even cooked the Queen's 90th birthday cake. And now she's back with the ultimate battle plan to “conquer cakes, biscuits, traybakes, tarts and pies, showstopping desserts, breads, savouries, and even 'no-bake' bakes.” Her recipes are a sumptuous delight, easy to do and even easier on the tastebuds, all explained with the trademark sense of humour that has made her the national treasure she undoubtedly is.

Us Three by Ruth Jones

Three BFFs embark on the trip of a lifetime to Greece, bringing them closer than ever. But then, a series of unexpected events threaten to snap their lifelong bond, setting in motion a story that challenges everything they thought they knew about love, loss and the vicissitudes of life itself. Fresh from her bestselling debut novel Never Greener in 2018, award-winning screenwriter and novelist Ruth Jones tells a funny, tender and deeply touching portrait of female friendship and all the sticks and stones life throws at it.

The Puffin Book of Big Dreams

The adult book market isn't the only side of publishing enjoying Super Thursday today. There is a host of great children's book hitting the shelves, too. And few are more imagination-fuelling than The Puffin Book of Big Dreams, a captivating anthology of stories, poems and illustrations from some of our favourite children’s authors, including Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman and Humza Arshad. Not only that, but it is also stuffed with quotes and motivational writings by some of the world's most inspirational leaders, scientists and actors about their own Big Dreams.

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