A gripping new James Bond novel and a revolutionary look at food from George Monbiot. Here are the best books out this week.
A gripping new James Bond novel and a revolutionary look at food from George Monbiot. Here are the best books out this week.
Summer is firmly on the horizon as the end of May nears, and this week there’s a toast of inspiring reads to get stuck into as the days lengthen. Whether you fancy thinking differently about what you eat, being whisked away into a fast-paced James Bond thriller, or a deliciously uplifting cast of characters, there’s some expert writing and food for thought in all of these titles.
The planet has a food problem – one, writes lifelong climate campaigner George Monbiot, that could be solved by eradicating farms entirely. Depending on your outlook, this is either a dystopia or a brave new world, but Regenesis will undeniably change the way you look at what’s on your plate – and possibly suggest a solution to fix our soil problem.
For fans of: Environmental writing, making a difference, new ways of thinking
Claire Pooley’s The Authenticity Project hit the bestseller charts after providing a much-needed dose of delightful distraction during lockdown. Now, she’s back with another feel-good hit. The People on Platform 5 brings together an unlikely motley crew who all have one thing in common: their commuter train. But when loveable heroine Iona comes unstuck, she’s surprised by those who help her find her feet again.
For fans of: Books that make you feel better, everyday stories, escapism
Ever wondered how those in power get there, and why so little ever changes? Writer, campaigner and hip-hop artist Darren McGarvey won the Orwell Prize for political writing with his previous book, debut Poverty Safari, and The Social Distance Between Us promises to be just as blistering a read. McGarvey has spoken to those suffering most from social inequality – those experiencing homelessness, addicts and youth workers – to write a book that will galvanize meaningful change.
For fans of: Searing social commentary, getting the full picture, UK politics
Fleming’s literary heir is back with another thrilling James Bond story. This time, he’s behind the Iron Curtain, at the mercy of former Smersh agents who want to deploy him in a malevolent mission. When one false move can mean death, in a situation loaded with treachery, Bond must grapple with some of his darkest inner feelings. Is he still the man he used to be?
For fans of: James Bond, Soviet-era settings, espionage books
One of 2022’s most longed-for novels is Idol, Louise O’Neill’s bold and riveting tale of celebrity, truth, and the murky middle in between the carefully curated personas we meet online and the real person behind them. When online influencer and celebrated author Samantha Miller decides to share the story of her teenage sexual awakening – one that involved her then-best friend, Lisa – with her fervid fanbase, it goes viral. But Lisa’s account of the story is different; darker. Whose story is the real one provides the captivating crux of Idol, making it a perfect addition to your book club, and a perfectly gripping book to devour over a weekend.
For fans of: Truth and subjectivity, the new nature of celebrity, dark page-turners
In recent human history, we’ve pushed our body clocks into ever more acrobatic shapes, but for the most part, their natural schedules remain as they have been for millennia: our bodies still guide us towards the best times to sleep, eat, and even think. In this captivating new book from Russell Foster, the University of Oxford Professor of Circadian Neuroscience shows how much can be gained (and how much can be avoided: think infection, cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental illness) by listening to our bodies and harnessing their natural sleep rhythms.
For fans of: Physical and mental health, new scientific non-fiction
Too often, the people who are catalysts for historic events are reduced to the event itself. In His Name Is George Floyd, authors Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa ensure that won’t happen to George Floyd. “You know how he died,” goes the book’s tagline; “Here’s how he lived.” In this incredible biography, readers get a glimpse of the human being behind the movement hi death sparked, from the kind-hearted child he was to the loving father he became. Informed by hundreds of interviews with those closest to him, His Name Is George Floyd is essential reading that brings Floyd, known first for his death, to wonderful, inspiring life.
For fans of: Anti-racism, inspiring biography, 21st Century history
Though the Allies were on the brink of victory, the last 100 days of the Second World War were some of the most challenging of its duration, as they fought bloody and exhaustive battles through towns and villages only to find, at its end, the full extent of the brutality in the Nazi death camps. Here, based on painstaking research, writer, broadcaster, and former lecturer in Military and Security Studies at the UK Defence Academy Peter Caddick Adams details the final days of WWII, March of 1945 through to its end, making for a must-read addition to any war buff’s library.
For fans of: History of war, 20th Century history
In their debut poetry collection, informed as much by their BA in history as their MFA in poetry, American poet Paul Tran digs back into pasts both collective and personal – American imperialism as well as individual trauma – to explore how history might be taken apart in order to understand it, then put back together in new, revolutionary ways. Equal parts microcosmic and universal, All the Flowers Kneeling is a vital, stirring collection about love, survival and personhood from a powerful, unmissable new voice in poetry.
For fans of: Poetry, new ways of seeing the world, recontextualising history
In this captivating historical epic, novelist Adriana Trigiani tells the tale of Domenica Cabrelli and the two great loves of her life: a star-crossed romance with a boy from her childhood village in Italy; and her affair with a French captain, as war loomed. Only Domenica’s daughter, Matelda, knows the mysterious connection between the two men, but when she seeks to shed new light on it decades later, with her own life coming to an end, she finds more new questions than answers. The Good Left Undone is a multi-generational romance as sweepingly epic as it is about the details of love and life that rivet us to one another and make us who we are.
For fans of: Historical epics, romances, multi-generational family stories
In this illuminating and hilarious book, law and philosophy professor Scott Hershovitz explores the big questions of life and meaning – all through the eyes and brilliant mind of his sons, Rex and Hank. Subtitled Adventures in Philosophy with Kids, this excellent book shows the surprisingly poignant ways that children see and think about the world, how their wisdom holds up to the most revered philosophers in human history, and what we might learn if we keep our eyes – and, particularly, our minds – open to their thoughts and theories. By starting with questions like ‘Does Hank have the right to drink Fanta? When is it okay to swear? And, does the number six exist?’, Nasty, Brutish and Short delves deeper into the most pressing questions we face, demonstrating how we all might benefit from harnessing our child-like sense of wonder more often.
For fans of: Philosophy, the surprising canniness of children, humour
As thoroughly researched as it is witty and whimsical, Emma Smith’s book about books is a deeply illuminating read about the history of one of the world’s most enduring technologies. From its humble origins (not necessarily, Smith argues, with the Gutenberg printing press) to the rise of the mass market paperback, Smith brings to life the world of books: why they exist, how their history shaped (and was shaped by) our own, and the future of the written word. This is a perfect for any – yes, any – book lover.
For fans of: Books, fascinating histories, art and technology
One of the most highly touted debut novels of 2022 is Lianne Dillsworth’s tale about the secrets – and the truths – that so often linger behind the surface and spectacle of our day-to-day lives. In Theatre of Marvels, Black British actress Zillah – an orphan from the slums of St Giles, making a living performing at an exploitative Victorian freak show – navigates the seedy world of London in the 19th Century in search of her identity, calling upon a colourful cast of characters to facilitate her journey towards the truth. A story of love, identity, history and fate, Theatre of Marvels is an immersive, gripping story not to be missed.
For fans of: Stories about identity, the space between surface and truth, Victorian London
Too often, we think of a wide array of our emotions – sadness, anger, and jealousy among them – as negative. But in this revolutionary book, writer and journalist Susan Cain makes a case for the power of “bittersweet” emotions, which harness loss and pain in order to facilitate growth and beauty – which in turn can change our whole lives, from the way we work to the very way we live. Broken down by chapters, each of which address a different facet of our lives (love, death, authenticity, creativity, et al), Bittersweet shows how vulnerability and melancholy have led to some of humanity’s greatest achievements – and might just change your life, too.
For fans of: Paradigm-shifting non-fiction, inspiring reads, human history
There’s a good reason Nina Stibbe’s last novel, Reasons to Be Cheerful, won both the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction and the Comedy Women in Print Prize: for years, she’s been perfecting her balance of excavating human circumstance for equal parts poignant emotion and side-splitting hilarity. She’s a writer to whom pathos and humour both come easily, and her latest novel, One Day I Shall Astonish the World, is no exception. Here, Stibbe introduces the reader to Susan and Norma, old best friends who are suddenly faced with the question that comes to us all: Have I lived my life right? It’s a warm and hilarious story about friendship worthy of Stibbe’s formidable – and still-growing – reputation as an astute observer of humanity’s inherent absurdity.
For fans of: Unflinching stories about friendship, funny novels
From the Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending (and the Booker shortlisted Flaubert’s Parrot) comes a work that, more than just being a novel, provides a tender and nuanced history of human thought. As philosophical as it is emotionally resonant, Julian Barnes’ latest novel tells the story of the life of titular character Elizabeth Finch – an inspiring and empathetic teacher whose measured, thoughtful way of inhabiting the lives of her students and the world itself – through the eyes of former student Neil as he unpacks her notebooks. Like a lesson from the character herself, Elizabeth Finch is an illuminating and informative read that might just change how you see the world.
For fans of: Philosophy, feel-good novels, books that make you think
In Britain, we tend to take our footpaths for granted: there’s a beautiful trail nearly everywhere you look. Yet they’re also disappearing at a rapid pace; by 2026, says Jack Cornish, head of paths at the Ramblers (Britain's largest walking charity) and the author of new book The Lost Paths, 10,000 miles of undiscovered footpaths around Britain stand to be lost. In his stunning and informative book, Cornish explores the astonishing amount to be learned about our country from its footpaths, and the importance of preserving them for future generations.
For fans of: British history, walking, nature and the outdoors
In her debut novel Nobody But Us, already being touted as one of 2022's most gripping thrillers, French author Laure Van Rensburg introduces audiences to Steven Harding – “a handsome, well-respected professor” – and Ellie Masterson – “a wide-eyed young college student” – as they embark on an illicit three-day holiday, far from New York City and its prying eyes. Yet, neither of them knows that the other is harbouring a dark secret – or that one of them might not survive the weekend.
For fans of: White-knuckle thrillers, dark romances, unputdownable debuts
Vietnamese American writer Ocean Vuong has racked up several accolades for his poetry - and if you’re active on BookTok, you’ll certainly be aware of On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, his New York Times bestselling novel. It’s difficult to comprehend, then, that Time Is A Mother is only Vuong’s second poetry collection. Those familiar with his other work will recognise its themes with a little heartache: the loss of his mother, the power of memory, the meaning of joy. For those new to Vuong, it will act as a perfect introduction.
For fans of: Heartfelt writing, writing about grief, beautiful books
With conversations raging about the cost of living crisis, it can be difficult to believe that, until relatively recently, existing in poverty was the norm for the majority of people. How and why our economy shifted - and where it’s headed next - are the huge questions Oded Galor answers in this invigorating and accessible account of humanity’s transit from crude beginnings to a deeply divided planet. If you want to know where equality started, and how we can balance the books, The Journey of Humanity is a must-read.
For fans of: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, learning how the world works, revelatory writing
Issues such as colonialism, dictatorships and white saviourism hardly sound like laughing matters but in the witty and careful words of Vice editor Dipo Faloyin, they become hugely engaging. Faloyin brilliantly tells the story of a continent that has suffered from woeful misrepresentation for centuries. This book covers everything from the Africa Cup of Nations and Hollywood’s stereotypical depiction of the continent to rivalry over Jollof rice recipes. It’s full of fascinating facts you’ll want to share with your friends and will also make you furious, make you laugh and make you think.
For fans of: Fascinating non-fiction, understanding another side of history, jokes in unexpected places
In this sweet and funny debut novel, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn tells the story of Yinka, a 31-year-old who lives in South London, prefers chicken and chips to Nigerian food, and yearns to find love – though perhaps not as desperately as her mother and aunties want her to. But with her cousin’s wedding looming, Yinka is forced to deploy 'Operation Find a Date for Rachel's Wedding'. Hailed by authors such as Marian Keyes and Emily Henry, Yinka, Where Is Your Huzband? is one of 2022’s most hyped debuts, a feel-good rom-com about finding love – and oneself.
Insider view: “Yinka has been one of the most exciting books I’ve ever worked on: all of us on the publishing team are bonded by a real love for both the protagonist, and her author Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, who brightens our days. A super fresh take on the traditional rom-com, in Yinka we see a very relatable, very loveable woman’s take on the cultural and societal pressures that come with your early 30s: marriage, motherhood, career…
Lizzie has added so much to this genre. In trying to find ‘Mr Right’, Yinka embarks on a journey of self-love that is both realistic and inspiring, funny and moving. And of course, she does this with the help of an amazing cast of women behind her: this novel is a love letter to female friendship too. Through Yinka, Lizzie shows that all types of love are equally important, and it is the love she has for her characters and writing – and her wicked sharp humour – that brings this book to life and shoots itself into your heart, where it will stay for a very long time.”
Olivia Mead, Senior Campaigns Manager, Viking/Penguin General
For fans of: Rom-coms, stories about identity, feel-good novels
Long before The Sun and The Mirror existed, tabloid-style gossip relied on pamphlets, posters, ballads and word-of-mouth – but had they existed during the heights of the Dudley family’s prevalence, there would have been much ink spilled. In this extraordinary new book, University of Sussex Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History Joanne Paul brings vividly to life The House of Dudley, a conniving Tudor family who for generations strove to advance their bloodline, sometimes succeeding (thriving as they did in the court of Henry VII) and, just as often, failing miserably (as when they unsuccessfully tried to install Lady Jane Grey on the English throne). For a big helping of history and more than a dash of drama, The House of Dudley is a revelatory and gripping read about the cut-throat glamour and rise-and-fall of “history's most brilliant, bold and skulduggerous family”.
For fans of: Historical drama, celebrity gossip, the lives of royals and high-ranking officials
Perhaps nobody has written a more vivid account of the pandemic than beloved poet and author Michael Rosen, whose Many Different Kinds of Love: A story of life, death and the NHS has become the go-to book about the experience of surviving Covid-19. Here, Rosen spares no detail about his near-death encounter with the virus, and his excruciating – and inspiring – journey back to health, aided by the kindness of strangers, the love of his family and community, and, often, plain good fortune. Now available in paperback, it’s a must-read for anyone affected by the pandemic – which is to say anyone, full-stop.
Insider view: “It’s been such a privilege to work on this very special book, which talks with such generosity of spirit about sickness and recovery, and also makes such a statement, on behalf of us all, about how vital the NHS is. Watching Michael’s sparkling wit and joyful creativity at work as we worked together, even in the aftermath of such serious illness, made me reassess that old saying about never meeting your heroes – sometimes, those heroes are even more inspiring than you had ever imagined!”
Robyn Drury, Senior Commissioning Editor, Ebury
For fans of: Moving memoir, inspiring stories of recovery, Michael Rosen
Imagine learning the history of a country through its cultural moments. Which ones would you choose? Poet and prize-winning author Hanif Abdurraqib takes a gimlet eye and an expansive mind to bring together the iconic and intimate performances that shaped the politics of the American empire in this essay collection. From 27 seconds of Gimme Shelter to Beyonce’s Super Bowl Show, Abdurraqib lets us into the moments that defined American culture – as well as his own personal history of love and grief.
Insider view: "Hanif Abdurraqib's genius is in pinpointing those moments in American cultural history when Black people made lightning strike. But Black performance, Black artistry, Black freedom too often came at devastating price. The real devil in America is America itself, the one who stole the soul that he, through open eyes and fearless prose, snatches back. This is searing, revelatory, filled with utter heartbreak, and unstoppable joy."
- Marlon James, author of Black Leopard Red Wolf
For fans of: New ways of looking at things, cultural histories, Beyoncé
Anne Tyler is a master of unearthing the life-changing heart of everyday dramas and in this, her 24th novel, she tells the story of a whole family through one seemingly small thing: encouraging a young boy to swim. French Braid immaculately examines the pressures of masculinity as Tyler twists the threads of a family home over several generations, leaving us with questions and characters we won’t be able to stop thinking about.
Insider view: “I don’t think there is another novelist writing in English who understands people better than Anne Tyler. French Braid brings us the Garrett family, their lives, personalities and relationships observed with such precision, truth, humanity – and humour – it’s like sitting down with them for dinner. If you haven’t read Anne Tyler yet, French Braid is a perfect place to start. If you are already a fan, you will be queuing up with other dedicated followers like Jacqueline Wilson, Ali Smith, Liane Moriarty, Hanya Yanagihara, Meg Mason and Nick Hornby.”
- Becky Hardie, Deputy Publishing Director, Chatto & Windus
For fans of: Unforgettable characters, mid-century nostalgia, family sagas
What if everything we’re taught about science was only from one perspective? BBC New Generation Thinker James Poskett shows that the origins of modern science are truly global – the result of centuries of global exchange throughout key periods in our history. As global history developed, Poskett demonstrates, so did science. In the process, he shines a light on the forgotten pioneers of modern science who contributed so much to the way we understand and live in the world. From Satyendra Nath Bose, a 20th-century Indian physicist who developed a new statistical account of quantum mechanics and collaborated with Einstein in the 1920s and after whom the ‘boson’ (as in Higgs-Boson) is named, to Zhao Zhongyao, a 20th-century Chinese physicist who discovered the positron at CalTech in 1930 but was never recognised.
Insider view: “One of the things I love the most about working on non-fiction is learning from experts who are dedicated to re-evaluating established narratives, going beyond the accepted stories and highlighting people and ideas we should know about. This book really excited me from the off: a revisionist history of science told through key moments in our global history. I’m in awe of the fact he is able to cover over 500 years with such ease, passion and authority – it’s honestly so accessible. It’s an enlightening, eye-opening – and genuinely gripping and enjoyable – read that I’ve dived into again and again. I hope you do too.”
- Olivia Mead, Senior Campaigns Manager, Penguin General
For fans of: Books that change your mind, revisionist histories, entertaining facts
The notion of using shame to change powerful institutions – a leaked college photo here, damaging CCTV footage there, an email nobody was meant to see in-between – has become well-established as social media and citizen journalism become increasingly enmeshed with our daily lives. But flip the power dynamic around and problems start to happen, as Cathy O’Neil demonstrates in her new book, The Shame Machine. When children are being shamed for eating free school lunches, or adults for not finding work, those who should be taking responsibility are left out of the picture. The Shame Machine dissects the relationship between shame and power – and shows how we can fight back.
For fans of: Challenging systems and understanding how they work, revelatory non-fiction
In this fictional retelling of the lives of four women – Adele, Gertrude, Vally, and Edith – made famous by their intimate depiction in the works of famous artist Egon Schiele, author Sophie Haydock humanises and empowers the former muses, giving voice to them and reimaging their stories in an early 1900s Vienna bursting with artistic and humanistic potential. Haydock’s aptly titled novel is fiery and bright, a compelling story of human desire and connection, all tied together in an explosive ending that makes The Flames a captivating, unmissable read for fans of art history and 21st Century novels alike.
Insider view: “I read the first draft of The Flames during that long, torturous first lockdown. I was in a reading slump, I was fearful about pretty much everything, and worried about how my authors would fare in such a challenging situation. And then in came The Flames and it set all my reading senses tingling! No longer was I sitting at the kitchen table in dreary, grey lockdown Britain. I was there, on the streets of elegant Vienna at the dawn of the 20th Century – a time when Vienna was a hotbed of emerging artistic talent, political debate, music – watching these four women step off of the artist’s canvas and claim a voice of their own.
“I have always wanted to publish books about strong women, and I was so drawn to the characters of Vally, Gertrude, Adele and Edith – each very different, but each, in their own way, determined to be the author of their life’s story. I didn’t actually meet Sophie Haydock, the author, face to face until many months after we’d bought the novel – although of course we had phone calls and Zooms – but when I did, it reminded me of all the reasons why I love being an editor. Not just the joy of the text itself, but also of working with inspiring, creative, passionate people who live and breathe the art of storytelling!”
- Kirsty Dunseath, Publishing Director, Doubleday Fiction/Transworld
For fans of: The work of Egon Schiele, subjects and objects in art, feminist reclamation
Intended as “a joyful celebration of the universal power of food to restore, and to comfort”, this beautiful new cookbook from Asma Khan – British chef, restaurateur, and cookbook author – the owner of Darjeeling Express in London’s Covent Garden celebrates and pays tribute to the secret ingredient behind her incredible career: her mother, Ammu. Subtitled Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul, the book explores the connection between food and love, revelling in the simple, delicious home-cooked food her mother made in Kolkata, from Baghare Aloo and Shahi Paneer to Ammu's Chicken Biriyani. In the words of Nigella Lawson, this tome of Indian comfort food and family legacy is “An entrancing book.”
Insider view: “Right from the beginning we all knew that this was going to be a special book for Ebury and that really came from listening to the message that Asma wanted to convey with it. Asma talked about this universal power that food has to heal, how it can spark memories of loved ones and places, and how it can instantly transport you home no matter where you are in the world and that was something that we all felt so deeply, perhaps even more amplified by the fact that we were in lockdown at the time. The book honours Asma’s mother, Ammu, but the stories behind each of her delicious, comforting recipes represent a deep rooting to home and family that so many of us can relate to through our own memories and experiences of food. It was such a joy to work on and to spend time on the shoot with Asma, hearing the stories behind the food firs-hand while it was being prepared was really special.”
- Sam Crisp, Commissioning Editor, Ebury
For fans of: Indian comfort food, the connection between family and cooking
Ask almost any psychotherapists about the primary sources of trauma, and they’ll tell you: family. Families are where we experience our first human interactions, our first experiences of love, connection, and disappointment; they can help us through the hardest times, but they can also splinter and fragment. In this new book from Julia Samuel, subtitled How We Inherit Love and Loss, the esteemed psychotherapist draws on her years of work with families from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences to show just how much we inherit from our closest relatives – and, powerfully, how we can heal each other, and ourselves, by facing it head-on.
Insider view: “Working on Every Family has been such a joy because this truly is a book for everyone. Everyone has a family in some shape or form, and Julia’s insights have helped me to understand my family better as well as try to be a better family member – and that means I can press this book into everyone’s hands and know they will find wisdom in it.”
- Alpana Sajip, Assistant Editor, Viking Books
For fans of: Healing family trauma, self-help and hope
In this debut novel from the bestselling author of The Unmumsy Mum, Sarah Turner tells the story of loveable but shiftless Beth – who in the space of a morning is forced to trade her lack of ambition and general aversion to responsibility for the sudden guardianship of her teenage niece and toddler nephew. Out of her depth and fearful that she might not be up to the task, Beth enlists the help of her best friend (or maybe more…) and her neighbour to help her find strength and resilience she didn’t know she had. Equal parts hilarious and inspiring, Stepping Up is a sharp, heartfelt novel that will make you laugh and cry.
Insider view: “When Sarah first told me the idea for her debut novel – namely that of a young woman, still trying to find her place in the world, who is suddenly catapulted into looking after her teenage niece and toddler nephew after a family tragedy – I knew that she would do a fantastic job. But Stepping Up exceeded my high expectations and completely and utterly captured my heart. It is, necessarily, sad in parts but it is also totally joyful; I laughed out loud on one page, even as I cried on the next. Sarah brings to her moving and hopeful debut novel all of the humour, warts-and-all honesty and warmth that have made her Unmumsy Mum books so successful. This is a story about digging deep for strength you never knew you had, and finding magic in things that were there all along. It’s life-affirming, funny, and introduces us to a cast of characters that you will be loath to leave behind – I really do miss them since finishing it! I can’t wait for publication day and for readers to discover – and fall in love with – this beautiful novel, just as I have.”
- Frankie Gray, Publishing Director, Transworld
For fans of: The pitfalls of parenthood, rom-coms, heartfelt and funny novels
It’s amazing, really, that Angela Y. Davis’s memoir was so difficult to get hold of for so long. The activist, thinker, writer and pioneer behind such classics as Women, Race & Class was published in 1974, one of the many trailblazing tomes edited and published by Toni Morrison. Now, Davis has offered a new introduction for this classic of the Black Liberation era. At a time when protest feels more vital than ever, this memoir tells an unforgettable story with warmth, humour and conviction.
Insider view: “Ever since I found out we were going to be publishing three titles by Angela Davis this year, I wanted desperately to be part of the team who introduced, or reintroduced, them to the UK. Her extraordinary autobiography is a unique memoir that captures the political and personal aspects of a life given to revolution. It is gripping from the very first page, joining her fugitive escape from California, named on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List at just 27 years old.”
- Leo Donlan, Campaigns Officer, Penguin General
For fans of: Long-lost books, fascinating life stories, the history of activism
Sometimes an author responds to a universal story in such a way it enables you to see it anew. Sunday Times bestseller Clover Stroud has turned her hand to motherhood, love and the adventures of life over the course of her career, but in this, her third book, the author responds to the viscerality of grief in the wake of her sister’s tragic death from cancer at just 44. Brave, unflinching and deeply moving, this book offers a new way to think about loss.
Insider view: The Red of My Blood was written in the wake of Clover’s sister Nell Gifford’s death, but it is emphatically a book about life – about all that makes life worth living, and all that we should celebrate about the lives of those we love. A reviewer once wrote that Clover was like a natural history writer writing about our emotional landscape. Never has that been more true. Working with Clover, I have travelled across a bleak wilderness, fought through the thorns and darkness of a forest and found bright light. As you read this wonderful book, you will too.
- Susanna Wadeson, Publisher, Non Fiction Doubleday
For fans of: Heartfelt memoir, real-life stories, books about sisters.
Even if you’ve not heard of Warsan Shire, it’s likely you’ll have encountered her poetry. The inaugural Young Poet Laureate for London has worked with Beyonce, contributing the poetry to her groundbreaking album Lemonade. This, remarkably, is Shire’s first full-length poetry collection, and it’s wholly worth the wait: “The beautifully crafted poems in this collection are fiercely tender gifts”, said Roxane Gay.
Insider view: “It’s been exciting to feel the ripple of anticipation for this book, and the love and appreciation that exists for Warsan Shire. Since 2016, Warsan has allowed her collection to grow and settle – working with her editors at Flipped Eye and Chatto in what has been a unique collaboration between the feted indie and Penguin Random House. Her wisdom in waiting for the right moment to share her work in book form defines a poet who is a queen of her craft. This publication is a balm and a blessing and a particularly special homecoming. Definitely one to hold to the heart!”
- Clara Farmer, Publishing Director, Chatto & Windus
For fans of: Poetry that makes a difference, writing about migration, Beyoncé
Is there anything Dolly Parton can’t do? After years as an advocate for literacy and libraries, Parton has now collaborated with that titan of American fiction, James Patterson, to create a warm, gripping and fun novel. AnnieLee is a diminutive, savvy and self-deprecating singer with her eyes on the bright lights: but can she get there without her past catching up with her? Patterson’s skill with a narrative and Parton’s personality and knowledge of the music business collide in this firecracker of a book.
Insider view: "I think we could all do with a little Dolly Parton in our lives right now and for me, Run Rose Run, is a dream collaboration for James Patterson. They’re both brilliant storytellers and I’ve loved watching their joint interviews; you can see the genuine friendship that has developed through writing the novel and how much fun they’ve had in the process. And what could be better: there’s an accompanying album to listen to while you read."
- Charlotte Bush, Director of Publicity & Media Relations, Cornerstone
For fans of: Fantastic stories, country music, 9 to 5
In this follow-up to Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and the second in his Dark Star Trilogy, Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James continues the epic story of a lost child and 177-year-old witch, delving deeper into a world of magic and darkness that draws equally deeply from African mythology and high fantasy. Hailed by peers like Neil Gaiman and compared to Tolkien and Octavia Butler, Moon Witch, Spider King takes fantasy – not to mention literary themes of unreliable narration and speculation – to brave, exciting new places.
Insider view: “One of the unique aspects of Marlon James’s Dark Star Trilogy is the incredible way he planned it from the outset – as a story told in sequence from three distinct points of view, each with different versions of the ‘truth’, from which, after the third book, the reader will have to choose which perspective they trust. So to read Moon Witch, Spider King for the first time was to read not just a tour de force of imaginative writing (and it is certainly that), but also of imaginative planning. On both levels the novel is dazzling. As a writer, Marlon is a force of nature – and supernature – who never stops raising the bar. And to be so close to his process as he reimagines what speculative literary fiction can be feels happily mind-blowing.”
Simon Prosser, Publishing Director, Hamish Hamilton
For fans of: JRR Tolkien, the subjective nature of narrative, literary epics
Now a veritable legend of crime fiction, Donna Leon returns to her iconic detective Commissario Brunetti in Give Unto Others. In his 31st case, the Venetian sleuth is faced with a perplexing, nuanced case in which a famed Italian institution raises questions of criminality and forces him to reconsider where he can place his trust: In law enforcement? In his acquaintances? …In himself? Give Unto Others is another beguiling feather in Donna Leon’s cap.
Insider view: “2022 is Donna’s 80th birthday, and this is her 31st novel. It has all the ingredients of classic Donna Leon: Venice, mouth-watering food, the spirited Brunetti family, and a sense of menace lurking around the corner. Donna explores the zeitgeist of a time and place while delivering everything a crime lover could want.”
Helen Conford, Publisher, Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: Award-winning detective fiction, Agatha Christie, Italy
There is perhaps no role in society as highly scrutinised as that of the mother: the colossal expectations patriarchal society puts on mothers is such that they draw criticism for being too controlling and too inattentive; they’re expected to take care of all aspects of their children’s lives and their own, all while keeping a positive demeanour. In The School for Good Mothers, debut author Jessamine Chan plays on these expectations with equal parts black humour and devastating astuteness, producing a must-read feminist novel that’s been hailed as “a Handmaid’s Tale for the 21st century.”
Insider view: “Reviews have just started pouring in for The School for Good Mothers, with India Knight calling this ‘The Handmaid’s tale for the 21st Century’ and Pandora Sykes saying, ‘It is destined to become a feminist classic’. It’s a strange but exciting feeling when a book you love and have worked on starts to make its way into the world. Jessamine Chan’s book was one of those that I stayed up all night reading – I was gripped, I raved about it, I couldn’t wait to give it to all of my close friends. Now, it’s out there and everyone is falling in love with it. It feels sure to become, as Pandora says, a feminist classic.”
Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director, Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: Motherhood stories, The Handmaid’s Tale, witty feminist literature
For decades if not centuries, zoologists and naturalists have spoken about female species in ways that reflect the patriarchal, misogynist world we live in, as passive; subordinate; as “mother, carer, the weaker sex.” In Bitch: A Revolutionary Guide to Sex, Evolution and the Female Animal, zoologist and writer Lucy Cooke urges readers to think again, subverting established notions of femininity in nature using the facts and observations gathered by Cooke across her years of wide-ranging research. Told wryly and in astonishing details, Bitch will overturn everything you thought you knew about the so-called “weaker sex.”
Insider view: “Lucy has managed to travel the world, meeting the most incredible female (and male) scientists, in the course of researching and writing this book. A pandemic wasn’t going to get the better of her tracking down naked mole rats, lesbian albatross, cannibalistic spiders… and then reporting back with chapters sent one by one, each one of them brilliantly structured, rammed with jaw-dropping animal facts and anecdotes, often extremely funny, and as they accumulated, extraordinarily exciting. This book is not just compelling, fascinating, entertaining. It is mind-changing. I am not surprised Lucy believes it is her best work yet. I could not be more proud to have it on the Doubleday list.”
Susanna Wadeson, Publishing Director, Transworld
For fans of: Gender studies, nature documentaries, gripping non-fiction
Spiritual guide, author, reiki master teacher and trauma-sensitive meditation teacher Giselle La Pompe-Moore brings every aspect of her lengthy, brilliant CV to Take It In: Do the inner work. Create your best damn life., in which she asks readers to recognise that in a world that feels “distressingly out of our control”, there is only one thing we have power over: our inner reality. Through anecdotes, advice, and spiritual practice, La Pompe-Moore’s book aims to provide a means of changing that reality incrementally, day-by-day, in order to provide yourself with a calmer, more purposeful existence.
Insider view: “I couldn’t imagine a better person than Giselle to bring spirituality to a wider audience. In her grounded and refreshingly realistic approach, she teaches us how to let go of the things that weigh us down to create the life we truly want. With a blend of practical advice, learnings from the lives of countless clients, and Giselle’s own journey to inner power, Take It In is the balm we all need to navigate the uncertainties of modern life.”
Bianca Bexton, Editor, Ebury
For fans of: Self-help, life advice, spirituality
Wild Fell by Lee Schofield
For many, the Lake District is a site of stunning beauty, good walks and cosy pubs. But for those deeply enmeshed with its flora and fauna, it’s a canary in the coal mine of our ecosystem. As the main site manager for RSPB Haweswater, Lee Schofield is running a 3,000 hectare nature reserve that unusually also includes two working hill farms. In this uplifting book, he shows how balance can – and must – be achieved to protect our wildlife for the future.
Insider view: “Over the winter I have been yearning to spend more time away from the flat, preferably somewhere green, and this book has allowed me to travel from my armchair to this hauntingly beautiful part of the Lake District. Through Lee’s eyes I’ve visited untouched waterfalls, spied on the location of the country’s rarest alpine flower, surveyed the fells from the top of a vertiginous (and unnervingly slippery) perch. As Lee so eloquently puts it, a landscape of flowers is a landscape of hope. I hope you love reading it as much as I did.” Alex Christofi, Editorial Director, Transworld
For fans of: James Rebanks; nature writing; reasons for hope
Julie Otsuka has won a feverish reputation among readers and writers alike for her award-winning bestselling novels The Buddha in the Attic and When The Emperor Was Divine. Her latest novel veers away from the historical fiction she’s made her name with, however, and into the realm of memory, aging, loss and the relationship between mothers and daughters.
Insider view: “Reading The Swimmers in manuscript, this time last year, after months of lockdown, shook me out of the stupor I’d been finding myself in. It’s luminous with the granular, pointillist detail of being human and unlike anything I’ve read before. It begins in the collective voice of a group of swimmers, for whom their local pool is a place of solace, respite, routine and escape. But, once a crack appears in the floor of the pool and it is forced to close, we realise it’s actually a novel about Alice, for whom the pool had been her last stand against the encroaching dislocation and chaos of dementia. I think it’s a masterpiece.” Helen Garnons-Williams, Publishing Director, Fig Tree
For fans of: Thoughtful, darkly funny fiction; attention to detail; swimming clubs
Drugs are government-prescribed, contraception is a free-for-all and everybody is happy. Ninety years after Aldous Huxley published his vision of the future, and it’s still fascinating to see what he got wrong - and, more pertinently, what he got right. This sumptuous gift edition features an introduction from Noah Yuval Harari. If you’ve never read Brave New World before, now’s the time. If you have, then take inspiration from Margaret Atwood, who said re-reading it was “as vibrant, fresh, and somehow shocking as it was when I first read it”.
Insider view: "Brave New World is one of those famous classics that people feel they know – even if they haven’t actually read it. But this really is a book to read and reread. It is provoking, philosophically astute, and as pacy as a bestselling thriller. You would never be able to guess that it is 90 years old. Page by page the writing is fresh and compelling and the dystopia it describes even more creepy today than it was in 1932. What could be so wrong with a world where everyone is completely content? To find out read this book." Charlotte Knight, Senior Editor, Vintage.
For fans of: Dystopian fiction; surprisingly prescient classics; inhibition
Spring may be trying to rear its head but for those keen to stay curled up with a gripping read this winter, Giles Kristian has an immersively chilling tale in his new novel, Where Blood Runs Cold. When a much-needed father-daughter trip into Norway’s Arctic circle goes deeply wrong, Erik and Sofia must run for their lives, fighting for survival in a land of snow and ice.
Insider view: "Giles Kristian earned his literary spurs with 11 phenomenal historical novels, including the Sunday Times-bestselling Lancelot, and so his new novel – a contemporary thriller set in the Norwegian Arctic – might surprise readers. But rest assured Where Blood Runs Cold is, emphatically, ‘a Giles Kristian novel’. There’s that beautifully evoked sense of place: turning the pages you feel the cold seep into your bones, the brittle crunch of frozen snow under your feet. There are the characters you believe in and care about. There’s the at times shocking but never gratuitous violence. And, of course, there’s Giles’ ability – honed over those previous novels – to tell a pulse-racing story supremely well. And to tell it from the heart. Because this is the story of a fight to survive – against those who would do you harm, and against nature itself – and an exploration of what we can endure if we can find that will to go on. If our hearts have enough fire. It’s a story that simply blew me away." Simon Taylor, Editorial Director, Transworld
For fans of: Nordic noir; father-daughter narrativesl; snowy surrounds
It’s the sequel Marian Keyes fans have never dared hope for: 25 years after Rachel Walsh became one of contemporary fiction’s best-loved characters in Rachel’s Holiday, the adorable addict is back. News that Keyes was reviving Walsh made the headlines last summer, and with good reason: Again, Rachel re-acquaints us with a Rachel reformed: with love, family and a great job. But with an ex on the horizon, it could all be at risk. Those fortunate enough to have read it claim Keyes has “done it again” – and they’re right.
Insider view: “In 1997 I was lucky enough to become Marian’s publisher and help launch her iconic breakout novel, Rachel’s Holiday. Marian’s heart-wrenching, thought-provoking, utterly honest and messy portrayal of a young woman struggling with life, love and addiction set a new standard in the world of commercial fiction – one that she herself continues to challenge and surpass.
“Twenty-five years later, the much-anticipated sequel, Again, Rachel, sees the return of Rachel Walsh. We find Rachel no longer as an addict – but rather, a counsellor. She’s content in the life she’s built. Settled. Until the reappearance of a man she once loved sends her spiralling. No other writer can balance light and shade, joy and pain, humour and despair quite like Marian. And in Again, Rachel, she will break your heart but show you that no matter what, there will always be hope and love. Quite simply, it’s a triumph.”
Louise Moore, Managing Director, Michael Joseph
For fans of: Rachel’s Holiday, uplifting stories, a good laugh
Already celebrated by press and hailed by peers such as Jennifer Egan and Sathnam Sanghera, Pankaj Mishra’s sharp, literary new novel follows young Arun, who has just enrolled at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology, where he finds himself immersed in a new, privileged circle of friends pursuing success at any cost. Beautifully written and expertly structured, it’s an epic story that confronts the fallout of financial success in our increasingly globalised world.
Insider view: “Run and Hide is the story of a group of friends ascending from their small town into a world of Gatsby-like escapades and wealth. Tackling the rise of globalisation, activism and populism, it is a novel of – and for – our times.”
Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director, Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: Rise and fall stories, decadence, global literary epics
In this second entry in C.K. McDonnell's The Stranger Times series, vampires – which everybody knows don’t exist – start popping up in Manchester, so the staff of the local newspaper (yes, The Stranger Times) step up to the challenge of figuring out exactly what’s going on. Hugely funny and with just the right pinch of darkness, McDonnell’s work has been compared to Terry Pratchett – not just high praise, but accurate, too.
Insider view: “In such parlous times as these, don’t we all need a book that has us grinning from ear to ear (and at times snorting with laughter in an unseemly fashion) as we eagerly turn the pages? For me, This Charming Man – the gloriously entertaining second novel from former stand-up and TV writer C K (aka Caimh) McDonnell – is that book. It appears there’s an outbreak of vampires in Manchester, which in itself is a little unusual and just the sort of story the misfits who work for the weird weekly newspaper, The Stranger Times, like to get their teeth into. Or perhaps that should be the other way ’round? Either way, the stakes (ouch) are high in this fangtastic (sorry) adventure, and I challenge anyone to keep a straight face while reading because it’s just so (ahem) bloody funny.”
Simon Taylor, Editorial Director, Transworld
For fans of: Clever and wry storytelling, the occult
In this new, gripping thriller from Chinese-Canadian author Amy McCulloch, journalist Cecily Wong is invited to scale one of the world’s tallest mountains, but as she climbs towards the peak, mysterious things start happening. First, a note appears pinned to her tent, warning her “There’s a murderer on the mountain” – and just when they’re hitting a point on the mountain where trust becomes paramount, Cecily stumbles upon the first body. Based on personal experience – McCulloch has herself scaled Mt Manaslu in Nepal – Breathless is a white-knuckle ride hailed by Matt Haig, Sarah Pearse and more.
Insider view: “An exhilarating thriller with the most jaw-dropping of backdrops, Breathless is a masterclass in suspense. It follows Cecily Wong, a journalist who’s been granted an interview with world-famous mountaineer Charles McVeigh. The condition? She must join his expedition to Manaslu in the Himalayas – one of the highest peaks in the world. It’s a once in a lifetime experience; despite her inexperience, Cecily is exhilarated. But, as they begin the climb, things start to go wrong among the small group of climbers. Until the discovery of a body pointing to the fact that there is a killer on the mountain.
With a plot as breathtaking as the setting and written by a world-class climber who has summitted these mountains herself, the twists keep coming as Cecily and her fellow climbers approach the Death Zone, the highest part of the mountain – where there isn’t enough oxygen to breathe, let alone scream…”
Clio Cornish, Editorial Director, Penguin Michael Joseph
For fans of: Adventure thrillers, human vs nature narratives
Those in search of a new voice in fiction would do well to pick up Ayanna Lloyd Banwo’s debut. When We Were Birds is an unlikely love story, taking you to the midst of a tropical storm and the invisible depths of other lives. Following reluctant grave-digger Darwin and Yejide, a grieving woman only just learning her destiny, Banwo’s novel is written in dialect, and her attention for detail is exquisite. This is a beautifully transportative book for winter days.
Insider view: This dazzling debut novel is set in the here and now, specifically in Trinidad – but a version of Trinidad which feels unusually elastic, stretching and flexing itself at the edges of your vision, infused with mythic possibilities. The mountains and the forest press up against the city; inside the walls of the ancient cemetery, you could get lost enough that no one would ever find you. As Ayanna says in her introductory note, the island is real, but the places we discover within it are fiction of the richest kind. And we all know there are some truths about the world we live in – maybe the most important ones – which can only be reached through fiction. Hermione Thompson, Senior Commissioning Editor, Penguin General
For fans of: The God of Small Things, The Mermaid of the Black Conch, magic realism
It’s likely that you’re more familiar with Justin Webb’s voice than his prose: the broadcaster has worked at the BBC for nearly 40 years, and has hosted the Today programme since 2009. But this memoir showcases his skill with a pen. The Gift of a Radio tells the unlikely story of Webb’s childhood, raised by two parents with psychological problems before emerging into the tumult of the Seventies.
Insider view: Urbane, measured, pragmatic, who would guess that Justin Webb’s childhood was so extraordinarily dysfunctional? Perhaps it is because he was also gifted with a brilliant sense of humour that he emerged so apparently unscathed. This memoir is often shocking and sometimes sad but it will also make you laugh and for anyone who lived through that decade it is the perfect portal back to 1970s Britain. Susanna Wadeson, Publisher, Transworld
For fans of: Seventies nostalgia, memoir, funny books
What would paintings say, and think, if they had the ability to? That’s the question Natasha Solomons poses in this gorgeous and gripping historical novel. I, Mona Lisa sweeps the reader back to Leonardo da Vinci’s studio, filled with towering commissions and demanding patrons, and offers a long-lost narrative from a unique perspective: that of Lisa del Giocondo, who has a story of rivalry, murder and heartbreak to tell.
Insider view: I, Mona Lisa is the propulsive and illuminating story of the most famous work of art of all time, told uniquely through the eyes of the painting itself. Spanning centuries, epochal locations across Europe – from Versailles to Leonardo da Vinci’s studio and present-day Louvre – and featuring an array of icons in history – including Leonardo himself, Michelangelo and Marie Antoinette –, this novel asks what happened to the forgotten women in the history of art. Written with rich and vivid detail, I Mona Lisa uses a unique perspective to tap into a bigger conversation about the role of muses in a male-dominated industry – in the past, present, as well as future. Linda Mohamed, Editorial Assistant, Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: The Girl with the Pearl Earring, historical fiction, transportative tales
Whether you’re spending Valentine’s Day geed up for date night or desperately looking at your phone in the hope that your secret admirer will call, there’s perspective and insight to be gained from Block, Delete, Move On. This incendiary book from relationships expert LalalaLetMeExplain has a broad and bold reach into modern love, offering new ways to examine and understand how you conduct your love life.
Insider view: Dismiss Lala as an Instagram influencer at your peril – before she took to social media to share her knowledge and advice, she worked as a social worker and trauma expert for over fifteen years. She tackles serious themes in a lively and engaging way, and applies a straight-talking, no-nonsense approach to all she does.
Highlighting the red flags for spotting toxic troublemakers in the increasingly complex and dangerous world of modern dating, Block, Delete, Move On is an indispensable guide to calling time both on first dates and long-term relationships. A frank and feminist exploration of topics from rejection and “the ick” to more serious issues around boundaries and consent, the book delivers serious home truths in her trademark, direct style. It’s a reversal of The Rules for the digital generation, and Lala’s thought-provoking guidance will stay with you long after you turn the last page. Helena Gonda, Commissioning Editor, Transworld
For fans of: self-help, no-nonsense guides to life, avoiding the ick
You’ll find few more topical novels this year than Emily Edwards’ The Herd. At a time when vaccination has become a more fraught subject than ever, Edward positions it at the centre of her novel about two friends, both pregnant, whose decisions about their children’s wellbeing become a source of conflict at a child’s birthday party. As compulsively readable as it endlessly discussable (and a perfectly controversial novel for your next book club pick), The Herd is a perfectly timed read that captures our divisive times and searches for common ground.
Insider view: “What would you do if you discovered that your best friend had a differing view to you on something so important, one that could potentially put the health of you and your family at risk? Cue The Herd, a book I’m willing to put money on being the most topical fiction title released this year. It’s a brilliant book that truly is the definition of a page-turner, and one that you’ll instantly want to discuss with others who have read it. I’m jealous of everyone who is about to read it for the first time.”
Louis Patel, Senior Marketing Manager, Transworld
For fans of: Nuance takes on controversial issues, page-turning novels, motherhood
In Charmaine Wilkerson’s hotly anticipated debut novel, a woman leaves behind a puzzling inheritance for her two children, who no longer speak to one another. At her funeral, they’re confronted with a voice recording that not only upends and recontextualises their family history, but an odd entreaty – “share the black cake when the time is right” – to partake in a Caribbean dessert whose relation to their long family history might just heal its wounds, too. It’s a tender tale of family, trauma, and healing that travels from California to the Caribbean, and has won accolades from Taylor Jenkins Reid and is soon to be a major drama series for Hulu.
Insider view: “This family mystery combines brilliant writing and a compelling plot with characters that are real and relatable. But it’s also a story that speaks to our time, and Charmaine’s cake is a reminder that people and cultures don’t always fit into the boxes people have set up for them. So while 60 years’ worth of secrets in one family keep us turning the pages, the story of identity, love and the all-too-common struggle against the stereotypes and expectations of others makes Black Cake as meaningful as it is entertaining.”
Jessica Leeke, Publisher, Michael Joseph
For fans of: Inter-generational trauma and healing, diasporic fiction, feel-good reads
Nature-lovers, scientists and historians will all find something to love in Thomas Halliday’s utterly compelling non-fiction account of the worlds that existed on Earth long – very long – before the one we know now. In Otherlands, Halliday brings creatures and lands to vivid, breathtaking life, a veritable Jurassic Park (and Cambrian Park, Silurian Park, and many more) on the printed page. As minutely detailed as it is aware of the bigger, cinematic picture, it’s a fascinating, often gripping read about worlds both “fantastical and familiar.”
Insider view: “The Earth has been many different worlds over its history, and in Otherlands, the staggeringly talented Thomas Halliday makes these worlds burst to life on the page as he transports us backwards in time, in 16 chapters, across all seven continents, from the most recent Ice Age to the dawn of complex life itself. What he’s pulled off here is a breathtaking feat, something no one has done before – it is a work of tremendous imagination, both in the high-concept and the execution, yet every detail is grounded in the fossil record. It’s a surprisingly emotional book that makes you reflect on both the tenacity as well as the fragility of life, and it’s impossible to read without thinking of our own threatened ecosystems.”
Laura Stickney, Publishing Director, Penguin Press
For fans of: Natural history, colourful and vivid non-fiction
Subtitled Understanding Britain’s Mental Health Emergency, this new book finds beloved journalist, presenter and author Stacey Dooley confronting an awful statistic – that 1 in 5 young people in the UK have considered suicide at one point or another – and looking for constructive ways to discuss and, in due course, remedy the issue. In Are You Really OK?, Dooley speaks with mental health experts and young people across the UK who suffer from mental health issues to responsibly and insightfully discuss the issues affecting our country.
Insider view: “Stacey Dooley’s trademark as a journalist and writer is her compassion. She has an ineffable ability to connect with her subjects and draw out their stories in a respectful and empowering way. It was with that in mind that we set out to explore the frontline of Britain’s mental health emergency. In this book, Stacey speaks to young people across the UK about their experiences, so we as readers can listen, learn, start conversations, and challenge stigma around mental health.”
Yvonne Jacob, Editorial Director, BBC Books
For fans of: Mental health advocacy, Stacey Dooley
Written almost 40 years ago, ‘Recitatif’ is the only short story Toni Morrison ever published, but it’s astonishing how alive it feels today – it provokes the reader to consider race in a way that feels radically relevant and slyly unsettling. It tells of two girls, Twyla and Roberta, who meet at a girls’ home when they’re eight years old. They’re thrown together because they’re not real orphans (their mothers are still alive) and no one else will play with them. They lose touch as they grow older, but we then see them later, meeting again by chance on three separate occasions, and while the conflict between them is clear there is also an undeniable bond forged by intense shared experience. The trick is that we know that one girl is black, and one is white – but we don’t know which is which, and we also don’t know who is right about the race of the woman the girls tormented at the orphanage all those years ago.
Insider view: “This is a masterful exploration of race and prejudice, of the relationships that form us, of what keeps us together and what keeps us apart. It’s a story that refuses to settle down, even now. The new introduction, by Zadie Smith, reminds us that ‘It is not essentially black or white to be poor, oppressed, lesser than, exploited, ignored. The answer to “What the hell happened to Maggie?” is not written in the stars, or in the blood, or in the genes, or forever predetermined by history. Whatever was done to Maggie was done by people. People like Twyla and Roberta. People like you and me.’”
Poppy Hampson, Editorial Director, Chatto & Windus
For fans of: Complex stories about race, short stories, Toni Morrison
Worn by Sofi Thanhauser
In recent years there’s been an increased interest in understanding where your clothes came from and how they came to be made, in part as a reaction to the rise of fast fashion. Sofi Thanhauser takes this curiosity in a fascinating direction in Worn, examining the threads of history through cloth production and what it can tell us about society, colonialism and fashion.
Insider view: "Sofi’s debut non-fiction book is a joy to discover, uncovering the fascinating stories behind where our clothes really come from and connecting us to the land and communities that make them. It has something for everyone - offering wonderful writing, historical deep dive, environmental concern, and investigative humane journalism. Sofi’s passion for clothing and sustainability is infectious, and will make you look at your wardrobe in a whole new light." Dahmicca Wright, Marketing Manager, Penguin Press
For fans of: Knowing where their clothes come from, workwear, fascinating social history
Pandora by Susan Stokes-Chapman
It’s still winter out there, which in our book means curling up for hours with something transportative. Pandora is one of those books you cancel plans for, cleverly weaving together Ancient Greek mythology with a beguiling romance, all against the backdrop of Georgian London. If you’re the kind of reader who cherished The Binding and The Essex Serpent, get Pandora on your to-read list.
Insider view: ‘When the original Pandora of Greek myth decided to open something new and intriguing, she got more than she bargained for. Susan Stokes-Chapman’s dazzling debut Pandora is similarly powerful and full of surprises but happily these are purely good ones: this is a book that brings joy.
Susan’s immersive depiction of Georgian London is the perfect backdrop for a heroine you want to follow everywhere and a mystery that keeps you turning the pages.’ Elizabeth Foley, Harvill Secker Publishing Director
For fans of: Compelling mysteries, historical fiction, Bridgerton
The Lost Sounds by Robert MacFarlane and Others
In 2017, Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris conjured up a remarkable book. Aimed to encourage children - and adults - to reconnect with the vanishing language of nature, The Lost Words was described as a “cultural phenomenon” by The Guardian. Five years on, and we are still feeling the influence of The Lost Words with spell songs and performance and - now - The Lost Sounds, a deeply immersive audiobook that urges you to listen more closely, just as The Lost Words encouraged you to observe. The New York Times have already compared it to a “beloved bedtime story”.
Insider view: "The Lost Sounds is a rare and special thing – an audiobook without words. The Lost Words and The Lost Spells were a beautiful celebration of nature and the power of language. In our audio editions, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris’ enchanting words and artwork were complimented by stunning natural soundscapes recorded by the renowned wildlife recordist Chris Watson. These recordings were edited to work alongside the spells, and I’ve always wanted an opportunity to celebrate and share Chris’ soundscapes in full. In The Lost Sounds these are arranged together in a seasonal tour around the country; a story told without words, full of plots, patterns and twists. Celebrating the diversity of voices in the natural world around us, this has been a joy to work on." Tom McWhirter, Editor, Audio.
For fans of: Immersive listening experiences, etymology, entomology
Invisible Child by Andrea Elliot
The very best non-fiction reads like a novel might: the kind of story so gripping, and so emotive, that you find yourself thinking about it even when you’re not within the pages of a book. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Andrea Elliot spent nearly a decade reporting on one family in New York City as they battle with homelessness, addiction and the social and criminal care systems. What could be depressing is incendiary, as Elliot masterfully depicts the wrongdoings of government institutions alongside the chaos and love of a broken family. Barack Obama named it one of his books of 2021.
Insider view: "Reportage is about bringing to light lives and stories that are often dismissed or overlooked, writing with meticulous care and empathy about people’s lives. I think Invisible Child is the best contemporary reportage I’ve read in the past fifteen years. It is powerful, emotive, gripping and humane. Andrea tells the life of Dasani - one of around 22,000 children living homeless in New York City – with a level of care and attention usually reserved for figures such as Steve Jobs or Lyndon Johnson. Her writing holds power to account - the original reporting that appeared in the New York Times led to 400 children being removed from homeless shelters in the city – but overall, I was blown away by the warmth and compassion of Andrea’s writing, and the sheer amount of love in the book – between Dasani, her mother, her siblings, her teachers. Invisible Child was Dasani’s idea for the title; as a book, the material reality of Dasani’s life – her family’s lack of housing – is merely the point of departure for understanding her human condition.” Helen Conford, Publisher Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: long-form reportage, eye-opening non-fiction, social commentary
Tessa Hadley has been quietly adored by the literary establishment for much of her 20-year writing career, but Free Love could well be the book that catapults her onto everyone’s bookshelves. Set In 1967, between anodyne middle-class North London suburbia and the run-down bedsits of Ladbroke Grove, Free Love tells the story of an unlikely affair between Phyllis Fischer, a housewife in her forties, and Nicky, the 20-something graduate son of her husband’s friend. What makes the novel brilliant isn’t the sex or the scandal, but Hadley’s trademark observation, truth-telling and psychological unpicking of the scenario. Freedom and frustration tussle in this compelling portrait of a doomed love story.
Insider view: “It’s 1967, and London is coming alive with the new youth revolution, while in the nearby suburbs live the conventional Fischer family: Phyllis, her husband Roger and their two children. But when the young son of an old friend pays the family a visit and kisses Phyllis in the dark garden, something in her catches fire. Newly awake to the world, she makes a choice that defies all expectations of her as a wife and a mother.
Gripping, sensual, and already beloved by the likes of Marian Keyes, Meg Mason, Hilary Mantel, Colm Tóibín and Kate Atkinson, Free Love is Tessa Hadley’s most commercial and powerful book to date. With her compulsive and beautiful prose, she explores the inner lives of her characters, in all their complexities.”
Michal Shavit, Publishing Director, Jonathan Cape
For fans of: 1960s counterculture, impeccably drawn settings, home truths.
Having already sold over a million copies in its original French edition – and having nabbed the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 2020 – the English translation of Hervé le Tellier’s extraordinary The Anomaly finally makes its debut this week. The book, about a commercial airplane that, after being trapped in a storm, mysteriously duplicates – passengers and all – blends sci-fi, fantasy and thriller, and culminates with the moment in which the doubles meet themselves, raising a central question of momentous consequence: To whom does one’s life belong, and how is it best lived?
Insider view: “It’s not often that a book captures the imagination of readers in the way The Anomaly has. ‘Literary phenomenon’ isn’t a phrase I use lightly, but there aren’t many other ways to describe what this book has achieved since it first published in 2020. From winning the Prix Goncourt to selling over a million copies in under a year and becoming France’s bestselling book in decades, The Anomaly is a tour de force. With a genre-defying high concept and page-turning plot, what I particularly love about this book are the very human characters and stories that bring it all together. It’s gripping, original, and will leave you with questions as to what really makes us who we are long after you’ve finished reading.”
Grace Long, Editor, Michael Joseph
For fans of: Literary sci-fi, big existential questions, psychological thrillers.
In this part-memoir, part-self help guide from Fearne Cotton, the beloved television and radio presenter weaves learning moments from her own life with inherited wisdom and guidance from some of the world’s greatest minds about how to live a happy life. The result is a book that feels simultaneously down-to-earth and universal in its sprawl, touching on big subjects like love, awareness and communication while providing small anecdotes and exercises to help illustrate how to put them in practice. Bigger Than Us is designed to help readers transcend their blocks and unearth untapped potential – why wait?
Insider view: "Editing Bigger Than Us was a joy. Fearne is a natural writer whose vulnerability delivers an intimate and thought-provoking book. As a person, she is exactly who she is on the page. In the book, Fearne peels back layers of self-belief and anxiety to see if, by opening our minds to different beliefs, practices and spiritual wisdom, we can all find more purpose, meaning and, ultimately, happiness. Bigger Than Us is her most nuanced and ambitious non-fiction yet, and sets an exciting new direction for the future."
Lizzy Gray, Publishing Director, Happy Place Books
For fans of: Practical and down-to-earth self-help, Fearne Cotton.
There’s never been a better time to read up about how China became a 21st Century world power. In this gripping, immaculately researched book, Professor of East Asian Languages and Literatures & Comparative Literature at Yale University Jing Tsu does just that, arguing compellingly that a shift in language was largely responsible for the rise of a country that, just a century ago, was “a crumbling empire… left behind in the wake of Western technology.” This Tale of Language, Obsession, and Genius in Modern China, to borrow the book’s subtitle, is an endlessly captivating and original read.
Insider view: “Kingdom of Characters explores China’s emergence as a world power through the lens of language but, as the title suggests, what makes this book so incredibly captivating are the characters that shaped this story – the most memorable characters I have come across in a non-fiction book in a long time.”
Laura Stickney, Publishing Director, Penguin Press
For fans of: Global politics, linguistics, technology, Chinese history.
Inspired equal parts by Agatha Christie and Anthony Horowitz, Tom Hindle’s debut novel is a thrilling adventure story told at a fevered pace, and with a final twist to die for. In 1924, the ship Endeavour sets off for New York with 2000 passengers aboard – and one murderer. When an elderly man is found dead at the foot of a staircase, what is thought to have been an accident is quickly determined by Scotland Yard inspector James Temple to be rather suspicious. When the murder is linked to a priceless work of art, Temple and ship’s officer Timothy Birch have just days to solve the case, and the increasingly bizarre behaviour of the ship’s passengers isn’t making things any easier…
Insider view: “If you love Golden Age crime classics by the likes of Agatha Christie, or you raced through recent hits such as Richard Osman’s The Thursday Murder Club and Janice Hallett’s The Appeal, then this is the book for you. Tom Hindle brings the 1920s vividly to life as he depicts a fascinating array of passengers sailing from Southampton to New York, with a killer among them. This is an ingeniously plotted novel that will have you racing to discover the truth – with a final-page twist unlike any I’ve read before.”
Emily Griffin, Publishing Director, Century
For fans of: Agatha Christie, expert plot twists, Golden Age crime novels.
The Every by Dave Eggers
In this new novel from the author of A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius and The Circle, tech sceptic Delaney Wells has blagged herself into an entry-level position at The Every – the merger of the world’s largest search engine/social media company and the largest e-commerce site in the world – with a plan to bring down the company from within. Equal parts satire and true-to-life horror, Eggers’ latest raises questions about surveillance, control, and freedom – and whether humanity still craves the latter or not.
Insider view: “No one writes the very near future like Dave Eggers. Imagining a wholly plausible moment when the world’s biggest online retailer has merged with the world’s biggest social media company, he shows us how things are most likely to play out, with alarming results for human free will. Like Orwell, Eggers tells a fictional story with satiric purpose. One day, he says, this could be us. And is this what we really want? Like the hero of his book, the young woman Delaney Wells, who plots to bring down this behemoth company from within, we may all need to fight for our freedom.”
Simon Prosser, Publishing Director, Hamish Hamilton
For fans of: Big moral questions, dark humour, Dave Eggers
Penguin Modern Classics by Henry Eliot
In this “essential guide to twentieth-century literature around the world”, author Henry Eliot digs deep into the archives of the Penguin Classics series to showcase the thousands of incredible books that have defined 20th-century literature around the world, from description and commentary to context and key literary movements. If your reading list has felt small lately, this worldly guide to the scope of human written achievement in the past 60 years is the perfect place to start expanding it.
Insider view: “Henry Eliot’s amazing, immersive volume is, like the very best bookshop in the world, a place to get lost in; not only does it serve to showcase the world’s greatest modern literature, but also some of the finest graphic design and illustration of the past 60 years. Anyone with the slightest interest in books will come away from it much enriched, and in all probability clutching a lengthy reading list.”
Richard Atkinson, Publishing Director, Penguin Press
For fans of: World literature, new literary canons, beautiful coffee table books
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
Subtitled A New American Origin Story, this revolutionary, award-winning work of journalism from the team at The New York Times Magazine reconstructs American history from a new starting point: the year 1619, when a ship arrived in the British colony of Virginia carrying dozens of enslaved people from Africa. It is from that origin point, argues a team of writers headed by Nikole Hannah-Jones, that nearly all of American history can be understood – and in these essays, poems and short works of fiction, they show the multifarious ways that its influence manifests in American politics, arts, infrastructure, and in American democracy itself.
Insider view: “What I love most is the wild ambition of this book – putting slavery right at the beating heart of the American origin story, weaving together moving poetry, short fiction, and essays by a dazzling range of authors. Rather than quibbling at the margins, this book dives right in, sits us down to start again from the very beginning with an entirely fresh perspective on the most influential nation on Earth. And of course, any book that Donald Trump has tried to ban is always worth reading.”
Jamie Joseph, Editorial Director, Ebury
For fans of: Recontextualising history, American culture and history, in-depth reportage
Get Untamed: The Journal by Glennon Doyle
In her landmark memoir Untamed last year, Glennon Doyle grabbed the world by the ruff and shook it, entreating readers to Stop Pleasing, Start Living, to borrow the book’s urgent subtitle. Even Adele was a fan. Here, in a follow-up interactive journal, Doyle is giving readers a concrete guide to help navigate the process of unlearning people-pleasing behaviour in order to embrace your potential. Via a series of exercises and thinking prompts, Get Untamed: The Journal will help any reader “rediscover, and begin to trust, your own inner-voice”.
Insider view: “What would your life look like if you stopped abandoning yourself and instead abandoned others’ expectations of you? When Glennon shared her powerful story in Untamed, she helped millions of women realise they too had forgotten who they were before the world told them who to be. In Get Untamed, Glennon helps readers embark on their own intimate journey back to themselves. It’s a beautiful interactive journal with over 200 thought-provoking and soul-expanding questions, quotes and prompts.”
Susanna Abbott, Publishing Director, Vermilion
For fans of: Untamed, empowerment and self-care, unlearning behaviours that don’t serve you
Will by Will Smith
“Now this is a story all about how…”
One of the most dynamic and globally recognised entertainment forces of our time opens up fully about his life, in a brave and inspiring book that traces his learning curve to a place where outer success, inner happiness, and human connection are aligned. Along the way, Will tells the story in full of one of the most amazing rides through the worlds of music and film that anyone has ever had.
Insider view: Will Smith’s transformation from a fearful child in a tense West Philadelphia home to one of the biggest rap stars of his era and then one of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood history, with a string of box office successes, is a tale of inner transformation and outer triumph. The combination of genuine wisdom of universal value and a life story that is preposterously entertaining, even astonishing, puts Will the book, like its author, in a category by itself.’ Ben Brusey, Publishing Director, Century & Del Rey
For fans of: Will Smith, inspirational and comedic memoir, self-help
Call of the Penguins by Hazel Prior
Hazel Prior charmed thousands of readers with Veronica McCreedy in Away with the Penguins in 2020, and now the octogenarian is back! Call of the Penguins whisks us away to the southern hemisphere, where Veronica McCreedy – a uniquely feisty and popular octogenarian – is co-presenting a wildlife documentary about penguins, with her trademark wit, vim and verve.
Insider view: Readers first fell in love with Granny McCreedy in Hazel Prior’s number one bestselling novel Away with the Penguins, and this follow-up will be a treat for new readers and existing fans alike. With vivid settings and a cast of unforgettable characters, it’s an utterly charming, heart-warming and life-affirming story, and the perfect read for anyone who has been longing for an adventure. Imogen Nelson, Editor, Transworld
For fans of: Comforting reads, older protagonists, David Attenborough
Lily by Rose Tremain
As a baby, Lily was abandoned at the gates of a park and rescued by a young police constable. After a childhood with a kind foster family in Suffolk, she returns to the Foundling Hospital for her rebellious spirit, where the underworld of Victorian London lures her in. Astonishingly, Lily is reunited with the policeman who saved her, but how can her life continue when nobody knows of the dark secret she is hiding? In this remarkable novel from fiction doyenne Rose Tremain, romance and murder intertwine in a powerful read.
Insider view: Lily is a glorious novel – the characters are as richly drawn as Dickens’s, London is alive with sounds, smells and colour, and our heroine’s story will have you turning the pages as fast as you can. To read it is to feel the warmth from the fire at Rookery Farm radiate from the page – just what’s needed as the nights draw in! Rosanna Boscawen, Head of Campaigns, Vintage
For fans of: Historical fiction, page-turning plots and Victorian stories.
Diddly Squat by Jeremy Clarkson
Traditionally known for his affinity for fast cars and snazzy motors, in recent years Jeremy Clarkson’s been showcasing his knowledge of agriculture through TV show Clarkson’s Farm. Diddly Squat offers the inside story, of red tape, biblical weather, local objections, a global pandemic and Clarkson’s own frankly staggering ignorance of how to 'do farming'. Obviously, it’s hilarious.
Insider view: Clarkson’s Farm was one of the most talked about new TV shows of the year. And deservedly so. Jeremy has always made great TV, but with Clarkson’s Farm was special. Fortunately, Jeremy’s also always been an exceptional writer and so it was a treat to read his regular dispatches from Diddly Squat. It was also great fun to get to commission some E.H. Shepard style line drawings to illustrate his (mis)adventures on the farm. Rowland White, Publishing Director, Michael Joseph
For fans of: Farming, Jeremy Clarkson, entertaining mishaps
Fry’s Ties by Stephen Fry
Yes, we all know Stephen Fry is a genius for the everyman: a polymath whose career has dominated stage, screen and shelf. But he’s also very dapper, as evidenced by his latest work: Fry’s Ties. In classic Fry fashion, the author delves beneath the surface to offer stories from his life, accompanied by beautiful photographs and hand-drawn illustrations.
For fans of: Ties, Stephen Fry, funny stories.
The Lyrics by Paul McCartney
There are few – if any – more beloved songwriters than Paul McCartney living today, and this beautiful, two-volume boxed set provides an unprecedented look into his life, both professionally and personally. Indeed, Macca notes in the press materials for the book, while he has often “been asked if I would write an autobiography”, this is the closest he’s come to actually doing so: his songs, he writes, “span my entire life”, and The Lyrics proceeds to tell its story, from the age of 14 until the current day, through them. There’s never been a better window into McCartney’s genius, making The Lyrics essential for Beatles fans – and a perfect Christmas gift, too.
Insider view: “The Lyrics is a glorious and intimate self-portrait of Paul McCartney, which contains a treasure trove of personal photographs and handwritten lyric sheets, as well as an unrecorded and never-before-seen Beatles song. The two beautiful volumes will give readers a unique insight into this beloved musician’s creative process, showcasing his skills as a writer, as well as a songsmith. Make sure to also visit the accompanying British Library exhibition, to look out for our London buses and to listen to the extracts currently being read by Paul himself on Radio 4!”
Alice Skinner, Assistant Editor, Allen Lane
For fans of: The Beatles, creatives, people interesting in icons
My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson
In her captivating debut novel, Jocelyn Nicole Johnson writes about a Black neighbourhood which comes under violent attack by a group of white supremacists, and a group of neighbours, friends and allies who set off in search of respite. They arrive at Monticello, the historic plantation home of Thomas Jefferson (the slave-owning third President of the United States), stirring up complex emotions for group leader Da’Naisha Love – a Black descendant of the former President and Sally Hemings. Never mind “for a debut”: My Monticello is a captivating, stirringly resonant achievement, period.
Insider view: “My Monticello is a one-sitting, heart-stopping read that addresses head on the trauma of racial violence while also showing the transformative power of compassion and collective action. It does what the best fiction must: reflects our society with clarity, making us think better, think deeper. It’s also completely immersive – cinematic and fast-paced – with a generous cast whose relationships are a source of hope. Jocelyn Nicole Johnson is a phenomenal talent, and I can’t wait for UK readers to discover her.”
Kate Harvey, Deputy Publishing Director, Harvill Secker
For fans of: Black resistance and reclamation, Colson Whitehead, American history
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows by Ai Weiwei
From one of the world’s most extraordinary artists comes this expansive, enchanting memoir that interweaves the story of Ai Weiwei with that of his country’s last century. By recounting both his father’s life and his own, and placing them both against the socio-political background of China in the 20th Century, the powerfully political, explosively creative author paints a picture of what it’s like to make art under a totalitarian regime, and what it means to put one’s life on the line for what they believe. This is an artist’s story like you’ve never read before.
Insider view: “This is the deeply moving, epic and intimate story of a father and a son, a family, a nation and a century of making art under tyranny. The father is Ai Qing, one of China’s greatest 20th-century poets. The son is Ai Weiwei, perhaps the best-known artist and activist in the world today.”
Stuart Williams, Publishing Director, Bodley Head
For fans of: Art and politics, Chinese history, creative memoir
The Ruin of All Witches by Malcolm Gaskill
In this real-life folktale – ripped from America’s colonial history and told, based on research, by Malcolm Gaskill – a 1651 frontier town is torn asunder when strange happenings begin: food spoiling, livestock dying, things vanishing. Rumours of witchcraft and heresy mingle with distrust and suspicion, sowing discord in the community and leading to the ruin of a young brickmaker, his wife, and their children. By focusing on a single family and community, Gaskill tells a larger story of America in transition, stuck between belief in the fantastical and mistrust in scientific progress.
Insider view: “Montaillou meets The Witch, The Ruin of All Witches is both a brilliant act of historical recovery and a skin-prickling story of life in a remote 17th-century Massachusetts community. Chilling and claustrophobic, it’s all the more disconcerting for being entirely true.”
Thomas Penn, Publishing Director, Penguin Press Editorial
For fans of: The history of witchcraft, Colonial American history, gripping real-life tales
Better Off Dead by Lee Child
Jack Reacher is back! And he’s not messing around. The bestselling Lee Child has returned with his best-loved protagonist, and this time, he gets embroiled with grizzled FBI agent Michaela Fenton on her hunt for her twin brother in an Arizona border town. If Reacher’s going to unearth the rot - and find Fenton’s brother - he’s going to have to achieve the impossible in this hostile part of the country.
Insider view: Better Off Dead is the second book to be written by Lee in collaboration with his brother, Andrew. Fast-paced and gripping, it’s everything you’d expect from these kings of the crime/thriller. As James Patterson said of their first book, The Sentinel, ‘Two Childs are even better than one’. Patsy Irwin, Publicity Director, Transworld
For fans of: Edge-of-your-seat thrillers, compelling heroes, rural American settings
Don't Laugh, It'll Only Encourage Her by Daisy May Cooper
Showbiz memoirs can be relied upon to tell the before-they-were-famous stories of our favourite stars, but few modern celebrities have the rags-to-riches real story of Daisy May Cooper - nor the wit to tell it as she does. From her ex-boyfriends’ genitalia to a failed auditioning to be a stripper, Don’t Laugh, It’ll Only Encourage Her peppers a vital story of making your own way in showbiz, peppered with unforgettably funny anecdotes.
Insider view: Daisy May Cooper is the funniest woman on TV. Outrageously silly and gloriously daft, she is everything that we all need in our lives. Her memoir is every bit as joyful as Daisy is. Charlotte Hardman, Publisher, Non-fiction, Michael Joseph
For fans of: This Country, paranormal activity, tell-all memoir
Renegades by Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen
Two giants of American culture and politics talk man-to-man in this remarkable collection of conversations. Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen’s conversation sprawls from fatherhood to careers, race, identity and ambition in this beautiful book. A brilliant gift for the thinkers and dreamers in your life.
Insider view: “If Barack Obama’s A Promised Land took you inside the president’s head, reading Renegades is like hanging out with these two mega-selling legends in their living room, listening to their thoughts on life, on politics, music and on relationships – and being shown through their hidden treasure chests, with full-colour images throughout, including from their personal archives: from the young Bruce, and his handwritten lyrics, to the President’s family photos and the notes that show how he made his speeches so powerful. It’s a lot of fun too; at one point Springsteen says, “I know it was tough being President, but let me explain to you how hard it is making an album…” Daniel Crewe, Publishing Director, Viking Non-Fiction
For fans of: Bruce Springsteen, Barack Obama, inspirational leaders
A Modern Way to Live by Matt Gibberd
Millions of people dreamily scroll through the properties on The Modern House website every month, mostly to soak up inspiration from the beautiful, refined interiors rather than to lay down a deposit. the Modern House’s co-founder,
Insider view: With A Modern Way to Live our aim was to democratise the principles behind the Modern House – to put those essential elements of space, light, materials, nature and decoration under the microscope and show readers that no matter how large or small their property, no matter whether they rent or own, there are simple measures that can transform it into a functional, healthy home. It didn’t hurt that Matt Gibberd is an incredibly warm, funny writer who knows everything there is to know about design and wellbeing. I actually moved house while editing this book and it made the process much more thoughtful and pleasurable than ever before – although I did have to explain to my girlfriend why I’d spent countless hours looking for a more tactile loo seat.’ Tom Killingbeck, Editorial Director, Penguin General
For fans of: Architecture, lust-worthy interiors, living more beautifully
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Big Shot (Book 16) by Jeff Kinney
Greg is ready to throw in the towel on his athletics career. It’s just not meant to be, especially after THAT disastrous competition. But his mum – ever the optimist – persuades Greg to give sports one last shot. So, he tries out for the basketball team. And unbelievably makes the cut! Granted they are the worst team, but still, Greg is officially a sportsman. However, as the worst team, they’ve not had the best start to the season and it’s riding on Greg now to make that crucial shot.
For fans of: Laugh-out-loud comics, such as Captain Underpants, Tom Gates and Timmy Failure.
The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles
Five years after the release of his incredible bestselling novel A Gentleman in Moscow, author Amor Towles returns with The Lincoln Highway, an epic American yarn that begins in Nebraska in 1954. When young Emmett Watson is released from a juvenile work farm after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter, he seeks out his brother with a plan to start fresh in California – only to find that two fellow inmates from the farm have stowed away with him. Suddenly, he finds himself (and his three comrades) heading to New York City instead, in a classic-style journey across 1950s America, all told in Towles’ colourful, masterful prose.
Insider view: “The Lincoln Highway is destined to be read for years to come. At the heart of it is a gorgeous sibling relationship, an exploration of what it means to be a good person and a road trip that will leave you fantasising about going on an adventure – pick up this book for the perfect escape. Towles writes out of time, calling to mind so many beloved and classic writers.”
Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director, Hutchinson Heinemann
For fans of: Epic American fiction, John Steinbeck, the call of the open road.
Oh William! by Elizabeth Strout
There are few better world-builders in the realm of literature than Elizabeth Strout. The award-winning American author has shown her talent for exploring every fascinating corner of a book’s universe twice now: first in 2019 with Olive, Again, when she further detailed the life of the protagonist from her Pulitzer Prize-winning 2006 novel Olive Kitteridge; and now again, to magnificent effect, with Oh William!, a return to the world of My Name Is Lucy Barton in which she reconnects with her first husband in a tender and complex tale of growth, understanding, and resiliency.
Insider view: “You cannot read only one novel by Elizabeth Strout. Once you enter her world, you want to read every book she has ever written. She can reveal a whole character in a moment, a whole life in a scene. Oh William!, her latest novel, is the story of a relationship between two people who were once married long ago. It is about how people love and let go, it is about how we hold onto ideas, often wrong ones, about ourselves and others. It is a novel of contrasts: compassionate and sharply observed, deeply moving and very wry. Strout is a genius and Oh William! might be her finest novel yet.”
Mary Mount, Editor, Viking
For fans of: Emotionally complex love stories, My Name is Lucy Barton, Booker-nominated authors.
RuPaul’s Drag Race by Christian Guiltenane
After 10 seasons of the American original, RuPaul’s Drag Race finally came to the UK in 2019 – and promptly captured the hearts and imaginations of viewers. Following two smashingly entertaining series, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK has just returned for a new one, and this complete guide – including interviews with all of the Series 3 queens, the best moments of Series 1 and 2, mini challenges, trivia and more – has arrived just in time. As RuPaul says: reading is fundamental!
Insider view: “Full of humour, history, and heart, RuPaul’s Drag Race UK is your perfect companion to the hit UK series. Learn more about the Series 3 queens in exclusive interviews, relive the best moments of Series 1 and 2, and compete in your own Drag Race mini challenges. This book is guaranteed to make your day MUCH BETTA!”
Daniel Sørensen, Assistant Editor, BBC Books
For fans of: RuPaul’s Drag Race UK; queer culture; charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent.
D (A Tale of Two Worlds) by Michel Faber
Praised by the likes of Neil Gaiman, and compared to some of the most imaginative Young Adult novels of all time, books like Michel Faber’s D (A Tale of Two Worlds) don’t come along very often. In this clever new work from the Dutch-born author of Under the Skin, The Crimson Petal and the White and The Fire Gospel, a teenager must retrieve the letter D, which has disappeared from the English language – along with the local dentist, the neighbour’s Dalmatian, and more. Travelling between England and the world of Liminus, Dhikilo sets off in search of it…
Insider view: “Michel Faber’s bestselling The Crimson Petal and the White has become a classic. Here, Michel turns his hand to Young Adult fiction, creating a nuanced, charming and surprisingly dark take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Chronicles of Narnia in which a teenager is enlisted by her dead history teacher to retrieve the letter D – which has lately gone missing from the English language. Result: a powerful fable on inclusivity, bravery and friendship. This makes a great gift for a younger reader but will enchant Faber fans everywhere.”
Jane Lawson, Editorial Director, Doubleday
For fans of: Thought-provoking YA, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, wit and cleverness.
Keisha the Sket by Jade LB
Sometimes, literary phenomena are born without a book in sight. In the early 00s, Keisha the Sket was just that: a pop cultural narrative that took hold on websites and the mobile phones of teenagers around the country, decolonising literature and depicting a culture that was too often overlooked by the publishing industry. Now, for the first time, the coming-of-age story is being released in print. For those in the know, it’s a moment. For those not, it’s a vital read.
Insider view: Without a doubt Keisha the Sket is the original love letter to the ends. The rawest depiction of sex, relationships and coming of age in the inner-city. A thrilling tale of girlhood, friendship, choices and love. If you don’t know – get to know, because you’re not part of the cultural vanguard if you don’t know about Keisha.
Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Senior Commissioning Editor, Cornerstone
For fans of: Sam Selvon’s The Lonely Londoners, mid-2000s British youth culture, Nokia 2210s.
Hill House Living by Paula Sutton
A decade before the pandemic encouraged us to examine our lives a little more closely, former magazine editor Paula Sutton had learned how to make hers more joyful: uprooting herself from London to a beautiful (and remote) Norfolk home, separating her identity for her work and doing things that made her happy – from baking a cake to dressing in exactly what she wanted. Hill House Living tells her story, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Insider view: Whether you’re (re)decorating your flat or house, on a budget or splurging, in the city or country, or you simply want to get a slice of country life, this book is for you. Replete with practical advice on buying second-hand items, styling your indoor and outdoor spaces, going DIY, as well as exquisite comfort meals, Hill House Living is the ultimate cosy book, out just in time for the nesting season! Tailored for each season, Paula has packed in hundreds of tips, tutorials, recipes and stories that will inspire you to ‘practice joyfulness’ and treat yourself – without breaking the bank.
Marianne Tatepo, Commissioning Editor, Ebury
For fans of: Living more beautifully, interior design, country house chic.
Free by Lea Ypi
Lea Ypi grew up in one of the most isolated corners of Stalinist Europe, and never knew anything different. Albania was all but cut off from outsiders, and very few residents were able to leave. To Ypi, it was home. But when the Berlin Wall fell, Albania changed, revealing Ypi’s family secrets in the process.
Insider view: Deeply moving, witty and fiercely intelligent, this book has already resonated with so many readers. It’s that rare thing: a very specific story about growing up in Albania in the 1980s and 90s that is also truly universal. Reading it has transformed my understanding of the Cold War and my own upbringing.
Casiana Ionita, Publishing Director, Penguin Press
For fans of: Educated by Tara Westover, Cold War stories, humorous writing.
You’ve Got to Laugh by Alison Hammond
Alison Hammond's enough of a national treasure for most daytime TV devotees to know something of her career: that brilliant debut on Big Brother 3 and I'm a Celebrity, the pitch-perfect presenting on This Morning. But there's still plenty of Hammond's life to fill her sparkling memoir – not to mention showbiz gossip.
Insider view: Alison loves to laugh. And the nation laughs with her. It’s impossible to watch her onscreen and not to feel buoyed up by her infectious joy and energy – and what a joy it is to publish You’ve Got To Laugh! For fans desperate to know more about the woman behind the laugh, this will provide a glorious, effervescent look at the moments that made Alison who she is today.
Frankie Gray, Publishing Director, Commercial Fiction, Transworld
For fans of: Laugh-out-loud writing, big-hearted stories, disruptive daytime television.
Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh
It’s easy, particularly in despairing moments, to look at the state of the world and think, ‘But I’m just one person!’. Yet, argues Thich Nhat Hanh, there is one thing we always have the power to change: our mind. In Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk also known as ‘Thay’ outlines the incredible potential we each hold when it comes to shaping the world around us, and does so in a way that’s both accessible and pragmatic.
Insider view: “Thay is one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time, and his soothing words of wisdom have helped millions of readers around the world. In Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet, he offers a vital message to facing the climate crisis: in these uncertain and challenging times, our mindset can make all the difference. This is an essential read and we are so proud to be publishing it.”
Bianca Bexton, Editor at Ebury
For fans of: Making a better world, self-care, the writings of the Dalai Lama.
Nests by Susan Ogilvy
Forget smelling the roses; have you ever stopped to admire a bird’s nest? That’s exactly what Susan Ogilvy did one day after stumbling upon a chaffinch nest blown onto the ground, and it kickstarted a new project: to closely examine the stunning architecture and ingenuity of bird’s nests and then paint them. The result is Nests, a book of life-sized paintings that reveal the genius and detail – every twig, root, reed, leaf, hair, feather, every bit of moss, lichen, cobwebs, stuffing and string – hidden in the homes of the avian world.
Insider view: “This wondrous book – quite possibly the most beautiful I’ve had the pleasure of publishing – is a unique celebration of birds’ nests and the genius of their creation. These nest portraits – which have been reproduced in all their twiggy detail, at exact life size, on creamy art paper – should open readers’ eyes to the wonders of avian architecture, and engender a renewed respect for birds of all feathers.”
Richard Atkinson, Publishing Director at Penguin Press
For fans of: Nature, bird-watching, David Attenborough, the detail of everyday things.
Taste by Stanley Tucci
Whether you ascribe it to Stanley Tucci’s seemingly endless charisma or lockdown boredom – we’re calling it an 80/20, realistically – the beloved actor nearly destroyed the entire internet in April of 2020, when a video of him making a negroni with such nonchalant charm and sprezzatura that numerous publications referred to it as ASMR. This week, Tucci is finally capitalising on his obvious affinity for food-related content by publishing My Life Through Food, a witty and delightful memoir that views his relationships, family, career and more through the prism of that most delicious conversation-starter: food.
Insider view: “Stanley Tucci’s Taste is a funny, intimate, warm and enormously entertaining memoir, ranging across decades, countries (and filmsets) and rich with a love of family, culinary history and tradition. It’s a book with a big heart – and a big stomach – and is an absolute delight”
Helen Garnons-Williams, Publishing Director at Fig Tree
For fans of: Nigella Lawson, good food, witty memoirs.
Spider Woman by Lady Hale
Though the pinnacle of Lady Hale’s exalted career arguably came in 2019 when, as President of the Supreme Court, she found prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful, her new memoir Spider Woman, which follows Hale’s extraordinary life – from being raised in a “a little village in North Yorkshire” to her ascension to the British House of Lords and, in 2009, to the newly founded Supreme Court, where her rulings in domestic violence, divorce, mental health, equality and elsewhere changed the world for the better – demonstrates just why she’s become such a respected figure in the UK. Fascinating and inspirating in equal measure, Spider Woman is a captivating account of an incredible life.
Insider view: “Lady Hale is a hero and inspiration to many people – for her achievements and for the causes she has backed. She’s a trailblazer and serial smasher of glass ceilings. Spider Woman gives us the law’s most charismatic communicator, but also an inspiring story about overcoming the odds in life.”
Stuart Williams, Publishing Director at Bodley Head
For fans of: Feminist history, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, inspiring memoirs.
Manifesto by Bernardine Evaristo
Since she became the first Black woman to win the Booker Prize in 2019, Bernardine Evaristo has felt ever-present in the world of books, whether she’s being interviewed or helping to shine a light on Black British voices. But her story began many years earlier; a veteran novelist, Evaristo has written a combined dozens of novels, plays and short stories. Here, in what she’s titled her Manifesto, Evaristo tells the story of her life, from her “childhood steeped in racism” to her trailblazing successes as a writer, activist and vital member of Britain’s artistic community.
Insider view: “Bernardine’s Booker win in November 2019 still feels like a revolutionary moment, and this magnificent memoir, told in her unique style, charts how she got there. It is endlessly interesting – honest, funny, eye-opening, engaged and above all inspiring: an exemplary account of creative unstoppability, from birth to Booker.”
Simon Prosser, Publishing Director at Hamish Hamilton
For fans of: Girl, Woman, Other, writing about writing, intersectional feminism.
Rationality by Steven Pinker
Bestselling author Steven Pinker’s book is named after the concept it champions: the notion of injecting logic, reason and rationality into an increasingly complex world. With fake news, increasing distrust of the structures in place and a world adjusting to life with a pandemic, there has never been a greater need for rationality, and an explanation as to how it can offer a solution to the problems we face today.
For fans of: big thinking, social science, new ideas.
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love by Yotam Ottolenghi and Noor Murad
Behind every great cookery book lies a test kitchen. Yotam Ottolenghi has changed the way a nation cooks, introducing flavours and ingredients that have made our tables – and plates – more vibrant, healthy and delicious. Now, with Ottolenghi Test Kitchen, the team who appear on the pages of books such as FLAVOUR and SIMPLE are stepping into the spotlight, focusing on encouraging the reader’s creativity and confidence to make the most of your dinner.
Insider view: “Our first book, Shelf Love, strips back your cooking by celebrating items already in your fridge, cupboard or freezer so you can build culinary confidence and, if you wish, make any dish your own.” Lizzy Gray
For fans of: Life-changing cookery books, mixing it up in the kitchen, delicious food.
Beautiful Country by Qian Julie Wang
To move to another country, leaving behind everything you know and starting anew, is one thing. To live in that new country as an undocumented – “illegal” – immigrant is another. Qian Julie Wang tells the remarkable story of her life and family, uprooted from China during her childhood to live in Brooklyn without documentation, grappling for survival with every passing day. In the process, she sheds much-needed insight on a narrative that is known all too well by millions around the world. Wang will be speaking about Beautiful Country at her Penguin Live event; ticket information here.
Insider view: “Occasionally a memoir comes along that truly shifts the way you understand the world around you. This is one of those memoirs. Searing in its honesty, beautifully written and tremendously moving I want to press it into the hands of everyone I know.” Mary Mount
For fans of: Educated by Tara Westover, memoirs, true stories.
The Jealousy Man by Jo Nesbo
A former footballer and popstar, novelist Jo Nesbo has succeeded at more than enough careers for one lifetime. Still, he’s added another string to his bow with The Jealousy Man, his first collection of short stories. After selling more than 50 million copies of novels, many of which featuring Harry Hole, his problematic detective, Nesbo has divided The Jealousy Man by the themes that have dominated his gritty novels: Power and Jealousy. Within these two, the author has contained a number of delectable tales displaying the grimness of humankind’s urges.
Insider view: “All the best-loved hallmarks of Nesbo’s novels are here – dark and complex protagonists, unexpected twists and nailbiting plotlines - but in short, sharp, perfectly formed stories which conjure whole worlds of threat and explore the dark side of human psychology. Completely gripping.’ Elizabeth Foley
For fans of: Harry Hole, short stories, an air of looming suspense
The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson
There have been a spell of novels inspired by witchcraft, its history and the women who were subjugated within it in recent years. But Alexis Henderson’s debut is a novel take on the genre. Immanuelle has been born and raised in a religious cult named Bethel, but when she discovers the diary of her late mother she uncovers the dark history at the only world she’s ever known – and why her mother consorted with witches. Powers she never knew she had enable Immanuelle to affect fundamental change, making The Year of the Witching a potent novel for our times.
Insider view: It’s a thrilling and at times chilling read. Indeed, it’s rare that I agree with the Daily Mail but for me, when it called Alexis Henderson’s debut ‘a magnificent, raw slice of folk horror, dark with threat and clenched with suspense’, it was bang on! Simon Taylor, editor at Transworld
For fans of: Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Southern Noir.
Change Sings by Amanda Gorman & Loren Long
Amanda Gorman inspired the world when she delivered a poetry reading at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden in January 2021. She spoke of hope and progress overtime for a better and fairer world. And her new picture book Change Sings encapsulates that same message for children. Gorman’s lyrical text alongside Loren Long’s stunning illustrations, tells the story of a young girl who leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, teaching them that they all have the power to make big and small changes.
Insider view: “Amanda Gorman’s work is rich, powerful, a beacon of hope; to publish this truly remarkable poet through her passionate picture-book writing is a real privilege.” Andrea MacDonald, Puffin Picture Books Editorial Director
For fans of: poetry and uplifting, life-affirming picture books.
Bewilderment by Richard Powers
Clocking up a Booker Prize shortlisting before release is something many authors dream of, but Richard Powers is no stranger to accolades: his previous novel, The Overstory, won the 2018 Pulitzer prize. Where that novel explored the environmental crisis, Bewilderment broadens Powers' scope to the entire cosmos, explored through a father-son relationship left vulnerable by the death of a wife and mother. Astrobiologist Theo Byrne must handle his own grief while navigating that of his troubled nine-year-old son, and their joint exploration of the universe results in poignant resolution. The Guardian calls Bewilderment “a ghostly and affecting love story”.
For fans of: the cosmos, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, stories about loss.
Big Panda and Tiny Dragon by James Norbury
There is considerable buzz around the world about this new book which follows an unlikely pair of friends as they contemplate the meaning of love, friendship and life itself. Inspired by self-taught artist James Norbury's time volunteering for the Samaritans, its blend of ancient proverbs and beautiful illustrations is just the uplifting tonic we need after a tough 18 months. A lovely Christmas gift, too.
For fans of: philosophy, spirtuality, Winnie-the-Pooh.
Not Without a Fight by Ramla Ali
A Somali refugee raised on an East London council estate, Ramla Ali became the first Somali boxer to compete in the Olympics earlier this year in Tokyo – an athlete who Anthony Joshua says he’s inspired by. But that’s not all: Ali’s also a humanitarian and model – and now, she’s an author. Not Without A Fight: 10 Steps to Becoming Your Own Champion is a galvanizing guide to encouraging anyone – no matter their background – to connect with their wellbeing, improve their self-development and examine their relationship to health and fitness.
Insider view: “It’s a powerful and practical knockout of a book from a real inspiring voice and force for change. Each page is full of honesty and urgency, empowering the reader to become their own champion.” Lemara Lindsay-Prince, Editor at Cornerstone
For fans of: motivational reads, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, polymaths.
Matrix by Lauren Groff
Over the course of her novels and short story collections, Lauren Groff has twisted time, stretching from Ancient myth and local folk legend to communes in the 1970s. For her latest novel, though, Groff’s firmly turns the clock back by a matter of millennia: Matrix is set in a medieval nunnery and fictionalises the life of 12th-century poet Marie de France, broadly considered the first woman to write verse. Groff’s version of her is 17, in a secret lesbian tryst and a fierce pioneer for women’s rights.
Insider view: “All women will see something of themselves in Marie de France and her struggle for power and influence. This is a truly dazzling and ambitious new novel by Groff” Ailah Ahmed, Publishing Director for Hutchingson Heinemann
For fans of: historical fiction, Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, mystical visions.
The Story of the World in 100 Moments by Neil Oliver
It sounds ambitious but if anyone can tell the history of the planet on an engrossing and entertaining whistle-stop tour, it’s esteemed broadcaster and historian Neil Oliver. A follow-up to his exemplary 2020 bestseller The Story of the British Isles in 100 Places, this collection of micro-essays allows us to put history’s pivotal moments in context to better understand how we got to where we are today.
Insider view: "The book is a brilliant achievement. The breadth of Neil’s knowledge is awe-inspiring, he writes evocatively and movingly, and both individually and read as a piece, reading these moments is massively rewarding." Susanna Wadeson, Editor at Transworld
For fans of: trivia, history documentaries, pub quizzes,
Eating to Extinction by Dan Saladino
We’ve perhaps never, in recent times, been more conscious of what’s on our plate. In the midst of climate catastrophe and a global obsession with wellbeing, what we eat reflects how we live. Which is why Dan Saladino’s in-depth guide to the thousands of foods that we risk losing to extinction is so pertinent. From pistachios to pears, the history of how and what we eat touches everyone from farmers to food producers.
Insider view: “This is a truly eye-opening and inspiring book about food, environment and global loss of biodiversity. These stories of nearly extinct foods are the hidden stories of who we are – our past, present and future. It’s a book I’ve been pressing into the hands of everyone I know, and a call to arms for all of us who love food and care about the future of our planet.” ” Bea Hemming, Deputy Publishing Director at Jonathan Cape
For fans of: cooking, English Pastoral by James Rebanks, knowing where your food comes from
Which book are you most excited about? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The award-winning writer behind Doctor Who, Sherlock and The Time Traveler’s Wife on the reads that continue to inspire him
From Bridget Jones to Apocalypse Now to Conversations With Friends, books have been used onscreen to tell us more about characters or just make a brilliant in-joke. Here are some you may have missed.