Books to push you out of your comfort zone
Here's how the Penguin team will be broadening our reading horizons over the next twelve months. Fancy joining us?
I haven’t always made a beeline for the science fiction section, but there’s been so much great writing going on in the genre lately that I’m determined this will be the year I get into it. I like that this story goes beyond standard action-hero stuff – I’m curious about the main character, Wade, his quest for a better life, and the fact that the book has something to say about the kind of world we’re heading towards if we don’t do something about the impact we’re having on the climate. Plus, I want to read it before the film comes out!
Having recently developed a real taste for crime (novels!), the shroud of mystery surrounding The Chalk Man has definitely piqued my interest. Eddie is a child when he first meets the ‘Chalk Man.’ The two play a game in which they leave secret messages for his friends. Butt what starts off as fun quickly turns serious, and 30 years later, when Eddie receives a piece of chalk in the post, he realises the game has never stopped. I already have many questions, and am looking forward to unravelling this murky thriller.
I don’t normally seek out bawdy romps through eighteenth century high society, but the irresistible premise of this book – man acquires mermaid, adventures ensue – lured me in. Science and natural history are favoured habitats of mine, but I’m looking forward to abandoning some facts for fun. I have no idea if the mermaid is a fishy reality, a fabulous metaphor, or both, and I can’t wait to find out.
I have a confession: I only watched the first two episodes of Black Mirror. It wasn’t that I didn’t like it – actually, the opposite; I found it so clever and enthralling that it totally spooked me and I haven’t plucked up the courage to go back to it! With this book, I’m going to be brave - I know it will be worth it. I’m looking forward to reading stories with all the dark humour and ingenuity of the TV series – even if I have to put the book in the freezer a few times before I reach the end...
Franz Kafka (read by Benedict Cumberbatch)
Franz Kafka’s disturbing tale about a man who wakes up one morning to find he has transformed into a monstrous insect? Read aloud by the soothing tones of Benedict Cumberbatch? Yes please. Having recently discovered a love of audiobooks as a means of drifting away during a manic after-work commute, I am looking forward to revisiting this modern classic as an audiobook. I can’t wait to hear its characters brought to life.
Love more and suffer more, or love less and suffer less? How intriguing. We all wonder what life would be like had we chosen the other forks in the road, so although I wouldn’t normally go for a book like this I’m sure there are plenty of universal themes to identify with. I really enjoyed Arthur & George by the same author, so I’m going to trust him with this very different story.
Although I like to think that I do my best to help the environment, I know there is more I could do. However, every time I watch a documentary about climate change (I’m looking at you, Chasing Coral), regardless of how brilliant they are, I feel completely defeated! Because of this, I don’t really read about climate change in case it depresses me further. I think a book like Drawdown is practical and optimistic enough to allow me to sink my teeth into a plan, without getting bogged down in doom and gloom.
Ruby Wax is on a one-woman mission to help us all understand our brains better, and learn to live in them more comfortably. And while she’s at it, she going to make us laugh. A LOT. So while I know this book is going to challenge me to take on something a bit daunting - i.e. making some changes to my habits in order to properly look after my mind – I’m confident that Ruby will guide me through in a way that’s hopeful, manageable and hilarious.
This book would not normally be my cup of tea, but something about the plot has me determined to give it a try. The story is centred on a happy couple who, in order to keep things interesting, embark on Project Surprise Me. What starts as a series of fun little surprises eventually turns into an accidental airing of dark secrets, including one scandal from the past which could threaten the relationship. Given that social media is making secrets ever-harder to keep, I think this one sounds like an interesting read…
I recently listened to Kate Bush’s terrifying Waking the Witch, so when this book spookily appeared on my reading radar it went straight on the list. A further draw is that it’s based on real events – I confess to knowing little about witch trials and witch finders. Exploring social panic, the abuse of power and the suppression of women, I anticipate a chilling historical thriller that chimes with our own times too.
As a proud feminist, I know quite a bit about the Suffrage movement in Ireland (where I grew up), but I’m woefully uninformed about the suffragists’ march on London. I haven’t really dipped my toes back into the world of history books since I was in school, but I think learning more about this time in history could help me bring some really interesting insights into my modern-day life and I really like the way Jane Robinson has brought storytelling elements into an account of a political movement.
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