What London’s Reading Now: Ingrid Persaud, Ciaran Thapar and Dapo Adeola top the list

·13-min read
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(Handout)

Each week we bring you a guide to the books flying off the shelves in London’s bookshops. This week’s bestselling top five includes odes to queer icons, a fascinating debut novel and some beautiful illustrations.

The Queer Bible: Essays edited by Jack Guinness (HarperCollins, £20)

Based on the website queerbible.com, founded by writer and model Jack Guinness, this book brings together a starry array of queer icons writing about their own queer icons. Elton John writes a tribute to Divine; Graham Norton pays homage to Armistead Maupin; Paris Lees pens an ode to Edward Enninful. That’s to name a few, and there are lots of lovely illustrations to accompany it all.

Buy it here

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud (Faber and Faber, £8.99)

Ingrid Persaud turned heads with her award-winning short story The Sweet Sop, and has followed it up with an equally celebrated debut novel, which won the 2020 Costa First Novel Award. It follows an unconventional, makeshift family — a widowed mother, her son, and a lodger — whose union falls apart after some drunken revelations.

Buy it here

Cut Short: Youth Violence, Loss and Hope in the City by Ciaran Thapar (Penguin, £16.98)

Britain is in the midst of a youth violence epidemic, and it affects us all. That’s the message of this sobering book, which follows the lives of real-life people affected by the ongoing tragedy, speaks to experts about what needs to be done, and offers fresh hope for a better world — change that is undeniably needed.

Buy it here

Hey You! by Dapo Adeola (Penguin Random House Children’s UK, £7.99)

A beautifully realised book, helmed by illustrator Dapo Adeola and featuring a number of other excellent artists, this is a portrait of the Black experience while growing up. From the pain of systemic racism to the hope of the future, it’s an honest but largely uplifting read, aimed at children particularly.

Buy it here

My Name Is Why by Lemn Sissay (Canongate, £9.99)

Poet Lemn Sissay has ascended to national treasure status in the last few years, partly due to an absolute stonker of a Desert Island Discs episode, but mainly just because he is pretty great. His extraordinarily moving memoir about his difficult early years, which saw him rejected by the family that adopted him and put into care, is now out in paperback and is rightly being read by Londoners all over the capital.

Buy it here

What London’s Reading Now: June 18, 2021

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Small Pleasures by Clare Chambers (Orion, £8.99)

Clare Chambers was on the verge of giving up her career as a novelist, until she heard the story of a woman who claimed to have had a virgin birth. After publishing several books to acclaim but modest sales, she saw the idea as one last roll of the dice - and the result, Small Pleasures, went on to become a massive word-of-mouth success. Set in humid 1950s London suburbia, it’s a huge pleasure of a book - deliriously unputdownable. Thank god she didn’t give up.

Buy it here

Burning the Books: A History of Knowledge Under Attack by Richard Ovenden (Hodder & Stoughton, £10.99)

No, this isn’t an academic study of Jeanette Winterson’s recent Twitter post, but an extensive history of those who have sought to destroy written records. From books to historical documents, why have people tried to erase certain writings - and who are the people that stop them? Ovenden, who runs the Bodleian Libraries in Oxford, looks back at 3,000 years of history, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Donald Trump’s tweets.

Buy it here

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, £14.99)

Over fifteen years since her doorstop of a debut, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke’s second novel is a slimmer, more mysterious affair. Set in a dreamlike world with endless rooms and corridors, Piranesi explores the house alone - except for twice a week, when a man called The Other appears. The novel is on the shortlist for this year’s Women’s Prize, which has pushed back its winners announcement to September due to the lockdown easing delay.

Buy it here

Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre (Penguin. £8.99)

Ben Macintyre’s latest gripping spy biography is keeping Londoners occupied on these hot summer days. Telling the story of Ursula Kuczynski Burton (code name: Sonya), her story is fascinating, not least because she juggled her top level secret operations with being a wife and mother, switching from baking scones to passing on intel about making an atomic bomb. James Bond could never.

Buy it here

This list has been compiled with thanks to bookshop.org

What London’s Reading Now: June 11, 2021

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Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason (Orion, £14.99)

You know that book that only comes along every so often, that seems to unite everyone who has read it in a sort of delirious fervour? Sorrow and Bliss is that book. Bound to be this month’s word-of-mouth hit, it follows Martha’s quest to try and be a normal adult human while living with a mental illness. It’s utterly compelling and darkly funny: the book you have to read this summer.

Buy it here

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett (Little Brown, £8.99)

Brit Bennett’s highly acclaimed second novel about black twins who follow very different paths is hotly tipped to pick up the Women’s Prize next week. Desiree stays in their small Southern town to bring up her daughter, while Stella leaves her sister behind and forges a new identity, passing as white. Expect to see this book, now out in paperback, on sun loungers and Instagram feeds everywhere this summer - a brilliant pageturner with vital things to say about family and identity.

Buy it here

Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman (Vintage, £16.99)

If you feel like you never have enough time, you’re probably right. According to writer Oliver Burkeman, we’ve all got about four thousand weeks on average. His latest book is all about re-framing the amount of time we have, so you can stop freaking out about how little you have and start working on how to use it constructively.

Buy it here

A Field Guide to Larking by Lara Maiklem (Bloomsbury, £14.99)

Life hasn’t been much of a lark lately, so time to swot up on larking. Following the success of her previous book, Mudlarking, Maiklem teaches us how to find treasures in our surroundings, from beaches to fields, and even in our home. And you can keep track of your finds - there’s space in the book to note things down.

Buy it here

Assembly by Natasha Brown (Penguin, £12.99)

It may be just 100 pages long, but Natasha Brown’s debut novel arrives with a wave of admirers. Telling the story of a young Black British woman whose successful career in banking is disrupted by racism and a cancer diagnosis, it has been compared to Virginia Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.

Buy it here

This list has been compiled with thanks to bookshop.org

What London’s Reading Now: June 4, 2021

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Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn (Penguin, £14.99)

Got questions about love? How we find it, how we keep it, and what to do without it? This collection of interviews conducted by journalist Natasha Lunn might just hold the answers. Lunn speaks to authors and experts — from Roxane Gay and Lisa Taddeo to Dolly Alderton and Alain de Botton — and delves into a myriad of topics: parenthood, loneliness, change, vulnerability and beyond.

Buy it here

Absorbed by Kylie Whitehead (Cinder House, £9.99)

An exploration of female insecurity, this novel from Kylie Whitehead follows Alison, a budding novelist who’s given up on her writing dreams and settled on a boring office job. Worried that she’s losing anything at all remarkable about her own life and concerned that her boyfriend is slipping away from her, she absorbs him. It’s an eerie take on the all-consuming nature of romantic relationships.

Buy it here

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Bloomsbury, £14.99)

A swirl of social commentary and thrilling mystery, this buzzed-about debut novel from Zakiya Dalila Harris follows Nella, a Black publishing assistant in an otherwise all-white office. When Hazel, another Black employee, joins the company, Nella thinks she’s finally found an ally — but then the dynamics begin to shift, and things take a turn for the worse.

Buy it here

Cut from the Same Cloth? Muslim Women on Life in Britain, edited by Sabeena Akhtar (Unbound, £9.99)

Giving hijab-wearing Muslim women a platform to speak about everything from faith and politics to education and pop culture, this book brings together essays by 21 writers of all ages. It busts stereotypes, deconstructing the two-dimensional depictions of hijabis, and asks that “we, as a society, stop with the hijab-splaining and make space for the women who know”.

Buy it here

This list has been compiled with thanks to bookshop.org

What London’s Reading Now: May 28 2021

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Real Estate by Deborah Levy (Hamish Hamilton, £10.99)

Deborah Levy’s ‘living autobiography’ series, full of sage-like wisdom about life and evocative descriptions of food and travel, has garnered a cult following - and for good reason. The final instalment offers elegant reflections on home and the things we own; you’ll whizz through it and then want to read the whole thing again.

Buy it here

What It Feels Like For a Girl by Paris Lees (Penguin, £20)

Set to be one of this summer’s must-reads, Paris Lees’ debut book is a coming-of-age memoir about her early life in the East Midlands. Written in Nottingham dialect, it’s a story of growing up in a small town, with deliciously evocative tales of Noughties nights out.

Buy it here

Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (Pan Macmillan, £20)

Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe’s Say Nothing, about a mysterious murder during The Troubles, was vital and unputdownable reading. For his next book, he turns his attention to the Sackler dynasty and its involvement with manufacturing the drug OxyContin - a painkiller that played a major role in the devastating opioid addiction crisis. This is unflinching reporting of a story that will grip and disturb you.

Buy it here

How the One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House by Cherie Jones (Headline, £16.99)

This debut novel from Cherie Jones made the shortlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction (the winner will be revealed on July 7). It’s set on a beautiful beach in Barbados, but this paradise is not all it seems - this is a startling tale of murder, violence and poverty from an important new voice.

Buy it here

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (Jonathan Cape, £16.99)

It’s been an almost ten year wait for a new book from pioneering graphic novelist Alison Bechdel. Her two previous books explored her relationship with her parents, and now the woman behind the Bechdel Test (aka a short and snappy way of finding out if your film is sexist) takes a look at her lifelong obsession with exercise.

Buy it here

This list has been compiled with thanks to bookshop.org and Daunt Books

What London’s Reading Now: 21 May 2021

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(Publisher handouts)

Slug by Hollie McNish (Little, Brown, £14.99)

In this briskly enjoyable prose and poetry collection, McNish plunges in at the deep end, covering a range of subjects from masturbation to menstruation, from periods to parenting. Writing about her late grandmother brings tear while her poem Nobody Told Me, about the awfulness of being a teenage girl - remember - is quite something.

Buy it here

One: Pot, Pan, Planet: A Greener Way to Cook for You, Your Family and the Planet by Anna Jones (HarperCollins, £26)

It’s all about fruit and veg, with the occasional indulgent splash of coconut milk or exotic spice. Mainly though, it’s sticking to seasonal and British, eliminating waste and remembering to compost. Pictures are gorgeously drained-down and recipes are simple.

Buy it here

The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green (Ebury, £16.99)

We are living in an age of hyper-acceleration, also known as the Anthropocene, characterised by continuous change, from pandemics to global warming. Best known for his hit novel, The Fault In Our Stars, Green analyses how we can best cope, by ‘reviewing’ products from Dr Pepper to Canada Goose, and their impact on the planet.

The Baby Is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic, £1)

Set in Lagos, like her last novel, The Baby is Mine reimagines an Old Testament tale in a 2020 context. Part drama, part thriller, it is a gripping distillation of Braithwaite’s distinctive brand of comic domestic noir. Quick Reads is an adult literacy initiative; for every copy purchased up to July 31st, another is gifted to a less assured reader.

Buy it here

Editor’s Choice: The Pursuit of Love: With Love in a Cold Climate and The Blessing by Nancy Mitford (Penguin, £10.99)

If you’ve only just discovered Nancy Mitford’s frothy acid-laced humour and affectionate take-down of the upper-classes in England between the wars courtesy of the BBC adaptation of The Pursuit of Love, treat yourself to this triple whammy. Orfully amusing, but also with an edge of sadness about the fleeting nature of love.

Buy it here

What London’s Reading Now: 14 May 2021

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Waypoints: A Journey on Foot by Rob Martineau (Cape, £16.99 )

At the age of 27, Martineau, a lawyer in London, quit his job and embarked on a 1,000 mile walk with a backpack through West Africa, from Accra to Ouidah on the Beninese Coast. This is his story, beautifully-written, of how his pilgrimage of sorts changed him forever.

Buy it here

Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock (Little Brown, £16.99)

Stock tackles several key axioms of trans activism, from the idea that everyone has an inner gender identity that might not match our biological sex to the pressure on people to acknowledge and legally protect gender identity instead of biological sex. Clear-sighted.

Buy it here

Second Place by Rachel Cusk (Faber, £14.99)

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The Premonition by Michael Lewis (Allen Lane, £25)

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Editor’s Choice: Spring Cannot be Cancelled by David Hockney, and Martin Gayford (Thames & Hudson, £

Buy it here

What London’s Reading Now: 7 May 2021

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What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition by Emma Dabiri (Penguin, £8)

From the Irish Nigerian author of Don’t Touch My Hair comes this essay which challenges the whole genre of anti-racism books that have become the new darlings of the publishing industry. Putting black squares on your website just doesn’t cut it. Buy it here

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Faber, £20)

Klara, an artificial friend - ie a robot - to young Josie, is curious to learn more about the strange world around her, including the complex emotions of humans. Set in an imaginary futuristic city somewhere in the US, the Nobel Prize winner’s seventh novel packs a devastating emotional punch with gentle determination. Buy it here

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters(Serpent’s Tail, £14.99):

Could this be the most unconventional love story ever written? Reese, a trans woman breaks up with her girlfriend, Amy, also trans, who then detransitions, only to impregnate his boss, Katrina; when Katrina becomes pregnant, Reese has the chance to become a mother. Long listed, albeit controversially, for this year’s Woman’s Prize. Buy it here

Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal (Chatto, £14.99):

Following the success of his bestselling The Hare with Amber Eyes, de Waal imagines through a series of made-up letters to Count Moïse de Camando, the lives and turbulent times of the count and his family, as he wanders through their treasure-filled Parisian palace, the Musee Nissim de Camondo, unchanged since 1936. Buy it here

Editor’s Choice: Bear by Marian Engel (Daunt, £9.99):

Hailed as an erotic masterpiece when it was first published in the 1970s, this Canadian feminist tale, published in the UK for the first time, about a woman having sex with a bear in the wilds of northern Ontario, is completely nutty but oddly beguiling. Buy it here

This list has been compiled with thanks to bookshop.org and Daunt Books

Read More

The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite review

In pursuit of Nancy: the life, novels and romances of the wittiest Mitford sister

Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism by Kathleen Stock review

Second Place by Rachel Cusk review

Spring Cannot be Cancelled by David Hockney and Martin Gayford review

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro review: can artificial life ever be worth more than a human life?

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters review: a bold novel addressing timely and controversial issues

Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal book review

Bear by Marian Engel review

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