I hugely enjoyed Lisa McInerneys dark but tender debut novel with its vivid portrayal of the life and times of Ryan, a teenage gangster in the making. Alexandra Shulmans frank, funny diaries,
(Fig Tree), with their blend of wry character sketches, commercial nous and dispatches from her home life, make for a very pleasurable read. Inside Vogue Alison Starling, Sevenoaks, Kent
A beautifully illustrated meditation on two of the 19th centurys greatest exponents of textile arts, Mariano Fortuny and William Morris. The politics of Morris underpins Sheila Rowbothams
(Verso), in which she charts the lives of four women and two men as they journey from the 19th to the 20th century, in their search for self-fulfilment and equality, struggling to combine personal happiness with radical social commitment. Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States Martin Stott, Oxford
Elegy by Andrew Roberts (Head of Zeus)
The centenary of the battle of the Somme was widely commemorated. Roberts focuses simply on the events of the first day, and perfectly captures the tragedy and heroism of this terrible moment in our history. Meanwhile, Louis de Bernieres family saga
The Dust That Falls from Dreams (Vintage) manages to find charm and deep poignancy as it charts the effects of the war on middle-class England. Simon Surtees, London
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen (Sphere)
Hiaasens novels are always fast-moving, bizarre and bawdy.
Razor Girl, full of eccentric characters, mistaken identities, coincidences and farce, follows a similar format. It is set in Hiaasens native Florida where bigots, corrupt lawyers, politicians and pharmaceutical companies, the mafia and red-neck reality shows are all lampooned. Dorrie Swift, London
Big History: Our Incredible Journey, from Big Bang to Now (DK)
A mind-expanding and brilliantly illustrated book that attempts to explain the entire story of the cosmos from the big bang to the emergence of life and human society.
Aliens: Science Asks: Is Anyone Out There? (Profile), edited by Jim Al-Khalili, is a thought-provoking collection of essays providing a rational, scientific discussion of the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Dave Taylor, Purbrook, Hampshire
Centred on the titular day in 1924, the book describes the last meeting of lovers: a maid, Jane Fairchild, and upper-class Paul Sheringham from the neighbouring estate. It is emotionally intelligent, expertly achieved and beautifully written.
Lynne Taylor, Burnley, Lancashire
This reconnected my younger idealistic self to the more floundering me of today; I fell in love with 20th-century philosophy all over again. A book thats too grim to recommend in the usual way is Hanya Yanagiharas
(Picador), but its unlikely Ill forget its relentless story or regret reading it. A Little Life Genevieve Terry, Exeter
I much admired two books about indigenous peoples and colonial histories. Danish novelist Leine, translated by Martin Aitken, chronicles a haunting and extraordinarily visceral journey into the wilderness of 18th-century Greenland.
by Coll Thrush (Yale) reverses the colonial narrative, looking at the history of London through the eyes of travellers from British colonies over 500 years. They include Hawaiian royalty, Inuit children, Aboriginal diplomats, a Native American missionary and Pocahontas herself. Its salutary to read just how many v Indigenous London
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