Milkman by Anna Burns
In an unnamed city, middle sister stands out for the wrong reasons. She reads while walking, for one. And she has been taking French night classes downtown. So when a local paramilitary known as the milkman begins pursuing her, she suddenly becomes “interesting,” the last thing she ever wanted to be. Despite middle sister’s attempts to avoid him―and to keep her mother from finding out about her maybe-boyfriend―rumors spread and the threat of violence lingers. Milkman is a story of the way inaction can have enormous repercussions, in a time when the wrong flag, wrong religion, or even a sunset can be subversive.
Winner of the 2018 Man Booker Prize.
Feast Days by Ian MacKenzie
In stylish prose and with piercing wit, Ian MacKenzie tells the story of Emma, a young woman who has moved from New York to Brazil just as massive demonstrations against the government are breaking out across the country amid growing economic inequality. Emma has come to Brazil for her husband’s career, with no job prospects of her own, a weak grasp of the language, and a deep ambivalence about having a child. Her early days in Sao Paulo are listless but privileged; she dines at high-end restaurants, tutors wealthy Brazilians in English, and observes the city she now calls home.
But when Emma volunteers at a local church to assist refugees and grows more deeply connected to the people she meets in the course of her days, she finds herself unable to resist the tug of Sao Paulo’s political and social unrest.
As the country moves seemingly closer to a breaking point, so does Emma’s marriage, as she and her husband can no longer ignore the silent, tectonic shifts beneath the surface of their relationship.
Feast Days is a sharply observed story of expatriate life, as well as a meditation on the hidden costs of modern living and how easily our belief systems can collapse around us.
From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
For Farouk, family is all. He has protected his wife and daughter as best he can from the war and hatred that has torn Syria apart. If they stay, they will lose their freedom, will become lesser persons. If they flee, they will lose all they have known of home, for some intangible dream of refuge in some faraway land across the merciless sea.
Lampy is distracted; he has too much going on in his small town life in Ireland. He has the city girl for a bit of fun, but she’s not Chloe, and Chloe took his heart away when she left him. There’s the secret his mother will never tell him. His granddad’s little sniping jokes are getting on his wick. And on top of all that, he has a bus to drive; those old folks from the home can’t wait all day.
The game was always the lifeblood coursing through John’s veins: manipulating people for his enjoyment, or his enrichment, or his spite. But it was never enough. The ghost of his beloved brother, and the bitter disappointment of his father, have shadowed him all his life. But now that lifeblood is slowing down, and he’s not sure if God will listen to his pleas for forgiveness. Three men, searching for some version of home, their lives moving inexorably towards a reckoning that will draw them all together.
CoDex 1962: A Trilogy by Sjón
Josef Löwe, the narrator, was born in 1962―the same year, the same moment even, as Sjón. Josef’s story, however, stretches back decades in the form of Leo Löwe―a Jewish fugitive during World War II who has an affair with a maid in a German inn; together, they form a baby from a piece of clay. If the first volume is a love story, the second is a crime story: Löwe arrives in Iceland with the clay-baby inside a hatbox, only to be embroiled in a murder mystery―but by the end of the volume, his clay son has come to life. And in the final volume, set in present-day Reykjavík, Josef’s story becomes science fiction as he crosses paths with the outlandish CEO of a biotech company (based closely on reality) who brings the story of genetics and genesis full circle. But the future, according to Sjón, is not so dark as it seems.
In CoDex 1962, Sjón has woven ancient and modern material and folklore and cosmic myths into a singular masterpiece―encompassing genre fiction, theology, expressionist film, comic strips, fortean studies, genetics, and, of course, the rich tradition of Icelandic storytelling.
Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk
Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote Polish village, where Duszejko, an eccentric woman in her sixties, recounts the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. Duszejko is reclusive, preferring the company of animals to people; she’s unconventional, believing in the stars, and she is fond of the poetry of William Blake, from whose work the title of the book is taken.
Filled with wonderful characters like Oddball, Big Foot, Black Coat, Dizzy and Boros, this subversive, entertaining noir novel, by ‘one of Europe’s major humanist writers’ (Guardian), offers thought-provoking ideas on our perceptions of madness, injustice against marginalised people, animal rights, the hypocrisy of traditional religion, belief in predestination—and getting away with murder.
Winner of the 2018 International Man Booker Prize.
Fleeting Snow by Pavel Vilikovsky
Fleeting Snow depicts the gradual loss of memory of the narrator’s wife. The narrator reminisces about his past life with his wife and muses on issues ranging from human nature and the soul, to names and the phonetics of Slovak and indigenous American Indian languages, in an informal, humorous style whose lightness of touch belies the seriousness of his themes. The title refers to its recurring central motif, an avalanche that cannot be stopped once the critical mass of snow has begun to roll, echoing the unstoppable process of memory loss.
Palaces for the People: How To Build a More Equal and United Society by Eric Klinenberg
How can we bring people together? In Palaces for the People the sociologist and best-selling author Eric Klinenberg introduces a transformative and powerfully uplifting new idea for health, happiness, safety and healing our divided, unequal society.
Too often we take for granted and neglect our libraries, parks, markets, schools, playgrounds, gardens and communal spaces, but decades of research now shows that these places can have an extraordinary effect on our personal and collective wellbeing. Why? Because wherever people cross paths and linger, wherever we gather informally, strike up a conversation and get to know one another, relationships blossom and communities emerge – and where communities are strong, people are safer and healthier, crime drops and commerce thrives, and peace, tolerance and stability take root.
Through uplifting human stories and an illuminating tour through the science of social connection, Palaces for the People shows that properly designing and maintaining this ‘social infrastructure’ might be our single best strategy for a more equal and united society.
The Spy and the Traitor: The Greatest Espionage Story of the Cold War by Ben Macintyre
If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation’s communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union’s top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States’s nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky’s name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain’s obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.
Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky’s nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre’s latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings readers deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.
Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves
A Shetland Island Mystery (Volume 8).
Hoping for a fresh start, an English family moves to the remote Shetland islands, eager to give their autistic son a better life.
But when a young nanny’s body is found hanging in the barn beside their home, rumors of her affair with the husband spread like wildfire. As suspicion and resentment of the family blazes in the community, Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez is called in to investigate. He knows it will mean his boss, Willow Reeves, returning to run the investigation, and confronting their complex relationship.
With families fracturing and long-hidden lies emerging, Jimmy faces the most disturbing case of his career.
Broken Ground by Val McDermid
When a body is discovered in the remote depths of the Highlands, DCI Karen Pirie finds herself in the right place at the right time. Unearthed with someone’s long-buried inheritance, the victim seems to belong to the distant past – until new evidence suggests otherwise, and Karen is called in to unravel a case where nothing is as it seems.
It’s not long before an overheard conversation draws Karen into the heart of a different case, however – a shocking crime she thought she’d already prevented. As she inches closer to the twisted truths at the centre of these murders, it becomes clear that she’s dealing with a version of justice terrifyingly different to her own . . .