Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Mark Rubbo, managing director:
Alan Moorehead was an Australian journalist, travel writer and historian. He was also a highly-regarded war correspondent who covered battles in Africa, Italy and Normandy, and later his books published in the the forties and fifties were bestsellers. Then, at the age of 56 Moorehead suffered a massive stroke and was unable to write again. He’s now largely forgotten.
In Our Man Elsewhere, Thornton MCamish has done a wonderful job at providing us insight into Moorehead’s life and work; it’s riveting reading and not only because the subject is so interesting but also because McCamish’s writing is so compelling.
Leanne Hall, grants officer for the Readings Foundation:
My usual reading style has me hungrily galloping through the pages screaming something along the lines of – ‘MORE! MORE! MORE!’ – but I’m unable to take this tack with The Argonauts. Rather, I’m currently finding my brain stretched in every direction, and in the best possible way.
The Argonauts is a wonderful genre-disregarding beast, full of thoughts, images, poems, memories and extracts from a wide range of philosophers, poets, psychologists, feminists and critical theorists. It’s the kind of book to read out loud with a close friend, and then enjoy picking apart one paragraph for hours. Nelson has created a work that lets the reader into the intimate world of her love partnership and family, as well as engaging the intellect.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
My colleague Lian has been raving about Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad crime series for weeks now and finally persuaded me to dive in this month. I’m very glad I did. The Secret Place is one of those twisty, addictive mysteries that had me staying up far too late in the night to learn what happened.
The book’s premise is simple. One year after the murder of a teenage boy at a prestigious girl’s boarding school, a note is found pinned to a board that reads: ‘I know who killed him’. Two detectives come in to investigate – each with their own agenda – and both know they only have a small window of time to find out who wrote that note before higher forces slam that window shut. The story flips between their current investigation, and the actions of a group of friends from the school pre-murder. I really loved how the story was driven by the complex relationships and hierarchies between the girls, and I thought French wrote teenagers brilliantly. In fact, I already have another one of her books, In the Woods, sitting in my ‘to-be-read’ pile.
Holly Harper, children’s bookseller:
Michael Grant’s name might ring a bell if you’ve got a teenager at home – his gripping dystopian Gone series won him legions of fans. His latest, Front Lines, is a tale of an alternate history: it asks the question of what life would be like if women were allowed to enlist in WWII to fight alongside male soldiers.
Admittedly, I wasn’t that excited to give this one a go. I’m much more of a fan of dystopias than alternate history, but after reading the first chapter I’ve realised that Grant’s storytelling is superb, regardless of genre. Part of the draw of a series like Gone was the way he crafted his characters – all of them felt real and alive on the page, and the same goes for Frontlines. We’re introduced to a range of girls from all walks of life who are preparing to join the war, and even though I’m only a few chapters in, I already feel like these characters are friends I’ve known my whole life.
Stella Charls, marketing and events coordinator:
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Georgia Blain’s Between a Wolf and a Dog. This affecting novel sensitively deals with some heavy issues, but never reads like an Issues Book. Above all, it’s the story of a family – a highly flawed, dysfunctional family, (my favourite kind) – and Blain’s characters are some of the most interesting I’ve read this year.
My reading of this novel was definitely influenced by Blain’s monthly column in The Saturday Paper: ‘The Unwelcome Guest’. Here Blain attempts to making sense of her terminal brain tumour and she writes about pain with frankness and warmth. Dealing with aging and illness is a key theme in Between a Wolf and a Dog and a significant contribution to the ongoing discussion about euthanasia. Readers of Karen Hitchcock’s Dear Life, and listeners of Andrew Denton’s podcast, Better Off Dead – this one’s for you.
Nina Kenwood, marketing manager:
I just read an early copy of Robin Wasserman’s Girls on Fire. I loved this novel. I loved it. But I really think a lot of people might hate it – or at the very least, be rather offended or unsettled by it. In my review, I say: ‘Girls on Fire is intense, shocking, vicious, intoxicating and violent. It’s Gillian Flynn meets Megan Abbott meets Heathers, with a just a touch of The Craft. The last third of the book, in particular, seems to almost relish going to dark, disturbing (semi-ridiculous) places. I was completely along for that ride. Be warned, readers, you may not be.’
And that pretty much sums it up.
This is a book for people who can stomach nasty characters, awful parents, teenagers doing terrible things to each other, and lots of Kurt Cobain references. It’s also a book for anyone who likes writing that zings off the page, and stories that go to bold, unexpected places (when I explained some of the plots points to a colleague, she was appalled). But it’s also a funny, self-aware book, with a sense of humour about itself, and I simply enjoyed it from beginning to end.
Ann le Lievre, schools and libraries liaison:
I’ve been slowly relishing Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author has always been suspended linguistically somewhere between her birth language, Bengali, and the language she inherited when she moved as a child with her family to America, English. But a third language beckons when she makes her first overseas trip to Florence. (Florence! Where else is there to go?) The year is 1994 and Lahiri is a college student in Boston, studying Renaissance Architecture. The experience piques all her senses: “I’ve come for a week, to see the buildings, to admire the squares, the churches. …the city is humming. I’m aware of a sound that I like of conversations, phrases, words that I hear wherever I go.”
This moment stays with her, and much later in life Lahiri and her family move to in Italy where she is able to realise her dream of absorbing herself in a whole new language. Ultimately, she wants to learn how to express herself in Italian in her writing work. In Other Words is written in this newly discovered language, and Lahiri writes simply – demonstrating her dedication to a language that reveals itself to the author a little more each new day. On each alternate page of Lahiri’s original Italian, readers can find an English translation of the text by Ann Goldstein (the translator of Elena Ferrante’s works).
I share a love of language with Lahiri and her beautifully produced hardcover book offers a deep engagement with this particular passion. In Other Words reminds me of the places another language can take you to; it feels like a little piece of magic.