Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month.
Mark Rubbo, managing director:
I’m recently read Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali, a Turkish writer and teacher who was murdered by the Turkish Secret Service in 1948.
When this novel was first published in Turkey, back in 1943, it was largely ignored. Then, it was rediscovered by readers three years ago and became a bestseller. It’s the story of a shy young man who travels from Turkey to Berlin after World War I. He’s made the journey to learn German and to study the soap business – his family manufactures soap in Turkey. Even though he’s not the slightest bit interested in the work, he immerses himself in the life of post-war bohemian Berlin and ends up meeting a strange, powerful woman. This is a beautiful atmospheric book – think Elena Ferrante, Hans Fallada. It’s also a lovely production.
Chris Somerville, online team member:
On its surface Wasted is a memoir about the loss of a sibling – in this case Muir’s younger brother who jumps from a bridge one night while intoxicated – but it’s not soon after you begin that the book becomes something much stranger.
Muir’s depiction of Brisbane’s tropical climate, its animals and bugs, feels both wholly original and incredibly accurate, and as it continues what emerges is something incredibly upsetting and moving.
Lian Hingee, digital marketing manager
I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover and all that, but Helen Oyeyemi’s story collection What is Not Yours is Not Yours comes in such a stunning package that it’s difficult not to. Fortunately, the contents are as strange and beautiful as the book itself – a collection of loosely linked stories that transcend time and place. These stories have the feel of fairytales, but they’re more fey and wild; refusing to be fastened down by narrative, time or place, and as slippery as eels. Oyeyemi plays with the reader’s presumptions, leading them down familiar paths and then abandoning them to make their own way through to ambiguous conclusions. Once I stopped trying to assert my own expectations on the stories I was able to give myself up to Oyeymi’s beautiful prose and enjoy the ride.
Nina Kenwood, marketing manager:
I’ve enjoyed Lindy West’s writing for a while. Her current Guardian column is great, and before that, I read her work on Jezebel. She was featured in a fascinating This American Life episode about confronting a man who had been abusing her online by impersonating her recently deceased father. That particular story forms a chapter in West’s new book Shrill, which is an entertaining and insightful collection of essays about her life, covering Disney Princesses, weddings, body image, stand-up comedy, internet abuse, relationships and lots more. I read this book when I was home sick in bed with a cold, and it was a very comforting, lift-my-sickly-spirits-and-make-me-laugh kind of book. Highly recommended for fans of Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham or anyone who enjoys funny feminist writing.
Stella Charls, marketing and events coordinator:
I’ve always thought of myself as a slow reader, until I picked up The Dry. It’s a cliché, but I mean it when I say I could not put this book down. For two days my copy seemed glued to my hands, and I felt myself flipping through pages at alarming rates, as the tension built with each chapter.
This debut is a pacy, riveting mystery, that begs to be inhaled by the reader. Harper is a master of the cliff-hanger, and each reveal caused me to squeal in delight and interrupt my partner with vital updates. However to race too quickly through this book would be a disservice to Harper’s cast of characters, and her evocative prose. The Dry presents an incredible portrait of a small, drought-stricken Australian town whose inhabitants were so real to me (often in a frightening way), they practically walked off the page.
My advice – buy yourself a copy, and one for everyone you live with, then persuade them to read alongside you. The pressing urge to discuss this novel with everyone in sight is inevitable!
Angela Crocombe, children’s and YA specialist:
I loved reading Meg Medina’s Burn Baby Burn – an atmospheric young adult novel set in Queens, New York during the infamous summer of 1977 when a serial killer was on the loose, a spate of arson attacks were plaguing the city, and a blackout turned the entire city into darkness for a night. Nora is about to turn 18 and can’t wait to finish high school, move away from her dysfunctional family and legally dance at discos all night. But everyone is paranoid about young women being out after dark because they are being targeted by the serial killer. And everywhere in the city is so insanely hot.
This is the perfect thriller for cold winter nights, where you can transport yourself to a steamy, scorching summer in New York where fear is everywhere. I loved it!
Robbie Egan, operations manager:
A. J. Rich’s eerie mystery The Hand That Feeds You has a fascinating back story of its own. Author Katherine Russell Rich began writing the novel in response to the discovery of her lover’s shadow life – a life of multi-layered deceptions. Rich died from breast cancer before she could finish the novel, so two of her close friends decided to finish it for her and The Hand That Feeds You is the end result. The book was released last year but passed me by – I am unsure why, as one of the authors is the short story master Amy Hempel, a favourite of mine. The other author is Jill Clement, hence the amalgamated author name being A. J. Rich.
Now, as for the book itself… Creepy. Atmospheric. A page-turner. It reminded me of In the Cut, Susanna Moore’s creepy thriller that Jane Campion later adapted to film. I read it in a couple of nights and it got me thinking about victimhood, about men, about how we think about women. I also thought a lot about dogs, which you will find play a huge part in this book. It isn’t perfect by any means, but is far above the usual crime fare. Hempel brings a clipped, poetic drive to the prose which leaves room for the reader to ponder. My pulse quickened many times in the reading, and I stayed up way past my bed time to race to the ending.
In summation – an exemplary literary thriller.
Bronte Coates, digital content coordinator:
I’ve read and loved Heidi Julavits’ fiction – The Vanishers is one of those novels I always find myself recommending – and I was very intrigued by the premise of her latest book.
When Julavits found her old diaries from years after wiring them, she hoped to find some evidence of the person (and writer) she’d grown into. Instead she found chronicles of anxieties about grades, looks, boys, and popularity. From this grew a desire to chronicle her daily life as a forty-something woman, wife, mother, and writer. The Folded Clock is the result: smart, interesting, meditative. I’ve been reading the diary in brief moments, dipping in and out of Julavits’ world. There’s something deeply comforting about this book.