Best new books: May 2020
Find distraction and different worlds with the best new books May 2020 has to offer, in hardback and paperback.
The contradictions and intricate hierarchies of contemporary Seoul form a fascinating backdrop in this story about four women attempting to thrive in the face of fiercely competitive beauty standards.
Taking the social conflict that makes Oscar-winning film Parasite so absorbing, and adding in themes of motherhood and female friendship, debut writer Fraces Ha immerses you into a lucid and intoxicating fictional world. There’s Kyuri, whose livelihood is dependent on her perfect looks; Miho, an artistic orphan who gets swept up by the jet-setting Korean elite; Ara, a hairdresser driven to distraction by her obsession with K-Pop; and Wonna, who is pregnant and panicking about her financial situation.
This lively romantic comedy follows a woman at a crossroads who finds herself caught in a love triangle. At 31, Casey is broke, floundering and in mourning. She returns to Massachusetts to wait tables and attempt to finish her novel, but distraction comes in the form of not one, but two love interests. The love story catches your attention, but it’s the wisdom and reliability of Casey’s soul-searching that makes this book memorable. Lily King writes with gusto and warmth, exploring loss, desire, creativity and the peculiar intensity of properly growing up.
An £18 million lottery win sparks drama and devastation in Adele Parks’ twisty study of betrayal and poisonous friendships. Three couples have played the same lottery numbers as a group for 15 years. Then one momentous evening, the long-standing friendships are threatened by a lie. As the group fractures, the winning numbers come up, leaving one couple with a winning ticket and the other two determinedly seething with jealousy and entitlement. Adele Parks maintains a taut momentum as she explores the allure of cash and its power to provoke backstabbing and betrayal.
Imagine Sally Rooney's exacting prose and grasp of millennial malaise, but add in female friendship and the tumult of your 20s turning to 30s and you'll have a good measure of Anna Hope's Expectation. Following three women from university to motherhood, it is an achingly accurate and gloriously human story of friendship, imbued with relatable details of London life (hungover mornings and Borough Market, regretfully moving to the suburbs). We raced through the hardback of this book, and now the paperback is out to provide much-needed distraction from lockdown.
Bill Bryson turns his expansive expertise to the human body, with an accessible and vastly informative guide to the intricacies of biology. Combining levity and wit with fascinating facts, it's what you wish science lessons could have been. Bryson punctuates the science with historical and cultural insight around the function and interpretation of bodies.
Writer Lisa Taddeo devoted eight years and travelled across America to befriend, study and quiz three women on their innermost urges. The result is a non-fiction book that is juicier than fiction, with intimacy and scope, unflinching accuracy and thrilling twists. Taddeo chronicles the emotional impact of each woman’s sexuality with journalistic precision without ever losing the warmth and candidness of the personal confessions. Three Women was one of the most talked-about books of the summer, and now is out in paperback.
In our current confinement, Talking to Strangers feels like a very distant concept. But under more sociable circumstances, our ability to interpret and analyse the people around us gives a profound insight into human nature. It's the reason for crime, punishment, prejudice and injustice – and it runs deep through our culture, history and psyche. The mighty Malcolm Gladwell continues to challenge assumptions and change our view of the world around us, in another hit book (just out in paperback).
An enchanting house, an evil stepmother and two children caught in the middle make for an atmospheric modern fairytale from the prolific Ann Patchett. The Dutch House holds the secrets to Danny and Maeve's troubled childhood and as they grow up, the building continues to dominate their imagination. Patchett explores the love, resentment and toxicity that furnish every family.
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