10 best new books: February 2018 reading list
Fall in love with a new book this February. From the millennial’s Bridget Jones to a mouth-watering manifesto on food and appetite, here are the 10 best new books.
Bye bye Bridget, hello Dolly. Journalist, podcaster and former Sunday Times dating columnist Dolly Alderton chronicles the fun and foibles of love and friendship as a twenty-something in this candid memoir. Instead of chardonnay and calorie counting, this singleton adventure shifts from MSN Messenger to Tinder. And rather than a happy ending hinging on Mr Darcy, we get a story of self-acceptance and independence. Everything I Know About Love is a funny, tender story that will chime with anyone who’s ever been disappointed by a date and delighted by a mate.
If you enjoyed Sarah Parry’s The Essex Serpent you will be enchanted by this atmospheric tale of mermaids and madams. On a dark September night in 1785, Jonah Hancock discovers what appears to be a mermaid. This mythical creature triggers a story of desire, obsession and danger. Imogen Hermes Gowar draws us into Georgian London with prose that’s as effervescent as it is intelligent.
Where are you from? More often than not it’s a coded question for why is your skin darker? Or why's your name spelled strangely? Afua Hirsch combines personal insight, social analysis and incisive argument in this timely exploration about what it means to be British. From our conflicted colonial history to the well-intentioned liberal ideals of colour blind culture, Brit(ish) tackles our squeamishness about race with wit and wisdom.
The Booker-winning author of Sense of an Ending and Flaubert's Parrot crafts a tender portrait of a young man in love with an older woman. Julian Barnes's talent for capturing matters of the heart gives the story a glow of sensitivity and wisdom. Though it's artfully wrought, The Only Story is remains readable and deeply touching. There are already whispers that it's better than Sense of an Ending.
Since shaking up Great British Bake Off, Ruby Tandoh has become one of the sanest, sharpest commentators on all things edible. From taking on the clean eating brigade to debunking our obsession with wholesome and homemade, Tandoh champions food for its ability to make us feel. Eat Up is a glorious manifesto on how to celebrate appetite and savour flavour. The prose is mouth-watering and the message is a nugget of nourishment against the toxic diet industry. This is a book to devour.
We enthused about this heat-warming story back in 2017 when it was first published. Since then, hapless heroine Eleanor Oliphant has continued to captivate with a stream of glowing reviews and the Costa Book Award. It’s one of those irresistible stories that stays with you. And now it’s out in paperback, so there’s no excuse.
Overwhelmed by the stream of headlines prophesying doom, gloom and dread? Cognitive psychologist, linguist, and popular science author Steven Pinker cuts through the pessimism with this compelling, comprehensive case for progress. Updating the case for Enlightenment to the 21st century, Pinker reveals how reason and sympathy can conquer fatalism and panic.
How does a short story writer successfully transition to novelist? Well, winning the 2017 Man Booker prize for a novel is a pretty stellar start. George Saunders' Lincoln in the Bardo channels the writer's talent for short stories with inventiveness: the novel consists entirely of quotations. It’s as if Saunders started selecting a few epigrams for the opening pages and decided to write the whole novel that way. It sounds rather dry but the formal innovation does not get in the way of readability. Now it’s out in paperback.
Rose McGowan – the woman who helped push the #MeToo movement further into the mainstream with a series of tweets detailing an alleged assault by Harvey Weinstein – bares all in her aptly titled memoir Brave. And there is so much more to the story than one predatory movie producer. Tracing a childhood spent in the grips of a polyamorous cult through to Hollywood’s corruption, it’s a story of ceaseless abuse. Addiction and eating disorders add to the chaos, but it’s exploitative men that loom largest. McGowan may not be the most artful writer – the prose is jumble, ideas tumble from the pages, anger seethes from each expletive –but she tells her story with urgency.
Zadie Smith turns her vivid prose to the world around us in a new collection of non-fiction essays. Feel Free flits from profound political commentary to personal reflection, with all the eloquence and zest we'd expect from the wunderkind writer of White Teeth and Swing Time. Switch between shrewd assessments of Brexit to tender examinations of Joni Mitchell's lyricism, or just dip in for a short blast of intellectual stimulation.
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