January Picks

What happenedClinton, Hillary Rodham (2017) What Happened. Simon & Schuster. Hilary Clinton’s memoir shares her journey, memories and insights of the 2016 US presidential campaign. She reflects on Trump’s campaign and his presidency so far, the sexism she experienced on the campaign trail, and interference by former FBI director James Comey and the Russian government. Whilst factors surrounding her defeat are immensely disturbing she remains defiant. This is a feminist manifesto, and an engaging and candid post-mortem of US democracy at the crossroads. Robust and cathartic. Rating: 9/10.

BorderKassabova Kapka (2017) Border: A Journey to the Edge of Europe. Granta. In her study of the shadowy border region where Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey merge, Bulgarian born Kassabova has produced a lyrical memoir and travelogue that takes in the turmoil, folklore, geography and political history of a fractured world that endures on the edge of Europe. Travelling in her old Renault she undertakes a journey that starts and ends on the Black Sea near the Strandja ranges, transversing almost-abandoned mountain villages and man-made border points. It is above all a human story played out against a background of ceaseless wars and shifting empires. Exceptional. Rating: 9/10.

Prairie FiresFraser, Caroline (2017) Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Fleet. In the Little House books Laura Ingalls Wilder sought to preserve her father’s stories and values, and capture her own American pioneer childhood, in a blend of fact and fiction. Fraser respectfully and meticulously draws on unpublished resources and historical records to fill in the gaps in Wilder’s biography to uncover the grown-up story begins her children’s books; a story which is exacerbated by her fraught relationship with her daughter Rose. Noteworthy addition to the canon of literature on this beloved author. Remarkable. Rating: 9/10.

White TrashIsenberg, Nancy (2016) White Trash: The 400-Year-Untold History of Class in America. Viking.  The wretched poor have been part of the American narrative since colonial settlement. The existence of poverty in the mythical ‘land of opportunity’ is an anathema in today’s America. Isenberg explodes assumptions about people marginalised as a class in a country where liberty and hard work were supposed to create a class-free society and assure social equity.  This weighty social history analyses policy, scientific theories, popular media, historical resources and political rhetoric to expose the harsh realities of class and the white poor. A formidable and discomforting retelling of American history. Rating: 9/10.

Faking FriendsFallon, Jane (2018) Faking Friends. M. Joseph. Now for a bit of light relief!  Amy and Melissa had been best friends forever, until Amy comes to realise that nothing is forever. When ever-competitive Melissa sets out to surreptitiously wreck Amy’s dream future Amy has no choice but to hit back. A tale of the perfidy of friendship and sweet revenge. A light-hearted romp with attitude.  Rating: 8.5/10.


Water will comeGoodell, Jeff (2017) The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World. Little Brown. Goodell cuts through the rhetoric of global warming deniers to paint a powerful portrait on the impact of sea-level rise on low-lying cities and islands across the globe. Much of his book is concentrated on Miami and Miami Beach which is identified as being poorly equipped to handle a rise in sea level. Scientists’ assessment on how quickly the poles will melt vary, and politicians and the public are complacent in the face of a new reality.  An emotional and economical catastrophe is in the making.  Deeply persuasive and alarming; a call to arms.  Rating: 9/10.

Woman in the Window. jpgFinn, A J (2018) The Woman in the Window.  Harper Collins.  A hitchcockian psychological tale of an agoraphobic whose lifeline to the real world is through her window. One evening she witnesses a murder, but nobody believes her. Anna who is addicted to wine and prescription drugs, with no allies, is an unreliable hero but she is determined to uncover the truth without going beyond her own front door. Riveting, enjoyable and well-plotted. Predicted to be the best-selling thriller of 2018.  Rating: 8.5/10.

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