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18th Jun, 2021

Bookcase: New titles reviewed offer reading options during lockdown

Leamington Editorial 11th Jan, 2021

THIS week’s bookcase includes reviews of A Burning by Megha Majumdar and Ageless by Andrew Steele.

Can ageing be treated? What should children do when they’re feeling worried? Find out in this week’s top picks…

Fiction

1. A Burning by Megha Majumdar is published in hardback by Scribner, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99). Available January 21

What’s the price of ambition? More specifically, what’s its price in a country ruptured by extremism?

Picture credit: Scribner/PA.

This question is at the heart of A Burning, the searing debut by Indian novelist Megha Majumdar. Melding political thriller with dreamy bildungsroman, this novel follows three characters in the aftermath of a devastating terror attack.

Jivan is a Muslim girl from Kolkata’s slums accused of collaborating with the terrorists. Lovely is a vivacious intersex hijra who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star.

PT Sir is Jivan’s former gym teacher, seduced by a charismatic politician and the elite echelons of society.

Slicing between these three perspectives, A Burning offers an unflinching and often harrowing take on corruption and its consequences.

Electrifying from the first action-packed page, Majumdar is a talent to watch out for.

8/10

(Review by Katie Jenkins)

2. The Stranger Times by CK McDonnell is published in hardback by Bantam Press, priced £14.99 (ebook £7.99). Available January 14

This is Irish comedian and author Caimh McDonnell’s new novel, his first writing under the pen name CK McDonnell.

Picture credit: Bantam Press/PA.

It is a darkly comedic sci-fi/crime/fantasy crossover, where The Stranger Times newspaper bridges real-world Manchester with the shadowy supernatural. Alternating between sinister and silly, McDonnell’s writing is intelligently witty.

The story lopes along at an easy pace that swiftly immerses you in its bizarre happenings, with a motley crew of loveable eccentrics jostling for fan favourite.

After a slow start and a bit of backstory, McDonnell’s fantasy world begins to bloom – and there will doubtless be no limits to where it’ll take us in future.

7/10

(Review by Rebecca Wilcock)

Non-fiction

3. Ageless: The New Science Of Getting Older Without Getting Old by Andrew Steele is published in hardback by Bloomsbury, priced £20 (ebook £14). Available now

Is ageing a treatable disease? Scientist Andrew Steele suggests it is in this book, putting forward passionate and engaging arguments with witty observations that can be laugh-out-loud funny.

Picture credit: Bloomsbury/PA.

However, despite his best attempts to explain complex biological terms and theories, some may find the detail challenging.

Arguably Steele’s aim is to provoke more questions than answers; although the book deals specifically with biogerontology (the science of ageing), readers may be left wondering whether social and financial structures could support extended lifespans, and how we would then mitigate the resulting population excess.

Nonetheless, it’s an intriguing and thought-provoking read worthy of the difficult subject matter.

7/10

(Review by Nicole Whitton)

Children’s book of the week

4. The Worrying Worries by Rachel Rooney, illustrated by Zehra Hicks, is published in hardback by Andersen Press, priced £12.99 (no ebook). Available now

The Worrying Worries follows a young child who catches a worry for a pet.

Picture credit: Andersen Press/PA.

It quickly grows and becomes annoying, unmanageable and interfering, so he visits the Worry Doctor.

Rachel Rooney and Zehra Hicks have created an engaging, rhyming story that steers clear of being too prescriptive or overbearing.

It helps children understand ways they can control their worries, such as deep breathing, statue standing and thinking happy thoughts.

Although the rhymes are easy to read, some could have done with more refining.

Perhaps a missed opportunity is making the Worry Doctor feel a bit more real – like a teacher – giving children a clue as to who they can talk to.

But as children don’t always talk about their fears, this is a friendly book that will be useful to keep within reach of young hands.

7/10

(Review by Nicole Whitton)

BOOK CHARTS

HARDBACK

1. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

2. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

3. Troy by Stephen Fry

4. Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

5. The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

6. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

7. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

8. One August Night by Victoria Hislop

9. Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan

10. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

HARDBACK (NON-FICTION)

1. A Promised Land by Barack Obama

2. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given

3. Pinch Of Nom Quick & Easy by Kay Featherstone & Kate Allinson

4. Word Perfect by Susie Dent

5. Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson

6. Ottolenghi Flavour by Yotam Ottolenghi & Ixta Belfrage

7. A Life On Our Planet by David Attenborough

8. Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake

9. A Year At The Chateau by Dick Strawbridge & Angel Strawbridge

10. The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse by Charlie Mackesy

(Compiled by Waterstones)

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