Ben Lerner – The Topeka School, £8.99 paperback
Adam Gordon is a senior at Topeka High School, class of ’97. His parents are psychologists, his mom a famous author in the field. A renowned debater and orator, an aspiring poet, and – although it requires a lot of posturing and weight lifting – one of the cool kids, he’s also one of the seniors who brings the loner Darren Eberheart into the social scene, with disastrous effects.
Deftly shifting perspectives and time periods, The Topeka School is a riveting story about the challenges of raising a good son in a culture of toxic masculinity. It is also a startling prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the tyranny of trolls and the new right, and the ongoing crisis of identity among white men.
John le Carre – Silverview, £9.99 paperback
Julian Lawndsley has renounced his high-flying job in the City for a simpler life running a bookshop in a small English seaside town. But after only a couple of months into his new career, Edward, a Polish emigre, shows up at his door with a very keen interest in Julian’s new enterprise and a lot of knowledge about his family history. And when a letter turns up at the door of a spy chief in London warning him of a dangerous leak, the investigations lead him to this quiet town by the sea. Silverview is the mesmerising story of an encounter between innocence and experience and between public duty and private morals.
Kwon Yeo-Sun – Lemon, £8.99 paperback
This is not a murder story. It is the story of those left behind. Parasite meets The Good Son in this piercing psychological portrait of three women haunted by a brutal, unsolved crime.
In the summer of 2002, Kim Hae-on was killed in what became known as the High School Beauty Murder. There were two suspects: Shin Jeongjun, who had a rock-solid alibi, and Han Manu, to whom no evidence could be pinned. The case went cold.
Seventeen years pass without justice, and the grief and uncertainty take a cruel toll on her younger sister, Da-on, in particular. Unable to move on with her life, Da-on tries in her own twisted way to recover some of what she’s lost, ultimately setting out to find the truth of what happened. Shifting between the perspectives of Da-on and two of Hae-on’s classmates, Lemon ostensibly takes the shape of a crime novel.
But identifying the perpetrator is not the main objective here: Kwon Yeo-sun uses this well-worn form to craft a searing, timely exploration of privilege, jealousy, trauma, and how we live with the wrongs we have endured and inflicted in turn.
Oliver Burkeman – Four Thousand Weeks, £10.99 paperback
What if you tried to stop doing everything, so you could finally get round to what counts? Rejecting the futile modern obsession with ‘getting everything done,’ Four Thousand Weeks introduces readers to tools for constructing a meaningful life by embracing rather than denying their limitations. Drawing on the insights of both ancient and contemporary philosophers, psychologists, and spiritual teachers, Oliver Burkeman sets out to realign our relationship with time – and in doing so, to liberate us from its tyranny. Embrace your limits.
Change your life. Make your four thousand weeks count. ‘Life is finite. You don’t have to fit everything in.
Rachel Joyce – Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North, £12.99 hardback
The final novel in the Harold Fry trilogy, this is a heart-stopping story told from the view point of his wife Maureen as she takes her own journey and discovers how to reconnect with the world. Ten years ago, Harold Fry set off on his epic journey on foot to save a friend. But the story doesn’t end there.
Now his wife, Maureen, has her own pilgrimage to make. Maureen Fry has settled into the quiet life she now shares with her husband Harold after his iconic walk across England. Now, ten years later, an unexpected message from the North disturbs her equilibrium again, and this time it is Maureen’s turn to make her own journey.
But Maureen is not like Harold. She struggles to bond with strangers, and the landscape she crosses has changed radically. She has little sense of what she’ll find at the end of the road.
All she knows is that she must get there. Maureen Fry and the Angel of the North is a deeply felt, lyrical novel, full of warmth and kindness. Short, exquisite, powerful- it is about love, loss, and how we come to terms with the past in order to understand ourselves and our lives a little better.
Makoto Shinkai & Naruki Nagakawa – She and her Cat, £10.00 hardback
On the outskirts of Tokyo, in a neighbourhood crossed by a commuter railway, local cats weave their way through the lives and homes of their owners as they navigate difficult times. A cat named Chobi sends silent messages of courage to a young woman, willing her to end a faltering relationship; a gifted artist fatally misunderstands her boss’s enthusiasm for her paintings; a manga fan shuts herself away after the death of her friend, while her cat Cookie hatches a plan to persuade her outside; a woman who has dedicated her life to a distant husband learns a lesson in independence from her cat. Against the urban backdrop of humming trains and private woes, SHE AND HER CAT explores the gentle magic of the everyday.
Populated by both the friendly and the feral, it reveals – with heartstopping clarity and warmth – how even in our darkest moments, community and connection may lead us to a happier place.