November’s Best Reads
It's bloomin' freezing out there so batten down the hatches, commandeer the sofa and get stuck into Muddy's November picks – including some Somerset authors
BOOK OF THE MONTH
If you’ve not come across Caroline Kepnes’ first two books, You (arriving on Netflix over Christmas as a 10-part drama) and Hidden Bodies, you’re in for a total treat. Centre-stage is a disturbingly cute serial killer (think Jamie Dornan in The Fall) who uses social media to stalk his prey in stories rammed with super-smart pop culture references (the author is an former NYC entertainment journalist). They’re a hard act to follow but she pulls it off with Providence, a very different beast but one just as likely to keep you up until silly o’clock tearing through its pages.
Jon Bronson is the classic class weirdo in small-town New Hampshire. One day he disappears, leaving Chloe, his best friend and the only one who understands him, distraught. Four years pass before the teenager stumbles out of the basement of the local shopping mall, having been kidnapped by a school supply teacher. Cue happy ending? Well, not quite because Jon has changed in ways that no one quite understands, least of all him. It’s an ambitious, genre-mashing tale that melds a coming-of-age love story, sci-fi, horror and suspense. A little bit weird and a lot wonderful.
ALSO OUT THIS MONTH…
PS I Love You writer Cecelia Ahern has benched the mushy romantic fiction for something far more fiery and urgent in Roar, 30 short stories that examine the lot of modern women. Each tale’s title begins with The Woman Who… and the one that resonated most was the quirky, funny, poignant The Woman Who Forgot Her Name. Well, that kinda thing happens when you’re overwhelmed with children, work, chores and endless stuff, non?
Maybe we all need to read The Atlas Of Happiness by Helen Russell, who has travelled the world in search of ‘the global secrets of how to be happy’. I especially like the Swedish idea of ‘smultronställe’ – it translates as your symbolic strawberry patch, your happy place where you can escape from everything and everyone (like a man’s shed but better).
There’s a lot of joy in Simon Garfield’s curious new book In Miniature. He looks at the world of tiny collectables, from doll’s house furniture to model railways to miniature food, unpicking the psychology behind people’s passion for small things – it’s all about with asserting control and keeping order in an uncertain world.
Looking for an inspiring worky read? Stand Out Online is excellent on how to do personal branding without cringing to death. If you’re self-employed or running a small business (and I know a lot of you Muddy readers are), this is well worth a gander.
Here’s one that I hope Santa will put in my stocking next month. In Should I Stay or Should I Go? Buzzfeed journalist James Ball provides answers to 88 questions posed in pop songs, from what is love? (Haddaway) to are we human or dancer? (The Killers) to have guilty feet got no rhythm? (Wham!). No word on where Cotton Eye Joe came from – or went to – though, sadly.
AND FINALLY, SOME SOMERSET AUTHORS
Ever wondered what happened to Dick, George, Julian and Anne when they grew up? Read Return to Kirrin by Frome couple Neil and Suzy Howlett (yes, they wrote it together and they’re still married) to find out. The now 40-something Famous Five are reunited on Kirrin Island in 1979, with awkward kids, Thatcher’s rise to power, dodgy police techniques and entrepreneurial ideas. Funny and nostalgic, it’s been outselling authors like Phillip Pullman at Frome’s Hunting Raven Books.
Described as a ‘potted’ history of gardening told through 50 innovations, from gardening gadgetry to garden design, Amazing Garden Innovations, is the sort of book you buy as a gift for someone else but end up dipping into yourself (very carefully, without bending the spine). Pithily written by Somerset-based Abigail Willis, author of the excellent Museums and Galleries of London and The London Garden Book A-Z, it’s fascinating stuff.
There’s nowhere quite like fabulous Frome. Poet, playwright and author Crysse Morrison, who runs the Poetry Cafe, tells the story of the quirky, independent town from prehistory to post-punk in Frome Unzipped. If you’re a Fromie, you’ll want to read this.