Our top picks of the month for book clubs
Chemistry by Weike Wang
The winner of this year’s PEN/Hemingway Award, Chemistry is a quietly funny and meticulously crafted work of fiction. Three years into her post-grad studies in chemistry and nearly as long into a relationship, our unnamed narrator is wavering. She doesn’t know how to answer her boyfriend’s proposal, her research is stagnating, and the demands of her Chinese parents are bearing down. Eventually, the pressure mounts so high that her life diverges from its set path and our heroine delves into a different kind of chemistry.
A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers
Iraq veteran and poet Kevin Powers drew on his own experiences of war to write his debut novel, The Yellow Birds, and now with his second novel, he returns to the battlefield and its aftermath. A Shout in the Ruins is set in his native Virginia, just before and during the Civil War and 90 years later. Our reviewer says it is ‘certain to wrench the reader’s gut and heart, with ferocity and tenderness measured accordingly’. Read the full review here.
Book of Colours by Robyn Cadwallader
London, 1321: In a small shop in Paternoster Row, three people are drawn together around the creation of a magnificent book, an illuminated manuscript of prayers, a book of hours. Even though the commission seems to answer the aspirations of each one of them, their own desires and ambitions threaten its completion. As each struggles to see the book come into being, it will change everything they have understood about their place in the world.
Spineless by Juli Berwald
Jellyfish have been swimming in our oceans for well over half a billion years, longer than any other animal that lives on the planet, and they are utterly diverse and fascinating. Yet until recently, they were largely ignored by science. Ocean scientist Juli Berwald embarked on a scientific odyssey to learn more about them and the result is Spineless – a gracefully blend of personal memoir with crystal-clear distillations of science.
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer
When shy college student Greer Kadetsky hears Faith Frank speak in a crowded campus chapel, she feels herself changed. Faith is dazzlingly persuasive and elegant – a pillar of the women’s movement for decades – and, astonishingly, she invites Greer to make something out of this new sense of purpose with a career opportunity. Our reviewer writes: ‘This is the kind of big, juicy literary novel that you will press on your friends. It’s packed with ideas, and perfect for book clubs.’ Read the full review here.
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
In 1963, James Baldwin gave voice to the emerging civil rights movement with the publication of The Fire Next Time. Now, responding to both Baldwin’s words and the new tragedies of our day, 18 influential thinkers wrestle with the past, present, and future of American race relations and the Black experience. Edited by two-time National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward, this is an essential collection for anyone who wishes to confront the truth of America.
Ironbark by Jay Carmichael
Markus Bello’s life has stalled. Living in a small country town, mourning the death of his best friend, he is isolated and adrift. As time passes, he must try to face his grief and come to terms with what is left. Ironbark is an elliptical and beautifully evoked coming-of-age story. First-time author Jay Carmichael depicts the conflict and confusion of life as a gay man in rural Australia, and critiques society’s expectations of what it means to be a man.
The Heart is a Burial Ground by Tamara Colchester
On a brisk day in 1970, a daughter arrives at her mother’s home to take care of her. ‘Home’ is the sprawling Italian castle of Roccasinibalda, and Diana’s mother is the legendary Caresse Crosby, one half of literature’s most scandalous couple in 1920s Paris – the widow of Harry Crosby. This couple’s incendiary love story concealed a darkness that marked Diana and still burns through the generations. Author Tamara Colchester is a descendant of Caresse and this work is part autobiographical and part reimagining.