Some books really hit the spot, and some just stay with you after you’ve finished them. Here’s a selection of our very favourite reads.
A Chip Shop in Poznan
Not many Brits move to Poland to work in a fish and chip shop. Fewer still come back wanting to be a Member of the European Parliament.
In 2016 Ben Aitken moved to Poland while he still could. It wasn't love that took him but curiosity: he wanted to know what the Poles in the UK had left behind. He flew to a place he'd never heard of and then accepted a job in a chip shop on the minimum wage.
When he wasn't peeling potatoes he was on the road scratching the country's surface: he milked cows with a Eurosceptic farmer; missed the bus to Auschwitz; spent Christmas with complete strangers and went to Gdansk to learn how communism got the chop. By the year's end he had a better sense of what the Poles had turned their backs on - southern mountains, northern beaches, dumplings! - and an uncanny ability to bone cod. This is a candid, funny and offbeat tale of a year as an unlikely immigrant.
Before the Coffee Gets Cold
What would you change if you could go back in time?In a small back alley in Tokyo, there is a cafe which has been serving carefully brewed coffee for more than one hundred years. But this coffee shop offers its customers a unique experience: the chance to travel back in time. In Before the Coffee Gets Cold, we meet four visitors, each of whom is hoping to make use of the cafe's time-travelling offer, in order to: confront the man who left them, receive a letter from their husband whose memory has been taken by early onset Alzheimer's, to see their sister one last time, and to meet the daughter they never got the chance to know.
But the journey into the past does not come without risks: customers must sit in a particular seat, they cannot leave the cafe, and finally, they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold . . .
Toshikazu Kawaguchi's beautiful, moving story - translated from Japanese by Geoffrey Trousselot - explores the age-old question: what would you change if you could travel back in time? More importantly, who would you want to meet, maybe for one last time?
The story of an ordinary family of boisterous children told through the eyes of the eldest brother, and then the mother twenty years earlier as her teenage self. Tragedy strikes. A beautiful story it stays with you long after you have read it.
Daughters of Night
Cathy Y is reading - Daughters of Night
'The best historical crime novel I will read this year' - The Times' Spectacularly brilliant . . .
One of the most enjoyable and enduring stories I have ever read' - James O'Brien, journalist, author and LBC Presenter' This is right up there with the best of C. J. Sansom and Andrew Taylor' - Amanda Craig, author of The Golden Rule From the pleasure palaces and gin-shops of Covent Garden to the elegant townhouses of Mayfair, Laura Shepherd-Robinson's Daughters of Night follows Caroline Corsham as she seeks justice for a murdered woman whom London society would rather forget .
. . London, 1782.
Desperate for her politician husband to return home from France, Caroline 'Caro' Corsham is already in a state of anxiety when she finds a well-dressed woman mortally wounded in the bowers of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. The Bow Street constables are swift to act, until they discover that the deceased woman was a highly paid prostitute, at which point they cease to care entirely. But Caro has motives of her own for wanting to see justice done, and so sets out to solve the crime herself.
Enlisting the help of thieftaker Peregrine Child, their inquiry delves into the hidden corners of Georgian society, a world of artifice, deception and secret lives. But with many gentlemen refusing to speak about their dealings with the dead woman, and Caro's own reputation under threat, finding the killer will be harder, and more treacherous, than she can know . .
How Do You Live
Jo is Reading - How Do You Live
Publishing in English for the very first time, Japan's beloved coming-of-age classic on what really matters in life The streets of Tokyo swarm below fifteen year-old Copper as he gazes out into the city of his childhood. Struck by the thought of the infinite people whose lives play out alongside his own, he begins to wonder, how do you live? Considering life's biggest questions for the first time, Copper turns to his dear uncle for heart-warming wisdom. As the old man guides the boy on a journey of philosophical discovery, a timeless tale unfolds, offering a poignant reflection on what it means to be human.
How to run a Government so that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers don't go Crazy
Gideon is Reading - How to run a Government so that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers don't go Crazy
Billions of citizens around the world are frustrated with their governments. Why is this? And what can we do about it? In this groundbreaking book Michael Barber draws on his wealth of international experience advising political leaders, to show how those in power can make good on their promises. 'Refreshingly ruthless ...
Leonard and Hungry Paul
Leonard and Hungry Paul is the story of two friends who ordinarily would remain uncelebrated. It finds a value and specialness in them that is not immediately apparent and prompts the idea that maybe we could learn from the people that we overlook in life.
One of our all-time favourite feel-good reads; funny, kind and makes you think a little differently about the people around you.
Sorrow and Bliss
Laura has just read: Sorrow and Bliss
Laura sped through this glorious novel, which is by turns funny, heartbreaking and poignant. It's a story about many kinds of love; romantic, family love and particularly the bond between sisters. Martha, the protagonist, is an irresistible narrator who's voice has longevity with the reader.
A masterclass on family, damage and the bonds of love. An instant Sunday Times bestseller and a book of the year for the Times and Sunday Times.
The Crow Folk
The Crow Folk are coming. Led by the charismatic Pumpkinhead, their strange magic threatens Faye and the villagers. Armed with little more than her mum's words, her trusty bicycle, the grudging help of two bickering old ladies, and some aggressive church bellringing, Faye will find herself on the front lines of a war nobody expected.
For fans of Lev Grossman and Terry Pratchett comes this delightful novel of war, mystery and a little bit of magic . . .
A hard-partying undergraduate in the late 1980s electrocutes herself, dies, and is sent back into life by creatures of air and light. A hearing- and speech-impaired scientist discovers that trees are communicating with one another. An Air Force crew member in the Vietnam War is shot out of the sky, then saved by falling into a banyan. This is the story of these and five other strangers, each summoned in different ways by the natural world, who are brought together in a last stand to save it from catastrophe.
Cathy York is reading - These Days
A Guardian and Observer Fiction Highlight for 2022 and a Bookseller Editor's Choice The new novel from the Winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2021. Two sisters, four nights, one city. April, 1941. Belfast has escaped the worst of the war - so far.
Over the next two months, it's going to be destroyed from above, so that people will say, in horror, My God, Belfast is finished. Many won't make it through, and no one who does will remain unchanged. Following the lives of sisters Emma and Audrey - one engaged to be married, the other in a secret relationship with another woman - as they try to survive the horrors of the four nights of bombing which were the Belfast Blitz, These Days is a timeless and heart-breaking novel about living under duress, about family, and about how we try to stay true to ourselves.
Writers and Lovers
'Funny and heart-breaking, Writers & Lovers by Lily King is the bitingly clever story of Casey, a young writer who has lost her direction in life, until two men step into her world and offer her two very different futures' The New York Times Bestseller
'Captivating, potent, incisive, and wise' - Madeline Miller, author of Circe
'Extremely funny' - Sunday Times
Recently out of a devastating love affair and mourning the loss of her beloved mum,Casey is lost. The novel she has been writing for six years isn't going anywhere, her debt is soaring, and at thirty-one, with all her friends getting married and having kids, she feels too old for things to be this way.
Then she meets Silas. He is kind, handsome, interested. But only a few weeks later, Oscar - older, fascinating, troubled - walks into her life, his two boys in tow.
Suddenly Casey finds herself at the point of a love triangle, torn between two very different relationships that promise two very different futures. And she's still got to write that book …